Sarah’s top five quit lit book recommendations

Whether you’re wanting to stop drinking, starting to think about your relationship with alcohol or in need of more alcohol-free inspiration, reading sobriety books (aka quit lit) is a great place to start.

I've compiled a list of my favourite female-written books – from the ones which helped me initially, to the ones I return too often. Here's hoping that if you're looking to explore sobriety, they will give you a helping hand too.

1. The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray

This book changed my life, it resonated with me in a way that nothing has before, I honestly cannot sign its praises enough; reading it was like an epiphany moment and I just could not put it down.

Two-thirds of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober is about what comes after the quitting, after the day one. ‘What will life be like if I quit? How will I cope with anxiety, with New Year’s Eve, with a first kiss? Will it be worth the gargantuan lifestyle change?’

In this book Catherine Gray shows that sober life offers you so much more: rather than spending all day sleeping off your hangover, you can leap out of bed at seven and go for a run, join your friends for a brunch, take yourself to the spa or spend the afternoon shopping. You can still date, have fun and dance. You can go to parties and weddings. You can do anything a drunk person can do – with the added bonus that you are unlikely to make an idiot of yourself while you’re at it.

From the author: “The book is a tri-brid of self-help, a report and a memoir. It’s for the sober-curious, as well as the trying-to-be-sober and the already-sober. It’s for people who want to quit drinking for six months to save for a house deposit and clear up their skin, as well as those who want to quit for good. It’s rich with inspirational takeaway tips, shocking stats, illuminating science, never-read-before insights from experts, convincing research as to why sobriety is better, and diary excerpts from my life drinking vs. my life sober.”

Her follow up, Sunshine Warm Sober: Unexpected Sober Joy that Lasts, written in Gray's eighth year of sobriety, builds on this beautifully and is an ode to the longer terms benefits of booze-free living.

2. This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol: Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life by Annie Grace

Millions of people worry that drinking is affecting their health, yet are unwilling to seek change because of the stigma associated with alcoholism and recovery. They fear drinking less will be boring, difficult and involve deprivation, and significant lifestyle changes.

This book, without scare tactics, pain or rules, gives you freedom from alcohol. By addressing causes rather than symptoms it is a permanent solution rather than lifetime struggle.

From the author: “Welcome to a new, positive solution that gives you freedom in your relationship with alcohol. Allowing you to look at your drinking without fear. Empowering you with the tools that give you your power back, enabling you to decide what is right for you – without illogical cravings or irrepressible urges. Since This Naked Mind can remove the psychological desire for a drink, this allows you to drink less (or stop drinking) without pain, rules or missing out. Sounds hard to believe, but it is true. This incredible change can open the door to the life you have been waiting for.”

3. Quit Like A Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol by Holly Whitaker

*The book that inspired Chrissy Teigen and Sex and The City's Miranda to quit drinking*

We live in a world obsessed with drinking. We drink at baby showers and work events, brunch and book club, graduations and funerals. Yet no one ever questions alcohol’s ubiquity—in fact, the only thing ever questioned is why someone doesn’t drink. As a society, we are obsessed with health and wellness, yet we uphold alcohol as some kind of magic elixir, though it is anything but.

American author Holly Whitaker, began her own journey to sobriety in 2012 after developing an alcohol dependency throughout her 20s. Although life-changing, her recovery unveiled the male-centric frameworks that exist within recovery programmes and the patriarchal forces at play in the alcohol industry.

Since then, Holly has gone on to create her own sobriety school, as well as detailing her battle with addiction in her debut book, Quit Like A Woman. Discussing recovery through a female lens, she aims to give insight into our obsession with drinking, why alcoholism is a gendered issue and the strength that can be found in going sober.

From the author: “Spending a night out drinking is akin to dismantling every piece of protection we have—our cognition, our decision making, our reaction time, our memory, our standards, our voice. If we thought about alcohol in this way—as something that undermines our collective momentum and personal agency and vitality and self-worth—what would that mean for us? What if we all rejected the poison—then what? I’ll tell you what: world domination, bitches.”

4. The Sober Diaries: How One Woman Stopped Drinking and Started Living by Clare Pooley

I flew through this book, it was funny but also serious and it made for really easy reading. It reminded me of Bridget Jones if she ever decided to ger sober!

