100 Must-Read Books About Life in Cults and Oppressive Religious Sects

As you may have realized from my last piece, I love to settle down with a piping hot cup of coffee, snuggle into some fuzzy blankets… and proceed to be stricken blind with white hot rage and righteous indignation. And, for me, nothing seems to accomplish that faster and more thoroughly than reading about the victims of cults, extremist religions, and strict fundamentalism.

The following list represents just a small portion of the religions (past and present) that have been identified as encouraging practices that are destructive psychologically, emotionally, and physically. These are the memoirs and stories about people who feel they were forced to escape oppressive religious sects. This list does not serve to condemn those people that feel fulfilled by their chosen spiritual paths.

If you feel that a loved one is being abused by a cult or a religious organization, I implore you to reach out to FACT (Families Against Cult Teachings and Abuses).  Their Victim Support page contains helpful information, advice and resources.

  1. The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult by Jerald Walker  – When The World in Flames begins, in 1970, Jerry Walker is six years old. His consciousness revolves around being a member of a church whose beliefs he finds not only confusing but terrifying. Composed of a hodgepodge of requirements and restrictions (including a prohibition against doctors and hospitals), the underpinning tenet of Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God was that its members were divinely chosen and all others would soon perish in rivers of flames.
  2. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini– 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.
  3. Massacre at Waco: The Shocking True Story of Cult Leader David Koresh and the Branch Davidians by Clifford L. Linedecker – On 19 April 1993 the world was shocked when a compound in the little-known Texas town of Waco was engulfed in flames. Inside were 87 members of the Branch Davidians, an offshoot cult of the Seventh Day Adventists, and their charismatic and fanatical leader, David Koresh, who had survived a 51-day siege by federal agents. All of them men, women and children – died horribly. This book analyzes this siege, a seige that dominated the headlines for weeks and had the world breathlessly watching and waiting for an outcome.
  4. Heaven’s Gate: America’s UFO Religion by Benjamin E. Zeller – In this fascinating overview, Benjamin Zeller not only explores the question of why the members of Heaven’s Gate committed ritual suicides, but interrogates the origin and evolution of the religion, its appeal, and its practices.
  5. Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology by Marc Headley – Nominated by Foreword Magazine as 2009 Book of the Year Award Finalist. Marc Headley provides a rare, never before seen insider’s look at life inside Scientology. He spent 15 years employed at their secret headquarters, the sprawling 500 acre property located deep in the California desert.
  6. The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology Tried to Destroy Paulette Cooper by Tony Ortega – In 1971 Paulette Cooper wrote a scathing book about the Church of Scientology. Desperate to shut the book down, Scientology unleashed on her one of the most sinister personal campaigns the free world has ever known. The onslaught, which lasted years, ruined her life, and drove her to the brink of suicide.
  7. Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me by Ron Miscavige – The only book to examine the origins of Scientology’s current leader, RUTHLESS tells the revealing story of David Miscavige’s childhood and his path to the head seat of the Church of Scientology told through the eyes of his father. Ron Miscavige’s personal, heartfelt story is a riveting insider’s look at life within the world of Scientology.
  8. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hall – Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, was raised as a Scientologist but left the controversial religion in 2005. In Beyond Belief, she shares her true story of life inside the upper ranks of the sect, details her experiences as a member Sea Org—the church’s highest ministry, speaks of her “disconnection” from family outside of the organization, and tells the story of her ultimate escape.
  9. Scientology: Abuse at the Top by Amy Scobee – A former top insider reveals the nightmare world of violence and abuse at the highest levels of the Church of Scientology. One review states: “At home alone, a 14 year old girl takes a phone call from Scientology. This starts a quarter of a century journey of manipulation, betrayal and sexual, physical and mental abuse. This journey leads to the highest management echelon and one woman’s courage to break free. A real page-turner.”
  10. Counterfeit Dreams: One Man’s Journey Into and Out of the World of Scientology by Jefferson Hawkins – Scientology presents a glittering public façade, with smiling celebrities, polished videos, slick TV ads and impressive buildings. It is an image that Jefferson Hawkins helped to craft in his 35 years as a top marketing executive for the Church of Scientology. Yet behind that façade is a hidden world of physical and mental abuse, sleep deprivation, labor camps, family disconnection and human rights abuses. It is a nightmare world that is carefully hidden from public view. Counterfeit Dreams is a must-read for anyone who wants to know the truth about today’s most controversial cult.
  11. Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing up In a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs by Elissa Wall and Lisa Pulitzer – Stolen Innocence is the gripping New York Times bestselling memoir of Elissa Wall, the courageous former member of Utah’s infamous FLDS polygamist sect whose powerful courtroom testimony helped convict controversial sect leader Warren Jeffs in September 2007. At once shocking, heartbreaking, and inspiring, Wall’s story of subjugation and survival exposes the darkness at the root of this rebel offshoot of the Mormon faith.
