R. O. Kwon
At the prestigious Edwards University, Phoebe Lin is lured into a religious cult by a former student with a dubious past and violent plans. Still reeling from her mother’s death—and secretly blaming herself for it—Phoebe follows along willingly. Meanwhile, the boy who’s in love with her, Will Kendall, knows intimately how easy it is to be manipulated, and he struggles to reach out to Phoebe before it’s too late.
Set 400 years in the future under a totalitarian government, Salvation Day is helmed by Zahra, the leader of a cultish faction. The group is on a mission to reclaim House of Wisdom, a space-exploration vessel abandoned a decade earlier after a virus killed everyone on board. But the group gets far more than they came for when they discover humanity-threatening secrets that the entire global government has been covering up—and it’s about to all come crashing down.
Dazzlingly original and darkly funny, Heartbreaker is narrated by 15-year-old Pony Darlene Fontaine, a killer dog, and a boy named Supernatural, in the aftermath of Pony’s mom’s disappearance. It’s 1985, and Pony lives in “the territory,” where her mother showed up 17 years ago and was taken in—the only outsider ever to join. But now Billie Jean has snuck off in the dark of night, and Pony is left to figure out what it all means.
Say You're Sorry
When Daisy Dawson is attacked by a serial killer, she manages not only to get away, but to grab the necklace around the killer’s neck. Special Agent Gideon Reynolds recognizes the necklace: it’s from the cult his mother helped him escape from when he was a teenager—the cult that took his mother’s life, and many others. An edge-of-your-seat thriller with heart-stopping stakes.
The Marriage Pact
When Jake and Alice say “I do” on their wedding day, they also pledge their loyalty to an exclusive and glamorous group called The Pact. A gathering of likeminded couples who aim to be the best spouses they can be, The Pact seems like positive and community-minded help for what’s commonly known as the hardest year of marriage. But when one of them breaks The Pact’s rules, Jake and Alice are about to find out exactly what they signed up for.
When 14-year-old Evie befriends a group of girls she meets in a park, she’s soon pulled into their isolated ranch community, which revolves around one charismatic leader. Driven by the intensity of her relationship with an older girl named Suzanne, Evie doesn’t realize how far she’s falling to the whims of this Manson-like cult.
Jayne Ann Krentz
FBI consultant Jack Lancaster is supposed to believe that Quinton Zane—the cult leader he grew up under until a tragic night that left Jack orphaned—is long dead, but he knows better. Quinton is back, and he wants to finish what he started. Moody, full of psychological suspense, and with a satisfying romantic plot starring Jack’s meditation therapist, Untouchable is all sorts of bingeworthy.
Under the Banner of Heaven
Starting with the murder of a woman and her infant child, Krakauer meticulously examines the origins and intricacies of a Fundamentalist and polygamist community that continues to exist in large numbers today. Shocking and compelling, this one is a must-read.
In February 1974, 19-year old Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by a group calling itself Symbionese Liberation Army. Several months later she came forward saying she had joined the group, then spent the next year on the run as she became complicit with the SLA’s crimes. New Yorker writer and bestselling author Jeffrey Toobin records this bizarre and fascinating chapter in American history, from the kidnapping to the dramatic trial following Hearst’s arrest to the media frenzy that captured it all.
In the Days of Rain
Rebecca Stott grew up in the Exclusive Brethren, a fundamentalist Christian cult that shunned mainstream culture. Her father, Roger, was a high-ranking minister, though he often broke Brethren rules, and Rebecca spent her isolated childhood reading forbidden library books. Years after her family left the Brethren, Roger begins examining his complicity in the harm that the Brethren inflicted on its members, and asks Rebecca to serve as historian and storyteller. In the Days of Rain recounts the inner workings of the cult as well as Rebecca’s bewildering freedom from it.
The Girl Before
Held for questioning by the police, Clara Lawson is forced to examine every facet of her life as she slowly comes to terms with the truth behind her upbringing and her beloved husband’s secretive business. Told through a split narrative of “Then” and “Now,” the unraveling of Clara’s life is a psychological thriller you won’t want to miss.
Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies
The title of Arthur Goldwag’s anthology says it all: this book is perfect for readers looking to learn about a breadth of cults, conspiracies, and secret societies across history, including the Freemasons, the mafia, the Kennedy assassination, and—of course—the Illuminati.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
Seventeen-year-old Minnow is imprisoned in a juvenile detention center for a crime she committed after her escape from the tyrannical Kevinian cult, at whose authority she lost everything—including her own hands. In this dark work of fiction, Minnow must be willing to admit what she knows about the cult’s demise in order to reclaim her life.
Cartwheels in a Sari
Jayanti Tamm was not only born into a cult—to parents who were avid followers of the spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy—she was born as the Chosen One, handpicked by Guru to be set apart. In this insightful memoir, Tamm reflects on her unusual upbringing and her ultimate decision to break free.
Simultaneously alluring and horrifying, cults are fascinating to us because we inherently know so little about them. In real life, they’re so isolated that most people don’t think about them during their day-to-day. In literature, however, cults are everywhere. Countless memoirs have given voice to survivors, while investigators continue to write about them in sweeping works of journalism and true crime. In fiction, cults allow readers to consider the human psyche—the motivations that drive our choices and our sense of belonging. These titles, both fiction and nonfiction, explore complicated themes of survival and psychology, all wrapped up in nail-biting narratives.
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