Clare Pooley, a career woman and mum of three kids, opens up about her transformation to sober life. She quit drinking and started a blog: Mummy was a Secret Drinker. That blog led to this book, The Sober Diaries. She writes about her first year in sobriety and all the highs and lows.

This is a good option for those who are questioning their own drinking habits but not quite ready for a self-help book, Pooley weaves in research and advice such as: 'How do I know if I'm drinking too much?' and 'What do I say to friends and family?' for a much softer approach.

From the author: “I’d known for a while that I was drinking too much and that it was starting to seriously mess up my life. I was two stone overweight, a terrible insomniac and anxious all the time. I also felt like my life was stuck in a rut. I’d lost sight of the person that I used to be. I didn’t want to quit – the idea terrified me! Wine was my best friend. I was the party girl, the rebel. Wine defined me. So, I tried, and tried to moderate. But I found it impossible to stick to any of the rules I set myself. The more I tried to drink less, the more I thought about booze. Finally, I realised that I am an all-or-nothing person. Moderation just isn’t my thing. I knew that I would find it easier to stop drinking all together than to try to drink ‘sensibly”

5. A Girl Walks Out of a Bar by Lisa F. Smith

Lisa was a bright young lawyer at a prestigious New York law firm, she worked hard and played hard, just like her colleagues. But behind closed doors, her addictions to alcohol and cocaine quickly spiralled out of control.

Lisa drank and used drugs around the clock but managed to keep it all hidden for the most part. She was a high functioning addict until one morning she... wasn't. With blood in her urine and a glass of wine in her hand just to get out the door for work, she finally reached out for help.

Her raw depiction unveils the pressures of her job (20% of lawyers have substance abuse problems, she reports) as well as the personal costs of addiction, including divorce, ill health, and self-loathing. I found myself rooting for this extraordinary woman as she travels the path to recovery, healing, and triumph over addiction; her story will inspire both those who have been there and those who have not.

From the author: “After hitting bottom and going to detox for five days, I went back to the job I was in and kept quiet about my addiction. I stayed sober, and about a year later, I joined my current firm. Years later, when I started to write publicly about my addiction and recovery, I told my colleagues. I trusted and respected them. I didn’t want them to learn my story on the Internet. It was difficult to share, but the response I received was overwhelmingly positive. I am lucky to be in a compassionate and supportive environment. Not everyone is so fortunate, though. I still recommend thinking long and hard before opening up in a law firm. But, I hope, that can change over time.”

Fancy joining a book club?

If you like reading quit lit and want to meet other like-minded people, why not come and join our book club? Check out on Instagram.

We were set up in May 2021 by Emily (@emalemonpie) who after 6 months of sobriety during a UK lockdown was worried the opening of bars and clubs would send her back to old habits, living in a busy seaside town known for its party scene and after rekindling her love for books she wanted to create a space away from the crowds outside where she could share her love for literature with a community of other people she felt safe with.

Our goal is to bring people - of all genders - together who share a love of literature and have an interest in sobriety and to create a safe space away from our alcohol and drug fuelled cultures where we can explore stories and chat about the thing that connects us as humans; our desire to be heard and understood.

Each month a new book is decided and we get together via zoom on the last Sunday of the month at 5pm UK time and 9am PST.

We have been lucky enough to some wonderful authors join in on the meeting, Lisa Smith being one of them, so come along, make some new friends and share your love of reading!

Written by Sarah

Sarah has been sober for over 2 years and lives in Hastings, UK with her husband Jake and their two cats Ben and Jerry. She is also vegan and deeply passionate about animal welfare.

Sarah loves early mornings and will often be up from 5am watching the sun come up, it’s safe to say that sobriety has unlocked the early bird in her!

Since going sober she has been focusing on self-care, taking control of her mental health and setting healthy boundaries, this has resulted in Sarah finding new joy in things such as meditation, yoga, journalling, reading and long hot baths.

Sarah is a keen exerciser and loves to move her body whether that’s going on a long run, dancing round the living room like no one’s watching, or lifting some weights, exercise keeps her sane.

She wants to show everyone that giving up alcohol doesn’t mean you’re missing out on anything, if you want to know more about Sarah check out her webpage:

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