A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres

A Thousand Lives

“I love socialism, and I’m willing to die to bring it about, but if I did, I’d take a thousand with me.”                                                             — Jim Jones, September 6, 1975      In 1954, a pastor named Jim Jones opened a church in Indianapolis called People's Temple Full Gospel Church. He was a charismatic preacher with idealistic beliefs, and...

Details A Thousand Lives

TitleA Thousand Lives
Release DateOct 11th, 2011
PublisherFree Press
GenreNonfiction, History, Religion, Crime, True Crime, Cults, Psychology, Mystery

Reviews A Thousand Lives

  • Petra X
    Update I finished the book. I don't think it was the definitive story of what happened in Jonestown even though it is probably the most exhaustive. There was too much personal interpretation by the author that was based on her emotional interpretation of the evidence (of which there was plenty) rather than any proper analysis. This isn't necessarily wrong, it's her book. But it doesn't, to me, explain how and why the majority of people committed ...
  • Shaun
    Death is not a fearful thing, it's living that's treacherous. Jim Jones November 18, 1978 I was only seven when the massacre/mass suicide at Jonestown occurred, and while I always had a general sense of what happened, until reading this book, I lacked a true appreciation for the magnitude and bizarre nature of this tragedy. From champion of the oppressed to drug-addled megalomaniac, Jim Jones was an enigma on many fronts. He started off speaking ...
  • Regina
    This is a well-researched and docuemnted book detailing the lives of Jim Jones's followers. The narrative is based on 50,000 pages of documents (diaries, notes, etc) released by the FBI and seized from Jonestown. The author has a good voice and is able to convey both Jim Jones's persuasiveness, at least his persuasiveness in the beginning, and the entrapped feeling his followers must have felt. I knew of the Jonestown tragedy since I was a kid, b...
  • Nancy
    The Jonestown tragedy happened the week of my 13th birthday. At the time I remember the nation being stunned and the news stations reporting the details as they came available but the impact on an adolescent girl was less than cosmic. As I finished this book as a much older person I had a much different experience.Combing threw tens of thousands of documents released to the public and also from tapes already public, the author pieced together Jim...
  • Ryandake
    this review refers to the audiobook version.not the sort of book you can get some lively party chat out of, if you plan to get invited back.Julia Scheeres has some unique credentials for writing about Jonestown: she and her adopted (black) brother were incarcerated in a fundamentalist Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic as adolescents. i can't think of another experience that would have so many resonances with Jonestown: coercion, p...
  • Kurt
    Like many people born in 1980 or later, I grew up with a vague notion of Jonestown as a weird town in a jungle where a bunch of people in a cult drank poison Kool-Aid and died. I use the term “drink the Kool-Aid” when I refer to someone completely buying in to an idea or a cause. But until I read this book, I never really knew what Jonestown was all about.Scheeres provides a service in this book, both as a skillful historian and as a compassi...
  • Shauna
    Obviously, some of my nonfiction tastes aren't for everybody; this work is fascinating and disturbing. The author had access to a huge trove of documents, audiotapes, photographs and more relating to Jonestown soon after they were declassified by the FBI. Jonestown was the ex-pat American settlement in Guyana where 900 people died in a mass murder-suicide in November 1978. Scheeres' book strikes a careful balance in avoiding hype (believe me, thi...
  • Vikki
    A compassionate account of the Jonestown tragedy, A THOUSAND LIVES humanizes the victims rather than painting them as stupid, docile, mindless pawns. Scheeres shows us exactly how the monumentally flawed Jones was able to draw them into his quest for a socialist/agrarian utopia, and then, in his growing drug addiction and paranoia, keep them isolated, scared, hungry, weak and tired enough to stay -- and eventually to die. This book is heartbreaki...
  • Anna Janelle
    I've been putting off this review because I'm fairly horrified by the contents of this non-fiction read. And by horrified, I mean that I had honest-to-God nightmares about Jonestown. Yes, I was familiar with the tragedy and I knew that an unprecedented number of people had died, but I had no clue as to the terror and abuse that led up to the fateful incident.“I love socialism, and I’m willing to die to bring it about, but if I did, I’d take...
