12 books like A Thousand Lives

By Julia Scheeres,

Here are 12 books that A Thousand Lives fans have personally recommended if you like A Thousand Lives. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People

Judy Bebelaar Author Of And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown

From my list on Jonestown and Peoples Temple.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught English and creative writing for 37 years in San Francisco, California. In 2018, Ron Cabral and I published And Then They Were Gone, which tells the story of the People’s Temple teenagers we taught. Many of them never returned after the Jonestown massacre and died there. We hope this story about our young students—their hopes, their poetry, their efforts to help make a better world—will bring some light to the dark story of Jonestown.

Judy's book list on Jonestown and Peoples Temple

Judy Bebelaar Why did Judy love this book?

Raven is the best, most comprehensive, and most thoroughly researched book on Jim Jones, Jonestown, and Peoples Temple. Reiterman is a fine investigative journalist who was part of a group to visit Jonestown, Guyana in November of 1978. The visitors included, among others, eight members of the press; Congressman Leo Ryan and his aide Jackie Speier; and thirteen representatives of the “Concerned Relatives,” their own name for the group. Every member of the group had defected from the Temple in San Francisco. Only some of these visitors—Reiterman and a few of the other journalists, Ryan and Speier, and a small number of the group of relatives—were finally and reluctantly admitted in by Jones, on the stern advice of Jones’s lawyers. The Concerned Relatives were there to see if—as they strongly suspected—those in Jonestown were being held against their will.  The journalists wanted to find the truth about life in the…

By Tim Reiterman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Raven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The basis for the upcoming HBO miniseries and the "definitive account of the Jonestown massacre" (Rolling Stone) -- now available for the first time in paperback.

Tim Reiterman’s Raven provides the seminal history of the Rev. Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and the murderous ordeal at Jonestown in 1978.

This PEN Award–winning work explores the ideals-gone-wrong, the intrigue, and the grim realities behind the Peoples Temple and its implosion in the jungle of South America. Reiterman’s reportage clarifies enduring misperceptions of the character and motives of Jim Jones, the reasons why people followed him, and the important truth that many…


Book cover of Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple

Judy Bebelaar Author Of And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown

From my list on Jonestown and Peoples Temple.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught English and creative writing for 37 years in San Francisco, California. In 2018, Ron Cabral and I published And Then They Were Gone, which tells the story of the People’s Temple teenagers we taught. Many of them never returned after the Jonestown massacre and died there. We hope this story about our young students—their hopes, their poetry, their efforts to help make a better world—will bring some light to the dark story of Jonestown.

Judy's book list on Jonestown and Peoples Temple

Judy Bebelaar Why did Judy love this book?

Layton escaped, at great risk, to try to prevent the tragedy of Jonestown. Her book is the best book yet to read to see Jonestown and Jim Jones through the eyes of a survivor. Layton entered Jonestown (as did most of Ron’s and my students) later than early settlers, when the situation was getting more and more dire as Jones was deteriorating. 

Twenty-four at the time, Layton accompanied her mother, who believed Jones could cure her cancer. As Charles Krause says in the foreword, “Debbie quickly realized that she and the others had been deliberately deceived: Jonestown was essentially a concentration camp in the jungle.” Layton had been in the church since she was a teen. Jones had immediately recognized her intelligence and energy, and eventually made her one of his inner circle. When she left, he declared her a traitor. The book is fascinating and well written.

By Deborah Layton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Seductive Poison as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this haunting and riveting firsthand account, a survivor of Jim Jones's Peoples Temple opens up the shadowy world of cults and shows how anyone can fall under their spell.

"A suspenseful tale of escape that reads like a satisfying thriller.... The most important personal testimony to emerge from the Jonestown tragedy." —Chicago Tribune

A high-level member of Jim Jones's Peoples Temple for seven years, Deborah Layton escaped his infamous commune in the Guyanese jungle, leaving behind her mother, her older brother, and many friends. She returned to the United States with warnings of impending disaster, but her pleas for…


Book cover of Beautiful Revolutionary

Judy Bebelaar Author Of And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of Peoples Temple from High School to Jonestown

From my list on Jonestown and Peoples Temple.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught English and creative writing for 37 years in San Francisco, California. In 2018, Ron Cabral and I published And Then They Were Gone, which tells the story of the People’s Temple teenagers we taught. Many of them never returned after the Jonestown massacre and died there. We hope this story about our young students—their hopes, their poetry, their efforts to help make a better world—will bring some light to the dark story of Jonestown.

Judy's book list on Jonestown and Peoples Temple

Judy Bebelaar Why did Judy love this book?

