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29 True Crime Books Fans Of "Serial" Should Read

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1. Murder in Mississippi by John Safran

Little, Brown

Published as God'll Cut You Down in the US, Murder in Mississippi is as much about race and sexuality in modern America as it is about murder.

We start the book knowing exactly who did the crime. But the questions of why the killer did it, confessed, changed his confession, and pleaded guilty take fish-out-of-water journalist John Safran on a madcap journey through the Deep South that's filled with eccentric characters, witty observations, and disturbing conclusions.

Just finished @johnsafran's Murder in Mississippi. Funny and gripping and wonderfully weird.

Louis Theroux@louistherouxFollow

Just finished @johnsafran's Murder in Mississippi. Funny and gripping and wonderfully weird.

5:10 AM - 21 Jan 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

2. Night Games by Anna Krien

Black Inc.

While Australian Rules Football may be a foreign concept outside Australia, the rape culture that permeates the sport is all too familiar. Anna Krien focuses on an infamous case of sexual assault in which well-known players were let off the hook, and broadens out from there to give an unflinching, shocking account of the dark side of sport.

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Have to say, Night Games, by Anna Krien (William Hill Sport Book Of The year) is a frighteningly good book.

Ned Boulting@nedboultingFollow

Have to say, Night Games, by Anna Krien (William Hill Sport Book Of The year) is a frighteningly good book.

10:21 AM - 05 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

3. The Innocent Man by John Grisham

Random House

A rare non-fiction effort from John Grisham, concerning a man wrongfully convicted of a 1988 rape and murder who spent 11 years on Death Row. The shocking injustices in his arrest, conviction, and continued incarceration are a damning indictment of the US justice system.

Reading John Grisham's "The Innocent Man". His non-fiction's almost as good as his fiction. And with Grisham that's saying a lot.

Eileen Johnson@eileeningaFollow

Reading John Grisham's "The Innocent Man". His non-fiction's almost as good as his fiction. And with Grisham that's saying a lot.

1:49 PM - 26 May 12ReplyRetweetFavorite

4. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

Pocket Books

Ann Rule is a titan of true crime, and this, her seminal work, tells the story of a man she befriended while working at a crisis hotline in the early '70s. His name was Ted Bundy. Chills? Yep.

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Utterly enthralled by Ann Rule's "The stranger beside me" - she worked with and knew serial killer Ted Bundy. Fascinating.

Natasha Joseph@TashJoeZAFollow

Utterly enthralled by Ann Rule's "The stranger beside me" - she worked with and knew serial killer Ted Bundy. Fascinating.

4:46 PM - 03 Jun 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

5. Popular Crime by Bill James

Scribner

Bill James is better known as the baseball writer and statistician who invented sabermetrics (think Moneyball). Here he applies his supreme logic and considerable intellect to his other passion, true crime, re-examining some of the most infamous murder cases in US history – along with his thoughts on books written about them – and tries to answer the question: Why are we so obsessed by murder?

Was enjoying 'popular crime' by Bill James so much last night that I forgot to sleep. Damn writers.

future of the left@shit_rockFollow

Was enjoying 'popular crime' by Bill James so much last night that I forgot to sleep. Damn writers.

5:53 PM - 27 Aug 13ReplyRetweetFavorite

6. Portrait of a Killer by Patricia Cornwell

Berkley

Patricia Cornwell, famous for her crime fiction featuring forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta, turns her non-fiction attentions to Jack the Ripper, eventually building a case against painter Walter Sickert.

As with most Ripper investigations (such as the recent DNA unmasking), it must be taken alongside pinches of salt, but Cornwell at least makes an entertaining, if not entirely convincing, case.

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@1pcornwell portrait of a killer was very convincing/clever! I couldn't put it down!

Shelly Mc Phillips@Shells_xxFollow

@1pcornwell portrait of a killer was very convincing/clever! I couldn't put it down!

