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Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,695 Ratings  ·  577 Reviews
The New York Times bestselling, authoritative account of the life of Charles Manson, filled with surprising new information and previously unpublished photographs: “A riveting, almost Dickensian narrative…four stars” (People).

More than forty years ago Charles Manson and his mostly female commune killed nine people, among them the pregnant actress Sharon Tate. It was the cu
Paperback, 512 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Simon & Schuster (first published August 6th 2013)
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Aug 06, 2013 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peace, Love, and Aberration

This is a mind expanding book. It’s as much a social history of America and more specifically of California in the late sixties and the early seventies as it is a study of Manson and his so called family. Guin sets the context of Manson’s story by delving into the genesis of the hippie movement in Haight-Ashbury and then as it extends across the country. One of the things that fascinates me so much about true crime is how someone comes to be involved in their crimes. W
Cheryl M-M
Aug 08, 2013 Cheryl M-M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all I would like to say a few words about the last few paragraphs in this book.
For me Guinn manages to pinpoint Manson exactly right in those last few sentences. I actually nodded in agreement as I read them.
The fact that the author managed to get Manson's family members, sorry his genetic family, to talk to him gives this book some extra insight. It is filled with factual info that makes a lot of things less mystical, and let's be honest the media likes to paint Manson that way, and wi
Mar 22, 2016 Kara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received a copy of this book through the GoodReads First Reads giveaway program. I was very excited to win an advance copy of this book, but for some reason (perhaps a review I read) I expected it to be very poorly written. I did not find this to be the case at all.

The most striking quality of this book was its tremendous readability; it proved a real page turner. I am a fan of true crime journalism, stories, etc., but I had no real interest in the Manson case beforehand. The author, Jeff Guin
Jan 05, 2014 Ami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a big fan of Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, I suspected that there wouldn't be much new for me in this biography of Manson. I was pleasantly surprised -- Jeff Guinn has written a biography of Manson, but also an overview of San Francisco in the 50s.

I heard Guinn on Fresh Air and he made that the point that Manson could not have existed at any other time in US culture. His arrival in San Francisco coincided with a time when people were seeking enlightenment through drug
Mikey B.
Page 399 (my book)
Almost everyone who had anything to do with him [Manson] was damaged in some way, and Charlie could not have cared less. Gregg Jakobson compares Charlie to a cancer cell because he thrived by eradicating everything around him that was healthy.

This book captures the totality of Charles Manson - actually called Charlie by all around him. In this crime biography the author does not give us any excuses in a sociological or psychological sense. Manson was a creep, a predator, a prim
May 15, 2016 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beatles fans, Dale Carnegie enthusiasts, Neil Young
Good update on the Manson story with a much-needed focus on Manson's youth. As I recall (and it's been a very long time), Bugliosi, in Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, was pretty thin (and possibly wrong) on those details. Yeah, Manson's childhood was a rough one, but a lot of that was brought on by his own choices. If you believe in Bad Seeds, he would certainly be a candidate. It's true, his mother was a honky tonk girl (but hardly a prostitute), who would spend some time ...more
George Paul
Sep 17, 2013 George Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jeff Guinn, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013). $27.50, 495 pages. Hardcover / Kindle

Frigyes Karinthy originated the idea of six degrees separation in his 1929 short story, “Chains.” One of the characters in the story bet his friends that
“using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact [any person in the world] using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.”

I had a six-degrees-like experie
For anyone who lived though the 60s, there is probably too much tedius (and sometimes irrelevant) historical detail. For those who didn't, it likely doesn't seem excessive. Not as riveting as Helter Skelter, but a decent book with a bit of new information, told with the authority of a gruntload of reasearch. It also has the advantage of time, so we get to learn what happened to all the surviving players.
Sep 07, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
I won this book as a Goodreads Giveaway.

Having read Helter Skelter years ago and being familiar with the basic ‘plot’ of the Manson Family murders, I was glad that this book contained far more than a rehashing of the all too familiar details.

The first couple of hundred pages provides an insight into Charles’ upbringing including information about his mother and the uncle and aunt who basically raised him, as well as the town where he spent most of his youth. It follows him into young adulthood
Sep 05, 2014 Q2 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book threw me for a loop. I wasn't alive when all this crazy s*** went down so what I thought I knew about Charles Manson wasn't at all true. I'm sure my mom (who was born in 1962) told me a glossed-over version of the truth--that Manson was a murderer. For some reason I thought he was something of a serial killer. I was surprised to find that Manson is basically a crazy misogynist-racist who enjoyed taking advantage of people and twisting the truth.

