Big Book Q&A
The Big Book Q&A is a reference tool to help us improve our knowledge of the Big Book so that we may be able to profit more from its reading, both at meetings and in individual study. In it we identify people and places, highlight issues, trace allusions, and put passages in their historical context.
Where applicable, we cross-reference passages to other Big Book entries here and also to the 12&12, which will have its own Q&A page at a future date. Where available, we also link personal stories to their audios in Audios & Videos: Big Book Audios and AA History & Big Book Authors.
Questions and answers are organized by chapter, page, and line following the BB’s 4th edition, except for personal stories left out of that edition and collected in Experience, Strength & Hope, which follow that book.
Entries are updated periodically. Latest are printed in red.
[Updated 03/31/21: Personal Stories in ES&H]
To go to another Q&A section, please click on one of the following links:
Chapters 1–11 Personal Stories: 4th Edition Personal Stories: ES&H Appendices
To listen to the audio for the Roman numerals sections below, please click on the link.
Roman Numerals Section
- L1-2: “. . . the book ‘Alcoholics Anonymous.” What was Bill W.’s early name for the book? – “The Book of Experience”
- What were some of the names later proposed for the book? – “One Hundred Men,” “The Dry Life,” “The Dry Way,” “Dry Frontiers,” “The Empty Glass,” and “One Hundred Men”
- Why was “One Hundred Men” rejected? – The first woman, Florence R., joined the group
- It finally came down to two choices: ‘Alcoholics Anonymous,’ and another title. What was this other title? – “The Way Out”
- Which of the two main groups favored the first name? – The New York Group
- Which favored the second? – The Akron Group
- Did Bill W. and Dr. Bob favor different titles? – No
- Which title did they both favor? – Alcoholics Anonymous
- When the titles were voted upon, which title won? – The Way Out
- Why was that name not chosen in the end? – There were already too many books with that title
- Cross-reference: “Foreword to First Edition, p. XIII
Foreword to First Edition
- L1-3: “More than one hundred men and women.” Is this an exact count of how many AAs had gotten and stayed sober as of the publishing of the BB? – No. The record seems to show that between 1935 and 1938, about 74 members had so “recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body.”
- Why the claim, then? – The stated number may have included AAs who got but did not stay sober during the entire period in question. For a variety of reasons, recovery in AA does not lend itself to precise head counts.
- How many among these were actually women? – Reportedly one.
- What was her name, and where was she from? – Florence Rankin, of NYC. She relapsed after a year or so, and apparently committed suicide in 1939.
- Her story was published in the 1st edition of the BB and is reprinted in Experience, Strength and Hope. What is its title there? – “A Feminine Victory,” pp. 16-23
- Cross-reference: See “To Wives,” footnote, p.104
Foreword to Second Edition
1. P XV
- L25-26: ". . . a New York stockbroker and an Akron physician. Who were these men? – Bill W. and Dr. Bob
2. P XVI
1. L1-3: ". . . an alcoholic friend who had been in contact with the Oxford Groups."
Who was this friend? – Ebby T.
2. Where had the meeting taken place? – In the kitchen of Bill & Lois' apartment in
3. Cross-reference to meeting place: “Women Suffer Too,” p.201, L22-23
3. P XVII
- L6-7: Prominent attorney, ex-city councilman, and former church deacon, “AA number three” started his eighth detox in six months at Akron City Hospital by assaulting two nurses. What was his name? – Bill D.
- Known as “the man on the bed,” his story appears under Part I, Pioneers of AA. What is its title? – “Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three,” p.182
- Cross-reference: See entry for "A Vision for You," p.156, in Chapters 1-11
- How long had Dr. Bob been sober when he and Bill went to work on what was “Their very first case?” – 16 days
- Was this really their first case? – No. There were two earlier but unsuccessful cases
- Who were these alcoholics? – a Dr. McKay and Eddie R.
Cross-reference: “Alcoholics Anonymous Number Three,” Personal Stories Section, 4th Edition, p.182
The Doctor’s Opinion
1. P XXV
1. L7-8: “. . . chief physician at a nationally prominent hospital.” What hospital was
this? – Towns Hospital on Central Park West, NYC
2. L13-16: “In late 1934 I attended a patient . . . who was an alcoholic of a type I
had come to regard as hopeless. Who was this patient? – Bill W.
3. Cross-reference: “Bill’s Story,” p.7, “A Vision for You,” p.162, and “Our
Southern Friend,” p.213
2. P XXVII
- L20: “. . . one of the leading contributors of this book? Who was that? – Bill W.
3. P XXIX
1. L7-9: “. . . and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there
is very little hope of his recovery. This echoes the words of a well-known Swiss
psychiatrist. Who was this?– Carl Jung
2. Whom had this psychiatrist treated, unsuccessfully? – Rowland H.
3. What was his advice to him? Seek a spiritual experience
4. Where did Rowland find it? In the Oxford Group in NYC
4. P XXXI
- L3-6: Who was the man “brought in to be treated for chronic alcoholism” who also had had a “gastric hemorrhage” and “seemed to be a case of pathological mental deterioration?” – Hank P.
- AA number 2 in NY, he got sober in the same hospital Bill W. did. What hospital was this? – Towns Hospital in Central Park West
- What is the title of his story, which appeared in the 1st edition of the BB? – “The Unbeliever,” now in Experience, Strength, & Hope, p.5
- L21-25: Another patient “had hidden in a deserted barn determined to die.” He got sober at the same hospital and became AA number 3 in NY. What was his name? – Fitz M.
- His story appears under Part I, Pioneers of AA. What is its title? – “Our Southern Friend,” p.208
- Cross-reference to Towns Hospital: “The Doctor’s Opinion,” p.XXV, “Bill’s Story,” p.7, “A Vision for You,” p.162, and “Our Southern Friend,” p.213
- Cross-reference to Fitz M.: “We Agnostics,” p.56, “The Vicious Cycle,” p.219, and “Our Southern Friend,” pp. 497-507