  12. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer – This extraordinary work of investigative journalism takes readers inside America’s isolated Mormon Fundamentalist communities, where some 40,000 people still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.
  13. The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice by Rebecca Musser and M. Bridget Cook – Rebecca Musser grew up in fear, concealing her family’s polygamous lifestyle from the “dangerous” outside world. Covered head-to-toe in strict, modest clothing, she received a rigorous education at Alta Academy, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ school headed by Warren Jeffs. Always seeking to be an obedient Priesthood girl, in her teens she became the nineteenth wife of her people’s prophet: 85-year-old Rulon Jeffs, Warren’s father. Finally sickened by the abuse she suffered and saw around her, she pulled off a daring escape and sought to build a new life and family.
  14. Escape by Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer – The dramatic first-person account of life inside an ultra-fundamentalist American religious sect, and one woman’s courageous flight to freedom with her eight children.
  15. The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner – Ruth Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turn a blind eye to the practices of her community, Ruth lives in a ramshackle house without indoor plumbing or electricity. At church, preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world and that women can only ascend to Heaven by entering into polygamous marriages and giving birth to as many children as possible. After Ruth’s father—the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony—is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant.
  16. Church of Lies by Flora Jessop and Paul T. Brown – “My name is Flora Jessop. I’ve been called apostate, vigilante, and crazy bitch, and maybe I am. But some people call me a hero, and I’d like to think they’re right too. If I am a hero, maybe it’s because every time I can play a part in saving a child or a woman from a life of servitude and degradation, I’m saving a little piece of me, too.”
  17. Lost Boy: the True Story of One Man’s Exile from a Polygamist Cult and His Brave Journey to Reclaim His Life by Brent W. Jeffs and Maia Szalavitz – In the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), girls can become valuable property as plural wives, but boys are expendable, even a liability. In this powerful and heartbreaking account, former FLDS member Brent Jeffs reveals both the terror and the love he experienced growing up on his prophet’s compound—and the harsh exile existence that so many boys face once they have been expelled by the sect.
  18. A Journey to Waco by Clive Doyle, Catherine Wessinger and Matthew D. Wittmer – Nearly twenty years after they happened, the ATF and FBI assaults on the Branch Davidian residence near Waco, Texas remain the most deadly law enforcement action on American soil. The raid by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents on February 28, 1993, which resulted in the deaths of four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians, precipitated a 51-day siege conducted by the FBI. The FBI tank and gas assault on the residence at Mount Carmel Center on April 19 culminated in a fire that killed 53 adults and 23 children, with only nine survivors. In A Journey to Waco, survivor Clive Doyle not only takes readers inside the tragic fire and its aftermath, but he also tells the larger story of how and why he joined the Branch Davidians, how the Branch Davidian community developed, and the status of survivors.
  19. A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story by David Thibodeau and Leon Whiteson – For the first time ever, a survivor of the Waco massacre tells the inside story of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh and what really happened.. When he first met the man who called himself David Koresh, David Thibodeau who had never been religious in the slightest was drumming for a rock band that was going nowhere fast. Intrigued and frustrated with a stalled music career, Thibodeau gradually became a follower and moved to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. He remained there until April 19, 1993, when the compound was stormed and burnt to the ground.
  20. In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Family by Nansook Hong – The author recounts her fourteen years of abuse at the hands of her husband, the drug-addicted eldest son of Sun Myung Moon, and reveals the corruption behind Moon’s organization.
  21. Born into the Children of God: My Life in a Religious Sex Cult and My Struggle for Survival on the Outside by Natacha Tormey – Natacha Tormey was born into the infamous religious cult known as The Children of God. Abused, exploited, and brainwashed by ‘The Family’, Natacha’s childhood was stolen.
  22. Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the People’s Temple by Deborah Layton – A high-level member of Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple for seven years, Deborah Layton escaped his infamous commune in the Guyanese jungle, leaving behind her mother, her older brother, and many friends. She returned to the United States with warnings of impending disaster, but her pleas for help fell on skeptical ears, and shortly thereafter, in November 1978, the Jonestown massacre shocked the world.
  23. Not Without My Sister: The True Story of Three Girls Violated and Betrayed by Those They Trusted by Kristina Jones, Celeste Jones and Juliana Buhring – The bestselling, devastating account of three sisters torn apart, abused and exploited at the hands of a community that robbed them of their childhood. It reveals three lives, separate but entwined, that have experienced unspeakable horror, unrelenting loyalty and unforgettable courage.
  24. Stories from Jonestown by Leigh Fondakowski – Collectively this is a record of ordinary people, stigmatized as cultists, who after the Jonestown massacre were left to deal with their grief, reassemble their lives, and try to make sense of how a movement born in a gospel of racial and social justice could have gone so horrifically wrong—taking with it the lives of their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters.
