Cults: Inside the World's Most Notorious Groups and Understanding the People Who... by Max CutlerWhat it is: a well-researched, richly detailed survey of the rise and fall of cult leaders, the groups they created, and how they were able to manipulate their followers through fear, faith, or family ties.
Featuring: familiar names like David Koresh and lesser-known figures like Credonia Mwerinde, Roch Thériault, and Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo.
About the author: Max Cutler is the co-founder of the Parcast podcast network, and host of the Cults podcast this book is inspired by.
Muddy People: A Muslim Coming-of-Age by Sara El SayedWhat it's about: the flight of author Sara El Sayed's family from Egypt to Australia, where she grew up caught between anti-Muslim attitudes in her new country and rules enforced by her parents.
Read it for: the moving, nuanced perspective the author has gained as an adult on her family and her faith; occasional moments of dark yet compelling humor.
Reviewers say: "El Sayed's coming-of-age memoir about resiliency, family, and identity will delight readers as a study of making sense of a world where rules can often help along the way" (Library Journal).
A Love-Stretched Life: Stories on Wrangling Hope, Embracing the Unexpected, and... by Jillana GobleWhat it is: a candid, bittersweet debut memoir that reflects on the author and her husband's decision to "put our faith into action" by becoming foster parents and how she learned to celebrate even the smallest victories along the way.
Book buzz: Love-Stretched is "a poignant portrait of motherhood" and "exemplifies the power of faith, hope, and steadfast love" (Publishers Weekly).
For fans of: The Opposite of Certainty by Janine Urbaniak Reid.
The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler by David I. KertzerWhat it's about: the wartime activities of Pope Pius XII, whose tenure during World War II included ordering the Vatican newspaper not to publish articles critical of fascism, refusing to publicly condemn the Nazis, and failing to act despite mounting evidence of Axis atrocities.
Read it for: the thorough research, including information from the most recently opened set of documents from the Vatican archive.
About the author: Historian David I. Kertzer is a professor at Brown University who won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for The Pope and Mussolini, a biography of Pope Pius XI and his relationship with Italian fascism.
Evangelical Anxiety: A Memoir by Charles MarshWhat it is: an engaging and witty memoir about the intersection of faith and mental health, with reflections on how the two can be better reconciled.
What makes it unique: the occasionally dark and sometimes even bawdy humor interspersed throughout, especially as the author reflects on his burden of guilt during puberty.
For fans of: Sin Bravely by Maggie Rowe; This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson.
Beyond the Darkness: A Gentle Guide for Living with Grief & Thriving After Loss by Clarissa MollWhat it's about: the author's shock and grief after sudden death of her husband left her to raise their four children alone, and the things she's learned while relying on her faith to get through her ordeal.
Want a taste? "When we turn to grief and receive her wisdom, we invite God to speak into the most painful places of our lives."
Reviewers say: Beyond the Darkness is "a guidebook to a life and place most readers hope to avoid, even as they know with certainty that they must one day make a home there" (Library Journal).
A Hole in the World: Finding Hope in Rituals of Grief and Healing by Amanda Held OpeltWhat's inside: compelling reflections on the power of ritual to help us through the most difficult time, especially when grieving loved ones.
Topics include: bereavement customs throughout history; the special difficulty the author faced when grieving her sister, author Rachel Held Evans.
Traditions explored: covering mirrors while sitting Shiva; the Celtic practice of "telling the bees," who were believed to be able to communicate with the deceased.
The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life by Simran Jeet SinghWhat it's about: life lessons people of all faiths learn from Sikh teachings to practice gratitude, see the divine in each other, and foster an optimistic perspective.
Read it for: the accessible and engaging exploration of Sikhism designed for people unfamiliar with the faith.
About the author: Dr. Simran Jeet Singh is a writer and activist who teaches at Union Theological Seminary. In addition to his writing for adults, he has also published a children's book called Fauja Singh Keeps Going.
When the Moon Turns to Blood: Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell, and A Story of Murder, Wild... by Leah SottileWhat's inside: a harrowing, disturbing tale of fanatical end-times beliefs gone horribly wrong, culminating in the murders of seven-year-old J.J. Vallow and his 16-year-old sister Tylee.
Read it for: author Leah Sottile's compelling and relatable asides, which convey her personal horror without undermining the well-researched details that make up her sobering portrayal of the crimes in question.
For fans of: Jon Krakauer's seminal work Under the Banner of Heaven.
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