10:33 PM - 24 Aug 11ReplyRetweetFavorite

7. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

W. W. Norton

The strapline atop Helter Skelter tells its own tale: People love reading about the Manson murders. Whether the theories put forward by this book are overblown sensationalism or undisputed fact is open for debate (Charles Manson is a noted critic). Entertaining read though.

have begun reading "helter skelter" again. honestly, if you want the definitive true crime book, this one is it. bugliosi is a genius.

Kelli@venusdivioletFollow

have begun reading "helter skelter" again. honestly, if you want the definitive true crime book, this one is it. bugliosi is a genius.

11:33 PM - 17 Jul 12ReplyRetweetFavorite

8. The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

Ballantine

Susan Orlean's investigation into illegal orchid poaching in Florida was the subject of the torturous adaptation in Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation. The book itself is a compelling journey into a world of high stakes and larger-than-life characters, thrillingly rendered in New Yorker contributor Orlean's lyrical prose.

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@susanorlean I finally just finished "The Orchid Thief." I may manage to kill every plant I own, but I found it a tremendous read!

Stephanie M. Lee@stephaniemleeFollow

@susanorlean I finally just finished "The Orchid Thief." I may manage to kill every plant I own, but I found it a tremendous read!

7:01 PM - 21 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

9. People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

Vintage

In 2000, 21-year old Brit Lucie Blackman traveled to Japan in search of adventure. Three months later she was dead. Parry's investigation illuminates dark seams of Japanese culture and failings in the investigation, and paints a portrait of a young woman whose life was cut horrifically short.

Once the killer is identified, the shocking details of the crime are only the first in a series of brutal revelations that almost defy belief, especially to Western eyes. A compelling, sad, and unique read, escalated by Parry's considerable talents as investigator and writer.

Just remembered The People Who Eat Darkness, an excellent book that I hadn't thought of in a year, and now I need to go hide under my bed

kevin lincoln@KTLincolnFollow

Just remembered The People Who Eat Darkness, an excellent book that I hadn't thought of in a year, and now I need to go hide under my bed

6:44 PM - 14 Nov 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

10. Forensics by Val McDermid

Profile

Val McDermid, one of Britain's finest crime writers, here turns her attentions to the history of forensics in crime investigations, detailing each new technique or discovery along with the details of the case it was first used in. Part history lesson, part introduction to forensics, it's wholly entertaining.

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Fascinating - although you may want to eat breakfast first! The grisly history of forensics – Val McDermid http://t.co/EHH90tdqof

Louise Marley@LouiseMarleyFollow

Fascinating - although you may want to eat breakfast first! The grisly history of forensics – Val McDermid http://t.co/EHH90tdqof

6:11 AM - 21 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

11. A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger

Harper Perennial

Junger grew up in a well-to-do Boston neighbourhood, where the rape and murder of his neighbour led to the arrest of a black man, Roy Smith, who was initially thought to be the Boston Strangler. But the Strangler murders continued and were eventually pinned on Albert DeSalvo, a carpenter with a history of violence.

Eerily, DeSalvo was at the Junger residence the week of the Belmont murder, employed to do some work around the house. Young Sebastian even had a picture taken with the strangely intense handyman. Junger crafts a compelling examination of the cases of Smith and DeSalvo, but there are no easy conclusions here. A book for those looking for an exceptional narrative, not closure.

Just started a new #book and I can't put it down...so well written. Sebastian Junger: 'A Death in Belmont'.

Stephanie@StylewithClassFollow

Just started a new #book and I can't put it down...so well written. Sebastian Junger: 'A Death in Belmont'.

11:35 PM - 19 Sep 11ReplyRetweetFavorite

12. The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm

Granta

Recently hailed by BuzzFeed contributor Lincoln Michel as "the one book every Serial fan needs to read", Malcolm's book is a damning indictment of crime writer Joe McGinniss, who befriended Jeffery MacDonald, accused and later convicted of the murders of his wife and child.