  25. A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres – In 1954, a pastor named Jim Jones opened a church in Indianapolis called Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church. He was a charismatic preacher with idealistic beliefs, and he quickly filled his pews with an audience eager to hear his sermons on social justice. As Jones’s behavior became erratic and his message more ominous, his followers leaned on each other to recapture the sense of equality that had drawn them to his church. But even as the congregation thrived, Jones made it increasingly difficult for members to leave. By the time Jones moved his congregation to a remote jungle in Guyana and the US government began to investigate allegations of abuse and false imprisonment in Jonestown, it was too late.
  26. Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult by Jayanti Tamm – In this colorful, eye-opening memoir, Jayanti Tamm offers an unforgettable glimpse into the hidden world of growing up “cult” in mainstream America. Through Jayanti’s fascinating story–the first book to chronicle Sri Chinmoy–she unmasks a leader who convinces thousands of disciples to follow him, scores of nations to dedicate monuments to him, and throngs of celebrities (Sting, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela) to extol him.
  27. Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lives to Take it All (or Almost All) of it Back by Frank Schaeffer – By the time he was nineteen, Frank Schaeffer’s parents, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, had achieved global fame as bestselling evangelical authors and speakers, and Frank had joined his father on the evangelical circuit. He would go on to speak before thousands in arenas around America, publish his own evangelical bestseller, and work with such figures as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Dr. James Dobson. But all the while Schaeffer felt increasingly alienated, precipitating a crisis of faith that would ultimately lead to his departure—even if it meant losing everything.
  28. Daughter of the Saints: Growing Up in Polygamy by Dorothy Allred Solomon – “I am the daughter of my father’s fourth plural wife, twenty-eighth of forty-eight children―a middle kid, you might say.” So begins this astonishing and poignant memoir of life in the family of Utah fundamentalist leader and naturopathic physician Rulon C. Allred. Since polygamy was abolished by manifesto in 1890, this is a story of secrecy and lies, of poverty and imprisonment and government raids. When raids threatened, the families were forced to scatter from their pastoral compound in Salt Lake City to the deserts of Mexico or the wilds of Montana. To follow the Lord’s plan as dictated by the Principle, the human cost was huge. Eventually murder in its cruelest form entered when members of a rival fundamentalist group assassinated the author’s father.
  29. God’s Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation by Andrea Moore-Emmett – A chilling indictment of contemporary Mormon and Christian fundamentalist polygamy, God’s Brothel reveals gruesome facts about Bible-based polygamy through the brave voices of 18 women who escaped from 10 of the 11 main religious groups as well as independent families. Their stories include rape, incest, orgies, and violence, making this form of polygamy more akin to sexual slavery than to any quaint religious or lifestyle choice.
  30. Blue Windows: A Christian Science Childhood by Barbara Wilson –  From Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Church of Christian Science, to Deepak Chopra, Americans have struggled with the connection between health and happiness. Barbara Wilson was taught by her Christian Scientist family that there was no sickness or evil, and that by maintaining this belief she would be protected. But such beliefs were challenged when Wilson’s own mother died of breast cancer after deciding not to seek medical attention, having been driven mad by the contradiction between her religion and her reality. In this perceptive and textured memoir Blue Windows, Wilson surveys the complex history of Christian Science and the role of women in religion and healing.
  31. Heaven’s Harlots: My Fifteen Years as a Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult by Miriam Williams – An explosive first-person account by a young woman who spent fifteen years in a sex cult called the Children of God, which encouraged “sacred prostitution” and taught that “The Lord is our pimp.” Miriam Williams was an idealistic child of the sixties who, at seventeen, accepted an invitation from a “Jesus person” to visit a commune in upstate New York. She would soon be prostituting herself for a perverse cult that used sex to lure sinners to the Lord — and this is her shocking, searingly honest account of a fifteen-year spiritual odyssey gone haywire.
  32. Banished: Surviving my Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain – Since no organized religion will claim affiliation with the WBC, it’s perhaps more accurate to think of them as a cult. Lauren Drain was thrust into that cult at the age of 15, and then spat back out again seven years later. BANISHED is the first look inside the organization, as well as a fascinating story of adaptation and perseverance.
  33. Radical: My Journey out of Islamic Extremism by Maajid Nawaz – Maajid Nawaz spent his teenage years listening to American hip-hop and learning about the radical Islamist movement spreading throughout Europe and Asia in the 1980s and 90s. At 16, he was already a ranking member in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a London-based Islamist group. He quickly rose through the ranks to become a top recruiter, a charismatic spokesman for the cause of uniting Islam’s political power across the world. Nawaz was setting up satellite groups in Pakistan, Denmark, and Egypt when he was rounded up in the aftermath of 9/11 along with many other radical Muslims.