  • Larry Bassett
    Some of us remember that on November 18, 1978 909 people died in Jonestown Guyana where they had gone to live seeking an ideal community with Jim Jones. The peoples Temple began decades before that in Indianapolis Indiana, before moving to Ukiah California then to San Francisco and then the 1970s to South America. This was a predominantly black community although Jim Jones and much of the leadership were white. The book is based on documents and ...
  • Karla
    I was only 3 when Jonestown happened, so I was raised on the pop culture term of "drinking the Kool-Aid." It really minimizes the true horror that was Jim Jones' manipulation of vulnerable, idealistic and, often, uneducated people.After starting this book, I got on a Jonestown kick and also watched Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple and Jonestown: Paradise Lost . Fun times. :P
  • Katherine
    ”’I love socialism, and I’m willing to die to bring it about, but if I did, I’d take a thousand with me.’” I’m here to tell you right now that if you read this book, you’ll never look at religious prophets the same way ever again. But at the same time, it’s a book that demands to be read, especially at a time like this.Back in the 1950s, a young preacher named Jim Jones started a church in Indianapolis. It quickly grew due to it...
  • Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
    In 1954, a pastor named Jim Jones opened a new church in Indianapolis called the Peoples Temple. Being charismatic and fully aware of how to influence people, he began preaching his idealistic beliefs and managed to quickly gather a good number of followers. Over the next twenty years, as the church moved from Indiana to California, and ultimately to its deathbed, Guyana, Jones would amass a huge number of followers, many willing to follow him to...
  • Carol
    I vividly remember seeing news reports from the 1978 Jonestown massacre. I remember being especially perplexed at the notion that anyone could poison children, especially their own children, or that so many people could be induced to commit suicide together. Scheeres has an interesting take on the issue: she is the author of Jesusland, a memoir in which she discusses her own upbringing as the child of conservative/fundamentalist Christian parents...
  • Dimity
    This is easily one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. It’s disturbing not just for the obvious ick factor of being about a mass coerced suicide/murder but because Scheeres convincingly demonstrates that not all of the dead were crazy fanatics and that many were woefully manipulated and misled over a period of years by the charismatic (and surprisingly influential with various government officials) Jim Jones. I didn’t really know a...
  • MAP
    This book follows the evolution of the People's Temple from a small church in Indianapolis all the way to the mass suicides in Guyana. It's, in general, a well-written book that lays out all the facts and most of the chronology. The progression is followed through a few select people's eyes - mostly survivors, but some others whose records allow them to tell their story from beyond the grave. The book doesn't pretend to be a biography of or psych...
  • Meave
    This was, of course, extremely upsetting. It's not a full explanation of Jonestown, if that's what you're looking for, because it focuses more on the members of Peoples Temple than Jones himself, and while I would have liked a little more detail as to how Jim Jones went from charismatic young faith healer to murderous dictator, but that is not what this book is for. This gives some of his victims a voice. It's awful and tragic and shocking, even ...
  • Amber
    Jonestown is a thing that has pretty much always fascinated me, but this book is really well written and it's pretty heartbreaking at times.
  • Karen
    Read this for my TPL bookclub. Interesting read about the crazy psychotic story of Jim Jones and his cult and the tragedy of the people that got swept up in it.
  • Lisa (Harmonybites)
    I love socialism, and I’m willing to die to bring it about, but if I did, I’d take a thousand with me. - Jim JonesThis is about Jonestown, Jim Jones, and how he took almost a thousand lives. We remember it as a mass suicide, and the phrase "drinking the kool aid," has come to mean someone who mindlessly swallows lies and obeys because that's how the poison was administered. I think this is one of saddest stories I've read in a long time--and ...
  • Paul Pessolano