Woollett’s novel is based on much research on Peoples Temple and Jonestown. She came to the US from Australia for interviews with many survivors and others—including Ron Cabral and me because of our knowledge of the teenagers in the Temple. It’s a great read and adds much to the understanding of those who joined the Temple. Evelyn Lyndon (all the characters have fictional names except Jim Jones) is the “Beautiful Revolutionary” who, with her idealistic husband, joins the Temple and eventually becomes one of Jones’s mistresses. I recognize many of the book’s characters, sometimes two people rolled into one. Only in a novel could Woollett be in the minds of the characters she follows in this story, who are all believable and vividly drawn.

By Laura Elizabeth Woollett, Laura Elizabeth Woollett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beautiful Revolutionary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The thrilling new novel, inspired by the events at Jonestown in the 1970s.

It's the summer of 1968, and Evelyn Lynden is a woman at war with herself. Minister's daughter. Atheist. Independent woman. Frustrated wife. Bitch with a bleeding heart.

Following her conscientious-objector husband Lenny to the rural Eden of Evergreen Valley, California, Evelyn wants to be happy with their new life. Yet she finds herself disillusioned with Lenny's passive ways - and anxious for a saviour. Enter the Reverend Jim Jones, the dynamic leader of a new revolutionary church ...

Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Beautiful Revolutionary explores the…


Book cover of Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love

Elizabeth Linhart Veneman Author Of Moon: Northern California

From my list on San Francisco’s idealism, power, grit, and beauty.

Why am I passionate about this?

My early memories of San Francisco in the late 1970s are anything but glamorous. We lived in a crummy apartment down the street from the People’s Temple, and my preschool, in the always gray Sunset, served carob, not chocolate. Despite decamping for the greener pastures and white sands of Carmel-By-The-Sea, I was forever hooked by the gritty magic of San Francisco. I eventually returned to the city’s foggy Richmond District, where now I ruminate on past adventures, plot new ones, and write about the place I love. I'm the author of Moon Napa Sonoma, Moon California, and Moon Northern California, and my work has appeared in 7x7, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Alaska Magazine

Elizabeth's book list on San Francisco’s idealism, power, grit, and beauty

Elizabeth Linhart Veneman Why did Elizabeth love this book?

The myths of San Francisco loom large in our cultural imagination, but as David Talbot writes in Season of the Witch, the truth is far more interesting, disturbing, grotesque, and beautiful than even the most cinematic retelling. Between 1967-1983, the city was the epicenter of several countercultures, and home to multiple serial killers, political assassinations, bombing attempts, kidnappings, drug and viral epidemics; all of which unfold in heart-stopping quick succession. You’ll watch situations shift from exuberant to deadly in a matter of years, months, or weeks. You’ll also see how small the city really is; familiar names popping up in seemingly unrelated places; events linked by surprising characters. Talbot’s one point of levity is the carnivalesque sideshow of Anton LaVey and his Church of Satan. That tells you something.

By David Talbot,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Season of the Witch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The critically acclaimed, San Francisco Chronicle bestseller—a gripping story of the strife and tragedy that led to San Francisco’s ultimate rebirth and triumph.

Salon founder David Talbot chronicles the cultural history of San Francisco and from the late 1960s to the early 1980s when figures such as Harvey Milk, Janis Joplin, Jim Jones, and Bill Walsh helped usher from backwater city to thriving metropolis.


Book cover of The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

Alexander Stille Author Of The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy, and the Wild Life of an American Commune

From my list on cults and “high demand” groups.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began reading about religion, cults, and “high demand” groups to help me understand the group I was writing about in The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy and the Wild Life of an American Commune. In my book, the central question was how could so many smart, highly educated people allow their lives to be taken over by a group of psychotherapists. As a result, it was crucial for me to understand what draws people into new religions and holds them in groups that others may consider extreme or bizarre. 

Alexander's book list on cults and “high demand” groups

Alexander Stille Why did Alexander love this book?

The Road to Jonestown is a solid, comprehensive account of the long road that led Jim Jones and more than 900 of his followers to take their lives in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978, by literally drinking the Kool-Aid.

What Guinn does well is show the early appeal of Jones’s church, its message of inter-racial harmony and social justice which attracted many idealistic young people as well as a substantial number of African-American followers. The book explains Jones’ repeated contacts with Father Divine and his Peace Mission movement.

Jones was a complex mix of charismatic preacher and flim-flam man – both deeply insecure and wildly grandiose with a pronounced tendency toward victimhood and paranoia which became increasingly pronounced as he led his group to its apocalypse. 

