Beautiful, meditative books for a godless twelve stepper
August 1, 2014 4:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for spiritual but not religious books on recovery in the AA tradition.

A relative is in AA/CA. It's pretty new but he's very inspired by the spiritual side of things and I would like to get him a book in keeping with this. However, he's not a member of an organised religion and doesn't believe in a personal god. I think he would find overtly Christian books off-putting. This book, Breathing Underwater, for example, would probably ideal except for that.
His sponsor has given him a lot of the 'classic' books I think, so something a little more unusual would be great. At the moment he's finally reading Infinite Jest which I gave him ages ago. He has quite a keen aesthetic sense, so I'd prefer something that's not too cheesy or goofy.
posted by Acheman to Religion & Philosophy (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This always gives me a sense of the wider/bigger/other picture.
posted by bernardbeta at 5:08 AM on August 1, 2014

I'm an atheist, but I've always enjoyed the writing and published sermons of Rev. Peter Gomes, who was the minister at Harvard until his death a few years back:

The Good Book: Reading the Bible with mind and heart (2002)
Sermons: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living (2002)
The Good Life: Truths that Last in Times of Need (2003)
Strength for the Journey: Biblical wisdom for Daily Living (2004)
The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's so good about the Good News? (2007)
A Word to the Wise, and Other Sermons Preached at Harvard (2008)
(Among others)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:25 AM on August 1, 2014

Response by poster: Just to be clear: it's true that some atheists are fine with filtering out the stuff they like from the Bible-focused wrapping it comes in. I myself am a pagan and often find texts from Christianity inspiring and interesting. However, assume my relative isn't like that and won't enjoy receiving any book with 'Jesus' in the index, let alone the title. Many thanks.
posted by Acheman at 6:24 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you'd consider something in the memoir line, look at Mary Karr's "Lit." It follows the course of her alcoholism and recovery. Although she does incorporate religion into her post-drinking life, she does so with a skeptical side-eye, and has a way of taking about God and spirituality that's human and not at all sanctimonious. It is also beautifully written. NPR piece, with excerpt. Best wishes for your relative.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:45 AM on August 1, 2014

Best answer: When I started in a 12-step program a few years back, I expressed my own concerns about issues connecting with the idea of God, even a "God of my own understanding", as they phrase it. After that meeting, one of the attendees pulled me aside and recommended One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps (link goes to the Kindle edition; PB also available). I think that may be right up your relative's alley.
posted by hanov3r at 7:30 AM on August 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Maybe something by Cheri Huber, like There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate or Making a Change for Good. Her covers are cringworthy, but the books are great engaging reads in plain language. She's a Zen teacher but there's very little overt focus on religion; rather it's more insights of Buddhism combined with cognitive therapy techniques in a conversational tone.

Also, my memory of Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story is that she discusses that same problem with AA at length. Her writing has always reminded me quite a lot of DFW, btw, so it might be a good match if your friend is enjoying Infinite Jest.
posted by susanvance at 9:11 AM on August 1, 2014

Noah Levine of Dharma Punx fame just published Refuge Recovery, a Buddhist take on 12-step recovery. I haven't read it yet (it came out in June) but he's a respected Buddhist writer and public figure who is also a recovering drug addict. And actually, Dharma Punx itself is a great book about addiction, Buddhism and the punk scene, with no God/Jesus stuff in there.

Also: This is not a book - but it is a 16-step "take" on the 12-steps with more of a woman-focused, anti-patriarchal bent that could be compelling to someone who is not Christian: 16 steps
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 11:12 AM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Having walked down this road, I really enjoyed poetry by Rumi and reading the Tao te ching. I also would like to 2nd "One breath at a time" mentioned above.
posted by rudd135 at 5:28 PM on August 1, 2014

Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations"
posted by evil_esto at 3:53 AM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bertrand Russell's "The Conquest of Happiness"
posted by evil_esto at 3:58 AM on August 2, 2014

I'll second Cheri Huber, particularly her book How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:07 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

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