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

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  1,999 ratings  ·  231 reviews
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 intrig
Hardcover, 622 pages
Published 1982 by Dutton Adult
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May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 "unfathomable, horrifying, despondent" stars !!!

2017 Silver Award (Tie) (2nd Favorite Read)

I sit here and am uncertain on how to proceed. I feel numb, terrified, bewildered and yes shell-shocked. Since the end of March I carefully read this book with dark fascination and within the last week experienced nightmares, day terrors and profound disillusionment. My mood was dropping, my sleep suffered and at times I experienced heart palpitations. This morning my partner asked me to "please stop r
Jan 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
“To me, if we never got further than this, it would be heaven.”

Reverend Jim Jones sat on his throne at the pavilion before a thousand or so displaced people – people he had lured away from their homes and families to live in a dense, predator-infested Guyanese jungle which he had told them was “Paradise.” The swath torn out of the thick brush and trees was done by the members of Jones' People's Temple movement, primarily a group of people not accustomed to such labours. In fact, they had moved f
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came across the story many years ago but in fact it's the first time I've read a book on this tragedy. One can treat it as a warning on how easy it's to manipulate people who can't find their place on this planet and thus are terribly vulnerable. A very detailed research into the mind of a real monster and ordinary people's tragedy ...
In case you weren't aware, Jim Jones was one crazy televangelist motherf****, who led over 900 members of his People's Temple Church to commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide laced Flavor-Aid (yes, that's right, it was generic Kool-Aid)in the late 70's. Yes, this happened a long, long time ago, but yet it still gives me chills when I think about the mindfuck that Jones was perpetuating and that lots of people actually bought into it. Jones, according to the book, was apparently the Rico Suave o ...more
Nancy Oakes
Jan 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Tim Reiterman was one of the journalists who accompanied Congressman Leo Ryan to Jonestown in November of 1978. His book not only examines what happened there, but goes back to the childhood of Jim Jones and the beginnings of the movement known as the Peoples Temple so as to "capture the lure of the Temple, to convey the thinking and personalities of not just disgruntled defectors but also of the heartbroken loyalists with something positive to preserve and remember -- and to unmask the real Jim ...more
J.H. Moncrieff
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I've read probably close to a dozen books on Jonestown, and this was the best (and by far the most thorough).

Tim Reiterman, one of the reporters shot during the ambush at the Guyana airstrip that triggered the Jonestown tragedy, is an excellent writer who told the story of the Peoples Temple through multiple points of view and personal histories. It's not just a book about Jim Jones and his depravities, though there were plenty of those, starting in Jones' childhood.

Since Reiterman did such a ph
Zella Kate
Reading this book over the Thanksgiving weekend made me eternally thankful for never having met Jim Jones.

Reiterman does excellent research and is an engaging writer. Jeff Guinn's Road to Jonestown still gets my vote for most fascinating Jonestown book, but Reiterman includes a lot of details I don't remember in Guinn's book. I also liked that Reiterman (despite his own involvement in investigative reporting on Jones and being wounded at the airstrip) doesn't keep needlessly inserting himself i
Tim Reiterman was a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner who was in Jonestown, Guyana on November 18, 1978 when the infamous massacre occurred. This book gives a very detailed chronology of the People's Temple, starting with Jim Jones childhood and finishing with the reporter's evacuation after the tragic events.

For the most part the account is dry and surprisingly boring considering all the prurient happenings around the People's Temple. I found that I really had to force myself to slog thro
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-etc, 2017
I've never used the word 'Tome' to describe a book but it's an apt description for Raven. It's 600 pages but the physical size of the book is huge! When the zombie apocalypse arrives i'll be using this as a weapon.

At times this was a brilliant and unbelievable read. Exceptionally researched and well written, it was epic. Every other page i was asking out loud 'How and Why!!'. I could never imagine dedicating my life to one man but luckily I've never met anyone as manipulative as Jim Jones.

Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Yes this book is long, but it is oh-so-worth the investment. I've always had a tremendous interest in cult leadership, and Jim Jones is probably the sickest and one of the most evil of them all. Reading this book, you really come to understand how one man, who clearly resides somewhere well outside of his right mind and is strung out on drugs (Hitler, anyone?) can get hundreds and hundreds of people to follow him not only to a remote island, but to willingly sacrifice their lives and the lives o ...more
Annie Booker
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I think is probably the best book written about Jim Jones and his People's Temple. I reread it on average once a year because the narrative is so tight, the scenes and people so well-drawn, the criticism fair and well-balanced, and probably because I keep thinking that maybe one day it will help me understand why this happened.
Reiterman, a journalist with the San Francisco Examiner, was injured during the Port Kaituma airstrip ambush. Four years after the Jonestown mass-murder/suicide, he published this detailed account of the childhood, rise, and demise of Jim Jones. As with all cults, the Peoples Temple followers intrigue me most. Fascinating and truly devastating.
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a very in depth book on Jim Jones and the People's Temple. A story so incredible it's hard to believe it actually happened. A very good read.
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Very very dense and hard to get through. But it made me have a better understanding of the whole situation - I wasn't born when this happened - and the only thing I knew about was the Kool-Aid poison. I feel way more educated about this and very sad for all those people that were involved.
Aug 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
The tragedy in Jonestown (remember... the Kool-Aid Suicide Gang?) in 1978 is a story about a lot of things, and though Tim Reiterman did a great job telling the story in his book Raven, I felt there were things he was leaving out. How did the government not catch on to Jones' brainwashing and illegal activity? The beatings? The stealing? Not paying taxes? How is it possible that the families of more than 900 people weren't objecting to the sudden, FUCKING BIZARRE behavior of their loved ones? So ...more
Sep 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I recently watched Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple on Netflix and found myself wanting to know more about Jim Jones and the cult he established. This book, written by surviving newsman Tim Reiterman, is the culmination of years of research of documents, tapes, and interviews with survivors of Jim Jones. It is incredibly thorough and can serve as a reference to all researchers of cults or the PT.