  34. Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future by Elizabeth Esther – Elizabeth Esther grew up in love with Jesus but in fear of daily spankings (to “break her will”). Trained in her family-run church to confess sins real and imagined, she knew her parents loved her and God probably hated her. Not until she was grown and married did she find the courage to attempt the unthinkable. To leave.
  35. Crossing Over: One Woman’s Escape from Amish Life by Ruth Irene Garrett – Ruth Irene Garrett was the fifth of seven children raised in Kalona, Iowa, as a member of a strict Old Order Amish community. She was brought up in a world filled with rigid rules and intense secrecy, in an environment where the dress, buggies, codes of conduct, and way of life differed even from other Amish societies only 100 miles away. This Old Order community actively avoided all interaction with ೨e Englishߜ’96 everyone who lived on the outside. As a result, Ruth knew only one way of life, and one way of doing things.
  36. Fifty Years in Polygamy: Big Secrets and Little White Lies by Kristyn Decker – Kristyn Decker’s Polygamy, Big Secrets and Little White Lies is now available in this uncensored second edition. The first edition was banned from the Tuacahn Market in St. George, Utah, because of its uncomfortable subject matter, and this second edition goes into even more depth and detail about the neglect and the heartbreaking abuse that the author experienced during both her childhood in the AUB and afterwards in her polygamous marriage. Many women never find the strength to leave. Kristyn Decker did, and her story is important to anyone with a concern for human rights. She
  37. Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife by Irene Spencer – Irene Spencer did as she felt God commanded in becoming the second wife to her brother-in-law Verlan LeBaron. When the government raided their community-the Mormon village of Short Creek, Arizona-seeking to enforce the penalties for practicing polygamy, Irene and her family fled to Verlan’s family ranch in Mexico. Here they lived in squalor and desolate conditions with Verlan’s six brothers, one sister, and numerous wives and children. This appalling and astonishing tale has captured the attention of readers around the world. Irene’s inspirational story reveals how far religion can be stretched and abused and how one woman and her children found their way out, into truth and redemption.
  38. Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn – The New York Times bestselling, authoritative account of the life of Charles Manson, filled with surprising new information and previously unpublished photographs: “A riveting, almost Dickensian narrative…four stars” (People).
  1. A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a New Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today by Kate Bornstein – A stunningly original memoir of a nice Jewish boy who joined the Church of Scientology and left twelve years later, ultimately transitioning to a woman. A few years later, she stopped calling herself a woman and became famous as a gender outlaw.
  2. Tears of the Silenced: A True Crime and an American Tragedy; Severe Child Abuse and Leaving the Amish by Misty Griffin – I had survived a lifetime of severe child abuse but I was still trapped in a world of fear, animal cruelty and sexual abuse. Going to the police was severely frowned upon. Based on the Author’s tragic true life story.
  3. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry – 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.
  4. Prophet’s Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints by Sam Brower – From the private investigator who cracked open the case that led to the conviction of Warren Jeffs, the maniacal prophet of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), comes the page-turning, horrifying story of how a rogue sect used sex, money, and power disguised under a facade of religion to further criminal activities and a madman’s vision.
  5. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright – A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—both famous and less well known—and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.
  6. Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman – 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.
  7. Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People by Tim Reiterman – Tim Reiterman’s Raven provides the seminal history of the Rev. Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and the murderous ordeal at Jonestown in 1978. This PEN Award–winning work explores the ideals-gone-wrong, the intrigue, and the grim realities behind the Peoples Temple and its implosion in the jungle of South America. Reiterman’s reportage clarifies enduring misperceptions of the character and motives of Jim Jones, the reasons why people followed him, and the important truth that many of those who perished at Jonestown were victims of mass murder rather than suicide.
  8. The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn – By the New York Times bestselling author of Manson, the comprehensive, authoritative, and tragic story of preacher Jim Jones, who was responsible for the Jonestown Massacre—the largest murder-suicide in American history.
  9. My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest – At the age of six, Tim Guest was taken by his mother to a commune modeled on the teachings of the notorious Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The Bhagwan preached an eclectic doctrine of Eastern mysticism, chaotic therapy, and sexual freedom, and enjoyed inhaling laughing gas, preaching from a dentist’s chair, and collecting Rolls Royces.
  10. Call Me Evil, Let Me Go: A Mother’s Struggle to Save her Children from a Brutal Religious Cult by Sarah Jones – Sarah had lived in fear for over a decade. Humiliated, ostracised and brainwashed, her spirit had been crushed. But as the realisation of what she was subjecting her children to began to sink in, she found new strength and determination – the strength to try to escape the world that had consumed her for so long.
  11. fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse – Lucia Ewing had what looked like an all-American childhood. She lived with her mother, father, sister, and brother in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where they enjoyed private schools, sleep-away camps, a country club membership, and skiing vacations. Surrounded by a tight-knit extended family, and doted upon by her parents, Lucia had no doubt she was loved and cared for. But when it came to accidents and illnesses, Lucia’s parents didn’t take their kids to the doctor’s office–they prayed, and called a Christian Science practitioner.
