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The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  4,211 Ratings  ·  771 Reviews
By the New York Times bestselling author of Manson, the comprehensive, authoritative, and tragic story of preacher Jim Jones, who was responsible for the Jonestown Massacre—the largest murder-suicide in American history.

In the 1950s, a young Indianapolis minister named Jim Jones preached a curious blend of the gospel and Marxism. His congregation was racially integrated, a
Hardcover, 531 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Simon Schuster
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Haris Mohammad Instead of just focusing on the rise and fall of Jim Jones and his community.Jeff Guinn focuses on how Jim Jones catastrophic allure, and his…moreInstead of just focusing on the rise and fall of Jim Jones and his community.Jeff Guinn focuses on how Jim Jones catastrophic allure, and his beliefs/promises of racial equality, and his idea of a socialist utopia lured hundreds of people into his fatal orbit.(less)
Becca Jacquin I'm currently reading a digital ARC of the book and I haven't encountered any pictures. That's not to say there won't be at some point, or in a…moreI'm currently reading a digital ARC of the book and I haven't encountered any pictures. That's not to say there won't be at some point, or in a physical copy. I will update you upon finishing the book if you'd like.(less)

Community Reviews

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Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Pardon my rambling... my mind has not been this blown by a book in a long, long time!

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jeff Guinn, and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

My ongoing trek though the world of biographies would not have been complete without a comprehensive piece about an individual who is often misunderstood in history. Jeff Guinn has provided this with his stellar piece on Jim Jon
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the People’s Temple by Jeff Guinn is a 2017 Simon & Schuster publication.

Thoroughly chilling…

While I was only in my early teens in 1978, I still recall the news footage of the “Jonestown Massacre”. I understood on some level what had happened, but I couldn’t fully digest it. I tried not to watch the news reports and steered clear of conversations about it because it made me extremely uncomfortable. It was too much for me to cope with, and in all honesty,
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
The Road to Jonestown was fascinating -- and depressing. I listened to the audio. The author, Jeff Guinn, did a great job of tracing Jim Jones' history and the events leading up to the mass suicide in Jonestown. It's a good study of the making of a narcissistic paranoid megalomaniac. It's still hard for me to understand how Jones attracted and kept his many followers, but I feel that I get it a bit more. Jones had a great need for approval and adulation, and he seemed to be able to zero in on pe ...more
Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
So I've always sort of had a grim fascination with cults & extreme religious groups. It's one of humanity's most despicable tendencies, but it's incredibly interesting to me to see how groups of otherwise intelligent people become entrapped in factions like this that are so easy to condemn in hindsight.

This story in particular held my attention because:

1. Many folks I know were actually alive when the tragedy of Jim Jones & Peoples Temple came about, as it happened in the late 70's. This
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is mostly composed of what I can only describe as administrative details of Jim Jones's People Temple. Pages and pages and pages of unimportant, forgettable detail. The move to Jonestown, where 900 Americans would meet their tragic end in the Guyanese jungle at the orders of their cult leader, doesn't even happen until 350 pages into the book. The murder/suicide itself gets crammed into about 3 paragraphs. I don't understand why this author chose to prioritize the irrelevant and gloss ...more
Apr 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own, first-reads
Won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. After I received it, I met the author at the San Antonio Book Festival and got my book signed!!!!
 photo b6c28287-6c39-4275-88d7-d392c6763327_zps9ag8hlwx.jpg
In The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the People's Temple, the author does a good job describing Jim Jones and the events that lead up to the suicide-murder through extensive research and interviews. I remember hearing about it on the car radio (when I was a youngen) yet not truly understanding the horrendous act until many years later. If you want to learn
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Road to Jonestown- Jim Jones and Peoples Temple is among the best comprehensive and authoritative books written covering the Jonestown massacre that claimed the lives of 918 people in Guyana, South America on November 18, 1978. Author Jeff Guinn began his extensive research in 2014, and studied the fascinating story behind the grim and sensational media reports and headlines. There are thousands of documents and photographs contained in government archives on Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple ...more
"Her fear was that a mass suicide would not be appreciated as a sincere and historic statement: 'I know we can't worry about how [what we do] will be interpreted... maybe in some 50 years someone will understand and perhaps be motivated. I don't have much illusion about all that. I just hate to see it all go for naught.'
- Carolyn Layton, Peoples Temple member, and mother of one of Jim Jones' children

Jeff Guinn lays everything out in The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple - he re
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, religion
An Audible.com purchase.

