Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading

These are some of the best books and publications about cults, thought reform, and related topics. Some of these titles may be out of print or difficult to find, but many are well worth the search.

Additional reading suggestions can always be found in the Notes or Bibliography sections of good books on this subject. Please understand that this reading list was compiled in 2006, and therefore does not include any books published since that time.

Cults and Undue Influence

Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults by Janja Lalich (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).

Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control by Kathleen Taylor (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Coercive Persuasion: A Sociopsychological Analysis of the “Brainwashing” of American Civilian Prisoners by the Chinese Communists by Edgar Schein, with I. Schneier and C. H. Barker (New York: Norton, 1961).

Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan (Rochester, Vt.: Park Street Press, 1988).

“Crazy” Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work? by Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996).

Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion by Marc Galanter (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

Cults in America: Programmed for Paradise by Willa Appel (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1983).

Cults in Our Midst by Margaret Singer (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003).

Divine Disenchantment: Deconverting from New Religions by Janet Liebman Jacobs (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989).

Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field, eds.Benjamin Zablocki and Thomas Robbins (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001).

Them and Us: Cult Thinking and the Terrorist Threat by Arthur J. Deikman (Berkeley: Bay Tree Publishing, 2003).

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism by Robert Jay Lifton (New York: Norton, 1961).

Women Under the Influence: A Study of Women’s Lives in Totalist Groups, ed. Janja Lalich, special issue of Cultic Studies Journal 14:1 (1997).

On Charisma, Leadership, and the Social Psychology of Influence and Control

Alienation and Charisma: A Study of Contemporary American Communes by Benjamin D. Zablocki (New York: Free Press, 1980).

Asylums by Erving Goffman (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1961).

The Authoritarian Personality, eds. T. W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswick, Daniel J. Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford (New York: Norton, 1950/1982).

Charisma by Charles Lindholm (Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1990).

Charisma and Leadership in Organizations by Alan Bryman (London, England: Sage, 1992).

Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective by Rosabeth Moss Kanter (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972).

Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm (New York: Avon Books, 1965).

Feet of Clay—Saints, Sinners, and Madmen: A Study of Gurus by Anthony Storr (New York: Free Press, 1997).

From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. and trans. by H. H. Gerth and C. W. Mills (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946).

From Slogans to Mantras: Social Protest and Religious Conversion in the Late Vietnam War Era by Stephen A. Kent (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2001).

Getting Saved from the Sixties: Moral Meaning in Conversion and Cultural Change by Steven M. Tipton (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

Greedy Institutions: Patterns of Undivided Commitment by Lewis A. Coser (New York: Free Press, 1974).

Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego by Sigmund Freud, trans. J. Strachey (New York: Norton, 1921/1959).

The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power by Joel Kramer and Diane Alstad (Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, 1993).

Identity and the Life Cycle by Erik H. Erikson (New York: Norton, 1959/1980).

Identity: Youth and Crisis by Erik H. Erikson (New York: Norton, 1968).

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini (New York: Perennial Currents, 1998).

The New Religious Consciousness, eds. Charles Y. Glock and Robert N. Bellah (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976).

Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram (New York: Harper & Row, 1974).

On Charisma and Institution Building by Max Weber, ed. by S. N. Eisenstadt (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968).

On Social Psychology by George Herbert Mead, ed. by Anselm Strauss (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956/1969).

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1959).

Principles of Group Solidarity by Michael Hechter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987).

Prisons We Choose to Live Inside by Doris Lessing (New York: Harper & Row, 1987).

Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities by Len Oakes (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1997).

The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence by Philip G. Zimbardo and Michael R. Leippe (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1991).

The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson (New York: Worth, 2003).

Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity by Erving Goffman (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1963).

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (New York: Penguin, 1902/1985).

When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Predicted the Destruction of the World by Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken, and Stanley Schachter (New York: Harper & Row, 1964).

Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare (New York: Pocket Books, 1993).


Amway: The Cult of Enterprise by Stephen Butterfield (Boston: South End Press, 1985).

Awake in a Nightmare—Jonestown: The Only Eyewitness Account by Ethan Feinsod (New York: Norton, 1981).

Betrayal of Spirit: My Life Behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement by Nori J. Muster (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997).

Bhagwan: The God that Failed by Hugh Milne (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986).

Crazy for God by Christopher Edwards (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1979).

Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru by Andre van der Braak (Rhinbeck, N.Y.: Monkfish, 2003).

Escape from Utopia: My Ten Years in Synanon by William Olin (Santa Cruz, Calif.: Unity Press, 1980).

Heartbreak and Rage: Ten Years Under Sun Myung Moon by K. Gordon Neufield (College Station, Tex.:, 2002).

