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Recommended Books on Jonestown

FACTNet Recommended Jonestown Books

Recommended Fiction Books

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Seductive Poison : A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple
by Deborah Layton
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"Deborah Layton was, by her own account, a typical rebellious youth, with nothing in her dossier to indicate that she would eventually find herself in Jim Jones's People's Temple in Guyana, looking for a way out of the green hell that had become the People's Temple Agricultural Project. She barely escaped in June 1978. Within months, more than 900 people drank Jones's cyanide punch and committed "revolutionary suicide" in the face of mounting stateside pressure on the cult, some of it prompted by Layton's own testimonials upon her safe return home. Her brother, Larry, also survived, and as one of the few left alive in Guyana became a scapegoat for Jones's crimes; he is now serving a life sentence in federal prison. There is a simple naiveté at the root of Seductive Poison. Layton's own youthful innocence, foremost, but also the desire to trust another person, the need for belonging and meaning, which led so many perfectly normal Americans to place their faith in a suicidal madman. Far from confirming the simplistically monstrous Jones of the public imagination, Layton paints the man as a dark, twisted shaman, by turns soothing, then suddenly malevolent and petty, with a hugely sadistic streak that belied his perfectly coifed hair, expensive suits, and impressive political connections. The scenes in which she describes her escape and flight to safety are wrenching, her last-minute conversation with Jones and his seductive appeal for her to return home to Jonestown are chilling, and her fear and indecision are still palpable on the printed page. For Layton to recount tales this personal and horrifying must have been tremendously difficult. For her to lift those recollections above the bargain-basement freak-show reputation the People's Temple has achieved in the popular imagination and depict them with the power of great tragedy is nothing but extraordinary. --Tjames Madison"

 

Six Years With God : Life Inside Jim Jones' People's Temple
by Jeannie Mills
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"Jeannie Mills was a big-hearted woman who would take people into her home at the drop of a hat. The People's Temple seemed to provide an avenue through which she could share her love of humanity. Needless to say, it was big mistake. Jones used her sterling qualities as he used the thousand or so others who joined his Temple. Mills tells a bizarre tale of cruelty, rip offs and insanity. Accepting the belief that self-sacrifice was more important than self-esteem, she and others gave up more and more to Jones' "cause" which turned out to be world domination for Jones (as he revealed to them). The book makes an interesting companion piece to Deborah Layton's book, "Seductive Poison."

 

Raven : The Untold Story of Reverend Jim Jones and His People
by Tom Reiterman, John Jacobs
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"Raven is an excellent resource for people trying to understand how one man can hold sway over so many people and lead them to such an unbelievable disaster. Watching as Jones molds and manipulates his congregants is a fascinating experience. Seeing people so willing to forsake home and family for a little security is a startling realization. But it explains a great deal about how easily people will give over their lives to such a leader in order not to have to manage their own affairs. Reiterman and Jacobs give us a wonderful essay on the inner workings and the secrets which allowed Peoples Temple to flourish. The detail of their investigations into the cleverness and deceit of Jones is extraordinary. This book is, in my estimation the primary read for anyone trying to understand the times and events which allowed Peoples Temple to become a lure for so many people. A warning is in order. Once you read Raven, you will never be able to let go of the story. But if you learn one thing from it, it should be that there are deceivers in the world who, if allowed, will take your home, your money and your life. "

 

How the Millennium Comes Violently : From Jonestown to Heaven's Gate
by Catherine Lowman Wessinger
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"I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to understand violent millennialism and wanting to go beyond sensational headlines. Wessinger is a long-time expert on this issue and has written a readable, interesting book that is worth anyone's time."

 

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