By Jeff Guinn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Road to Jonestown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 1950s, a young Indianapolis minister named Jim Jones preached a curious blend of the gospel and Marxism. His congregation was racially integrated, and he was a much-lauded leader in the contemporary civil rights movement.
In this riveting narrative, Jeff Guinn examines Jones's life, from his extramarital affairs, drug use, and fraudulent faith healing to the fraught decision to move almost a thousand of his followers to a settlement in the jungles of Guyana in South America. Guinn provides stunning new details of the events leading to the fatal day in November, 1978 when more than nine hundred people…


Book cover of The Secret Heart of the Clock

Brian Castro Author Of The Garden Book

From my list on writing that falls between the cracks of genre.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an aficionado of lost objects, lost time, afterlives; of writing which never “fitted” its era. Examples would be that of John Aubrey, Herman Melville, Fernando Pessoa, Djuna Barnes, Elizabeth Hardwick, Ralph Ellison… the list goes on. I look for writing that has stood the test of time, not celebrated for the fame and bling of the moment. I look for the futile products of those who possessed genius, but who never earned enough readers until decades or centuries later, once they were released from the prison-house of genre. I look for the posthumous brilliance of language; the phosphoric glow of its offerings and of the buried treasures found therein.

Brian's book list on writing that falls between the cracks of genre

Brian Castro Why did Brian love this book?

Someone once said that novels were for light summer reading by bourgeois ladies. W.G. Sebald may have shared this opinion. The latter preferred letters, notes, fragments and diaries. Similarly, Elias Canetti, Bulgarian-born, of Sephardi ancestry, German-speaking and winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize for literature, only ever wrote one novel. But his aphorisms, both long and short, are remarkable. He unearths forgotten writers, important ones that he had met, and he meditates on literary gossip and the remaining time in his life. Here’s an example: Klaus Mann’s last proposal: a mass suicide of writers (of the great names).

By Elias Canetti, Joel Agee (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Secret Heart of the Clock as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of the preeminent intellectual figures of the twentieth century, a highly personal testimonial of what Canetti himself chooses to term "notations," bits and pieces: notes, aphorisms, fragments. Taken together, they present an awesomely tender, guiltily gloomy meditation on death and aging.

" A mosaical portrait of an old body's mind determined to do its exercises and not lose a step--and fascinating for that." - Kirkus Reviews


Book cover of Children of Paradise

Liam Bell Author Of The Sleepless

From my list on communes and cults.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t think I’m alone in considering cults and those who join cults fascinating, but I’ve also always found it frustrating when non-fiction accounts or documentaries focus on the logistics of how the communes operate rather than finding out the why. Why do people join a cult, why do they stay, why do they follow increasingly erratic and dangerous instruction? For me, researching cults for my new novel The Sleepless – about a commune whose disciples believe that sleep is a social construct – was about finding out about the characters, the individuals, who are drawn into organisations which often ask you to relinquish that self-same sense of individuality.

Liam's book list on communes and cults

Liam Bell Why did Liam love this book?

This novel reimagines the events of the Jonestown massacre with lushly beautiful prose and a magical realist twist that offers the possibility of escape and redemption from the most horrific circumstances.

It’s a wonderfully immersive story that sucks you in with sensory detail and a hope-against-hope that the main characters won’t “drink the Kool-Aid”. One of those books where you need to sit still and catch your breath after turning the last page…

By Fred D'Aguiar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Children of Paradise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed novelist, playwright, and poet Fred D’Aguiar has been short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize in poetry for Bill of Rights, his narrative poem about the Jonestown massacre, and won the Whitbread First Novel Award for The Longest Memory. In this beautifully imagined work of literary fiction, he returns to the territory of Jim Jones’s utopian commune, interweaving magical realism and shocking history into a resonant story of love, faith, oppression, and sacrifice in which a mother and daughter attempt to break free with the help of an extraordinary gorilla.

Joyce and her young daughter, Trina, are members of a…


Book cover of Palace of the Peacock

J. Alison Rosenblitt Author Of The Beauty of Living: E. E. Cummings in the Great War

From my list on that write about injustice in different ways.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a biographer, and my biography of E.E. Cummings centers on his unjust imprisonment in France during the Great War in dangerously brutal conditions—cold, underfed, and subject to the sadism of the prison guards. It is hard to imagine anything more imperative than writing about injustice. But perhaps for that very reason, it is difficult to write without the consciousness of a deep inadequacy to the task. I feel therefore an enormous gratitude towards those writers, five of whom I have chosen here, whose honesty and courage in writing about injustice serves as an inspiration and a beacon. 

J.'s book list on that write about injustice in different ways

J. Alison Rosenblitt Why did J. love this book?

Wilson Harris’s Palace of the Peacock is a wildly different way of writing about injustice – mesmerising and disorienting. The language swirls around itself and there is a bewildering feeling of never knowing quite what you are reading. I felt completely taken away from myself reading it, with no idea where I was being taken but utterly absorbed in its world. Originally published in 1960, it has now been republished in a wonderful new edition from Faber Finds, which includes a foreword by Harris reflecting on his own place in early postcolonial literature and a superb afterword by Kenneth Ramchand.

