Reading list

5 books about cults

Can't get enough of Wild Wild Country?  Anbara Salam, the author of Things Bright and Beautiful, selects five works of fiction that focus on elusive and mysterious cults.

The Girls

Emma Cline

A dreamy, well-observed and languid story that reflects on a coming-of-age summer. Except that our protagonist, Evie, is trying to join a cult. Cline’s fictional cult is based on the Manson family and the events leading up to the infamous Tate/LaBianca murders. The Girls deftly explores the emotional pull for those on the fringe of cult groups vying for acceptance.

 

The Water Cure 

Sophie Mackintosh

A hypnotic and evocative read that explores the restrictive lives of three young women on a remote island who must abide by the disturbing regimes of their father, King. The fractures in his mythological power are subtly invoked as the novel progresses, generating a haunting sense of dread and claustrophobia. This book is thought-provoking and beautifully composed - best enjoyed as a slow read to savour Mackintosh's gorgeous language.

The Power

Naomi Alderman

All over the world, women are discovering an incipient power slumbering in their bodies -  the ability to produce an electric charge. This satirical and apocalyptic novel follows four characters adjusting to their new roles through political turmoil and social upheaval. Allie, a savvy young prophet refocuses herself in the cult of the Mother and precipitates the destruction of the old world order.

 

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood

This is a classic novel that deserves a place on every reading list. Dystopian yet frighteningly familiar, the book takes place in a world where handmaids act as fertility proxies for prestigious families; becoming arguably the most valued and yet most depersonalised members of society. Offred has been stripped of her former identity and her agency, but her desperate hopes in the face of systematic oppression are at the heart of this disturbing and addictive read.

 

IQ84 

Haruki Murakami

Leave 1Q84 by your bed and take your time with this read. A slow and strange novel that reveals how the investigation of the fictional Sakigake cult intertwines the lives of the two main protagonists, Aomame and Tengo. Murakami’s uncanny and hypnotic world-building offers a mesmerizing journey of parallel universes, strange coincidences and romantic possibilities.

 

More about the author

Things Bright and Beautiful

Anbara Salam

'A claustrophobic compelling read that'll suck you into its heart of darkness' Independent

When Bea Hanlon follows her preacher husband Max to a remote island in the Pacific, she soon sees that their mission will bring anything but salvation...

Advent Island is a place beyond the reaches of Bea's most fitful imaginings. It's not just the rats and the hordes of mosquitos and the weevils in the powdered milk. Past the confines of their stuffy little house, amidst the damp and the dust and the sweltering heat, rumours are spreading of devil chasers who roam the island on the hunt for evil spirits. And then there are the noises from the church at night.

Yet, to the amusement of the locals and the bafflement of her husband, Bea gradually adapts to life on the island. But with the dreadful events heralded by the arrival of an unexpected, wildly irritating and always-humming house guest, Advent Island becomes a hostile place once again. And before long, trapped in the jungle and in the growing fever of her husband's insanity, Bea finds herself fighting for her freedom, and for her life.

'I was sucked into its dark beating heart and wasn't spat out until I'd turned the final page' Claire Fuller'

'Dark, mysterious, beguiling, and beautifully written. It transported me to a different world' Dolly Alderton

'An excellent, blackly funny debut ... a novel whose growing environmental and psychological horrors you can feel crawling across your skin' Daily Mail


***Independent debut of the summer***
***Stylist must-read books of 2018***
***Metro Best New Books by BME Authors***

You can never have enough books…

Sign up to the Penguin newsletter for our latest reads
 

Related features