I have always been interested in cults. For some reason I find them fascinating. How the leaders get people to do the things they do is something I love to read and learn about.
Below are some books about cults. Waco, Ruby Ridge, and others.
Some of these books are told by people who experienced the cult and some of these books are fiction, just stories about cults.
Some of what you read in these books will not be easy to read, so be prepared.
The Waco Siege: An American Tragedy
During fifty one days in early 1993 one of the most tragic events in American crime history unfolded on the plains outside Waco, Texas. An obscure and heavily armed religious sect called the Branch Davidian’s was barricaded inside their commune and outside were hundreds of law enforcement angry because the former had killed four ATF agents in a botched raid. Open the pages of this book and go on an engaging and captivating ride to examine one of the most important true crime stories in recent decades. Read the shocking true story of how a man the government considered a psychopath, but whose followers believed to be a prophet, led a breakaway sect of the Seventh Day Adventist Church into infamy.
You will follow the meteoric rise of the Branch Davidians’ charismatic leader, David Koresh, as he went from an awkward kid in remedial classes to one of the most infamous cult leaders in world history. But the story of the Waco Siege begins long before the events of 1993. At the core of the conflict between the Branch Davidians and the United States government were ideas and interpretations of religious freedom and gun ownership, which as will be revealed in the pages of this book, a considerable philosophical gulf existed between the two sides. David Koresh and the Branch Davidians carried on a long tradition in American and Texas history of religious dissent, but in 1993 that dissent turned tragically violent.
You will find that beyond the standard media portrayals of the Waco Siege was an event comprised of complex human characters on both sides of the firing line and that perhaps the most tragic aspect of the event was that the extreme bloodshed could have been avoided.
The pages of this book will make you angry, sad, and bewildered; but no matter the emotions evoke, you will be truly moved by the events of the Waco Siege.
Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion
Scientology is known for its celebrity believers and its team of “volunteer ministers” at disaster sites such as the World Trade Center; its notably aggressive response to criticism or its attacks on psychiatry; its requirement that believers pay as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars to reach the highest levels of salvation. But for all its notoriety, Scientology has remained America’s least understood new religion, even as it has been one of its most successful.
Now Janet Reitman tells its riveting full story in the first objective modern history of Scientology, at last revealing the astonishing truth about life within the controversial religion for its members and ex-members. Based on five years of research, confidential documents, and extensive interviews with current and former Scientologists, this is an utterly compelling work of nonfiction and the defining work on an elusive faith.
All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. It is the land that she sows and reaps. It is the center of her family and everything that means home. And it is all kept under the watchful eye of Papa S.
At fifteen years old, Pearl is finally old enough to be chosen as Papa S.’s companion. She feels excitement . . . and surprising trepidation that she cannot explain. The arrival of a new family into the Seed community—particularly the teenage son, Ellis—only complicates the life and lifestyle that Pearl has depended upon as safe and constant. Ellis is compelling, charming, and worldly, and he seems to have a lot of answers to questions Pearl has never thought to ask. But as Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface.
Lisa Heathfield’s suspenseful, scintillating debut features a compelling voice that combines blithe naïveté, keen observation, and sincere emotion.
Triumph: Life After the Cult–A Survivor’s Lessons
In 2003, Carolyn Jessop, 35, a lifelong member of the extremist Mormon sect the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), gathered up her eight children, including her profoundly disabled four-year-old son, and escaped in the middle of the night to freedom. Jessop detailed the story of her harrowing flight and the shocking conditions that sparked it in her 2007 memoir, Escape. Reveling in her newfound identity as a bestselling author, a devoted mom, and a loving companion to the wonderful man in her life, Jessop thought she had put her past firmly behind her.
Then, on April 3, 2008, it came roaring back in full view of millions of television viewers across America. On that date, the state of Texas, acting on a tip from a young girl who’d called a hotline alleging abuse, staged a surprise raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch, a sprawling, 1700-acre compound near Eldorado, Texas, to which the jailed FLDS “prophet” Warren Jeffs had relocated his sect’s most “worthy” members three years earlier. The ranch was being run by Merril Jessop, Carolyn’s ex-husband and one of the cult’s most powerful leaders. As a mesmerized nation watched the crisis unfold, Jessop once more was drawn into the fray, this time as an expert called upon to help authorities understand the customs and beliefs of the extremist religious sect with which they were dealing.
