A Complete Guide to the AA Big Book

the aa big book

If you have ever looked into or attended an AA meeting, you may have heard of The Big Book. The Big Book of AA is a text used in Alcoholics Anonymous to spread the word of how to recover from alcoholism and share the AA recovery stories of others. The book is over 400 pages and can be broken down into 2 overarching parts. The first is dedicated to explaining how the program works and using anecdotes for an explanation. Included are chapters targetted towards certain groups of people, as well as how the 12 steps, 12 traditional, and 9 promises tie in. The other part of the book is dedicated to recovery stories. This 2nd part has changed from one edition to the other to include more recent stories that are more relatable to members in recovery today.

It was actually written by the first 100 members of AA. However, a man named William G. Wilson, aka Bill W., took on the bulk of the project and is credited as the author. He began wroke on the text in 1938 and the first edition was published on April 10, 1939. Over the years the book has been republished with new stories of recovery, without changes to the sections discussing the recovery program itself. There are 4 editions of the AA Big Book, with the most recent edition having been published just in 2001. 

The Big Book Across the Globe

Alcoholics Anonymous began in New York and didn’t really take off to become the widely trusted program we know today. However, this 12 step recovery program did eventually spread across the world. Today, the big book is one of the most all-time sold books with over 30million copies sold. In fact, The AA Big Book has been translated into 67 different languages and used by members in over 170 countries.

Big Book AA Acronyms

There are countless acronyms used in the AA community. A few of these are specifically related to The Big Book. In fact, if you see “BB”, this is the direct acronym for “Big Book”. It may be used to reference the text or to indicate that a particular AA meeting will be focused on the Big Book text. 

What happens at a Big Book Meeting?

Although all AA meetings generally start and end the same, the bulk of the meeting may vary. During a Big Book meeting, the leader will likely read a passage of The Big Book to the group and discuss the reading, what it means to them, and how it relates to recovery. During some meetings, they may open the discussion to other members present.

Search our AA meeting directory to find an AA Big Book meeting near you.

What is Big Book Study AA? 

Depending on the context, if you see “Big Book Study AA” it may be an AA meeting or a reference to a Big Book Study Guide for Alcoholics Anonymous. There are multiple groups that have published study guides designed to help members understand the contents of the Big Book. However, these are not published by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. 

How Much is an AA Big Book?

If you are in the market for an AA Big Book, you have a few options. Of course, you can purchase a book off of Amazon, but this may not be the best option for you. There are ways to get the text for free as well as digital options. Consider all of your options before making a purchase, especially if money is tight.

A Hand-Me-Down Book

Step 12 of AA states “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” As a part of this step, AA members are encouraged to pass on their books and other materials to other members who may need it more. This is one way in which they carry the message of the program to alcoholics. If you do not have the means to purchase a Big Book, you can likely get one with the help of a local chapter. 

Purchase a Book

The Big Book can also be purchased new or used. Depending on where you purchase your book, the price can vary. They can be purchase from the following locations:

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