Cover Image: Koresh


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I found this book to be very informative, as I wemt into it not knowing much if anything about David Koresh or the situation at Waco, TX. I have to admit it took me a long while to get through it, as I found some information about his background interesting but somewhat repetitive throughout the book. Feels almost as if there was a lot of "filler" information that could have made a long story a tad bit shorter and to the point. Also wish it had touched more on the impact on the victims and families, but i do understand the book was about David himself. The conversation in the book with David I feel was spot on and made understanding what went on in his brain make a little more sense. I cannot wait to finally watch the documentary on the situation which I know feel will be much more interesting knowing what I do from this author! The book was well researched and gives a very thorough explanation of David and his followers. Thank you to Netgalley and publisher for the ARC opportunity!

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First of all, I found the conversational tone of this non fiction book to be fascinating. It was well researched and interesting, but also kind of came across like have a conversation in a pub with a good friend. I thought the unique style worked well for this book, since it is, in fact about a rather oddball sort of character anyway.

The author was meticulous in reporting details about the rise and fall of David Koresh, from his early years to his ultimate undoing. There have been quite a few books published on this topic, but none that I thought reached the depth and scope that this one did. Reading this book allows you to see the human side of a man struggling to fit into the society around him, to live up to the expectations he feels have been placed on him and really see how and where the familiar image of a cult leader personality was born and incubated.

Neither dry and academic nor overly gossipy, I found the balance just right.

I would happily recommend this book to anyone interested in Waco and the leader of the Branch Davidians.

This review is based on a complimentary copy by the publisher, received through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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I really enjoyed this book and finding out details I didn't know about Koresh before reading. The amount of research that had to go into a book like this is quite amazing. Highly recommend for true crime fans.

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I have always been fascinated with this story and this was a very interesting read. Definitely recommend checking this one out!

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As someone who went to school in Waco, I am interested in this story, but am unsure that others will be at this level of detail - considering the number of books released recently on this title and beyond already existing documentaries and other media.

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What I liked: wow, there is so much detail in this book! I went in knowing nothing about Koresh or the Waco siege, but I learned a lot! There is very detailed information about his childhood and adolescence which I found very fascinating. I enjoyed the author covering each part of the take in such detail, and his careful balance of letting you get to know Vernon Howell, but never making you feel too much sympathy or hatred for him.

I did not like the conversational tone of the book, like “he went apeshit.” Though it was otherwise well-written, and I have no objections to actual cursing, this was the author’s own words and it made it feel less academic.

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Many thanks to NetGalley and Mariner Books for gifting me a digital ARC of this nonfiction story of David Koresh by Stephan Talty - 4.5 stars!

This book gives us insight into the past of Vernon Howell, being raised in neglectful and abusive situations, and his transformation into David Koresh. There is no doubt that David was intelligent - he could quote scripture word for word, but like so many others, used his gifts for his own power and pleasure. The second half of the book focuses more on the tragedy of Waco, where 76 people, including children, lost their lives along with the lives of law enforcement personnel. The author also gives his views on American terrorism and its evolution, from Ruby Ridge to Oklahoma City to the attack on the Capitol.

The book is well written and focuses less on the mistakes made by the government and more on Koresh. I've watched movies and documentaries on Koresh and this was a worthy addition to the subject.

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A great indepth look at David's life. Well researched and fascinating. I could not put this book down!

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Thank you NetGalley, Harper Collins, and Stephen Talty for an eARC in exchange for a review.

The fact that this was 30 years ago does not sit well with me, I was a very young teenager at the time and I definitely remember watching/hearing about it happening. I did not ever know all the backstory of Waco or Koresh, that was all very interesting to learn. Koresh really needed some help in his younger years and everything he went through. Noone deserves to be treated like that as a child, however I was also giving side eye on using that as a reason, who knows how things could have been with mental help.

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Korean by Stephan Talty is a superb read and is the definitive work on David Korean and the events of Waco. Well worth the time and recommended!

