What is AA Literature?

In 1935, Bill W and Dr. Bob had their famous meeting at the gatehouse of the Seiberling estate and Alcoholics Anonymous was born. In 1939, the book Alcoholics Anonymous was published and AA had its basic text of recovery.

From the beginning, many cities and even individual groups, published pamphlets that became known as “can openers.” For many years, these historic pamphlets were the only “AA” literature available. Alcoholics Anonymous’ General Service Conference came to be in 1950 in the USA. At the 1951 Conference, a Conference Advisory action was made that stated, “This Conference feels that in future years AA textbook literature should have Conference approval.”

This does not diminish the value of literature written before the Conference. In fact, at that same Conference it was stated, “Prior to the vote on this subject, it was pointed out that adoption of the suggestion would not preclude the continued issuance of various printed documents by non-Foundation sources. No desire to review, edit or censor non-Foundation material is implied. The objective is to provide, in the future, a means of distinguishing Foundation literature from that issued locally or by non-AA interests.” 1

This subject was not a new one for A.A. In 1944, Bobby B of the Foundation office wrote to a member concerning the use of local pamphlets, “We do not actually approve or disapprove of these local pieces…that the Foundation feels each Group is entitled to write up its own ‘can opener’ and let it stand on its own merits. All of them have good points and very few have caused any controversy…I think it is up to each individual group whether it wants to use and buy these pamphlets from the Group that puts them out.” 2

And again in 1950, Bill W wrote to Barry C the following, “The Little Red Book does fill a definite need and has wide circulation. Therefore, its usefulness is unquestioned. AA has a definite place for such a book. . . Here at the Foundation we are not policeman; we’re a service and AAs are free to read any book they choose.” 3

There has never been a prohibition on selling non-conference and preconference literature. It has always been up to each Group or Service office’s group conscience. In 1972, the General Service Conference passed an Advisory action stating, “It be suggested that when a local AA facility (central office, intergroup, group, etc.) sells non-Conference approved literature, it be clearly designated as such.” And in 1975, “Previous Conference action to display non-Conference approved literature and Conference approved literature separately be reaffirmed.”

The items available on our pre- conference and non-conference literature provide a rich resource for continued growth in Alcoholics Anonymous. AA Victoria’s Central Service Committee is pleased to make these pre-Conference and non-Conference literature, books and other items available.

1. The Alcoholic Foundation became AA World Services, Inc.
2. Letter, Margaret BAA Foundation to Barry C, November 11, 1944
3. Letter, Bill W. to Barry C, November 1950