Share 10 Books About Life in a Cult

10 Books About Life in a Cult

Taylor Noel is a corporate marketing manager at Simon and Schuster. She loves literary fiction and memoirs, but will read any book put in her hands. Taylor shares her book obsessions on Instagram @books_with_taylor.

There is something about cults that endlessly fascinates me. What kind of person gets drawn to these enigmatic, dangerous groups? How? And why? Apparently, I’m not the only one with questions. From novelists to journalists to people with firsthand experience, many talented authors have written about cult life. Here are 10 you definitely don’t want to miss.


The Incendiaries
by R. O. Kwon
One of my favorite books this year, THE INCENDIARIES is a brilliant, utterly captivating novel about a glamorous young woman, who secretly blames herself for her mother’s death, and the young man who falls in love with her. When Phoebe is vulnerable, she is drawn into a religious group and extremist cult, while Will struggles to confront the beliefs he’s tried to escape and the obsession consuming the person he loves.
The Incendiaries
R. O. Kwon

MENTIONED IN:

10 Books About Life in a Cult

By Taylor Noel | August 9, 2018

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Captive
by Catherine Oxenberg
I can’t image what it would feel like to lose your child to a cult. In CAPTIVE, Catherine Oxenberg describes that nightmare. Her 20-year-old daughter, India, was brainwashed by a dangerous organization called NXIVM, a secret “sorority” of women members who are ordered to maintain a restricted diet, recruit other women as “slaves,” and are branded with their leader’s initials. Oxenberg draws back the curtain on how these groups continue to lure in members and shares her continuing journey to try to reach her daughter.
Captive
Catherine Oxenberg

MENTIONED IN:

10 Books About Life in a Cult

By Taylor Noel | August 9, 2018

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The Girls
by Emma Cline
What lonely teenager hasn’t fantasized about being one of the cool kids? When Evie sees a group of girls in a park, she is immediately drawn to their freedom and their careless energy. Soon she finds herself involved with the inner circle of an exotic, thrilling cult—but she has no idea that she is coming closer and closer to an act of unthinkable violence. THE GIRLS is a electric and seductive novel loosely based on the infamous cult lead by Charles Manson.

Read the full review of THE GIRLS.

MENTIONED IN:

10 Books About Life in a Cult

By Taylor Noel | August 9, 2018

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By Sarah Jane Abbott | December 5, 2016

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Gather the Daughters
by Jennie Melamed
If you loved THE GIVER or NEVER LET ME GO, this should be your next read. GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is a darkly glittering novel about a radical society founded by ten men and their families on an island. Every summer on the island, the adults shut themselves indoors and the younger children reign outside. During one summer, born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth about their way of life, setting off an uprising of girls that may just be its undoing.
Gather the Daughters
Jennie Melamed

MENTIONED IN:

10 Books About Life in a Cult

By Taylor Noel | August 9, 2018

18 Reading Resolutions for 2018

By Taylor Noel | December 27, 2017

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In the Days of Rain
by Rebecca Stott
This shocking, at times terrifying, memoir is Rebecca Stott’s story of growing up in England as a fourth-generation member of the Exclusive Brethren—a cult that believed the world is ruled by Satan—and then finding a way out. With IN THE DAYS OF RAIN, Stott attempts to make sense of her unorthodox childhood, her father’s role in the cult and in breaking apart her family, and her life after.
In the Days of Rain
Rebecca Stott

MENTIONED IN:

10 Books About Life in a Cult

By Taylor Noel | August 9, 2018

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The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
by Stephanie Oakes
A page-turning novel about the dangers of blind faith, THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY follows the story of a 17-year-old girl who had everything taken from her by the Kevinian cult—12 years of her life, her family, her hands. When the cult’s Prophet is murdered and their camp set aflame, Minnow knows something. But she’s not talking. Until an FBI detective offers her a deal and a chance at the freedom she’s always wanted in exchange for the terrible secrets of her past.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Stephanie Oakes

MENTIONED IN:

10 Books About Life in a Cult

By Taylor Noel | August 9, 2018

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The Road to Jonestown
by Jeff Guinn
In this riveting work of nonfiction, Jeff Guinn offers a detailed historical analysis of Jim Jones and the tragic story of the Jonestown Massacre, the largest murder-suicide in American history. But it does more than just recount the catastrophe, it illuminates the socio-political climate in the US during the fanatical preacher’s rise to power and portrays Jones’s followers as three-dimensional people, respecting the victims instead of writing them off as fools.

Read the full review of THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN.
The Road to Jonestown
Jeff Guinn

MENTIONED IN:

10 Books About Life in a Cult

By Taylor Noel | August 9, 2018

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By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2018

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By Elizabeth Breeden | July 5, 2018

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By Sarah Jane Abbott | June 22, 2018

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By Off the Shelf Staff | June 21, 2018

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Geek Love
by Katherine Dunn
GEEK LOVE is the unforgettable story of a circus-geek family whose matriarch and patriarch have bred their own cult of human oddities, from a boy with flippers for limbs to lissome Siamese twins to an albino hunchback. The Binewskis take their act across the US and accidentally inspire both fanatical devotion and murderous revulsion. This award-winning novel explores our ideas about what it means to be considered a freak versus normal, beautiful versus ugly.
Geek Love
Katherine Dunn

Carnies Al and Crystal Lil breed their own freak show, using drugs to mutate their unborn children. There’s Arturo the Aquaboy; Iphy and Elly, the Siamese twins; albino hunchback Oly; and Chick, outwardly normal with a dangerous gift. Their traveling act inspires devotion and revulsion as its members conduct their own Machiavellian version of sibling rivalry.

MENTIONED IN:

10 Books About Life in a Cult

By Taylor Noel | August 9, 2018

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By Sarah Jane Abbott | December 26, 2016

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By Sarah Jane Abbott | July 26, 2016

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The Shelter Cycle
by Peter Rock
Raised in a religious sect that predicted the world would end in the late 1980s, Francine and Colville spent their childhoods preparing for an impending Soviet missile strike. When the apocalypse didn’t occur, the children were forced to rejoin reality—a world they believed should no longer exist. Twenty years later, Francine and Colville reunite to search for an abducted girl, confronting their memories and the Church’s teachings. This is a remarkable and suspenseful novel about disillusionment and the power of beliefs.
The Shelter Cycle
Peter Rock

MENTIONED IN:

10 Books About Life in a Cult

By Taylor Noel | August 9, 2018

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The Sound of Gravel
by Ruth Wariner
Ruth Wariner, the 39th of 42 children, grew up on a rural Mexican farm in a polygamist colony governed by a founding prophet—her father. When circumstances force her family to shuffle between Mexico and the US for supplemental income, Ruth is torn between her fierce love for her siblings and her determination and courage to forge a better life. THE SOUND OF GRAVEL is an intimate, gripping memoir of triumph and courage.
The Sound of Gravel
Ruth Wariner

Ruth Wariner, the 39th of 42 children, grew up in rural Mexico in a religious colony governed by the founding prophet, her father. When circumstances force her family to shuffle between Mexico and the U.S. for supplemental income, Ruth is torn between her fierce love for her siblings and her determination and courage to forge a better life.

MENTIONED IN:

10 Books About Life in a Cult

By Taylor Noel | August 9, 2018

14 Remarkable Memoirs About Faith & Spirituality

By Tolani Osan | February 21, 2017

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