In Triumph, Jessop tells the real, and even more harrowing, story behind the raid and sets the public straight on much of the damaging misinformation that flooded the media in its aftermath. She recounts the setbacks (the tragic decision of the Supreme Court of Texas to allow the children in state custody to return to their parents) as well as the successes (the fact that evidence seized in the raid is the basis for the string of criminal trials of FLDS leaders that began in October 2009 and will continue throughout 2010), all while weaving in details of her own life since the publication of her first book. These include her budding role as a social critic and her struggle to make peace with her eldest daughter’s heartbreaking decision to return to the cult.
In the book’s second half, Jessop shares with readers the sources of the strength that allowed her not only to survive and eventually break free of FLDS mind control, but also to flourish in her new life. The tools of her transformation range from powerful female role models (grandmothers on both sides) to Curves fitness clubs (a secret indulgence that put her in touch with her body) to her college education (rare among FLDS women). With her characteristic honesty and steadfast sense of justice, Jessop, a trained educator who taught elementary school for seven years, shares her strong opinions on such controversial topics as homeschooling and the need for the court system to hold “deadbeat dads” accountable. (Among Jessop’s recent victories is a court decision that ordered her ex-husband to pay years of back child support.) An extraordinary woman who has overcome countless challenges and tragedies in her life, Jessop shows us in this book how, in spite of everything, she has triumphed—and how you can, too, no matter what adversity you face.
Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning them much—if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her.
But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.
I Fired God: My Life Inside and Escape from the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult
Jocelyn Zichterman was born, raised, married into, and finally, with her family, fled the Independent Fundamental Baptist church. Founded by the fiery preacher Bob Jones, with several hundred thousand members, IFB congregants are told they must not associate with members of other Baptist denominations and evangelicals, with an emphasis on secrecy, insular marriages within the church, a subservience for women, and unusual child raising practices.
In I Fired God, Jocelyn Zichterman systematically details the IFB’s disturbing history, exposing a cult-like atmosphere of corruption, greed, and abuse. Having been initiated into its innermost circles, Zichterman knows that the gentle demeanor America sees in the form of the Duggar clan on 19 Kids and Counting disguises the truth about the darker side of the church.
With written documentation and sources so thorough that law enforcement has used her work as a foundation for criminal prosecutions, Zichterman exposes the IFB with revelations including:
– The disturbing world of abuse within the IFB and doctors and teachers who cater exclusively to church members and fail to report physical and sexual abuse
– The IFB-controlled Bob Jones University, which issues degrees of questionable value while making vast sums of money for its founders
– The way the IFB influences politics on the local, state, and national level, and protects its abusive culture under the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology
Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost.
That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.
Indoctrinated into the church as a child while living with her mother and sister in New York, Remini eventually moved to Los Angeles, where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology’s causes grew increasingly intertwined. As an adult, she found the success she’d worked so hard for, and with it a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists alongside people such as Tom Cruise, Scientology’s most high-profile adherent. Remini spent time directly with Cruise and was included among the guests at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes.
But when she began to raise questions about some of the church’s actions, she found herself a target. In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a “Suppressive Person,” and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners—including members of her own family—were told to disconnect from her. Forever.
Bold, brash, and bravely confessional, Troublemaker chronicles Leah Remini’s remarkable journey toward emotional and spiritual freedom, both for herself and for her family. This is a memoir designed to reveal the hard-won truths of a life lived honestly—from an author unafraid of the consequences.
Alva Jane has never questioned her parents, never questioned her faith, never questioned her future. She is content with the strict rules that define her life in Pineridge, the walled community where she lives with her father, his seven wives, and her twenty-eight siblings. This is the only world Alva has ever known, and she has never thought to challenge it.