By Wilson Harris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Palace of the Peacock as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The visionary masterpiece, tracing a riverboat crew's dreamlike jungle voyage ...
'My new all time favourite book ... A magnificent, breathtaking and terrifying novel.' Tsitsi Dangarembga
'An exhilarating experience ... Makes visions real and reality visions ... Genius.' Jamaica Kincaid
'A masterpiece: I love this book for its language, adventure and wisdoms.' Monique Roffey
'Revel in the inviolate, ever-deepening mystery of Wilson Harris's work.' Jeet Thayil
'The Guyanese William Blake . Such poetic intensity.' Angela Carter

I dreamt I awoke with one dead seeing eye and one living closed eye ...

A crew of men are embarking on a voyage…


Book cover of Children of the Spider

Joanne C. Hillhouse Author Of Musical Youth

From my list on Caribbean teen and YA for readers everywhere.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an Antiguan-Barbudan writer. When I was a teen, there weren’t a lot of books from my world. So, I was excited when the Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean literature was announced. While that prize ran its course after five years, it left a library of great books in this genre, including my own Musical Youth which placed second in the inaugural year of the prize. I have since served as a judge of the Caribbean prize and mentor for the Africa-leg. I love that this series of books tap into different genres and styles in demonstrating the dynamism of modern Caribbean literature. For more on me, my books, and my take on books, visit my website.

Joanne's book list on Caribbean teen and YA for readers everywhere

Joanne C. Hillhouse Why did Joanne love this book?

Each book listed – including mine – was a top-three finalist for the Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean fiction. Children of the Spider stands apart as a blend of fantasy adventure and Caribbean folklore, its teen protagonists on their world-saving mission. It moves from the jungles of Guyana to the city, which is another kind of jungle, and has a fresh take on the legendary West African demi-god Anansi. These kids (a girl who makes a desperate leap between worlds, a boy not slowed by his handicap, and a boy from the streets) have nothing but each other and a trickster spider, maybe, as they face down monsters which seem to be everywhere. It’s an adrenaline rush across a magical landscape. It’s the Anansi reboot for me!

By Imam Baksh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Children of the Spider as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Children of the Spider is a fast-paced adventure, that brings an interesting blend of Afro-Caribbean and greek myth in a riveting contemporary novel. The story follows two Amerindian children, Mayali who is actually a girl from another world and the tech-savvy deaf-mute Joseph as they are being chased by the power-hungry Spider gods from the land of Zolpash. The story moves from the lush hinterlands of Guyana through to the bustling, city of Georgetown where the colonial past continues to rub shoulders with the gritty, contemporary world. It is a refreshing take on Caribbean myth and mythology from an interesting…


Book cover of Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture

Julia Schiavone Camacho Author Of Chinese Mexicans: Transpacific Migration and the Search for a Homeland, 1910-1960

From my list on Asian diasporas in the Americas with personal stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised in a Mexican-Italian family, I grew up traveling across the Arizona-Sonora borderlands to visit my extended family. As a kid, I took for granted movement across boundaries and cultural and racial mixture, but eventually, I came to see it framed my experience and outlook. In researching the Chinese in northern Mexico, I learned that Mexican women and Chinese-Mexican children followed their expelled men, whether by force or choice, and I became enthralled. I had to find out how these families fared after crossing not just borders but oceans. My passion for reading about how the long presence of Asians in the Americas complicates our understanding of history has only deepened.

Julia's book list on Asian diasporas in the Americas with personal stories

Julia Schiavone Camacho Why did Julia love this book?

This book unfolds in a compelling, nonlinear manner, and crosses genres. A combination of biography and family memoir and journalistic and scholarly research, it traces overlapping stories as the author sets out to discover why her great-grandmother traveled from India to America as a “coolie” at the start of the twentieth century and how this migration shaped future generations. Beautifully written, the book raises thorny issues around gender, race, and nationality, offering insight into the wider journeys of Indian contract laborers to the Caribbean and beyond.

By Gaiutra Bahadur,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Coolie Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1903 a Brahmin woman sailed from India to Guyana as a 'coolie', the name the British gave to the million indentured labourers they recruited for sugar plantations worldwide after slavery ended. The woman, who claimed no husband, was pregnant and travelling alone. A century later, her great-granddaughter embarks on a journey into the past, hoping to solve a mystery: what made her leave her country? And had she also left behind a man? Gaiutra Bahadur, an American journalist, pursues traces of her great-grandmother over three continents. She also excavates the repressed history of some quarter of a million female…


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