Good Minds Suggest—Irvine Welsh's Favorite Books About Addiction

September, 2012

Irvine Welsh Not for the squeamish, novelist Irvine Welsh illuminates the grimiest aspects of addiction and poverty with nihilistic glee—and a gristle-thick Scottish brogue. The desperate gang of heroin junkies featured in his fiction debut, Trainspotting, were brought to life in Danny Boyle's 1996 film adaptation, an international hit which soon garnered a cult following. Welsh continued to embrace the flawed characters of Edinburgh's underclass in several subsequent novels, including Filth and Porno. His latest book, Skagboys, brings back the Trainspotting crew for a prequel that looks at the lives of Mark Renton, Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie as their heroin-laced devolution begins. Welsh shares his favorite literary renderings of addiction.

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
"This is not strictly a book about addiction, although it has some desperate scenes. But it's a great journey into the mind and thus illustrates the mind-set of the rebel hipster."


Deliria by Albyn Leah Hall
"This is a great shimmering, trippy novel of smack addiction. [It] describes beautifully and lyrically the tranquil nature of escape that heroin offers. A neglected classic from a great writer. What happened to her?"


Junky by William S. Burroughs
"Not an experimental work like Naked Lunch, but a straightforward account of the life of a heroin addict."


Cain's Book by Alexander Trocchi
"Trocchi was a great writer, and Cain's Book is a brilliant depiction of the life of a Scottish smackhead in New York City, closely related to Trochhi's own experiences. His life, however, is a study in how drugs can enhance creativity but destroy another equally important asset for a writer, namely his engine."


Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas de Quincey
"I've kept back an older classic for the last. It reminds us that drug addiction isn't a modern or contemporary phenomenon; the Victorians were at it in a big way."



Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Books About Substance Abuse & Addiction



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message 10: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Even Sherlock Holmes was addicted to cocaine.. as Watson put it, "his only vice"


message 9: by Pete (new)

Pete Smith materialism is substantial...


message 8: by Pete (new)

Pete Smith and arguably abusive.


message 7: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Vercillo Terrific roundup of a variety of different approaches to writing around addiction.


message 6: by Jen (new)

Jen I enjoyed, or rather squeamed through, Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg.


message 5: by Peggy (new)

Peggy "A Million Little Pieces" is fiction. The author made up most of it and called it his autobiography. None of the people he claims to have interacted with are real.


message 4: by James (new)

James Real old school selections. I read the two by Burroughs and the slang was nearly indecipherable.

Jim Carroll's Basketball Diaries


message 3: by Cherie (new)

Cherie I enjoyed 'Now More Again' by Elizabeth Wurtzel.


message 2: by Chris (new)

Chris Mendius Okay, modesty aside, I have to toss my own novel Spoonful into this ring. I hope anyone interested in this topic will give it a close look.Spoonful


message 1: by Pete (new)

Pete Smith hey chris, i will check it out. My idealism hit the spoon early 80's - E helped me to out my humanity by the mid 90's. A balanced and well rounded lifestyle you could argue...My novel is titled shifting targets, not a depiction of those times, more a proposition of our need for functional philosophy.


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