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I've always been interested in how the Waco Siege set off a chain of events, and gave rise to a growing faction of domestic terrorism, and anti-goverment militants. I really enjoyed this book, as a biography of the man himself instead of just the story of events at Mount Carmel. I can see why others may not, but I absolutely loved the casual tone of writing in the book. It felt like a friend telling me a story vs. a book trying to teach me something. Overall a must for those interested in the dark side of american history. Thank you to netgalley and Mariner Books for letting me read & review!

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Koresh is a well-researched and gripping account of one of the most notorious religious movements in recent history. It's a must-read for anyone interested in cults, religious extremism, or the complexities of human belief systems.

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If you're interested in learning more about Waco and the events leading up to the tragedy, I'd highly recommend checking this book out!

This is a heavily detailed and thoroughly researched book on David Koresh's life before and after his cult leading. I found it fascinating to learn about his childhood and clear battles with undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. This really offers you a powerful back story on the time period in which he grew up and lived in. I think it's quite possible if he had been born later in life, the cult would never have existed.

Unfortunately, this cult did exist and this is their story. We get to see the lives of the cult followers, hear from people who left David's following, and also get to learn more about the politics of the FBI and CIA during this time period. All of these pieces were extremely interesting to me and I enjoyed how it tied up together in the end!

I learned so many new things that I hadn't from any documentary or podcast that I'd gotten into, relating to Waco. This was fascinating and I can't wait to check our more from this author on other topics!

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The Waco Seige and Koresh are one of my cult favorites. This book gives SOOOOO much great information on the background of him and the beliefs. Definitely a great informational book!

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‘“Hey, you know what Waco stands for?” went one. “We Ain’t Coming Out.”’ - Quote from Koresh

The siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas took place when I was in my freshman year of high school. That was a landmark year for my family because my parents had finally saved enough money to buy us a brand-new house and we had moved in just the year before and were settling in. I was still an awkward, tiny girl with glasses and I knew there was something wrong with my brain but didn’t know exactly what it was yet. I just knew I wasn’t like other kids. I had a ton of friends, but I was also paranoid and insecure in my friendships. So believe me when I say, Waco was the last thing on my mind at that point in time in my life. Things like Ruby Ridge, the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, and Waco wouldn’t become something I even gave some thought to until the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (incidentally, I visited that bombing site in the summer of 1995 during a cross country trip and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so devastated before in my life).

Cults and cult leaders have been of great interest to me ever since I became interested in true crime in my late teens but David Koresh has been a topic I’ve largely stayed away from because of how volatile it can be and how much misinformation is out there about the events that happened at Mount Carmel. But Ruby Ridge and Waco are tied intrinsically to the alt-right and the fight against gun control legislation in the present day, so I felt it was time to go in and read something that might give me some insight as to how Waco ties into today’s arguments against gun control and just what went wrong during that siege that made so many people upset and paranoid.

I should note: I did not fact check this book or Talty’s research. I did not have the time to do so. I am aware there is a ton of conflicting research and books on Koresh and on the siege of Mount Carmel. I am also an atheist, so I may come off as dismissive or unconcerned with the Branch Davidians religious beliefs. This is not intentional. I deeply believe in the part of the first amendment where we get to practice whatever religion we want and also be free not practice any religion. I love the first amendment, full stop. I also should note I am pro gun control, in a very, very strong manner, so I will try to keep away from discussion about weaponry. I’m not here to fight. I just want to review this book.

I was very impressed with the first half of this book. In my opinion, Talty did an excellent job not only researching David Koresh’s childhood and family history, but he also did a tremendous job of humanizing the future cult leader. As a reader of fiction and nonfiction, I know how important it is to humanize the “villain”. David Koresh was a human being. His followers were human beings. His family are human beings. The survivors are human beings. None of these people just popped up out of a cabbage patch. Understanding David Koresh when he was just little Vernon Howell is absolutely vital to understanding how he ended up a dangerous and criminal cult leader. Reading the chapters involving Koresh’s childhood broke my heart, made me angry, and made me wonder just how many times there might have been a different choice that could’ve been made or a different way things could’ve gone that would’ve led little Vernon Howell away from the path that ultimately led him to Waco. We’ll never know, of course, but the sadness of a wasted life weighs on me, and it’s going to leave me thinking for just a while.

