• Don't Call It a Cult

  • The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of NXIVM
  • By: Sarah Berman
  • Narrated by: Ewa Wolniczek
  • Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (283 ratings)

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Don't Call It a Cult

By: Sarah Berman
Narrated by: Ewa Wolniczek
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Publisher's Summary

They draw you in with the promise of empowerment, self-discovery, women helping women. The more secretive those connections are, the more exclusive you feel. Little did you know, you just joined a cult.

Sex trafficking. Self-help coaching. Forced labor. Mentorship. Multi-level marketing. Gaslighting. Investigative journalist Sarah Berman explores the shocking practices of NXIVM, a cult run by Keith Raniere and many enablers. Through the accounts of central NXIVM figures, Berman uncovers how dozens of women seeking creative coaching and networking opportunities instead were blackmailed, literally branded, near-starved, and enslaved. Don't Call It a Cult is a riveting account of NXIVM's rise to power, its ability to evade prosecution for decades, and the investigation that finally revealed its dark secrets to the world.

©2021 Sarah Berman (P)2021 Steerforth

Critic Reviews

One of Oxygen.com's Best Crime Books of 2021

"Sarah Berman’s Don’t Call It a Cult is a thoroughly reported work that details a staggering amount of relevant information the TV series left out." (The Atlantic

"[I]nvestigative journalist Berman front-loads her startling, comprehensive exposé on the NXIVM group with key information on how the association became popular yet remained elusive to law enforcement...the author’s engrossing reportage meticulously reveals the tumultuous rise and fall of NXIVM after numerous criminal indictments and prosecutions.... File this alongside Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear and Jeff Guinn’s The Road to Jonestown.... An incendiary, serpentine report on criminal manipulation of staggering proportions." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)  

"Investigative journalist Berman debuts with the definitive look at the NXIVM cult, which victimized dozens of women for more than a decade.... This deep dive behind the headlines isn’t to be missed." (Publishers Weekly)  

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What listeners say about Don't Call It a Cult

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Detailed (best for those already interested)

I learned a lot from this book not only about the cult in question but lots of contextual details from the interconnected biographies in this very large cast of real life characters. There is also many interesting intersections herein with other self help movements.

This isn’t a true crime style book nor forensically insightful about Rainiere. It’s super obvious from the start the opinion of the author. Unless you are already interested in every detail of this subject matter (which I wasn’t but was open to learning more about a cult, control tactics, the crimes committed) I would skip this one. The author blurs the line in a “people magazine” style tone between moralism and criminality kind of assuming the reader doesn’t need or want to understand the nuances. In the end hard to stay engaged unless you are already obsessed with learning about this cult.

4 people found this helpful

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While we are patiently waiting for Season 2 of The Vow..

This book gives more detailed information about KR trial and others caught in the NXIVM web of deception.

2 people found this helpful

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Well-written, Well-sourced, Wild Ride

Well, this was certainly an interesting listen. I will say: it was a little hard to keep track of all the names on audiobook format. There were a LOT of names and sometimes it would follow someone for a few chapters, then skip them entirely for another few, and come back. This aspect would have been easier to follow on a written page, I believe. There were a couple of times where the delivery was odd: a strange emphasis in a sentence, or the end of a chapter came off as sudden because the narrator said it as though the next sentence would wrap up a thought. Overall, it seems to line up with the information and court records that are published and I think it makes that information much easier to digest. I appreciate the thought, effort, and research that went into a project this large, and the ending paid off all the threads that were woven through the narrative. 9.5/10, would highly recommend.

2 people found this helpful

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Amazing Bundling of Stories!

I had been waiting for this book to come out, and it was quite riveting. As someone who has read Sarah Edmondson's book, India Oxenberg's book, and Toni Natalie's book, as well as watching The Vow; This is an EXCELLENT linking of timelines in an easily digestible manner. Interviews with survivors I had never heard from before, and the viewpoint of a truly invested journalist. Book is well worth it. 💙

2 people found this helpful

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Solid reporting with new info

A really good study of Raniere. I enjoyed this quite a bit and learned a lot. I was disappointed when it was over and will follow the author.

1 person found this helpful

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Great Writing

Only issues were keeping up with names..... wasn’t sure who was who and it seemed to jump around.

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Objective perspective

Well-written content with clear, enjoyable narration, this book offered new details from the trials of several people who were involved in Nxivm and its related groups.

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Blah

I had a very hard time focusing on the book. A lot of bouncing around. I couldn’t finish it-just lost interest.

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Loved it!

This was fascinating and thrilling. Loved hearing the truth about the awful crimes they committed and that in the end they got what they deserved.

1 person found this helpful

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Nothing new

There is no new Info or research than the one that already came out in all the books and movies or documentaries

1 person found this helpful