I am old enough to remember the news accounts of Jonestown back in 1978 and the self-inflicted for the most part) deaths of 918 people -- children to seniors. I often wondered what would drive people to such fanatical support of a leader that they would be willing to die for a cause that did not merit it. It was not Mesada. There was no invasion. For the most part, Jones brought it down on himself and through a very paranoid but methodical brain ended the lives of his fol
What a sad, sad, story. Even while I was listening, I was hoping for a different ending.

Jeff Guinn is an excellent author of true crime. He is somehow able to relate the facts of the story without passing judgement. In this case, I learned a lot. The Peoples Church, (no apostrophe!), did a lot of work in the area of desegregation. Jim Jones and his wife even adopted a black child. In fact, they did a lot of good works together, for the elderly and for the members of their church.

But as so ofte
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am giving this book5 stars because of how it chose to handle its theme, with facts, well researched mentions and from all perspectives possible. The story of Jonestown is one we all think we know ....but how did we got there...how was one man able to "dupe" thousands of people into killing them selves? .... could this had been prevented? ....who was Jim jones and what did he want ? .....all of these questions are addressed by this author in this book and the narrative flows very smoothly...at ...more
Donna Davis
The good news is that Jeff Guinn tells us everything there is to know about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple.

The bad news is that Jeff Guinn tells everything there is to know about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple.

This reviewer was just out of high school when the media frenzy emerged around the mass suicide of hundreds of Americans living in a cult called The Peoples Temple, which was sequestered in the equatorial jungles in Guyana, South America. No one could understand it; why would so many
Erin *Help I’m Reading and I Can’t Get Up*
Utterly riveting. Well-written, journalistic-- not sensational. The author occasionally repeats some key facts, apparently not realizing that readers won't be able to put this down and therefore won't need reminding of facts we just read an hour or two ago!
I had no idea.

I, like so many of us, knew the Jonestown "Massacre" from metaphorical references to Kool-Aid (which, this book is keen to point out was actually Flavor-Aid), and ... in some foggy memory from the eighties ... an episode of Phil Donahue. But I really knew nothing.

The thing that strikes me most about Jeff Guinn's book about Peoples Temple and Jim Jones is how fair Guinn is with his subjects. Guinn is assiduous when pointing out the good Peoples Temple and Jones himself did for the
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Who wants to go with their child has a right .... I think it’s humane.” - Jim Jones

I only knew vague details, and only of the end result, prior to reading this. My god, this story is fascinating, captivating, and truly devastating. Definitely one of my top reads of this year.

The audio is impeccably narrated. I also grabbed the ebook for the times I couldn’t listen. I preferred the audio, but there’s a photo section in the ebook (like the physical book) that really adds to the story. If you real
Caidyn (BW Book Reviews; he/him/his)
This review and others can be found at BW Book Reviews.


I received this ARC from Netgalley and the publisher for an honest review.

My first brush with Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple was through a movie called The Sacrament, which is basically a fictional (and semi-paranormal) retelling of it. Tons of the reviews for it talked about Jim Jones so I researched on the internet and read up on the actual Peoples Temple. Their fate and the suicide and Jones' corruption. So, I had a rudimentary ide
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
On Jones's instructions, Larry Schacht ordered one pound of sodium cyanide, enough for eighteen hundred lethal doses. It cost $8.85.

I remember this from my youth but at the time I just chalked it up to another cult following their charismatic leader to a very gruesome end. Never really thought too much about it after that. This was an interesting look at Jones from his childhood through his early years as he tried to establish himself as a religious leader. Fairly early on his religious leanings
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jeff Guinn's comprehensive account of Jim Jones covers all facets of his life and work, leading to the day in November 1978 when 918 died, most by their own hand, on orders from their leader.

Jones' life started out with an ambitious but not very industrious mother who married for money and a good name but ended up with an injured WWII veteran who had sustained nerve gas damage and would eventually self-medicate himself into the grave. Jim's mother, forced to work and with little patience for chi
Robin Bonne
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I’m fascinated by cults but felt this book could have been streamlined. There were parts with tedious information that I found myself skimming to get to the interesting parts. Thoroughly researched, this book has lots of information surrounding everything Jonesville and The Peoples Temple. It is a valuable research tool for the subject, but not a light, fun read by any means.
Valerity (Val)

Having read many of the available books about Jonestown throughout the years since it happened, I didn't think that there was a whole lot more to be said on the subject. But I also figured that since it's been a number of years since I've done the reading, that this book would be a great refresher on the topic. Well, it was that, but also a heck of a lot more. Guinn's book is a skilled, in-depth look at James Warren Jones, from his birth on May 13, 1931 and lon
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You probably know the expression... "don't drink the Kool-Aid." You may not know it was actually a cheap knock off called "flavor-aid" laced with cyanide that hundreds of people were forced to drink under threat of armed guards that fateful day in a South American jungle. Years ago I saw a short documentary on Jim Jones, but until reading this book I never knew the road to Jonestown was paved with good intentions. The Peoples Temple began with like minded people who wanted only to help the downt ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow ... just wow.