It’s when Vernon Howell joins the Davidians that the sympathy for him as a child begins to evaporate and turn into condemnation and sorrow: Condemnation for Vernon, and sorrow for those who fell under his spell or became his victims of sexual assault and/or abuse. It’s clear by this point that Vernon Howell had either not escaped the copious amount of serious mental illness that ran through his family or the severe abuse he had received as a baby, child, and teen had damaged his brain enough to cause some sort of traumatic brain injury that had never been treated. It’s another thing we’ll never know and can never be fully explained.

As much as I condemn the Branch Davidians and David Koresh for what they built, what they approved of, what they allowed David Koresh to do to their wives and children, and for their blind fanaticism, I was absolutely astounded at the ineptitude of the ATF and FBI.

Ruby Ridge, Waco, and the Oklahoma City bombing all took place before the formation of the department of Homeland Security (which wasn’t formed until after 9/11). Back then, the alphabet agencies not only didn’t share, they didn’t share well. If they were forced to share, it was a dominance fight every time. It was alpha males everywhere, banging their fists against their chests, all determined they were the best agency for the job and sometimes even willing to pull the rug out from under one another’s feet. Waco is an excellent example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing and sometimes even the right hand is unsure of what its supposed to be doing and the left hand is just hanging out not doing their job and acting like frat boys. Up until reading this book I hated Homeland Security, but boy does this book make it look like an excellent idea. What Waco needed was interagency cooperation from the bottom to the top and a very, very clear chain of command. One chain of command. Instead, it seemed like there were about 3-4 chains of command running around and sometimes people were just guessing at what they were supposed to be doing.

Waco could’ve ended sooner and maybe even more peacefully if all these little boys had cooperated, shared information, and had one clear chain of command. Instead, there was chaos.

I did feel like the second half of the book wasn’t as interesting to read as the first, if only because a lot of the time it felt repetitive when reading the transcripts between David or Steve and either the negotiators or one of the other agencies. I’d swing from bored to angry at how our government was acting to sad because I knew how the story was going to end.

The book is a compelling read, especially if you’ve never read much about Koresh or what happened at Waco. What happened there changed the sociopolitical fabric of America that reached into the minds of people who are leaders of the alt-right today. It’s an important part of American history, and you should take the time to understand why this happened and why people have every right to be upset with our government’s part in what happened there.

Because, in the end, the Branch Davidians needed to be taken down, but they didn’t deserve what happened to them. They deserved to go to jail. And a large part of why everything went so wrong was because of our government and the inability to listen or to humanize these people. It’s an important lesson we all need to learn.

I was provided a copy of this title by NetGalley and the author. All thoughts, views, ideas, and opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone. Thank you.

File Under: 5 Star Read/Biography/Cult/History/Nonfiction/True Crime

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I had no idea this tragedy even existed before i heard of this book. I feel like it was really digestible for me to understand what happened by the way the story was written. Everything is in chronology order just putting the facts and events out there so it was really easy to follow. I appreciate that it was able to teach me something i didn't know about before.

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This was a well researched and well-written account of the Waco siege and Koresh's life. This was fascinating to read and I learned a lot about the situation that I didn't know. The writing style was gripping and kept me interested throughout.

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With the anniversary of Waco near, this is the story of the man behind the terror. Stephan Talty extensively researched this topic. Including interviewing people in Koresh's past. Koresh was obsessed with holy war and transforming himself into Christ. This is the reason that things went the way they did. This book tells the story of how things went the way they did and the man behind it.

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This book is a deep dive that seeks to understand Koresh, the man. It starts from the beginning of his life and attempts to relay a sense of humanity. It was heartbreaking to read about Koresh's childhood. This whole story was heartbreaking. I remember what happened at Waco and it was awful to watch it play out on national television. All we are left with is the question of "how did it come to this?" Talty attempts to answer that through this expansive volume.

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A solid look at a self-proclaimed American messiah, going into all the bizarre nooks and crannies of this strange story.

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