8 Books About Cults: Captivating Non-Fiction & Fiction Picks
Ever since reading Hollywood Park, I’ve been interested in books about cults – both fiction and nonfiction.
I’m fascinated by the reasons someone would join and then stay in a cult whether for religious, political, or wellness reasons.
Watching the Nine Perfect Strangers adaptation only furthered my interest. Since Jackie has read a few of these books about cults too, we thought we would round up our favorites and the ones we want to read for you!
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Fiction Books About Cults
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
I love Lisa Jewell. As I read her books I find each one creepier than the last. This book starts with Libby’s 25th birthday when she inherits a multi-million dollar home. She knows that she was adopted at 10 months old but, she doesn’t know the truth about what happened to her family. She is shocked to find that the story that she was told is not what happened to her family.
25+ years ago Henry, his sister, and his parents are living a very privileged life. When he is 12 years old, things change when David moves into the house with his wife and kids with no plans to leave. He is charismatic and alluring to everyone except Henry. The story moves between past and present until the two stories come together and you finally understand what happened in the house all those years ago. I love listening to full cast audiobooks and this one was no exception. If you love Lisa Jewell, check out our post: The Best Lisa Jewell Books Ranked: Complete List
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Wow. This is one of those rare books that really has it all. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize as well as the National Book Award and definitely lives up to its hype. It is a beautifully written, powerful, and poignant book about the AIDS epidemic in Chicago in the 1980s and its aftermath 30 years later.
Yale Tishman is the development director of an art gallery that is about to bring in an extraordinary collection of art from the 1920s. He has just lost his friend Nico and is losing friends all around him. Fast forward to 2015 when Nico’s little sister is in Paris searching for her daughter who disappeared with a cult three years earlier. I cannot say enough about this book – it’s one of the best books of 2019!
Please Join Us by Catherine McKenzie
Do you love books about secret societies as I do? Then join me in diving into the world of Panthera Leo and their mission to help women conquer the world.
Nicole needs the women in her “Pride” to help her find a new apartment and get back on the partner track at her law firm. But are these women out to help her or is there something more sinister happening with Panthera Leo?
This one was so quick but also so enjoyable. It’s the perfect read for fall for anyone looking for a book about cults.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
December 2022 Read with Jenna Book Pick
Richard is one of a select group of six students who have been hand-picked to work under the guidance of a classics teacher named Julian Morrow. Richard is narrating the story and he begins by telling about the death of one of the students named Bunny.
As the story progresses, it is clear that this secret society of students rides the line of morality. The strained friendships and sexual tensions continue to push the edge until Bunny is killed.
This is one of the books about secret societies that was deeply disturbing and difficult to read. It certainly earns its place on our list of dark academia books and books about cults!
Wellness Cult Books
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Let me start off by saying, this is no Big Little Lies. I love Moriarty when her works are based more on events that could actually happen – My Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies remain great contemporary fiction books on my list.
This story about nine strangers at a health retreat had an incredible start and then got insanely far-fetched. Mind you, I enjoyed it immensely, but you need to go in knowing that it’s an enjoyable read but nothing more.
I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown
Sam and Elli are identical twins and former child acting stars who are now estranged. But when Sam’s parents call her because Elli is acting oddly, the secrets from their past start unraveling.
Elli has disappeared and Sam must figure out where she is. But Sam is dealing with life as a recovering addict and through flashbacks, we learn about the root of the wedge between the once-close sisters. Can Sam figure out how to save her sister before they lose each other for good?
This was not my favorite Janelle Brown. I found the whole cult storyline to be predictable and a little silly.
Nonfiction Books about Cults
Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett
I have not read a memoir so fascinating and compelling since Educated by Tara Westover. As non-fiction books go, this is one of the best.
Jollett’s story about leaving a cult he was born into and the emotional scars his early childhood trauma left on him was so compelling. I was so impressed by his insight into himself and those around him, and his willingness to be so frank about his journey to adulthood. I can’t recommend this book about cults enough.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
This book had me thinking about it for DAYS. I mean truly, DAYS. This book about poverty shows the impact how a lack of education can impact generations.
Tara’s journey was inspiring, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking all in one. This nonfiction book about cults had great insight into more extremist religions and survivalists.
I don’t usually read memoirs and I heard great things about this book. I loved it so much- it made my list of favorites for the year last year. It is such an amazing story that reads like a novel rather than non-fiction.
More Books about Cults
If you want to read more stories featuring cults, we’ve rounded up the fiction and nonfiction books about cults that we are most interested in reading.
Which of our picks for best books about cults have you read?
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