    “A Thousand Lives” by Julia Scheeres, published by Free Press.Category – Religion/ Biography/True CrimeWOW and double WOW!!!!!! I read this book in one night finding it absolutely impossible to put down. If you were born after 1980 you probably have little or no knowledge of Jim Jones and the Jonestown murder/suicides; however that should not be a problem because the story is as real and poignant as it was back then.Jim Jones became a Pente...
  • Sara
    I was fortunate to win a copy of this book on Goodreads, and boy, my excitement was well placed.I thought I knew a lot about the Jonestown Massacre. I was wrong. This book put faces and personal stories and recollections on one of the worst murder-suicides in history, and that just made it that much spookier.The author starts out the book stating she will not use the word "cult" unless it's in reference of a direct quote from one of her sources. ...
  • Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)
    As usual, I devoured A Thousand Lives and even had a conversation with my mother about Jonestown. She was about fifteen when the mass murder-suicide occurred, so she still recalls news coverage of the event as details slowly made their way back to the American people. I haven’t gotten to read Raven, journalist and survivor Tim Reiterman’s seminal work on People’s Temple and Jonestown, but I will one of these days even though it lacks access...
  • Artnoose McMoose
    Ugh. If you ever feel too happy and want to rectify that, read a book about Jonestown.I'll date myself by saying that I was a very young child when the massacre happened. It was the first real-time tragedy I had encountered, and I was astounded that parents would kill their own children. I'm still astounded really, but this book (using declassified FBI documents) follows the members of this church throughout its development to show how vulnerable...
  • Jennifer W
    How do you review a book like this? It is meticulously researched, the people's own words are on the pages. The years of abuse, rape, trauma, coercion and many, many lies are laid bare. To the outside viewer, clearly Jones was mad, but unfortunately, the people living at Jonestown didn't have that perspective. Even the ones who could rationally realize that something was desperately wrong had no recourse. They were trapped in a jungle with no mon...
  • Susan (aka Just My Op)
    It never ceases to amaze me how we let ourselves be lead by maniacs and monsters, even when we say we'll never allow it to happen again. This nonfiction book about charismatic Jim Jones and his followers, their eventual deaths at Jonestown, is a prime example. Fascinating, horrifying, and tragic beyond words. Good people wanted someone to believe in, and thought they found their answer in Jones. And initially, perhaps they had - someone who belie...
  • Michele Weiner
    This is not a great book. The biggest surprise to me was the extent to which Jim Jones revealed his insanity and depravity long before he took his whole kit-and-caboodle to Guyana. What makes people ignore all evidence and believe impossible things? People let Jones split up their families, take their money, and abuse them, and still they stayed. They watched him fake healing and mistreat members. Very few left the temple. Why?? It's not so simpl...
  • Bonnie Irwin
    I still remember when I first heard of the Jonestown massacre. It was the morning after the big game (Cal vs. Stanford), and several Stanford friends had spent the night in my dorm room. As I read the chilling headline in the Chronicle and looked at the picture, a chill ran through me. The late 70s and early 80s saw several religious cults in and around Berkeley, but I had never heard of the People's Temple until that morning. Scheeres' treatment...
  • Shira Selkovits
    This is a rare foray into historical non-fiction for me and I see myself reading many more books in this genre. Um. Wow. Do you know this story? It's insane. I was born in 1977 and had no real knowledge of what happened in Guyana in November, 1978, or the years leading up to the gruesome massacre at Jonestown. Though the author provides her own commentary to many of the facts, those opinions serve to heighten the severity of what went on, and ser...
  • Lizzytish
    I continually find it fascinating how weak minded people can be. I just finished reading a book about people falling under Hitler's spell and now here's a book with the same theme.So what makes a person so weak-minded is what I would like to see an answer to. This book showed the results of following a truly insane person. It's amazing how much he fooled people, especially public figures who turned a blind eye.It was a very factual read and as I ...