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  • The Big Book of AA is a book published by Alcoholics Anonymous. It is known as the basic text of AA, and its main goal is to help others who might struggle with alcohol abuse.

    The Big Book of AA is also known as The AA Big Book, the basic text for Alcoholics Anonymous, or simply the Big Book.

    The Fourth Edition is the most recent version of the Big Book. It was published in 2001. The Big Book records the ideas of its founders, lists emotional personal experiences, and ends with encouragement to reach out to your local AA group.

    History Of The Big Book

    The first edition of the Big Book was published in 1939 by Bill W. (also known as Bill Wilson), the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

    The Big Book has been updated a few times since its release. The second edition was released in 1955, while the third edition came out in 1976. Each new release was edited to reflect the current form of the AA program, like replacing outdated stories with new stories.

    By the time the 4th edition was released in 2001, the Alcoholics Anonymous non-profit had grown to about 2 million AA members in over 150 countries. The Big Book has also been translated into over 40 different languages.

    Parts Of The Big Book

    The Big Book is divided into 4 main sections.


    The introduction includes the foreword, which is updated with each new edition. The fourth edition’s foreword talks about how much AA has grown since its founding in the 1930s. 

    Until today, the main goal of AA is to set up group meetings, where people can support each other through their common experiences with alcohol.

    The introduction also has “The Doctor’s Opinion,” which is a written letter from a physician who often dealt with alcohol and drug abuse. The physician gives credibility to the Big Book and the founders of AA with his testimonial.


    The chapters make up the largest part of the Big Book. After the forewords, the Big Book opens with Bill’s Story. As one of the pioneers of AA, Bill W. had his own story of alcohol abuse and recovery to share, and his story still resonates with many AA members and AA groups today.

    Other important chapters in this section include:

    • Chapter 4: “We Agnostics” (talks about the importance of God or other higher power in alcohol recovery, and describes the recovery process as a “spiritual experience”)
    • Chapter 5: “How It Works” (details the 12 step program of recovery that is still used today)
    • Chapter 6: “Into Action” (discuss how and when to start looking for help)

    Personal Stories

    The personal stories section is divided into four sections:

    • “How Forty-Two Alcoholics Recovered From Their Malady” (a short introduction)
    • “Part I – Pioneers of AA” (the personal experiences of AA founders and what motivated them to start AA)
    • “Part II – They Stopped In Time” (experiences of people who looked for help before their drinking problem got too severe)
    • “Part III – They Lost Nearly All” (anecdotes from people who suffered homelessness, poverty, and health problems due to alcohol abuse but recovered)

    The personal stories section can have an emotional impact on readers. The people in these stories come from many different backgrounds, professions, and social standings. It’s likely these anecdotes will resonate with many people.


    The appendices section has information on Alcoholics Anonymous that did not fit in the other sections. Notable sections include:

    • The AA Tradition
    • The Medical View on AA
    • The Lasker Award
    • The Religious View on AA

    The final section urges people who may be struggling with alcohol use to get in touch with their local AA group. The fourth edition refers readers to their website and their office in New York.

    Is The Big Book Right For You?

    The Big Book has a wide variety of experiences that can help people who are in similar situations. It is also an introduction to the history and mission of Alcoholics Anonymous as a group. Many professionals and organizations over the years have also supported it.

    Alcoholics Anonymous can be a helpful support group. Many people can find comfort and strength in AA meetings, while others may need additional help. Professional medical treatment, such as inpatient care and therapy, may be done alongside AA group support.

    Find an Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meeting near you

    If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol abuse, you may want to look for the best help available. Contact us today if you are looking for medical treatment options for alcohol abuse.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Alcoholics Anonymous - Alcoholics Anonymous
    ​Silkworth.net​ - Big Book Changes

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on May 25, 2022
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