For many, Netflix's thrilling documentary series Wild Wild Country was a gateway into the world of cults — and the dark questions about human nature it provokes. What compels people to fall under the spell of a charismatic leader? What does it take for a person to leave a cult? What kind of behavior do cults condone, what do they restrict — and why?
Eventually, though, you'll run out of cult documentaries. That’s where books come in. Cult books range from fact-based works of investigative journalism to novels, which couch the psychological effects of cult membership with fictional characters. So, for a holistic picture of the Manson Family Cult, you can read the definitive true crime account (Helter Skelter) and then its fictional interpretation (The Girls).
Before delving into the wild wild category of cult books, a content warning. As a byproduct of describing life within some more extreme cults, many of these books, especially the memoirs, go into detail about topics like sexual assault, pedophilia, and violence. Women are especially affected by many organizations' restrictions.