  12. His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy by Susan Ray Schmidt – His Favorite Wife is the heart-stopping, inspirational narrative of a courageous fifteen year-old girl who becomes the sixth wife in a polygamous marriage.
  13. Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami – In this haunting work of journalistic investigation, Haruki Murakami tells the story of the horrific terrorist attack on Japanese soil that shook the entire world.
  14. Blown by Lauren Halsted Burroughs – At the tender ages of only three and five, sisters Amory and Riley are abandoned by their mother at the Church of Scientology in Hollywood, California. For sixteen long years Amory does what she’s told, following Church rules and regulations about every aspect of her life. Yet, while working in the Sea Org—the Church’s administrative organization comprised of the most dedicated members—Amory experiences for the first time a stirring yearning for freedom unlike anything she’s ever known.
  15. When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Woman Who Fought Back by Stephen Singular – In When Men Become Gods, New York Times bestselling author Stephen Singular casts a light on a dark corner of religious extremism. He reveals a group of fundamentalists operating in the present-day United States, where teenage girls are kept in virtual bondage in the name of upholding the “sacred principle” of polygamy.
  16. I Fired God: My Life Inside – and Escape from – the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult by Jocelyn Zichterman – 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.
  17. Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior by Mark Rathbun and Evie Cook – An insider look at Scientology’s infamous war apparatus. This autobiographical history of Scientology is told by one of L. Ron Hubbard’s staunchest defenders.
  18. Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge by Don Lattin – In the tradition of Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, Don Lattin’s Jesus Freaks is the story of a shocking pilgrimage of revenge that left two people dead and shed new light on The Family International, one of the most controversial religious movements to emerge from the spiritual turmoil of the sixties and seventies.
  19. A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron. Hubbard Exposed by Jon Atack – Atack exposes Hubbard’s bizarre imagination and behavior, tracing the creation of Scientology in the years following World War II to perhaps its final schism following Hubbard’s death in 1986. A shocking book that reveals all: the abuses, falsehoods, paranoia, and greed of Hubbard and his pseudo-military Scientologist henchmen.
  20. Scientology: A to Xenu: An Insider’s Guide to What Scientology is Really All About by Chris Shelton and Jon Atack – Atack exposes Hubbard’s bizarre imagination and behavior, tracing the creation of Scientology in the years following World War II to perhaps its final schism following Hubbard’s death in 1986. A shocking book that reveals all: the abuses, falsehoods, paranoia, and greed of Hubbard and his pseudo-military Scientologist henchmen.
  21. The Cult at the End of the World: The Terrifying Story of the Aum Doomsday Cult, from the Subways of Tokyo to Nuclear Arsenals of Russia by David E. Kaplan and Andrew Marshall – The brave new age of postmillennium terror is awakening and its harbinger is Aum Supreme Truth: a Japan-based global web of wired, technically expert New Age zealots armed with biologial weapons, driven by an apocalyptic vision of unprecedented destruction. With compelling immediacy, this book tells the terrifying story the cult reponsible for the Tokyo subway nerve gas attack, offering a revealing profile of its founder and leader, Shoko Asahara.
  22. Girl on a Wire: Walking the Line Between Faith and Freedom in the Westboro Baptist Church by Libby Phelps and Sara Stewart – It wasn’t until Libby Phelps was an adult, a twenty-five year old, that she escaped the Westboro Baptist Church. She is the granddaughter of its founder, Fred Phelps, and when she left, the church and its values were all she’d known. She didn’t tell her family she was leaving. It happened in just a few minutes; she ran into her house, grabbed a bag, and fled. No goodbyes.
  23. Cult Child by Vennie Kocsis – The harrowing first-person account of one child’s ordeals inside the isolated commune of an ultra-fundamentalist religious cult.
  24. Daughters of Zion: My Family’s Conversion to Polygamy by Kim Wariner-Taylor – A memoir of misguided faith, unholy violence, and spiritual awakening. An odyssey of mayhem, murder, and tragedy is what Kim’s family unknowingly embarks upon in their quest for a peaceful existence in an unorthodox religious society.
  25. Love Sex Fear Death: The Inside Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgment by Timothy Wyllie – The Process Church of the Final Judgment was the apocalyptic shadow side of the flower-powered ’60s and perhaps the most notorious cult of modern times. Hundreds of black-cloaked devotees, often wearing a satanic “Goat of Mendes” and a swastika-like mandala, swept the streets of London, New York, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, and Toronto, selling magazines and books with titles like Fear and Humanity is the Devil. And within the group’s “Chapters,” members would participate in “Midnight Meditations” beneath photographs of the Christ-like leader.
