Review – Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell

Blog Post Cultish

Totally out of the loop on new releases

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism came to my attention by way of Instagram. Can’t remember the details of who recommended or mentioned it as a week ago is a distant memory now. Nevertheless, I noted after adding it to my Goodreads list that it was already at over 2000 ratings with a median of 4 stars and hundreds of reviews.

Which impressed me for a book, released two months previously and one I was out of the loop in hearing about before.

But were the ratings justified or the result of hype. 

I looked on Netgalley UK and didn’t it see it there.  Which made me even more curious, to find out how this book blew up.

The Hunt Began

I set about looking for a copy, my go to is of course library apps ( Libby and Borrowbox) and subscription services  (Kindle Unlimited and Scribd) and failing that buying a copy.

What pushed Cultish to the read now as opposed to top of the tbr?

The timing was right, I was on the look out for non fiction, it could also feed my mild interest in fringe groups and cults, which hadn’t had much sustenance recently.  Plus when I found it, it was available as an audiobook, making it possible to read straightaway, leap frogging over the tbr of ebooks and paperbacks.

My Cultish history

What’s my interest in cults? It’s trying to understand how you can get sucked into an organisation and not realise that it’s wrong, wrong. Wrong!!! Also racking my brain to see if I’d been personally affected.

I had an almost encounter with Scientology on Tottenham Court Road, but swerved their entreaties to have a quick personality test. And a longer association with Landmark. The internet of the late 1990 led me to  some questionable associations. All I can remember about Landmark is it being an intense weekend with crushing pressure to reveal and resolve past hurts, all in the name of self help and improvement.

And of course register for additional courses.

And a massive charge on my credit card, which I thought was a good reminder for the future – to be more questioning and less free with money I didn’t have.

What’s the angle of this book?

I liked that the subtitle was the language of Fanaticism. It took the focus off the definition of  cult, which is subject to interpretation and debate and rather pin pointed the modes and methods certain groups used to influence and  control its members and followers.

That widened the type of groups to include the obvious one which most people would have heard of such as the aforementioned Scientology, plus Heaven’s Gate, Jonestown. Added to the list were others which I hadn’t consciously considered such as multi level marketing, sports and exercise (Soul Cycle Peloton), yet had internalised as such. Showing the similarities between legitimate companies with insidious engagement methods and flakey fly by nights.

Narrated with the right amount of emphasis, I enjoyed listening to Cultish.  I didn’t learn anything particularly new, however it consolidated what I’d already gleaned, picked up already from previous articles and documentaries. The slant of language shifted the gaze and the topic itself was framed in an accessible way.   This is my first book by Amanda Montell but probably won’t be my last. 

I still don’t know what the marketing campaign was for Cultish, but am glad it brought this book to my attention.


4 Stars - Really Liked It
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Engrossed Reader

Female, in her 40's who reads when she can, often to the detriment of sleep. Enjoying most genres and formats with a preference for ebooks, mainly for convenience

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4 star rating explained

4 star rating explained