A Thousand Lives Julia Scheeres Audiobook Review

Cults are fascinating. I think people look at cults like The People’s Temple and wonder why someone would join. Why would someone partake in a mass suicide? How could someone miss the writing on the wall. A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story Of Hope, Deception, And Survival At Jonestown by Julia Scheeres attempts to explain this and to humanize the members of The People’s Temple so we are empathetic towards the followers of Jim Jones.

A Thousand Lives, Julia Scheeres, Book Cover

A Thousand Lives

A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres provides a complete portrait of The People’s Temple – from the early days of Jim Jones, his childhood and whatnot to the move from Indiana to California to Guyana all the way to the mass suicide and assassination of Congressman Ryan to the aftermath and what happened to the survivors. Basically Scheeres provides focus on several members and tells their stories to give the reader a well rounded picture. A Thousand Lives is a harrowing audiobook.

I can remember cringing and my heart speeding up in fear for the members of the People’s Temple. I had SO MUCH anxiety while listening to A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres but was riveted. For example, one part details how Jones (total creep FYI) would make people sign fake confessions to things like molesting their children and suicide pledges just to keep them in the temple and to prove loyalty. If people tried to defect Jones would use pledges against them. This is a terrifying subject matter and deeply disturbing. You need to be prepared if you decide to listen to the A Thousand Lives audiobook or read the book.

Sheeres does an excellent job of showing why people joined. The People’s Temple espoused progressive ideas involving race, poverty and class. Jonestown was supposed to be like a Utopia – with equality between everyone regardless of background. There were members who hoped Jones would heal them after seeing him heal others. People would join because their family and friends had joined. We say today, oh I’d never join a cult or get involved in anything like this – but given the turbulent time and people’s circumstances, maybe you would. Maybe you would join if this was where you found community and acceptance like the other members.

I feel like I’ve learned SO much about Jim Jones and the People’s Temple. I know that I will TRY not to say phrases like ‘drink the kool aid’ because of connotations – all these people dying is NOT something to laugh at and make light of. To me, the mark of great non fiction is seeking out more information afterward. I ended up googling a documentary and watching it within minutes of finishing A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres.

Robin Miles is the narrator of A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception And Survival at Jonestwon by Julia Scheeres. Robin Miles sounds like a college professor -take that as you will, for me it’s a good thing. She has an even cadence to her voice which makes the horrors of Jim Jones even more scary because she does not dramatize her words. I would say that Robin Miles’ uses sensitive narration for a sensitive subject. If you can stomach it, and I say that because for me, A Thousand Lives is a very, very hard book to read, A Thousand Lives is worth dipping your toes into nonfiction for. A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres narrated by Robin Miles is 10 hours and 53 minutes unabridged and published by Audible, inc.

Disclosure: Bought with my audible credit.

Other reviews of A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres:

Musings Of A Bookish Kitty
Chocolate And Croissants
A Musing Reviews

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I’m not sure if I could handle this book, but it sounds like an amazing read (or listen).

  2. I don’t think I could take this. I tried to watch a documentary about Jonestown a few years ago and couldn’t get through it. I think the cult is fascinating, but I have a really hard time reading about it too much because I know where everything’s going.

  3. Excellent review! You make some good points about cults especially during those turbulent times.

    I ordered this book for my library but I haven’t read it yet. I remember reading an old copy of People’s Temple, People’s Tomb when I was a teen. Very creepy reading. I watched an interview with one of Jim Jones’s sons I think on 20/20 or one of those shows. It was pretty interesting and sad.

    • I saw an interview on Oprah once with one of the sons, and you are right it’s very intriguing and sad.

      Also, People’s Temple, People’s Tomb sounds fascinating, I will definitely add it to my TBR.

  4. I agree with you that good Non-Fic has you running to find out more afterward.

    I have a huge fascination with cults, my first real fascination was watching the whole Branch Davidian ordeal in Waco while I was in English class in Elementary school. (Our teacher had the news on the days surrounding the raid.) And since then? I can’t get enough of it – I don’t understand it and I think I’m grasping to get it.

    This sounds like an informative book, and I may have to snag the audio copy with one of my Audible credits! It sounds like something to keep me captivated during a road trip next week!

    • I remember learning about Waco as a little kid and not understanding at all. They also all had those Nike shoes which is so sad, I mean, sad that we remember it.

      It’s definitely worth audio-ing but with the caveat that some parts will have you wanting to fast forward.

  5. Great review. I don’t think I could handle the audiobook format, but I would definitely read the print version. It’s a fascinatingly tragic subject. I’m glad that it got you to do a bit more research. That’s the best part of non-fiction or fiction based on true events.

  6. This sounds like such an interesting book. I’ve never heard of The People’s Temple, but the level of insanity within this man and his effects on the world around him are the makings of a psychological brujaja.

  7. This sounds really fascinating. I know a little about Jonestown, but not to the level of detail found in this book. It does sound like a powerful and worthwhile read. Sometimes books are more chilling when you listen to the audio, and you can’t hide and turn the page like in a book. I might give this one a try.

    • You nailed it with the ‘you can’t hide and turn the page like in a book’ this, I totally believe. I’m not one to fast forward or skip pages regardless of how uncomfortable they make me, but I feel like with audio, you are forced to sit up and pay attention.

  8. This sounds like a really good book to listen to instead of read. I’ll have to give it a try after I finish Nickel and Dimed (my first real audio try!).

  9. I also listened to this audiobook recently. It was fascinating. Glad you enjoyed it. (As much as you can ‘enjoy’ a book about mass suicide/homicide.)