  26. Secrets and Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy by Sanjiv Bhattacharya – What do we really know about modern practicing polygamists—not fictional ones like the Henrickson family on HBO’s Big Love? We’ve seen the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the news, the underage brides in pioneer dresses on a Texas ranch. But the FLDS is just one of many groups that have broken with mainstream Mormonism to follow those parts of Joseph Smith’s doctrine disavowed by the LDS Church.
  27. My Billion Year Contract: Memoir of a Former Scientologist by Nancy Many – It is a shocking story of abuse, imprisonment, espionage, lies, mental torture and suicide-vital reading for anyone who wants to know what goes on behind Scientology’s curtain.
  28. Sins of the Father: The Long Shadow of a Religious Cult by Fleur Beale – The disturbing story of the ruthless exercise of power in a New Zealand religious cult.Charismatic, driven and self-righteous, Neville Cooper set up his own brand of Christian utopia on earth: a reclusive community on the West Coast of New Zealand.
  29. Jonestown Survivor: An Insider’s Look by Laura Johnston Kohl – After a brief marriage, a visit to Woodstock, and a stint working with the Black Panthers, she moved to California to join her sister. Soon after that, she was introduced to Peoples Temple and spent the next nine years in California and Guyana. She was away from Jonestown on the day when 913 of her friends and family died. The next twenty years were spent recovering, and rebuilding her life.
  30. The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology by John Sweeney – In The Church of Fear Sweeney tells the full story of his experiences for the first time and paints a devastating picture of this strange organisation, from former Scientologists who tell heartbreaking stories of families torn apart and lives ruined to its current followers who say it is the solution to many of mankind’s problems. This is the real story of the Church by the reporter who was brave enough to take it on.
  31. Slavery of Faith: The Untold Story of the People’s Temple from the Eyes of a Thirteen Year Old, Her Escape from Jonestown at 20 and Life 30 Years Later by Leslie Wagner-Wilson – Slavery Of Faith…the quietly kept story of a young woman’s escape through the jungles of Jonestown, Guyana the morning of the massacre November 18, 1978 and her struggles to live in the aftermath.
  32. Marked for Death: My War with Jim Jones the Devil of Jonestown by Timothy Oliver Stoen – The journey began in Redwood Valley, California, in 1970, when I self-recruited into a utopian movement called Peoples Temple, in order to pursue a Biblical ethic: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” The leader of this utopian movement was James Warren Jones.
  33. Seventeen Sisters: Tell Their Story by Barbara Barlow and Virginia Webb – Today, the Mormon and polygamous culture has shown itself into the limelight more than ever before. This series of seventeen stories focuses on the Barlow family, a family that epitomized the Mormon, polygamous lifestyle. It was led by Albert Barlow, a father of thirty-four children and a husband to three women for over fifty years. The seventeen living daughters of Albert’s family here to tell their story. They have seen it all, they have experienced it all.
  34. The Onliest One Alive: Surviving Jonestown, Guyana by Catherine H. Thrash and Marian Kleinsasser Towne – The Onliest One Alive: Surviving Jonestown has been a collaborative project of Catherine (Hyacinth) Thrash and Marian Towne since 1982, when Mrs. Thrash returned to Indianapolis from the Los Angeles area, where she had lived following the mass murder-suicide in Jonestown on November 18, 1978.It is the result of 60 hours of interviews and is the only published first-person account of a poor, African-American, elderly, disabled woman survivor of the tragedy.
  35. In My Father’s House by Min. S. Yee – This gives you an intimate look into the workings of the Layton family, and several members of the family who joined the People’s Temple. Three members of the family went to Guyana to live in the cult run by the Rev. Jim Jones. The youngest son, Larry was responsible for killing Congressman Leo J. Ryan. The cult was run by fear, intimidation and violence.
  36. God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church by Caroline Fraser – From a former Christian Scientist, the first unvarnished account of one of America’s most controversial and little-understood religious movements.
  37. It’s Not About Sex My Ass: Confessions of a Mormon Ex-Polygamist by Joanne Hanks – With wit, humor and style, Joanne Hanks takes you on a wild ride through the insanity of the Mormon-based polygamist cult that was “It’s Not About Sex” My Ass: Confessions of a Mormon Ex-Polygamister life for seven years. Get ready to laugh. Get ready to be outraged. And get ready to see polygamy as no one has ever revealed it before.
  38. Cult Insanity: A Memoir of Polygamy, Prophets, and Blood Atonement by Irene Spencer – Insanity ran rampant in her husband’s family and was the source of inconceivable events that unfolded throughout Irene’s adult life. CULT INSANITY takes readers deeper into her story to uncover the outrageous behavior of her brother-in-law Ervil — a self-proclaimed prophet who determined he was called to set the house of God in order — and how he terrorized their colony.
  39. Why I Left the Amish: A Memoir by Saloma Miller Furlong – Now a mother with grown children of her own, Furlong recalls her painful childhood in a family defined by her father’s mental illness, her brother’s brutality, her mother’s frustration, and the austere traditions of the Amish—traditions Furlong struggled to accept for years before making the difficult decision to leave the community.
