April 2014: A Big Book is Born

In a 1954 speech in Texas, our co-founder Bill W. recalls the early days of our book

The Book, the Steps and Higher Power: An early marked-up copy of the beginning of Chapter 5, "How It Works," showing suggested changes to the text.

How in God's name are we going to carry this message to others?” Bill asked the early AA members. “We have to take some kind of chance.” So in 1938 and 1939, the group set out to put together a book. Here are some excerpts from Bill W.’s recollection of that memorable year and a half.

The Umpire
So, the preparation started and some more chapters were done and we went into AA meetings in New York with these chapters in the rough. It wasn’t like chicken-in-the-rough; the boys didn’t eat those chapters up at all. I suddenly discovered that I was in this terrific whirlpool of arguments. I was just the umpire—I finally had to stipulate, “Well boys, over here you got the holy rollers who say we need all the good old-fashioned stuff in the book, and over here you tell me we’ve got to have a psychological book, and that never cured anybody, and they didn’t do very much with drugs in the missions, so I guess you’ll have to leave me just to be the umpire. I’ll scribble out some roughs here and show them to you and let’s get the comments in.”

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"Lighting Candles in Dark Caverns." To read Bill's entire 1954 speech, visit