This book reads like a criminal psycholo
Nicola Mansfield
Aug 13, 2013 Nicola Mansfield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Vincent Bugliosi's Helter Skelter back in the day but have to say my mind has become dim on the actual facts of the Manson case. I've seen documentaries, clips of interviews with Manson; I remember the news when each of the girls were released from prison. And I remember the murder, the Tate murder, but not the others. This book brings everything about Charles Manson together in a cohesive story. It's not just a story of the psychopath though, it is also a story of the era in which he was ...more
Nov 26, 2014 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
The book is worth a read for those interested in the Manson story, but it's not a great example of historical writing.

Guinn certainly has dug up a lot of detail on Manson's life, starting with the various plights of his grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Unfortunately, I found the early chapters to be very poorly written. The author takes the tone of an omnipresent narrator and makes unfounded assumptions about the thoughts and motivations of the various characters. If it had been written in the
Aug 22, 2013 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A VERY well-researched work on one of the most frightening men still on the planet. Jeff Guinn's Bibliography at the end of the book is quite impressive and draws from all types of sources, including interviews with family members (blood family, his sister and his cousin, as opposed to Manson's "Family" of whacked-out followers, some members of which he DID speak with) who have NEVER before been interviewed by anyone about their infamous relative.

If you're looking for an account of the Tate/LiB
Charles Salzberg
There have been a number of books about Charlie Manson and his family, the best of which I think is still one of the first, Ed Sanders's, The Family, but this is a close second. Using a number of sources, including Vincent Bugliosi's exhaustive procedural account of the capture of Manson and his "family," and the ensuing trial, as well as interviews with members of Mason's blood family, Guinn has cobbled together an extremely readable and fascinating biography of a sociopath. After finishing, yo ...more
Feb 04, 2015 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Guinn tackles the extremely daunting task of presenting a cogent biography of one of the world's most notorious serial killers of the 20th century. Charles Manson and his life are likely of keen interest to many, though the number who will admit it may pale in comparison. Guinn is left to explore Manson's life before permanent incarceration, especially his development of The Family, the group he led by his amazing power of persuasion. Guinn sketches Manson out to be three distinct beings over hi ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Aug 29, 2013 Mary Ronan Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who was old enough to watch TV in the late 1960s will recognize the hippies, Weathermen, SDS, Black Panthers and other lowlifes who inhabit this unusually thorough biography of Charles Manson, the man who programmed 20-some young women to obey his every command, including murdering people, and dying for him if necessary. Xan Brooks in The Guardian describes him as: " . . . a career criminal, one-part pimp to one-part imp; the bespoke vermin of the American counterculture. He crawled insid ...more
Paul Pessolano
Aug 19, 2013 Paul Pessolano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Manson” by Jeff Guinn, published by Simon and Schuster.

Category – Biography/Crime Publication Date – August 06, 2013

This is another must read from the pen of Jeff Guinn. If you have not read “Go Down Together”, which is the absolute best biography of the lives of Bonnie and Clyde, I highly recommend you do so. Jeff Guinn is a master of research. “Manson” took two years to write and from the notes and bibliography it is amazing that it only took two years. If you have read “Helter Skelter” or ar
I read this book because, like another member of Goodreads, I too was fascinated with Charles Manson since I was a child. I read Helter Skelter when I was a teenager and was kind of bewitched by the whole stars and mass murder.

But this book took the fear that I had of cults and mass murderers, hiding out just waiting to get into my house, away and put the whole Charles Manson thing into perspective. As Guine said in the book, Manson was just a guy who happened to be at the right pl
Skip Ferderber
Aug 28, 2013 Skip Ferderber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I lived in Los Angeles during the horrific events described in this book, and even knew one of the people mentioned during Manson's attempts to become a rock star. While the details of the crimes were well known to me, what was totally new was the background leading up to the murders and the well researched, well-written context of the times in which the events occurred. The author should be commended for his judicious description of the murders. The crimes were and are horrific, but Guinn chose ...more
Nov 02, 2013 christa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chances are you think of Charles Manson as Charles Manson: sprite-sized cult leader behind the murder of Sharon Tate and a handful of other socialites and common folk. Jeff Guinn's biography of the media magnet, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, presents a portrait of Charlie -- as his friends call him. A troubled child born of a troubled mother. A kid who subscribed to the friendship template presented by Dale Carnegie, but still kinda skeeved out those he met. A social misfit whose ...more
This book was riveting. I was a teenager when the Tate-Bianca murders took place, and I well recall hearing and reading about Manson, the Family and their horrific crimes. Although I read Vincent Bugliosi's excellent Helter Skelter and have read updates about the cases through the years, I would not have read this book had it not been so well-received. I assumed there was not really anything new to learn about Charles Manson; his life and crimes have been rehashed so many times. But this book re ...more
Gregarious cline
This book is devastating. A perfect glimpse into the heart of the 60's when shit was getting real crazy, and there's no better poster child than Manson for the dark side of the peace and love generation. The alchemy of time, place and this monster is insane. Had he been born 10 years earlier I think Manson would have ended up just a normal lunatic and probably locked up mostly. Guinn really captures the escalation of a psychopath in a way that is eerily easy to understand. Where the "free love" ...more
As the title implies, this is a comprehensive look at both the life and times of Charles Manson.

