What is it about cults that fascinate us? Why do readers gravitate toward books about cults? Cults are dangerous groups that often have manipulative leaders. They can be harmful to the people who join them and the people around them. But there’s something about cults that fascinates us. Maybe it’s the allure of belonging to a secret society, the idea of being controlled by a powerful leader, or we are just trying to understand why or how people join or stay in cults. If you want to learn more about cults or read stories about cult survivors or fictionalized stories inspired by them, this list of books about cults is perfect for you. So, if you are ready to learn more, keep reading!
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Nonfiction Cult Books
Sex Cult Nun : Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult by Faith Jones
Educated meets The Vow in this story of liberation and self-empowerment—an inspiring and crazier-than-fiction memoir of growing up in and breaking free from the Children of God, an oppressive, extremist religious cult.
Slonim Woods 9 by Daniel Barban Levin
A stunning firsthand account of the creation of a modern cult under conman Larry Ray and the horrifying costs paid by his young victims: his daughter’s college roommates
Apocalypse Child: A Life in End Times by Flor Edwards
For the first thirteen years of her life, Flor Edwards grew up in the Children of God. The group’s nomadic existence was based on the belief that, as God’s chosen people, they would be saved in the impending apocalypse that would envelop the rest of the world in 1993. Apocalypse Child is a cathartic journey through Flor’s memories of growing up within a group with unconventional views on education, religion, and sex. Whimsically referring to herself as a real life Kimmy Schmidt, Edwards’s clear-eyed memoir is a story of survival in a childhood lived on the fringes.
Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett
Hollywood Park is a remarkable memoir of a tumultuous life. Mikel Jollett was born into one of the country’s most infamous cults, and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse. Yet, ultimately, his is a story of fierce love and family loyalty told in a raw, poetic voice that signals the emergence of a uniquely gifted writer.
Cultish : The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell
The author of the widely praised Wordslut analyzes the social science of cult influence: how cultish groups from Jonestown and Scientology to SoulCycle and social media gurus use language as the ultimate form of power.
Adult Fiction Cult Books
Fierce Little Thing by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Five friends are blackmailed into returning to the cult where they were raised to face their shared monstrous secret. Returning to Home from vastly different lives to confront their blackmailer, the five must not only face their dark past, but reckon with what they are capable of now that they’ve been reunited. How far will they go to bury their secret forever?
The Burning Season by Alison Wisdom
The acclaimed author of We Can Only Save Ourselves returns with an urgent and unsettling story that journeys into the heart of religious fanaticism and cult behavior as it probes one woman’s struggle to define life on her own terms.
Velorio by Xavier Navarro Aquino
Set in the wake of Hurricane Maria, Xavier Navarro Aquino’s unforgettable debut novel follows a remarkable group of survivors searching for hope on an island torn apart by both natural disaster and human violence.
The Last Housewife by Ashley Winstead
From the author of the acclaimed In My Dreams I Hold a Knife comes a pitch-black thriller about a woman determined to destroy a powerful cult and avenge the deaths of the women taken in by it, no matter the cost.
An Honest Lie by Tarryn Fisher
From New York Times bestselling author Tarryn Fisher comes another gripping, complex psychological thriller with an epic twist, about a girls’ weekend to Vegas gone horribly wrong.
The Girls by Emma Cline
An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong.
The Lightness by Emily Temple
A stylish, stunningly precise, and suspenseful meditation on adolescent desire, female friendship, and the female body that shimmers with rage, wit, and fierce longing—an audacious, darkly observant, and mordantly funny literary debut for fans of Emma Cline, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Jenny Offill.
Bunny by Mona Awad
The spellbinding new novel from one of our most fearless chroniclers of the female experience, Bunny is a down-the-rabbit-hole tale of loneliness and belonging, friendship and desire, and the fantastic and terrible power of the imagination.
The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
A powerful, darkly glittering novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university is drawn into a cult’s acts of terrorism.
First, Become Ashes by K.M. Szpara
A riveting, page-turning, accessible fantasy on American themes: self-discovery, romance, road trips, and abusive cults.
The Atmospherians by Alex McElroy
A satirical debut novel for fans of Women Talking and Red Clocks about two best friends—a disgraced influencer and a struggling actor—who form The Atmosphere, a cult designed to reform problematic men.
This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel
From the USA Today bestselling and Edgar-nominated author of Darling Rose Gold comes a dark, thrilling novel about two sisters—one trapped in the clutches of a cult, the other in a web of her own lies—and the lengths they will go to save each other.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
A triumphant, genre-bending breakout novel from one of the boldest new voices in contemporary fiction.
Young Adult Fiction Cult Books
Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams
The Handmaid’s Tale meets Wilder Girls in this genre-defying novel about a girl who escapes a terrifying cult only to discover that the world Outside has succumbed to a viral apocalypse.
Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White
A furious, queer debut novel about embracing the monster within and unleashing its power against your oppressors.
The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson
Piper was raised in a cult. Seventeen-year-old Piper knows that Father is a Prophet. Infallible. The chosen one. But Piper knows better. And Piper is going to escape.
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