12 books like Seductive Poison

By Deborah Layton,

Here are 12 books that Seductive Poison fans have personally recommended if you like Seductive Poison. 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 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 A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown

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?

Julia Scheeres is the New York Times best-selling author of Jesus Land, a memoir about being sent, along with her adoptive brother, to a Christian reform camp in the Dominican Republic Their parents, conservative Christians sent them there when Julia and her brother were teenagers. The camp, Scheeres says, had “some uncanny parallels” with Jonestown. 

She begins the story with the story of Tommy Bogue’s “adventure.” Tommy “gripped the slick railing, bracing himself against the waves,” as Jonestown’s small boat headed across the Atlantic and up the coast to the Kaituma River, on his journey to the settlement. Tommy, like Layton, was soon disillusioned. Tommy was a brother of Marilee, Ron’s and my student, who like her mother, was a Jones loyalist. Tommy refused to follow the many strict rules in Jonestown, and broke them to go outside of its borders to follow his curiosity about the jungle and the…

By Julia Scheeres,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A gripping account of how decent people can be taken in by a charismatic and crazed tyrant” (The New York Times Book Review).

In 1954, a past or named Jim Jones opened a church in Indianapolis called Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church. He was a charismatic preacher with idealistic beliefs, and he quickly filled his pews with an audience eager to hear his sermons on social justice. As Jones’s behavior became erratic and his message more ominous, his followers leaned on each other to recapture the sense of equality that had drawn them to his church. But even as 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 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 Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults

Richard Abanes Author Of One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church

From my list on cults, world religions, and extremist faiths.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a young man, I wanted to do good. And I believed the best way to do that was to increase the commitment I’d made to my faith. So, I joined a church that appeared genuine. But much to my shock, not everything was as it seemed—I’d fallen into a cult. Deception, authoritarianism, and hypocrisy abounded. This led me on a decades-long search for answers: How could leaders do this? Why would members stay loyal? What could be done about it? I eventually found my answers and began doing what I’d always wanted to do—help others. I did it by becoming a journalist/author specializing in religion. 

Richard's book list on cults, world religions, and extremist faiths

Richard Abanes Why did Richard love this book?

As someone who personally knows this author, I can say with absolute certainty that this is one of the best go-to books for anyone interested in cult structure and the dynamics of cult involvement. If you’ve ever been perplexed by how someone could possibly get involved in not just a religion-based cult, but also a politics-based cult, then this is the volume for you. It’s intriguing, as well as informative.  

By Steven Hassan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Combating Cult Mind Control as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults:
This 2018, 30th-anniversary edition honors the 40th anniversary of the tragedy in Jonestown, Guyana. On November 18th, 1978, over 900 people including a U.S. congressman Leo Ryan died because of Cult Leader Jim Jones. Over 300 were children forced to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid by their parents who believed they were doing God’s will. The techniques of undue influence have evolved dramatically, and continue to do so. Today, a vast array of methods exist to deceive, manipulate, and indoctrinate people into closed systems of obedience…


Book cover of Final Cut: Art, Money and EGO in the Making of "Heaven's Gate", the Film That Sank United Artists

Ben Fritz Author Of The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies

From my list on behind the scenes in Hollywood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent most of my 20-year career as a professional journalist covering the entertainment industry, and I find it endlessly fascinating. As is probably true for you if you’re reading this, I love movies and TV shows. As a curious person, I always want to know why. Why did this movie get made at this time with these people? If you want to know the answer, you’ve got to understand the business. Hollywood is such an interesting business, full of big personalities trying to manage corporate pressure and creative egos and to balance their need to make a profit with their desire to make great art.

Ben's book list on behind the scenes in Hollywood

Ben Fritz Why did Ben love this book?

Bach was an executive at United Artists when the struggling studio decided to bet it all—and then some—on a film called Heaven’s Gate. It ended up being one of the most infamous debacles in Hollywood history: a critical and commercial dud that took so long to make and lost so much money that it literally destroyed a studio.

How does a bomb this bad happen? Bach shows in detail how the best of intentions can lead to failure in a story that doesn’t just demonstrate what went wrong with Heaven’s Gate but how hard it is to make a good movie when business and art intertwine.

By Steven Bach,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Heaven's Gate is probably the most discussed, least seen film in modern movie history. Its notoriety is so great that its title has become a generic term for disaster, for ego run rampant, for epic mismanagement, for wanton extravagance. It was also the film that brought down one of Hollywood’s major studios—United Artists, the company founded in 1919 by Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, and Charlie Chaplin. Steven Bach was senior vice president and head of worldwide production for United Artists at the time of the filming of Heaven's Gate, and apart from the director and producer, the…


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…


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Interested in the Peoples Temple, cults, and San Francisco?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Peoples Temple, cults, and San Francisco.

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