Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Review: A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres

I think everyone can agree that Jim Jones and "drinking the kool aid" are a pretty ingrained part of pop culture and legendary news.  I wasn't born when the mass killings and suicides at Jonestown took place, but I felt like I had a basic grasp of what had happened based on those pop culture references.  However, many of those ideas weren't based in fact, as I learned through reading this book.  It reminded me a lot of Columbine by Dave Cullen, but I actually found Scheeres' reporting to be better.  Regardless, this was an exciting book and dispelled a lot of inaccuracies that I had taken for granted - and it was fascinating on top of all that.

Excellent reporting.  In a book about Jim Jones and Jonestown, it would be really easy for any author to editorialize, particulary regarding Jones himself.  The term "raving lunatic" is actually completely, literally factual.  Despite that, the author really refrains from inserting her own opinions, which made the book much more enjoyable for me.  She does a great job of showing why people trusted Jones, how he was able to manipulate him, and what made him tick.

Entertainment Value
Again, the excellent reporting made for a very readable book.  That reporting combined with the shocking nature of the story made the book hard to put down.  I read it in just a few sittings, despite the serious subject matter because once I started I couldn't stop. 

I highly recommend picking this one up, especially for those of you who are interested in cults, psychology, or historical events shown in a new light.  Also, as I mentioned earlier, if you read and enjoyed Columbine I think you would enjoy this one (and vice versa).  Enthusiastic endorsement from me (it even made it to my favorite non-fiction of 2011 list).


  1. I also thought it was really good.

  2. This book definitely creeped me out a little bit but at the same time, I really liked the book. I didn't know a lot about the Jonestown incident except for the "drinking the kool-aid" part of it so it was interesting to get some of the history.