For all of the good points of the book, it is bogged down by a shifting timeline.
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A gripping read about the story of Jim Jones and the People's Temple, this book is probably THE book you want to read if you want to know what happened in Guyana in 1978 and all the events that lead to the mass suicide. I would recommend it to anybody interested in cults, psychology and the general failure of socialism, top-down governance of people and the western/Christian ideology. The book is well written and well researched by somebody who was closely involved with the cult and it presents ...more
I have tremendous respect for Tim Reiterman and his co-writer, John Jacobs, after reading this. I've seen others describe the book as dense and, indeed, it is immensely detailed and, in my judgement, it covers just about every relevant nuance of the Peoples' Temple/Jonestown story. Given that the story of Peoples' Temple spans more than two decades- and this book was published in 1982, 4 years after the mass murder/suicide- "Raven" is all the more an extraordinary feat. Add to that the fact that ...more
Will Ludwigsen
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Even without the fascinating subject matter, this book is a staggering work of journalism, digging into the life and church of a sick and secretive man with the help of terrified witnesses. As one of the victims wounded on the Port Kaituma airstrip, Reiterman also brings his own perspectives to the work as well -- perspectives that are unusually fair for someone almost murdered by the subject of his writing.

It's easy -- as any reader or viewer can discover in many of the other works "covering"
dianneOnRBG RIPmalaiseBreak
thoughtful and careful - written by a journalist, not necessarily a storyteller; but it made me think about what precursors are necessary for an absolute belief, no matter how absurd, to swallow a normal person.
what precedes someone becoming a member of a cult, or falling into Mormon "obedience", or allowing domestic violence to succeed? is there a special vulnerability? a need, maybe to seek outside completion of an internal void? maybe just a thirst for community or acceptance?
repeatedly-- s
May 19, 2009 is currently reading it
Interesting interview with Reiterman and Deborah Layton, author of Seductive Poison A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the People's Temple on KQED. Reminded me of a very important book I read several years ago by John Hall Gone from the Promised Land Jonestown in American Cultural History, an excellent book. ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I remember learning about this when it happened-The massacre happened the day before my 10th birthday and I will never forget it. The sadness that fell over the country was immense. I hope these kind of tragedies cease to exist someday. This book was full of specifics and details beginning from Jim Jones childhood to the deadly end. Excellent book for anyone who wants to know what really happened to the Peoples Temple. In addition, I loathe Jim Jones.
Greg Fanoe
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Probably a bit more 'exhaustive' (boring) than it needed to be, but overall it gave me a good understanding of the People's Temple. Fun fact, it was actually poisoned Flavor-aid they drank, not Kool Aid.
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Oh wow. This book took me so long to finally get through after purchasing it in 2015 and deciding to read the whole thing cover to cover instead of just for reference.

I actually started the book somewhere around the end of March 2020 but it was only between the 16th of April and the 16th of May I really put the effort into finishing this one. In all the book took me anywhere from 4-6 weeks to finish.

For starters this is a huge book. At 623 odd pages it’s thick enough to be closer to 1240 pages
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, thoroughly comprehensive account of Jim Jones and his cult. This book is often chilling and terrifying. Jim Jones was a total psychopath and, if one is inclined to believe in such concepts, truly evil. The book really makes you think about why and how people are psychologically brainwashed. I highly recommend this book.
Tianna Moxley
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent and by far the most detail account of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple. Very heavy read, took three years on and off to finish (while reading other books in between). Must-read if you’re interested in Jonestown.
Shelly Deluigi Coburn
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
one of the best history of jim jones and the story os jonestown
Steve Kohn
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After hearing Jeff Guinn on Fresh Air a couple months ago, I read his "Road to Jonestown." Didn't think "Road" could be improved on (please see my 5-star review), but "Raven," even with minor faults, is the book to read if reading only one.

That said, "Road" is better in some ways. It gives us much more than "Raven" about Lynetta Jones, Jim Jones's mother, who must have been influential in Jones's twisted mind. "Road" helps us better appreciate the influence Jones had with San Francisco political
G.d. Brennan
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Words fail me.

Disturbing, fascinating, creepy, unsettling, harrowing--all are apt descriptors for the Reverend Jim Jones, and for Tim Reiterman's excellent book on his life and leadership of the People's Temple. And yet these words seem insignificant next to the horrors Jones inflicted on his followers, and the trauma that rippled outward to their friends and families.

Jim Jones was arguably the most intensely evil person of the 20th century. Certainly the evil deeds of others dwarfed Jones'; the
Nick Soulsby
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I’d just finished a very readable but rather bombastic account of Charles Manson and the crimes of The Family when I tracked down “Raven.” Interesting to contrast the two as events and as reading experiences. For a start, in each case what we’re confronting is the desire of people to believe in something (a positive) versus what happens when the person in whom they invest that belief is damaged on a deep level. Jim Jones is by far a more ambiguous figure than Manson – Manson was a career crimina ...more
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