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Reviewer Mary Stoll

Mary Stoll

Mary Stoll is a Library Archives Specialist at the University of Central Oklahoma.


Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell (P301.5.P75 M66 2021)

Have you ever listened to someone describe their commitment to a group fitness class, expensive beauty routine, or a favorite pop star and think to yourself, wow, that person kind of sounds like they’re in a cult? Author and linguist Amanda Montell certainly has. Through her book of essays, Montell explores the commonalities between well-known cults such as Jonestown or Heaven’s Gate, and the seemingly innocuous groups that so many of us have pledged our allegiances too, such as CrossFit and Taylor Swift fans. While these types of groups are clearly different, Montell points out that the various tactics employed by their leaders, and importantly, the language that they use, achieves a level of influence over their followers that blurs the line between passionate club and outright cult.

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism is an insightful, well-researched, and often hilarious investigation into the American obsession with cults. A cursory glance at Netflix’s catalogue, chock-full of documentaries on cults, makes it clear that we can’t get enough. Montell draws a connection between this obsession and the very human needs for connection, belonging and safety – aspects of life that are, for many, in increasingly short supply. Cultish makes it clear that it’s far easier to “drink the Kool-Aid” than any of us would like to believe. Reviewed 2022