It’s a book about meth, so I thought I’d make a list of some of my favorite books about crystal meth addiction and crystal meth recovery. Ellen Hopkins and Nik Sheff, two of the best writers in the world, have written about how they used meth. Here is my list.
Crank – Ellen Hopkins
Summary Kristina As a high school junior, Georgia Snow is a talented artist. She’s also quiet and doesn’t get into trouble. But when Kristina goes on a trip to see her absent father, Bree takes her place. Bree is completely different from Kristina. She doesn’t have any fear.
Bree meets the crank through a boy. What starts out as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a fight for her mind, soul, and life.
Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines – Nik Sheff
At age eleven, Nic Sheff had his first drink. In the years to come, he would smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and get addicted to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he thought he could always quit and get his life back on track. One summer in California, his health took a turn for the worse.
We hear Nic’s raw, honest voice as he tells us a story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. He doesn’t leave anything out. The more we watch Nic go down into the depths of drug addiction, the more we see him at odds with his past, his family, his substances, and himself. He paints this picture for us. It’s a very sad picture, but not one without hope.
Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town – Nick Reding
In general, crystal meth is thought to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in small towns in the American heartland. This is the story of how methyland spreads through the town of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,159), a once-thriving farming and railroad town. Methland is a book that looks at the connections between the people who have been affected by meth and the global forces that have set the stage for the epidemic.
Winter’s Bone – Daniel Woodrell
Summary Ree Dolly’s father has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab. If he doesn’t show up for his next court date, the Dollys will lose their house. As a 16-year-old, Ree knows that she has to get her father back, dead or alive. It can be dangerous to ask questions of the rough Dolly family in the Ozarks, where Ree lives. That’s not all, though. As an unsettling revelation looms, Ree finds new depths in herself and in a family network that protects its own at any cost.
The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth by Sam Quinones (Bloomsbury)
Next, Quinones saw fentanyl, a form of synthetic methamphetamine that had replaced heroin and could be even more dangerous. Dreamland, Quinones’ book about the opioid crisis, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In his book, Quinones tells the stories of people who used the drug and gives a wide view of how it was made cheaply in Mexico, brought into the U.S. by drug smugglers, and fought by drug police. He talks about the brains of addiction and how strengthening community bonds is the best way to fight this new phase of the crisis.
Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl (Simon & Schuster)
Ruhl’s skills as an essayist and playwright break the rules of the traditional confessional memoir in her extraordinary personal story, which recently made the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence Longlist for the 2022 award. Ruhl tells the story of how, after giving birth to twins and having her first play on Broadway, she got Bell’s palsy. It paralyzed the left side of her face, making her unable to smile, and it went on for 10 years. Ruhl is very good at writing clear dialogue, pacing the drama, making sly jokes, and having a lot of different ideas.
Born in Blackness: Africa, Africans, and the Making of the Modern World, 1471 to the Second World War by Howard W. French (Liveright)
In his strong, original history, French explains a story that many people don’t think about: how Africa played a big part in the success of capitalism in the United States and Europe, and how Portugal was its engine. He says that slave labor was important because it made gold, sugar, and cotton and was important to the global economy. French is a professor at Columbia University and a former New York Times Africa correspondent. It’s very clever how French connects the dots in history, from Africa to Europe and the conflicts that can be traced back to the 15th century, in a way that makes sense.
The War for Gloria by Atticus Lish (Knopf)
When this book starts, 16-year-old Corey and his mother, Gloria, an artist and writer who dropped out of college, are living a bleak existence together when Gloria is diagnosed with ALS. It is because of his unreliable and absent father Leonard, who claims to be a genius and works as an MIT security guard. Lish shows the subtleties of this mother-son relationship with great care and adds a lot of characters to his novel, which is about suspense and the way men in blue-collar New England in the 1980s work together.
I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart (Two Dollar Radio)
Pickhart’s dazzling first novel is based on the protests that led to the 2014 revolution in Ukraine. Pickhart draws from the folkloric oral history of Ukraine and combines it with the reporting of journalists. He focuses on a group of people at the center of a protest in Kyiv against the president in which more than 100 people were killed. Pickhart fully develops these characters, from an American doctor to a former KGB spy, by cleverly switching points of view. All of this is made even better by a chorus of past Ukrainian singers who were killed by a Russian czar.