Amazon's Best Books of April: Today's Releases

BotmEver wonder about the origins of the idiom, “Drinking the Kool-Aid”? Look no further than Jeff Guinn’s exhaustive and fascinating biography of Jim Jones, the cult leader who infamously convinced over nine hundred people to consume a deadly cyanide-laced drink. That along with a harrowing dystopian novel about three people who conspire to stop a sinister AI, and you have our best of the month picks for April, available starting today.

See what we had to say about them below, and browse the full list here.

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The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn
It’s interesting that the dust jacket for The Road to Jonestown, Jeff Guinn’s biography of Jim Jones, features a photograph of the infamous preacher without his signature, nearly ubiquitous sunglasses. Despite the scale of the Jonestown tragedy – where more than 900 people died, willingly or not, on November 18, 1978 – the man behind the shades and his motivations have remained mysterious, in part because the event is simply hard to look at and difficult to comprehend. Longtime journalist Jeff Guinn, however, doesn’t mind an occasional walk on the wild side. In the same way that his 2013 biography of Charles Manson dug deep to uncover the pivotal moments of the psychopath’s past (it features a boyish, smiling proto-cult-mastermind on its own jacket), Guinn unmasks Jones through interviews with the people who themselves knew him, from townspeople to his parishioners to his the reverend’s own family. The result is a dense read and full of detail, but none superfluous. Images of a 12-year-old walking Indiana backroads - black suit-clad and a bible in hand – and conducting imaginary funeral services alone, in the woods, are weird and indelible. As we witness Jones’s ascent - driven by a blend of well-honed charisma and inclusive, Marxist ideals - then his fall into megalomania and madness, it all makes a little more sense – at least as much as monstrosity at such scale can. The jungles of Guyana may have reclaimed the site of one of the 20th century’s most notorious crime scenes, but The Road to Jonestown answers many of the questions that have persisted for almost 40 years, foremost: How did this happen? But another one remains: After Manson and Jones, where does Guinn go from here? --Jon Foro

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Void Star by Zachary Mason
Immersive and labyrinthine, this near-future SF suspense novel sets a billionaire seeking immortality in a crumbling world against a tech genius whose neural memory implant allows her to communicate with networks and AIs. Irene’s ability to talk with machines makes her a much-coveted and very expensive troubleshooter, but her meeting with billionaire Cromwell sets off all sorts of subconscious alarm bells, as does the frightening glimpse of a wild AI she’s never encountered before. As Irene follows the trail of her suspicions and odd details her implant picked up, her path is set to intersect with that of Kern, a self-taught street fighter who raised himself within the favelas of San Francisco and who is on a mission to rescue a young woman who may (or may not) be an ally. Unlike most thrillers, Void Star utilizes a deliberate, predatory pace more common to the most exquisite horror novels. A buildup of tiny tells, headlong plunges into the sharp-as-glass memories saved in Irene’s implant, and eerie snapshots of the strange and inexplicable hammer the tension into a near-unbearable drumbeat as Irene and Kern’s quests threaten to collide. But even as Irene and Kern crisscross the planet—sometimes on the run, sometimes on the chase—it’s the essential role of memories that gives this novel its heft, coaxing us to consider what we keep and what we leave behind in our own daily world-building. —Adrian Liang


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Comments (1)

The first use of "Drink the Kool-Aid" was Tom Wolfe's 1968 "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test".

Posted by: carol | Tuesday April 11, 2017 at 5:20 PM

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