I figured that I would have to set this aside when the new Dan Brown book came today (I even rescheduled a doctor's appt. to be home to get me some new Robert Langdon!))

So .... I stayed up until 4am to finish it as it was so engrossing and fascinating.

My reviews NEVER tell you what the story is about (the description at the top of the page does that!) BUT GO AND READ THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Aaron Mcquiston
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jonestown has been something of a curiosity to me most of my adult life. When they first started building in Guyana, my grandparents were Christian missionaries there, and one story about their time there was preaching to some people in Georgetown and someone saying, "Like the Messiah that is coming to Guyana to save everyone." This person was talking about Jim Jones, and it is odd to me that my mother was in the same place at the same time as the Peoples Temple, in their final days. Of course I ...more
Mary  Carrasco
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Road to Jonestown, written by Jeff Guinn, is an in depth, comprehensive look into the history of Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. I've always been fascinated (morbid as that is) with cults and specifically, with Jim Jones. Questions abound but Jeff Guinn did such an outstanding, thorough job of answering most of them. I can't say enough about how well this book is written.

On November 18, 1978, over 900 people died as a result of mass suicide in the dense jungle of Guyana. Just how did one man g
Sharman Bingham
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Jeff Guinn should be awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant so that he can take on difficult or controversial people, research the heck out of them, and then write comprehensive,epic books like this one.
I might not have read this book were it not for the good reviews here on Goodreads and other sites. It is a long, sometimes difficult read. But a great one. I highly recommend.
Dawnelle Wilkie
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A+ on Research. D on Editing. Sweet Effing Christ, I can't EVEN. I just.... no.

An extremely thorough retelling of an old favorite, if you:re into megalomaniacal messiah types. And I sure am!

You'll enjoy roughly 200 pages of this book.
Christopher Saunders
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-reads
Jeff Guinn's The Road to Jonestown offers an in-depth, marvelously chilling look at Jim Jones and his followers, whose mass suicide became a watchword for cultish insanity. Whereas many accounts of the Peoples Temple focus on the lurid details of cult life (Tim Reiterman's Raven comes to mind), Guinn spends much of the book trying to account for Jones' behavior. The book reads like a Greek tragedy, as Jones, product of a hardscrabble life in Indiana, starts as an idealist who mixes socialism wit ...more
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Last year I read In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter. And I really liked both. So I wanted to read another true crime book. Though this is an interesting (and unsettling) history and I wanted to know more about it, I was not as invested in it as in the other 2 books I mentioned. Maybe it is because in the others the writer was less objective and more involved with the crimes or criminals so that it felt less distant. Here I sometimes felt it was more of an enumeration of facts and events. But still ...more
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
3.5/5 stars.

It took me almost a month to trudge through this so my review of it will be short and [perhaps not] sweet.

Every time I put this book down, I didn’t want to pick it back up. In fact, I read & finished two other books in the time it took me to get through this...

That said, I don’t know why I was so reluctant to re-engage, because it was very interesting and well written.

I really didn’t know very much about Jim Jones or Peoples Temple, and now I certainly feel like I know most o
SheriC (PM)
This was a thorough examination of the evolution of The Peoples Temple from its socialist ideals and Christian roots to a cult willing and able to commit the 1978 atrocity of mass suicide and murder of over 900 men, women, and children. It examines as much as can be known of Jim Jones, the Temple’s founder and ultimately deranged leader. It provides a study of several members, both survivors and deceased. From this, the author lays bare the mechanism by which a group of committed idealists and v ...more
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Jeff Guinn is the author of MANSON: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, THE LAST GUNFIGHT: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral And How It Changed the American West, and GO DOWN TOGETHER: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde, which was a finalist for an Edgar Award in 2010. He was a longtime journalist who has won national, regional and state awards for investigative reporti ...more
More about Jeff Guinn
“No one listening [to Jones' sermons], even those who were the most devoted to him, could take it all in. But at some point each follower heard something that reaffirmed his or her personal reason for belonging to Peoples Temple, and for believing in Jim Jones. As Jonestown historian Fielding McGehee observes, "What you thought Jim said depended on who you were.” 1 likes
“In fact, in its most basic form, socialism was a belief in more equitable distribution of wealth, with everyone afforded the opportunity to thrive in accordance with personal achievement regardless of race or social position.” 1 likes
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