I have heard people speak with authority and say, “you can’t read non-AA approved literature at a meeting”. Several years ago, we were reading from “The Steps We Took” by Joe McQ, on resentments. We had a new person travelling through Topeka at the meeting. He kept looking at the book and reading the cover, studying it, and was apparently upset, shaking his head in disgust. After a while, he spoke up and said, “this isn’t AA approved literature” and he threatened to report me to the New York office. I replied that he should do as he must, but may wish to read the chapter on resentments.
What is the truth? First, what did the founders read before the Big Book was published? They studied the Sermon on the Mount, Book of James, First Corinthians, spiritual daily meditations from Oswald Chambers, and the spiritual literature of the Oxford Group. Bill W. said, “the greatest danger facing AA was growing rigidity.” Screening alcoholics at meetings and prohibiting non-conference approved literature, i.e., banning books are two things he specifically mentioned. He said any AA can read anything, anytime, anywhere for any purpose. There is no tradition that says otherwise! By the way, the traditions are not laws, not binding on anyone, and never intended to prohibit freedom of speech, religion, or any spiritual path by AA members.
Factually, there is no such thing as AA approved literature. As mentioned above, if you study early AA history, Dr. Bob passed out Oxford Group pamphlets and Dr. Shoemakers writings at the early meetings.
AA World Services took over Works Publishing rights to publish the Big Book in the 1950’s. Until 1993, books which were owned, copyrighted, and printed by AAWS were identified by the use of the circle and triangle symbol. Because of some ill-advised lawsuits in 1993, the AAWS stopped putting the circle and triangle logo on literature. They replaced the circle and triangle logo with the term “conference approved literature”. This was solely done to identify the literature solely owned, copyrighted, and published by AAWS. I have been doing the “Experience the Big Book” meetings for nearly nine years – over 1200 meetings. I started recording the meetings in February of 2017 and you will see that I incorporate material other than the Big Book to expand on the spiritual message.