Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda MontellWhat it's about: This thought-provoking guide to cults takes a special look at how such groups use language as a tool and how the modern "language of fanaticism" is making its way outside of religious spaces.
Groups discussed include: Synanon, the Peoples Temple, Heaven's Gate, and followers of controversial social media "spiritual influencers" such as Bentinho Massaro.
Why you might like it: Although the writing in Cultish is both engaging and accessible, the points raised by author Amanda Montell are well-grounded in scholarly research.
Books You Might Have Missed
Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence by Diana Butler BassWhat it is: an inspiring, candid exploration of the multiple aspects of Jesus and how He can play a variety of different yet complimentary roles in readers' daily lives.
Roles such as: Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence.
About the author: Historian Diana Butler Bass is an independent religion scholar whose previous works include Grateful, A People's History of Christianity, and The Practicing Congregation.
Don't Call It a Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of NXIVM by Sarah BermanWhat it's about: the sobering story of the group NXIVM, from its earliest days to the 2019 criminal trial of its founder, Keith Raniere.
Read it for: the comprehensive and well-researched chronicle of NXIVM's decades-long efforts to avoid prosecution, and of the investigation that finally exposed the organization's disturbing secrets to the world.
Reviewers say: "This deep dive behind the headlines isn’t to be missed" (Publishers Weekly).
Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing by Lauren HoughWhat it is: a candid and engaging look at the childhood and later life of author Lauren Hough, who grew up in the notorious group The Children of God (now called The Family International).
Don't miss: Hough's moving reflections on feeling like an outsider (both before and after leaving The Children of God) and her unique perspective on what makes a cult a cult.
Did you know? Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer left the band in 1971 in order to join The Children of God.
Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by James Martin, SJWhat it's about: the many facets of prayer as a concept, different forms it has taken throughout history, and how readers can approach the act of praying with a fresh perspective.
Read it for: the unassuming tone and unanticipated moments of self-effacing humor.
About the author: Jesuit priest Father James Martin is the editor-at-large for Jesuit magazine America and his previous books include The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything and Building a Bridge.
Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It by Brian D. McLarenWhat it is: a thoughtful examination of doubt as part of a faith journey, and how it can serve as a springboard for a more mature relationship with spirituality.
Why you might like it: Author Brian D. McLaren argues for approaching doubt with sincerity instead of scorn, and for making space for struggling believers to ask questions without fear.
Reviewers say: Faith After Doubt is a "helpful, non-judgmental resource for readers questioning their Christian faith" (Library Journal).
Contact your librarian for more great books!