But everything changes when Alva is caught giving her long-time crush an innocent first kiss. Beaten, scorned, and now facing a forced marriage to a violent, fifty-year old man, Alva suddenly realizes how much she has to lose–and how impossible it will be to escape.
Breaking Free: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult, and My Father, Warren Jeffs
In this searing memoir of survival in the spirit of Stolen Innocence, the daughter of Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed Prophet of the FLDS Church, takes you deep inside the secretive polygamist Mormon fundamentalist cult run by her family and how she escaped it.
Born into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Rachel Jeffs was raised in a strict patriarchal culture defined by subordinate sister wives and men they must obey. No one in this radical splinter sect of the Mormon Church was more powerful or terrifying than its leader Warren Jeffs—Rachel’s father.
Living outside mainstream Mormonism and federal law, Jeffs arranged marriages between under-age girls and middle-aged and elderly members of his congregation. In 2006, he gained international notoriety when the FBI placed him on its Ten Most Wanted List. Though he is serving a life sentence for child sexual assault, Jeffs’ iron grip on the church remains firm, and his edicts to his followers increasingly restrictive and bizarre.
In Breaking Free, Rachel blows the lid off this taciturn community made famous by Jon Krakauer’s bestselling Under the Banner of Heaven to offer a harrowing look at her life with Warren Jeffs, and the years of physical and emotional abuse she suffered. Sexually assaulted, compelled into an arranged polygamous marriage, locked away in “houses of hiding” as punishment for perceived transgressions, and physically separated from her children, Rachel, Jeffs’ first plural daughter by his second of more than fifty wives, eventually found the courage to leave the church in 2015. But Breaking Free is not only her story—Rachel’s experiences illuminate those of her family and the countless others who remain trapped in the strange world she left behind.
A shocking and mesmerizing memoir of faith, abuse, courage, and freedom, Breaking Free is an expose of religious extremism and a beacon of hope for anyone trying to overcome personal obstacles.
When he first met the man who called himself David Koresh, David Thibodeau was a drummer in a local a rock band. Though he had never been religious in the slightest, Thibodeau gradually became a follower and moved to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. He remained there until April 19, 1993, when the compound was stormed and burned to the ground after a 51-day standoff with government authorities.In this compelling account–now with an updated epilogue that revisits remaining survivors–Thibodeau explores why so many people came to believe that Koresh was divinely inspired. We meet the men, women, and children of Mt. Carmel. We get inside the day-to-day life of the community. We also understand Thibodeau’s brutally honest assessment of the United States government’s actions. The result is a memoir that reads like a thriller, with each page taking us closer to the eventual inferno.
Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.
On the last hot day of summer in 1992, gunfire cracked over a rocky knob in northern Idaho, just south of the Canadian border. By the next day three people were dead, and a small war was joined, pitting the full might of federal law enforcement against one well-armed family. Drawing on extensive interviews with Randy Weaver’s family, government insiders, and others, Jess Walter traces the paths that led the Weavers to their confrontation with federal agents and led the government to treat a family like a gang of criminals.
This is the story of what happened on Ruby Ridge: the tragic and unlikely series of events that destroyed a family, brought down the number-two man in the FBI, and left in its wake a nation increasingly attuned to the dangers of unchecked federal power.
Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family
In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his “family” of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the proportions of myth. The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era.
Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his enthralling account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only “two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi.” The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor’s view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of the philosophy Manson inculcated in his fervent followers… these elements make for a true crime classic. Helter Skelter is not merely a spellbinding murder case and courtroom drama but also, in the words of The New Republic, a “social document of rare importance.”
The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.
Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.
This subject gives me the shivers – Chilling!
Such a wonderful list of upsetting stories.
This is a great list of books! I’ve read The Chosen One and was weirded out about the whole situation. However, it gave insight into cults that I never knew before.
Check out Mating in Captivity by Helen Zuman
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I also find cults to be fascinating. What makes people blindly follow someone? You have a bunch of great choices!
This is a really interesting list. Cults are shocking and the psychology of them interests me.
I’ve never read a book with this kind of theme but I’ll check them out.