10 Books Like 'Wild Wild Country' To Read When You've Finished Watching Every Single Episode
Watching Netflix's Wild Wild Country is like riding a roller coaster, stepping off, then realizing you're on another roller coaster. I can't tell you how many times I audibly gasped at my laptop screen as I watched this incredible docu-series. I'm obsessed with dark and dramatic stories, so as soon as I finished watching, I immediately started searching for books like Wild Wild Country.
To sum up the plot of the show is a daunting task, since the series takes so many unexpected turns. It's the true story of the Rajneesh movement — an Indian cult centered on guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. In the 1980s, the members built a ranch in rural Oregon and went to extreme lengths to take over the local community.
If you're like me, you probably can't get enough of the kind of wild story that proves the adage true: the truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes. On the list I've compiled, you will find a varied selection of unputdownable books about cults, conspiracies, and the Rajneesh movement in particular. But my hope is also that these 10 books will give you a glimpse into the human cost and emotional trauma of these types of scandals.
1. 'Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology' by Leah Remini
Actress Leah Remini's memoir of her years as a Scientologist will absolutely stun you. Remini doesn't spare any details about her upbringing in the Church of Scientologys and her experience disconnecting from the church. Pro-tip: Leah Remini reads the audiobook and it is fantastic.
2. 'My Life in Orange' by Tim Guest
At the age of six, Tim Guest and his mother moved to a Rajneesh commune. In his memoir, Guest recounts his time growing up in the community, and details what happened to him when the movement collapsed in 1985.
3. 'The Rajneesh Chronicles: The True Story of the Cult that Unleashed the First Act of Bioterrorism on U.S. Soil' by Win McCormack
If you want to dig even deeper into Rajneesh movement, Win McCormack's nonfiction account of its rise and fall gets into some details that weren't addressed in the Netflix docu-series.
4. 'The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder' by Nikki Meredith
In the summer of 1969, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel committed horrific crimes under the influence of cult leader Charles Manson. Journalist Nikki Meredith visited these two women in prison and built a relationship with them in an effort to understand their stories. Then she wrote this book about it all.
5. 'The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple' by Jeff Guinn
Jonestown gets mentioned a few times during Wild Wild Country, as its legacy made people especially wary of the Rajneesh movement. The Jonestown Massacre in 1978 is the largest mass suicide in American history, and in this book, Jeff Guinn dives deep into the story of the movement's enigmatic leader.
6. 'A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power' by Paul Fischer
The true story related in this book is just as incredible (and disturbing) as the one in Wild Wild Country. Kim jong-Il, the late dictator of North Korea, was obsessed with film. This book tells the story of how he ordered the kidnapping of Choi Eun-Hee — South Korea's most famous actress — and her ex-husband Shin Sang-Ok, the country's most famous filmmaker. While captive, the two made seven films for North Korea, before amazingly making a near-impossible escape.
7. 'Breaking Free: How I Escaped My Father-Warren Jeffs-Polygamy, and the FLDS Cult' by Rachel Jeffs
Rachel Jeffs is one of the 53 children of Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed Prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In 2015, Rachel left the church. In this emotional memoir, she shares her story, exposes the horrific abusive behavior within the cult, and describes the lives of people still trapped within it.
8. 'American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land' by Monica Hesse
If you want to dive into another true story about crime and community, give this book a read. Hesse tells the story of a string of over 70 arsons committed in Accomack County, Virginia. But when mechanic Charlie Smith eventually confessed to the crimes, his story unspooled a story that is even stranger than you would expect.
9. 'The Girls' by Emma Cline
Wild Wild Country puts meaning to the phrase "stranger than fiction"... but sometimes fiction can be pretty weird, too. Set in Northern California in the 1960s, The Girls centers on Evie, a teenager who gets drawn into a group of charismatic girls whom she later learns are members of a mysterious cult.
11. 'Breaking the Spell' by Jane Stork
Jane Stork is one of Wild Wild Country's most memorable interview subjects. In this memoir, she goes into detail about her time in the Rajneesh community and her emotional journey to break free.