Heaven’s Harlots: My Fifteen Years as a Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult by Miriam Williams (New York: William Morrow, 1998).

I, Tina: My Life Story by Tina Turner, with Kurt Loder (New York: Avon Books, 1986).

In the Shadow of the Moons: My Life in the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Family by Nansook Hong (New York: Little, Brown, 1998).

Inside Out: A Memoir of Entering and Breaking Out of a Minneapolis Political Cult by Alexandra Stein (St. Cloud,Minn.: North Star Press of St. Cloud, 2002).

L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman by Bent Corydon and L. Ron Hubbard Jr. (Fort Lee, N.J.: Barricade Books, 1992).

Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng (New York: Viking Penguin, 1988).

Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam by Sonsyrea Tate (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997).

Moonstruck: A Memoir of My Life in a Cult by Allen Tate Wood (New York: Morrow, 1979).

Mother of God by Luna Tarlo (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Plover Books, 1997).

My Life in Orange by Tim Guest (London, England: Granta Books, 2004).

Patty Hearst: Her Own Story by Patricia Campbell Hearst (New York: Avon Books, 1982).

People Farm by Steve Susoyev (San Francisco: Moving Finger Press, 2003).

The Promise of Paradise: A Woman’s Intimate Story the Perils of Life With Rajneesh by Satya Bharti Franklin (Barrytown, N.Y.: Station Hill Press, 1992).

Red Azalea by Anchee Min (New York: Pantheon Books, 1994).

Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple by Deborah Layton (New York: Anchor Books, 1998).

Six Years with God: Life Inside Rev. Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple by Jeannie Mills (New York: A&W, 1979).

So Late, So Soon: A Memoir by D’Arcy Fallon (Portland, Ore.:Hawthorne Books, 2004).

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda by Amy Wallace (Berkeley, Calif.: Frog, Ltd., 2003).

A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story by Elaine Brown (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992).

Therapist by Ellen Plasil (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985).

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Judy Chang (New York: Doubleday/Anchor, 1991).

You Must Be Dreaming by Barbara Noel (New York: Poseidon, 1993).

Specific Groups

The Ayn Rand Cult by Jeff Walker (Chicago: Open Court, 1999).

Bare-faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard by Russell Miller (New York: Henry Holt, 1987).

The Boston Movement: Critical Perspectives on the International Churches of Christ by Carol Giambalvo and Herbert Rosedale (Bonita Springs, Fla.: AFF, 1997).

Charisma and Control in Rajneeshpuram by Lewis F. Carter (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

Charismatic Capitalism: Direct Selling Organizations in America by Nicole Woolsey Biggart (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

Churches That Abuse by Ronald Enroth (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1992).

Cities on a Hill: A Journey through Contemporary American Cultures by Frances FitzGerald (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986).

Confabulations: Creating False Memories, Destroying Families by Eleanor Goldstein, with Kevin Framer (Boca Raton, Fla.: SIRS Books, 1992).

Corporate Cults: The Insidious Lure of the All-Consuming Organization by David Arnott (New York: American Management Association, 1999).

The Discipling Dilemma by Flavil Yeakley (Nashville, Tenn.: Gospel Advocate, 1988).

Doomsday Cult: A Study of Conversion, Proselytization, and Maintenance of Faith by John Lofland (New York: Irvington, 1966/1981).

God’s Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18 Women Who Escaped by Andrea Moore-Emmett (San Francisco: Pince-Nez Press, 2004).

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Buglioso (New York: Bantam Books, 1974).

Insane Therapy: Portrait of a Psychotherapy Cult by Marybeth F. Ayella (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998).

The Joyful Community: An Account of the Bruderhof by Benjamin D. Zablocki (Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books, 1971).

The Light on Synanon by Dave Mitchell, Cathy Mitchell, and Richard Ofhse (New York: Seaview Books, 1980).

The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten: Life Beyond the Cult by Karlene Faith (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2001).

Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism by Dennis King (New York: Doubleday, 1989).

Monkey on a Stick: Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas by John Hubner and Lindsey Gruson (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988).

The Other Side of Joy: Religious Melancholy among the Bruderhof by Julius H. Rubin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

Outrageous Betrayal: The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile by Steven Pressman (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993).

Passionate Journeys: Why Successful Women Joined a Cult by Marion S. Goldman (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999).

A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics, and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed by Jon Atack (New York: Carol, 1990).

Prophet of Death: The Mormon Blood-Atonement Killings by Pete Early (New York: Morrow, 1991).

Raven: The Untold Story of Reverend Jim Jones and His People by Tim Reiterman and John Jacobs (New York: Dutton, 1982).

The Road to Total Freedom: A Sociological Analysis of Scientology by Roy Wallis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977).

The Suicide Cult by Marshall Kilduff and Ron Javers (New York: Bantam Books, 1978).

