I have always been intrigued by cults. I have an anti-cult personality, if you will, but I do find the psychology of it all fascinating. Groupthink, a charismatic leader, martyrdom for a cause etc… I was recently rereading the novel Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk and decided to make a list of my 5 favorite books about cults (in no particular order). Fiction and Non-Fiction cult books are listed here so if you find cults as interesting as I do, then you should pick up any of these books! Obviously I haven’t read all books about cults so if you have suggestions I am always open to them…
1. Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk
Survivor is arguably one of Palahniuk’s best novels though I am sure many will scoff at that declaration. I think its safe to say his more recent work has lost some of the edge and abstruse plot angles that made his first 5 novels so lauded. Picking your favorite of those novels would be likes picking you favorite Wu Tang song or Michael Jordan dunk, it’s going to change day-to-day and they are all really your favorites. Anyways, the Creedish Church it one of my favorite cults in literature. If you haven’t read the book, the Creedish are similar to the Amish but they eventually sell every child after the first-born into slavery to rich people.
2. Last Days by Brian Evenson
Much of Evenson’s work seems to be grappling with the idea of religion and the thin line between belief and cult. Evenson is an ex-communicated Mormon who was fired from BYU because the school/church/cult decided his first book was too violent and gave him the ultimatum to proceed with publishing it and be fired or keep his job as an english professor. Thank Buddah he chose to publish and continue writing fiction. Last Days is one of his most disturbing and graphic novels and its about a crazy ass cult, so you know I liked it! I will call the cult in this book The Brotherhood of Mutilation, because that is the name of the original story Last Days stemmed from. The Brotherhood centers around an interpretation of a bible verse about how self amputation brings you closer to god. Therefore this cult of people slowly amputate appendages or have others amputate appendages because they believe it brings them closer to God. There is way more to the cult and also to the story which is a hard-boiled noir detective novel on top of everything else but I don’t want to give anything away. Just read the book and thank me later.
3. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
The words classic and masterpiece have obviously been cheapened in the age of the internet so I will not use them to describe this book. I will just say if you love fiction and you read this book but don’t like it, something is wrong with you. The Auturans are the featured cult in this book. Geek Love is the beautifully unsettling story of a family that own a traveling carnival. Due to fetal manipulation with various toxins and substances the children of this family are made to be “freaks” so they can take part in the carnival. Auturo the Aquaboy is the oldest son who happens to have flippers for limbs. He is also pretty crafty and eventually creates a following of people who see him as a God and begin to augment their bodies to become more like him. The best part about this cult is it’s just about Auturo’s megalomania and nothing else. He just creates this following because he can but it comes to a horrible end.
4. Underground by Haruki Murakami
I don’t really remember anything about the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 perpetrated by Aum Shinriyko except for some images on TV of people running out of the subway and crowded hospitals where tons of Japanese people are coughing and wearing face masks. Haruki Murakami’s Underground is essentially a compilation of interviews that read like a novel. The way they are pasted together form this narrative where you feel like you were on the train yourself. The most important thing about this book, and also the most controversial, is the fact that he actually interviews the cult members themselves. Murakami spent a lot of time defending himself to the Japanese media for allowing the members of Aum to share their side of the story in an unbiased form. Murakami’s bravery in the respect leads to some incredible insight into the mind of people of participate in cults and also what happens to those people once the cults are broken up? Can they integrate back into society?’
5. Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Free Masons, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many many more by Arthur Goldwag
I mean come on the title says it all! Goldwag is the foremost expert on all things conspiracy and cultish. He also keeps a close watchful eye on hate groups. His book The New Hate is a mind-blowing historical account of how right-wing culture became so powerful in our country especially in more recent years. This is just a really fucking interesting book…That is all!