  40. Property: The True Story of a Polygamous Church Wife by Carol Christie and John Christie – The true story of a brave woman’s nearly 40 years in a polygamous cult, her eventual escape, and her struggle to integrate into a world she barely knew.
  41. Fair Game: The Incredible Untold Story of Scientology in Australia by Steve Cannane – Based on years of interviews and meticulous research, Walkley Award-winning journalist Steve Cannane tells for the first time the fascinating story of Australia’s vital involvement with this powerful, secretive and punitive cult.
  42. Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Waver Family by Jess Walter – 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.
  43. Closing the Gate by Deb Simpson – For most of us, the headlines regarding the Mass Suicide of the 39 “Heaven’s Gate” cult members in Rancho Santa Fe, Ca. in 1997 was a sad curiosity. For Author Deb Simpson, it became up close and personal when her now adult, baby brother Jimmy, became collateral damage. She writes with great courage and honesty in examining Jimmy’s plight: his dream of a place to call home, his tumble into the world of a cult, and the inevitable downward spiral that his lonely life takes.
  44. The Cult Next Door: A True Story of a Suburban Manhattan New Age Cult by Elizabeth R. Burchard and Judith L. Carlone – During Thanksgiving vacation of her freshman year at Swarthmore College (1977), Elizabeth, at her mother’s insistence, attended a stress-reduction session with a biofeedback technician on staff at a Manhattan psychologist’s office. During that first visit, this man filled her ears with prophetic visions of a glorious future–the inheritance of those fortunate few who might choose to accompany him. His confidence and charisma entranced her, and she soon recruited two of her college roommates. When the psychologist fired his assistant two years later, Elizabeth and her mother followed. Over the next decade, this man, a malevolent genius and master of manipulating metaphysical concepts to benefit a self-serving agenda, organized a small, dedicated band of followers. The Group evolved into an incestuous family–a cult.
  45. Holy Candy: Why I Joined a Cult and Married a Stranger by Yolande Brener – What is the purpose of life? Is there a spiritual world? Does true love exist? If there is a God, why does he allow innocents to suffer? The desire to find answers to these questions–passed to her on a business card–led Yolande Brener to enter a bizarre, 15-year odyssey in a cult that would climax in her participation in one of the largest mass marriages in history.
  46. Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of the Way International by Charlene L. Edge – Undertow is Charlene Edge’s riveting memoir about the power of words to seduce, betray, and, in her case, eventually save.
  47. The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in a Polygamous Mormon Sect by Daphne Bramham – The Secret Lives of Saints paints a troubling portrait of an extreme religious sect. These zealous believers impose severe and often violent restrictions on women, deprive children of education and opt instead to school them in the tenets of their faith, defy the law and move freely and secretly over international borders. They punish dissent with violence and even death. No, this sect is not the Taliban, but North America’s fundamentalist Mormons.
  48. Triumph: Life After the Cult – A Survivor’s Lessons by Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer – 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.
  49. Beyond Belief: True Story of Faith, Denial and Betrayal by Margot Tesch – Ever wondered what draws people deep into extreme religions and cults? Come on Megan White’s journey as she becomes immersed in an extreme fundamentalist church. Learn how her desire to find meaning and purpose in her life catches her in a trap that snaps shut around her and holds her paralyzed.
  50. Escape Through the Window: A Cult Survivor’s Story by Sarah Rose – Escape is the first book that tells an insider’s story of daily life ruled by a psychopathic cult leader. The book shows how easy it is to become brainwashed by a charismatic personality into thinking that torture, starvation, and complete isolation are essential to a spiritual life.
  51. Locked In: My Imprisoned Years in a Destructive Cult by John Huddle – Locked in pulls back the thick curtain holding many of the secrets inside Word of Faith Fellowship. This small mountain church in Spindale, NC first came to the national stage in 1995 when Inside Edition aired video which included their signature practice of blasting deliverance prayer. As the first published survivor memoir of this group, Locked in follows John’s journey of hope to live in “God’s ways” by moving his family to Spindale, only to discover the cult’s unique doctrines and practices destroy the family he loves and cherishes.
  52. When They Were Mine: Memories of a Branch Davidian Wife and Mother by Shelia Martin and Catherine Wessinger  – When They Were Mine is the autobiography of Sheila Martin, a member of the Branch Davidian Church at the time of its apocalyptic encounter with the FBI in April, 1993. The assault resulted in a fire that killed 76 Branch Davidians, including 23 children. Sheila’s husband and four oldest children died in the fire.
  53. Abode of Love: Growing Up in a Messianic Cult by Kate Barlow – This remarkable memoir is the true story of life inside “The A,” the infamous Agapemone, named for the Greek word meaning Abode of Love. It was a religious cult founded in mid-19th century England by a defrocked clergyman who claimed to be guided personally by the Holy Ghost.