McGinniss used his friendship with MacDonald to get close, promising to write a book that would show his innocence. But when it was released, McGinniss's book, Fatal Vision, did the opposite, arguing that MacDonald was a psychopath who had undoubtedly killed his family.

Malcolm's book was widely criticised on release, but her exploration of the relationships between non-fiction writers and their subjects has rightfully become a seminal work of literary theory, and is a must read both for fans of the genre and those who write non-fiction.

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Listening to Serial makes me want to reread THE JOURNALIST AND THE MURDERER by Janet Malcolm a 10th time

Lincoln Michel@TheLincolnFollow

Listening to Serial makes me want to reread THE JOURNALIST AND THE MURDERER by Janet Malcolm a 10th time

10:18 PM - 08 Nov 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

13. A Wilderness of Error by Jeffrey MacDonald

Penguin

Errol Morris is among the best documentary makers in the world, and won an Oscar for his 2003 documentary The Fog of War. His 1987 true-crime classic The Thin Blue Line led to the release of a wrongfully convicted man.

Here he turns his attentions to the case of Jeffery MacDonald &ndash, the subject of Joe McGinniss ill-advised Fatal Vision, and Janet Malcolm's damning indictment. Morris presents a case here for MacDonald's innocence and mistreatment by authorities. Interesting, if not entirely convincing.

Almost finished with "A Wilderness of Error" by Errol Morris. Brilliant. Stunned and mortified that Jeffrey MacDonald is still in prison.

lisalutz@lisalutzFollow

Almost finished with "A Wilderness of Error" by Errol Morris. Brilliant. Stunned and mortified that Jeffrey MacDonald is still in prison.

12:34 AM - 24 Feb 13ReplyRetweetFavorite

14. How to Get Away With Murder in America by Evan Wright

Byliner

Enrique "Ricky" Prado was a mob hitman, implicated in a number of murders in Miami. Then he was hired by the CIA, and went on to become the head of their secretive "targeted assassinations unit" post-9/11. Can it be true? Only in America.

Evan Wright explores the murky relationship between the mob and the CIA, and how Prado maintained a close relationship with his old boss, perhaps even still carrying out additional hits as favours. It's a riveting read, with terrifying implications. Digital only.

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Read 'how to get away with murder in america' by evan wright. Quick-read, fascinating, mind-boggling, shocking. Excerpt http://t.co/fBdNhxXS

Cole McClelland@cole_mccFollow

Read 'how to get away with murder in america' by evan wright. Quick-read, fascinating, mind-boggling, shocking. Excerpt http://t.co/fBdNhxXS

4:25 PM - 24 Jul 12ReplyRetweetFavorite

15. Lost Girls by Robert Kolker

Harper Perennial

Right now there is a serial killer operating on Long Island, New York. He's committed at least a dozen murders, and his killings may go all the way back to 1996. As of now, there are no leads. All they know is that the victims are escorts, and he's meeting his victims through Craigslist.

Without a killer to profile, Robert Kolker tells the stories of the victims, the women who have been killed and unceremoniously dumped on the beaches of Long Island and dismissed by officials and media outlets as prostitutes. It's a damning critique of society and the police who let these young women down.

If you're in any way intrigued by true crime stories, check out Robert Kolker's LOST GIRLS, about the Long Island serial killer.

Rick Paulas@RickPaulasFollow

If you're in any way intrigued by true crime stories, check out Robert Kolker's LOST GIRLS, about the Long Island serial killer.

11:02 PM - 23 Jan 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

16. Coronado High by Joshuah Bearman

Atavist

Joshuah Bearman wrote the Wired article that became the movie Argo. Here he finds another true story filled with cinematic scope: Coronado High is the story of how a gang of beach-bum California surfers and their high school Spanish teacher became drug kingpins in the 1970s, standing atop a $100 million pot-smuggling empire.

With its thrilling first-hand accounts of their audacious daredevil operation and the excesses and betrayals that led to their downfall, it's not surprising that the movie rights have already been optioned. Read it now before it wins an Oscar. Digital only.

