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Zealot

A Book About Cults
Narrated by: Jo Thornely
Length: 8 hrs and 9 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (70 ratings)

Non-member price: $34.95

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Publisher's Summary

Why would anyone join a cult?   

Maybe they're unhappy with their current religion, or they want to change the world, or they're disappointed with their lives and want to find something bigger or holier that makes sense of this confusing, chaotic and dangerous world. Or maybe they just want to give themselves the best possible chance of having sex with aliens.  

Whatever the reason, once people are in, it's usually very difficult for them to leave. Cults have ways of making their followers do loopy, dangerous stuff to prove their loyalty, and in return they get a chance to feel secure within the cult's embrace, with an added bonus of being utterly terrified of the outside world.   

From the tragic Jonestown Kool-Aid drinkers to the Australian cult The Family to the fiery Waco climax of The Branch Davidians, this is a wide-sweeping look at cults around the world, from the host of the popular podcast Zealot.

©2019 Jo Thornely (P)2019 Hachette Australia Audio

What listeners say about Zealot

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Shallow sarcastic discussion

an interesting subject handled in an immature and superficial manner. resubmit needed for this work.

2 people found this helpful

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Fascinating, creepy, hilarious

I could not stop listening to this book. Jo’s narration feels more like you’re having a conversation with a cult expert friend over a few wines. I’m sure there’s lots more super-creepy cults out there to dissect so here’s hoping Jo writes a second volume on this fascinating topic.

1 person found this helpful

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More Shallow than a Puddle

This book tries to take a humorous approach to cults, cult leaders and the atrocities they commit. All it achieves is creating an atrocity of a book. Reads more like a terrible date struggling to hold your attention with a vapid discussion of a 'super cool' topic they are sure will impress you. Don't bother with this book.

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Jo is the new Clive James

In stark contrast to the subject matter, I found myself constantly laughing at Jo's dark humour and one liners. Oh my goodness! All I could think of was Clive James; is she his daughter? Jo has a great reading voice, and this in particular brings her black humour to the fore. I am going to listen to this book again and again, even if just for the jokes. I expected a serious dissection of the many flawed cult figureheads who deluded the masses, and was pleasantly surprised at how brutally funny Jo has portrayed these religious nut cases, without missing out on the psychology behind their behaviour, however crudely she stated it. I want more...

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Fun and light, considering the subject

If you're looking for a fun, and lighthearted pop history on several infamous cults, look no further. Jo's tone is comic and informal as she waxes lyrical about some profoundly awful events. Narration by the author is a huge plus, capturing the comic timing. If this is what you're looking for, you'll have a great time. Those seeking rigorous academic texts, perhaps less so.

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nothing new

would probably be good as an introductory text or summary of the most well known groups

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  • :D
  • 23-01-2020

Please write a comparative conclusion!

Jo, It would be really good to add another chapter to your book which compares all the case studies and concludes what you have learnt from your research on cults. Deep down I feel that you have an insightful opinion that can be better expressed than slag humor at the end of every paragraph. I hope you follow up given all your hard work on the book to date.

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Laugh out loud funny and fascinating

If, like me, you’re fascinated by cults, I highly recommend “Zealot” by Jo Thornely. Written like a kind of “cults101”, it’s written in a humorous, irreverent style that made me actually laugh out loud at several points. Language is a little NSFW at times so be warned 🙂 Jo narrated her own audiobook, which isn’t always a great choice but she reads it really well. The Raelians may be my new fav cult.

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Great!

This book boldly combines a fascinating and well researched account of some the most bizarre and "successful" cults with an unbelievably refreshing-and totally appropriate-comedic delivery that defies all political correctness. Ms Thornely has invented what to me is an exciting new genre. Part of my fascination with these cults is their common DNA with other, more conventional religions-just as bizarre and irrational as "mainstream" religions, but perhaps featuring aliens instead of angels. In learning about the creepy cult leaders, we recognize oft repeated patterns of behaviour that are elemental to human nature. This is both riveting and unsettling. Well done Jo Thornely!

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An entertaining, informative and enjoyable experience

An entertaining book, researched in depth with fascinating detail, it offers an immensely interesting look into the world of cults. Sprinkled liberally with perfectly appropriate Aussie humour, I enjoyed this book greatly. Well read by the author too. I’m looking forward to listening this book a second time soon.