Heavy on the "what" rather than the "why", Guinn describes the circumstances around Charlie's birth and provides in some detail, often repetitive detail, the infamous Manson's life story.

This was good as a primer, but feel it lacked any real reflection or even speculation into that dynamics/forces that contributed to a Charlie Manson and his followers, which I would have appreciated. Still, a worthwh
Diane Wiebe
Jun 08, 2015 Diane Wiebe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well-written. My only complaint is something that would be hard to conceive for someone who's never been in a cult: Guinn simply portrays the Manson girls as obsessed with him, and doesn't really delve into the psychology behind why people join cults.

Nobody intentionally joins a cult. I would like to see someone deal with the extreme coersion tactics, combined with mind control, that were necessary to get these women to the point where they'd kill for Charlie. I don't think they were weird
Edwin Mcallister
Oct 13, 2014 Edwin Mcallister rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give it 3.5 stars, but I'll err on the side of optimism. It's a very good book, although I am not sure there is much to learn from it. The opening chapters make an attempt to put Manson into a wider framework than the late 1960s, but not very successfully. I don't know if it's because I read Helter Skelter so long ago that my own idea of Manson is "set in stone," or that Guinn never really tries that hard to make his case, but I don't feel like my assessment of Manson has changed ...more
Sep 10, 2015 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating look not only at Manson and his 'family', but also at 1960's America. The author uses the times to help explain how a monster like Manson could come about and have such a lasting impact.

The book delves into Manson' early upbringing, going into great detail about his family and his time in and out of juvenile detention and prison. Much of this I had never read before and found very interesting.

As he is released from prison in the late 1960's, Charlie arrives in San Francisc
Nov 01, 2014 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, true-crime
How many more words can be written about the Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969? The book "Helter Skelter", written by the prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi was for many years the definitive account. In this space, I can add nothing to the facts and the subsequent trials. But, this book, "Manson," is a superb overall account of the entire sordid horrific affair. I especially found the childhood background of Manson quite compelling to read. The book puts the evens in the context of the state of where Amer ...more
Kathleen O'Donnell
I read Helter Skelter by Vince Bugliosi, despite my mom's admonishments not to, many moons ago. I was glued. Jeff Gunn does a great job of presenting previously unknown facts but without the flair that Helter Skelter had. Still, after a slow start I couldn't put it down. The horrible crimes are just as horrible and shocking today as they were 40 some years ago. The author's insight into Manson's followers damaged and broken lives was compelling and sad. Despite all evidence to the contrary, it's ...more
Mar 18, 2014 Florence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a persistent curiousity about infamous criminals like Charles Manson. That's why I read this book. He was born into a fundamentalist family in Kentucky. His mother was a rebellious, promiscuous teenager. She went to prison while Charles was young. His childhood was turbulent but I found no explanation for the twisted human being he became. It was an unfortunate coincidence that the Svengali-like Manson arrived on the scene in Haight-Ashbury, during the sixties, a time when young people al ...more
Reading this fairly soon after finishing the Jimmy Savile biog, In Plain Sight, it was easy to be struck by some superficial but interesting similarities between the two men. Both, obviously, manipulative and controlling weirdos; charismatic yet brittle oddballs with a superiority complex and an unswerving drive.
Yet, whereas Savile was an icy, aggressive loner with a single-minded focus on achieving success and having power, Charles Manson comes across as a hurt, angry and vulnerable person des
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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
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“He felt that anything he wanted ought to be his no matter what.” 4 likes
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