By Amanda Montell
(320 pages, nonfiction, 2021)
In this second book by the creator of the podcast ‘Sounds Like a Cult,’ Amanda Montell discusses the language people use to make themselves and others feel like they belong. Language is the primary tool we use to interact with society, and the word choices we make define how we view ourselves and others. More importantly, it can be used to manipulate others – but only if they are willing to believe what they hear.
Cultish breaks down what makes something a cult, the toxic ways that leaders and followers interact, and how cults aren’t just for fringe religious groups anymore. Each section talks about a different type of group – exercise maniacs, multi-level marketing schemes, and yes, religious disasters like Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate. Why did people follow Jim Jones to their deaths? How do Arbonne and Mary Kay keep recruiting new salespeople? And why is Scientology so scary to outsiders?
Montell interviews former SoulCycle instructors and Scientologists, as well as survivors of Jonestown to learn what attracted them to the group in the first place, why they stayed, and how it affected their lives outside the cultish atmosphere of the group. Paired with her research and insight, this book is a remarkably engaging cautionary tale – consider it a companion to your favorite true-crime podcast.
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