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  • S. Winchester
  • 28-02-2019

Entertaining listen

You wouldn't think a book about cults could be so entertaining, but you would be wrong. Even though a lot of the cults in this book were horrible, the author managed to inject human and snarkiness to keep it from becoming too dark.

4 people found this helpful

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  • James M. Brining
  • 29-10-2019

More Irreverant than Informative

Maybe I should have researched the book a bit more before selecting it. While the subject matter is indeed cults, it's less about how cult leaders lure in followers or what makes people susceptible to join them and more about all the silly rituals they observe, wacky things they believe and amusing and/or disturbing things they do. While I am fond of snark, sarcasm, and cheeky asides, all of which are in plentiful supply here, the amount of wisecracks gets to the point where it becomes distracting. There was information about cults I'd never heard of and details I didn't know about cults I had, and the presentation by the author was well done, but the excessive amount of jokes and jabs was just a little over the top for me. Your mileage may vary though.

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  • Branndi
  • 01-10-2019

"Thank you very much"

I love this book for the dry wit. Maybe it is because I have that sense of humour but this author had been laughing out loud. Perfect narrator too.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Morgan L. Day
  • 29-09-2019

Excellent, doesn't need to be academic

Not every non-fiction book has to fit the standards of a university textbook, with objectivity and distance. I thought it was refreshing to have someone cover a subject and say what, as the author puts it, any decent moral person would think about the subject. I am usually skeptical of authors narrating their own work as they aren't trained and experienced voice actors, but Ms. Thornely did a cracking good job. Despite the grim subject matter, I laughed my pants off all the way throughout the book. There were a couple of odd omissions, for example nothing on the Manson Family, but I highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in cults and would like to be entertained as well as informed.

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  • Richard
  • 25-09-2019

less than expected

I agree about the author/narrator having a immature commentary. I would have preferred a more objective view than jokes and personal views.

5 people found this helpful

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  • sarah crandall
  • 12-03-2019

Good I'm formation.

I really enjoyed the I'm formation but didn't like the authors immature commentary. Felt like a thirteen years old was reading and adding in ridiculous comments.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Brittany Boyken
  • 25-06-2020

Funny and Intelligent

I loved it! Her podcast goes over the same things but this was in much more detail. And I very much like the end of when you know you're in a cult and what to do.

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  • Andrew
  • 08-05-2020

Lesson of the day. Don't Join A Cult

some history of cults and told with the hindsight. dont join a cult. The Author yells it in a humorous way and just as she said. dont join a cult.

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  • Silja Jaatun
  • 30-04-2020

perfect level of snark

The book is thoroughly researched and have the perfect level of snark. Interesting and funny.

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  • Rebecca Klasky
  • 29-02-2020

I don't normally feel compelled to write a review

This book is awesome! It is narrated by the author and it is just so funny and such a joy. It reminds me of listening to My Favorite Murder the podcast because the topic is so horrifying but the experience of listening is enjoyable because it's told in such a hilarious way.

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  • Grantley McDONALD
  • 10-11-2019

Very funny, very disturbing, but somehow lacking

This book is immensely entertaining, and had be snorting with laughter at many points. But somehow I felt that something important was missing: Thornely’s portraits of cult leaders and members from the 1970s until the present are ultimately caricatures. Many of the episodes described are funny because they are simply so strange or outrageous, such as Jim Jones’ sideline as a travelling spider-monkey salesman, or Bhagwan Rajneesh’s insatiable desire to acquire a hundred Rolls-Royces. Yet there is little attempt to try to understand the motivations of the various agents involved, apart from the obvious: the desire for money, power, and sex. I kept asking myself why people would turn their lives upside down to join a cult when such things can usually be had in radically less disruptive ways. Unfortunately, Thornely offers little reflective insight about such more complex motivations on the part of leaders or followers. Nevertheless, this remains a very funny book which I would recommend if you just want a good belly laugh at the extent of human folly.

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  • J. Lyne
  • 09-09-2019

Love the podcast, love the book.

I love the enthusiasm with which the author talks about the subject. Interesting and horrifying on so many levels.