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The Book That Started It All: The Original Working Manuscript of Alcoholics Anonymous Hardcover – September 1, 2010

5.0 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Hazelden; Commemorative edition (September 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159285947X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592859474
  • Product Dimensions: 11.8 x 1 x 13.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By tim on September 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was awe struck reading this book. Not only were the manuscript comments absolutely fascinating, the reproduction techniques used were of such a high quality that it really made me think I was in the room with Bill W. as he was reviewing edits. And, the commentary from the AA historians really put the manuscript in context. Hats off Hazelden!
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By Gin on September 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I purchased my copy from Hazelden a few weeks ago. The images of the original manuscripts are amazing. The book is much larger then I envisioned it would be and it's a very good quality. I highly recommend this book to all AA readers. If you can't wait for your copy it's available from Hazelden, they offer free shipping as well.
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By StacyJay on September 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was absolutely AMAZED after reading this book. The careful thought and discussions that went into creating the first Alcoholics Anonymous book is unbelievable. I would highly recommend that others take a look!
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Format: Hardcover
Bill W. wrote most of the BB between May 1938 and January of 1939, discussing drafts of the work in progress at the Clinton Street meeting and sending them to Dr. Bob for review by the Akron group. The feedback from Akron was consistently positive. But in NY, a heated debate broke out. According to Bill, three points of view emerged: "conservatives" who argued for an explicitly Christian text, "liberals" who didn't object to using "God" but wanted a spiritual rather than a religious document, and the "radical left-wing" who wanted to delete "God" from the book entirely and produce a work of psychology.

Unable to agree among themselves, the three factions eventually named Bill the final arbiter of the book's content. An initial draft of the manuscript was completed by February. Concerned that the book be widely acceptable, some 400 mimeograph or multilith copies were sent out for comment. As these were returned, it became evident that the book had been well received in all quarters, the medical and religious professions included.

Still, the dispute in NY went on unabated. The minority of "radicals" there had always seen the book as an opportunity to educate the "benighted Akronites" and they pressed their effort to edit God out. In this they had an ally in the person of a Dr. Howard, a NJ psychiatrist whose returned mimeograph was filled with edits deleting "God" and inserting other terms.

From the start, Bill had recognized the two horns of the dilemma facing the book. "If you labeled it a strictly Christian book" all kinds of problems would arise and many alcoholics would stay away, while if "we make a psychological job of it nobody would get well from it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've shared my copy of this book with several friends --- along with the points that Dick B. makes in his review (and I've printed those out to stick into my copy of the book), the thing that I find important to point out to people as they are "browsing" the contents of the book (i.e., not sitting down and really reading the text) is to remember that the most sobriety anyone in the program had at the time of the writing and the reviews was Bill W. with about 4 years . . . it has been helpful to suggest that individuals think about where they were (or where friends in the program are) when they had 3 (or fewer) years of sobriety and were they capable of putting together a book (or even editing a book) that has held up for over 70 years and helped millions of people to save their lives and the lives of others (and then to make those lives worth living)!

The fun part is that, almost without exception, nearly everyone with whom I've shared my copy of the book has wanted to get a copy for themselves (or as a gift for a friend, sponsor, etc.). I'm grateful that I ordered a pre-publication copy through Amazon!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't know whether I would have purchased this book for $65 sight unseen--I bought it at Amazon at a substantial discount.

Nevertheless, having obtained the finished product, it is well worth the $65 for which it is being sold by Hazelden (pre-orders for the next shipment are discounted there until around the end of November).

The book is VERY high quality, with color plates for each and every page of the manuscript, at actual size. This is a very large, and very heavy book. AA history buffs will absolutely LOVE it. The commentaries help to put the edits in context, and whether you agree or disagree with some of the editorial decisions made, these are what shaped the book that became the foundation of the Fellowship.

I don't doubt that there will be more books to come, each with their own gloss on what is reproduced here. GREAT holiday gift for anyone in AA who loves the Big Book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an incredibly interesting, gripping, book! This "Working Manuscript" of the book Alcoholics Anonymous is of primary interest to those with an interest in alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous, and 12-steppery in general. But it's also interesting from the perspective of the evolution of a book manuscript. The typed copy of the manuscript is all marked up with suggestions, some taken, some not that are very interesting.

Bill Wilson, the primary writer of the book, together with the other contributors, sent out 400 or so copies of the manuscript to psychiatrists, doctors, ministers, and so on, to get their opinions and suggestions and reactions to the book. When they sent their copies back, with commentary, suggestions and comments thought to be of importance were then copied into a "master copy", this book. Some suggestions were taken, some not, but every suggestion for changes written in here was considered important enough to at least talk over with the group by Bill Wilson, or one of the other contributors.

What's interesting to me are some of the small changes that probably didn't mean a lot. True, some of the changes were significant, and a stroke of genius, like the switch from prescriptive language (YOU MUST!!) to descriptive language (this is what we did that has worked for us). Some of the changes not taken are interesting as well. But there are some changes that are small and don't mean much. For example, the wording "we are ordinary Americans" was changed to "we are average Americans" and a comment in the margins says: Do people like being called ordinary? I don't think anybody would notice this line either way. But it reminds me, that this was a group of drunks who wanted to be taken seriously. They had only been sober for, at the most, 4 years.
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