The Sullivanian Institute/Fourth Wall Community: The Relationship of Radical Individualism and Authoritarianism by Amy Siskind (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003).

Therapy Gone Mad: The True Story of Hundreds of Patients and a Generation of Betrayal by Carol Lynn Mithers (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1994).

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer (New York: Anchor Books, 2004).

Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community by Spencer Klaw (New York: Penguin, 1993).

New Age and Eastern Topics

Channeling into the New Age: The “Teachings” of Shirley MacLaine and Other Such Gurus by Henry Gordon (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1988).

The Channeling Zone: American Spirituality in an Anxious Age by Michael F. Brown (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997).

The Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan (New York: Random House, 1995).

The Harmonious Circle: The Lives and Work of G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky and Their Followers by James Webb (New York: Putnam, 1980).

I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self Help Fashions by Wendy Kaminer (New York: Vintage Books, 1993).

Karma Cola: Marketing the Mystic East by Gita Mehta (New York: Vintage Books, 1979).

Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America by Peter Washington (New York: Schocken, 1995).

Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain by Alison Winter (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism by Miranda Shaw (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994).

The Spiritualists: The Passion for the Occult in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries by Ruth Brandon (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1984).

TM and Cult Mania by Michael Persinger, N. J. Carrey, and L. A. Suess (North Quincy, Mass.: Christopher, 1980).

Traveller in Space: In Search of Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism by June Campbell (New York: Geroge Braziller, 1996).

Understanding the New Age by Russell Chandler (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1993).

Extremist Ideologies and Terrorism

1984 by George Orwell (New York: New American Library, 1949/1983).

Apocalypse: On the Psychology of Fundamentalism in America by Charles B. Strozier (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994).

Bitter Harvest: Gordon Kahl and the Posse Comitatus by James Corcoran (New York: Viking Penguin, 1991).

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (New York: New American Library, 1961).

Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism by Robert Jay Lifton (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1999).

Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden by Peter L Bergen (New York: Free Press, 2001).

Inside al Qaeda by Rohan Gunaratna (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).

The Future of Immortality and Other Essays by Robert Jay Lifton (New York: Basic Books, 1987).

The God that Failed, ed. Richard Crossman (New York: Bantam Books, 1965).

Leaders and Their Followers in a Dangerous World: The Psychology of Political Behavior by Jerrold M. Post (Ithaca,N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004).

My Life in the Klan by Jerry Thompson (New York: Putnam, 1982).

The Nazis and the Occult by Dusty Sklar (New York: Dorset Press, 1990).

The Nazi Doctors by Robert Jay Lifton (New York: Basic Books, 1986).

Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (New York: New York University Press, 1992).

On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left by Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth (Armonk, N.Y.: Sharpe, 2000).

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973).

The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (New York: New American Library, 1962).

Revolutionary Immortality: Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Cultural Revolution by Robert Jay Lifton (New York: Random House, 1968).

Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right by Sara Diamond (Boston: South End Press, 1989).

Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence by Mark Juergensmeyer (Berkeley: University of CaliforniaPress, 2000).

Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill by Jessica Stern (New York: HarperCollins, 2003).

The True Believer by Eric Hoffer (New York: Harper and Row, 1951).

The Year 2000: Essays on the End, eds. Charles B. Strozier and Michael Flynn (New York: New York University Press, 1997).

Leaving and Recovering

Coping with Cult Involvement by Livia Bardin (Bonita Springs,Fla.: AFF, 2002).

Cults on Campus: Continuing Challenge, ed. Marcia Rudin (Bonita Springs, Fla.: AFF, 1991).

Exit Counseling: A Family Intervention by Carol Giambalvo (Bonita Springs, Fla.: AFF, 1992).

Love and Loathing: Protecting Your Mental Health and Legal Rights When Your Partner HasBorderline Personality Disorder by Randi Kreger and Kim Williams (Milwaukee, Wis.: Eggshells Press, 1999).

Recovery from Abusive Groups by Wendy Ford (Bonita Springs, Fla.: AFF, 1993).

Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological or Spiritual Abuse, ed. by Michael D. Langone (New York: Norton, 1993).

Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves by Steven Hassan (Danbury, Conn.: Aitan Publishing, 2000).

Splitting: Protecting yourself while Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist by William A. Eddy (Milwaukee, Wis.: Eggshells Press, 2004).

Stop Walking on Eggshells: Coping When Someone You Care about Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger (Oakland, Calif.: New Harbinger Publications, 1998).

The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond by Patricia Evans (Holbrook, Mass.: Bob Adams, 1992).

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence-From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Lewis Herman (New York: Basic Books, 1992).

Women, Sex, and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power by Charlotte Davis Kasl (New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1989).