If Amanda Martell starts a cult, this girl is joining. Cultish by Amanda Martell was beyond fascinating and don't even get me started on this cover (Ah-mazing.) This isn't your typical true crime narration of Jonestown and the Manson family. Cultish is all about how language is used as the ultimate form of power with cultish groups, ranging from the sinister ones we immediately think of when we hear the word "cult" to the workout gurus and social media influencers we see all over Instagram and Tiktok.
Cultish is split into six sections that cover sinister religious cults (like Jim Jones "Jonestown" and Heaven's Gate,) Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) schemes, fitness centers (such as CrossFit and SoulCycle,) and more. I personally find religious cults very interesting, so that section was intriguing to me, but the MLM section was incredible. Who hasn't seen friends and family get wrapped up in MLM schemes like LuLaRoe, Younique, Mary Kay, Herbalife and Amway? Heck, I remember for a moment in time considering being a LuLaRoe consultant. If Montell wrote a book solely about MLM and pyramid schemes, I would buy it in a heartbeat.
There were also sections about Scientology and QAnon that were gripping, but scratched the surface, leaving me wanting to learn more about them. Montell focuses more on how these groups use language to recruit and maintain membership, as opposed to their general beliefs and practices. A part that stuck out to me was Montell interviewing a former Scientology member who gave her an example conversation between two Scientologists. As someone who is almost completely unfamiliar with this religion, it was eye-opening to read. I had zero idea what they were discussing and what most of the words meant. It really hit me how some of these leaders can take the English language and manipulate it in a way to make their members feel exclusive and like they are a part of "something."
If you are a fan of true crime, linguistics, and psychological research, give Cultish a try. Even if you aren't, I encourage you to read it as well because Montell does a great job of breaking down this information in a way that readers with various knowledge levels on the subject can understand.
5 stars (LOVED it)