Carrying the Message of Hope and Recovery for 75 Years: A.A.’s ‘Basic Text,’ Alcoholics Anonymous, Reaches Another Milestone


January 10, 2014

(NEW YORK) – First published in April 1939, Alcoholics Anonymous, the seminal text of the Alcoholics Anonymous Fellowship – and the volume from which the movement takes its name – will celebrate its 75th anniversary in April 2014.

75th Anniversary Big BookThe brainchild of A.A. cofounders Bill W. and Dr. Bob S. and the first 100 or so alcoholics to get and to stay sober following its methods, the book sought to codify the progress of these early pioneers and to create a roadmap to lead other sufferers out of alcoholism’s harsh wilderness.

As stated in the first edition’s foreword, “We of Alcoholics Anonymous are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book. For them, we hope these pages will prove so convincing that no further authentication will be necessary. We think this account of our experiences will help everyone to better understand the alcoholic. Many do not comprehend that the alcoholic is a very sick person. And besides, we are sure that our way of living has its advantages for all.”

Widely distributed, both among alcoholics seeking help and those professionals who dealt with alcoholics and their families on a regular basis, upon publication many in the medical and religious communities contributed their thoughts on its contents.

A 1939 review of the book by the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association called the stories “gripping,” and the New England Journal of Medicine urged all who at some time had to deal with the problem of alcoholism to read “this stimulating account.” 

While a review in the New York Times referred to it as “a strange book” and “unlike any other book before published,” the reviewer, Percy Hutchison, noted that “the general thesis of Alcoholics Anonymous is more soundly based psychologically than any other treatment of the subject I have ever come upon.”

As the book began to take hold throughout the early 1940s and ‘50s, selling over 300,000 copies in its first 15 years, it continued reaching an ever-broader audience.
It took 36 years to sell the first million copies, and today approximately one million copies are distributed each year in the English language alone (the book is currently translated into 70 languages), and A.A. membership has grown to over two million with a presence in more than 170 countries.

In 2010, the thirty-millionth copy was presented to the American Medical Association, which declared alcoholism an illness in 1956. In 2011, Time magazine placed the book on its list of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since the magazine began, and in 2012, the Library of Congress designated it as one of 88 “Books that Shaped America.”

Now in its fourth edition and available in multiple print, audio and electronic formats, including American Sign Language and Braille, A.A.’s basic text has provided a blueprint for recovery from alcoholism that has been followed successfully by millions of alcoholics worldwide.

Often referred to by A.A. members as “the Big Book,” since it was originally printed on thick paper to increase its bulk, the official publication date of the volume, as noted by the United States Copyright Office, was April 10, 1939.

Four thousand seven hundred and thirty books were published in the first printing, with red cloth binding, wide columns, distinctive thick paper, and a red, yellow, black and white dust jacket.
To commemorate this historic printing, the 2013 General Service Conference of A.A. approved the creation of a facsimile edition, a faithful replica of the original, in English-language text only, to be published in April 2014. 

Copies of the 75th Anniversary Commemorative Edition (Item B-0) may be preordered until February 28, 2014. Preordered books will be shipped in April 2014 directly to the purchaser with gift orders to the addresses provided. The book is priced at $12.

For information about Alcoholics Anonymous or to order the book, please visit For those seeking help for a drinking problem please look for A.A. in your local community at the following link:

For Media, contact: Public Information Desk at the General Service Office of Alcoholics Anonymous at 212-870-3119 or


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