  54. Nowhere Girl: Growing Up Different by Nita Clark – Consider the world of a young girl who never knew what a normal family was like, and didn’t experience the traditional love of a mother or father. For her, home meant several families all jumbled up together. After the age of five, her mother worked long hours away from home, and she was often left alone or cared for by mothers of other children. Her chief male authority was not her father, but the group’s charismatic, heavy-handed leader. Only later would she come to understand: this community was a cult.
  55. Keep Sweet: Children of Polygamy by Dr. Dave Perrin and Debbie Palmer – Keep Sweet is non-fiction, but names have been changed to protect the safety and privacy of people mentioned. Based on Palmer’s early memories, letters, and diaries, the memoir takes the reader inside the daily lives of children, sister-wives, husbands and leaders and provides an in-depth insight into the teachings of the fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
  56. Little Brown Girl: A Memoir by Cassidy Elizabeth Arkin and Sandra J. Rogers-Hare – Little Brown Girl is a story of the struggle to re-enter society after living in a cloistered utopian community, Synanon, in Marin County, California. This collaboration by Cassidy Arkin and her mother, Sandra Rogers-Hare is an open child and parent perspective of two very unique lives.
  57. The Defector: After 20 Years in Scientology by Robert Dam – The Defector is a strong, personal story about the uncanny parallel world of Scientology. The Defector is written by Robert Dam, who himself was a member of the mothership of Scientology in Europe – right in the center of Danish capital, Copenhagen – for 20 years, until he defected in 2004.
  58. Matches in the Gas Tank: Trial by Fire in the Armstrong Cult by Carla Powers – An empowering story of the survival of the spirit, this heart-wrenching memoir recounts a girl’s stifled and abusive childhood in the Radio Church of God-a cult founded by alleged prophet Herbert W. Armstrong in Big Sandy, Texas.
  59. Destroying the World to Save it: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism by Robert Jay Lifton – Since the earliest moments of recorded history, prophets and gurus have foretold the world’s end, but only in the nuclear age has it been possible for a megalomaniac guru with a world-ending vision to bring his prophecy to pass. Now Robert Jay Lifton offers a vivid and disturbing case in point in this chilling exploration of Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult that released sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subways.
  60. The Manson Girls by Michael James Duncan – A look back at the many women who become followers of Charles Manson during his Helter Skelter siege in California in the 60s & 70s. All were hippie girls who became loyal to the maniac who told them to kill for him
  61. Wife No. 19: The Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Expose of Mormonism and Revealing Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy by Ann Eliza Young – In 1863 24-year old Ann Eliza became the 19th wife of the 67-year old head of the Mormon Church Brigham Young. Ten years later, in a landmark case that would rock the nation and lead to the rewriting of laws, Ann divorced her powerful husband alleging neglect and cruel treatment.
  62. Waiting for the Apocalypse: A Memoir of Faith and Family by Veronica Chater – It is 1972, and Veronica Chater’s parents believe that Vatican II’s liberalization has corrupted the Catholic Church, inviting the Holy Chastisement—an apocalypse prophesied by three shepherds in Fatima, Portugal. To spare his family this horror, Veronica’s father quits the highway patrol, sells everything, and moves the family of eight from California to an isolated village near Fatima.
  63. Out of the Cocoon: A Young Woman’s Courageous Flight from the Grip of a Religious Cult by Brenda Lee – Out of the Cocoon is a heart-wrenching, yet inspirational tale about the author’s escape from a religious cult after enduring decades of dysfunction. Take the incredible journey with her as she survives stifling oppression as a child, physical and emotional abuse as a teenager, and the ultimate tragedy: the loss of her family once she becomes an adult.
  64. Not My Idea of Heaven by Lindsey Rosa – When she was a child, Lindsey Rosa’s every waking moment was governed by the rules of an extreme separatist sect. It controlled what she wore and what she ate; it forbade her to listen to music, to cut her hair, to watch television, to use a computer. The Fellowship said her family was special. Why would she believe otherwise?
  65. Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life Behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement by Nori J. Muster – Combining behind-the-scenes coverage of an often besieged religious group with a personal account of one woman’s struggle to find meaning in it, Betrayal of the Spirit takes readers to the center of life in the Hare Krishna movement.
  66. This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost by Carolyn S. Briggs – A riveting memoir of one woman’s immersion into Fundamentalist faith and her decision, twenty years later, to leave it all behind.
  67. Escape: My Life Long War Against Cults by Paul Morantz – Tells the story of attorney Paul Morantz’s nearly 40-year battle with many of this nation’s most notorious cults,including the Manson family, the Symbionese Liberation Army, Jim Jones’ People’s Temple, Synanon, est, the Moonies and Scientology, among others.
  68. American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin – On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a sophomore in college and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The already sensational story took the first of many incredible twists on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre “Tania.”
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