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Halfway through Joshuah Bearman's ebook "Coronado High." If you liked the movie "Blow," you'll love this story. https://t.co/hLpr70TFmg

Joe DePaolo@joe_depaoloFollow

Halfway through Joshuah Bearman's ebook "Coronado High." If you liked the movie "Blow," you'll love this story. https://t.co/hLpr70TFmg

4:35 PM - 17 Sep 13ReplyRetweetFavorite

17. Homicide by David Simon

Picador

HBO's The Wire was one of the most critically acclaimed crime shows ever made. It's creator was David Simon, a former crime reporter in Baltimore, who based the show on his own experiences embedded with the city's homicide unit.

Written with the pace of a thriller, Homicide follows three real-life detectives as they struggle with unrelenting caseloads in one of America's most deadly cities.

Finished rereading David Simon's excellent "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets" this weekend. Non-fiction crime writing at its best.

David Greisman@fightingwords2Follow

Finished rereading David Simon's excellent "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets" this weekend. Non-fiction crime writing at its best.

10:38 PM - 27 Oct 13ReplyRetweetFavorite

18. Devil's Knot by Mara Leveritt

Atria Books

In one of the most famous cases of wrongful imprisonment of the last 25 years, three misfit teenagers in West Memphis are arrested and charged with the murder and mutilation of three young boys, a crime it's clear to any rational mind they did not commit.

In prison for 20 years, the Three were finally released in 2012, but the injustices against them may never be righted. Reese Witherspoon starred in an adaptation of this book, but skip that and watch Joe Berlinger's Paradise Lost documentary trilogy instead.

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For those of you who don't know much about the West Memphis Three case, I have to recommend Devil's Knot by Mara Leveritt. #wm3

Jessica Meigs@JessicaMeigsFollow

For those of you who don't know much about the West Memphis Three case, I have to recommend Devil's Knot by Mara Leveritt. #wm3

6:10 PM - 19 Aug 11ReplyRetweetFavorite

19. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Penguin

Fascinated by what drove two young men to slaughter an entire family in their beds, Truman Capote travelled to Kansas and befriended one of the men, Perry Smith, before writing what many consider the first work of creative non-fiction.

The story behind the book was the basis for the Oscar-winning film Capote (2005), and though notable events in the book differ from fact, its literary merit is unquestionable.

I am writing about Capote's In Cold Blood. Again. It's a bloody astonishing book. Conceived of journalism, born of a novelist.

Kate Colquhoun@wearyhousewifeFollow

I am writing about Capote's In Cold Blood. Again. It's a bloody astonishing book. Conceived of journalism, born of a novelist.

10:07 AM - 07 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

20. The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer

Little, Brown

Gary Gilmore gained national attention by demanding to be executed by firing squad for the murders of two men in Utah. Norman Mailer's Pulitzer Prize-winning book details Gilmore's life, imprisonment, and death in unparalleled fashion.

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Finished reading "The Executioner's Song" last night. One of the most engrossing books I've ever read. Loved it.

Aaron Schmulinsohn@suicidebridgeFollow

Finished reading "The Executioner's Song" last night. One of the most engrossing books I've ever read. Loved it.

4:02 AM - 07 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

21. A Long Walk Home by Judith Tebbutt

Faber & Faber

Judith Tebbutt's tale of isolation, loss, and survival is a harrowing account of how her life was torn apart when she was kidnapped with her husband by Somali pirates, and the way she managed to hold it together.

Reading Judith Tebbutt's "A Long Walk Home", what a strong woman and what a haunting nightmare of an experience. She never gave up hope.

The Beauty Shortlist@BeautyShortlistFollow

Reading Judith Tebbutt's "A Long Walk Home", what a strong woman and what a haunting nightmare of an experience. She never gave up hope.

2:59 PM - 16 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

22. The Trials of White Boy Rick by Evan Hughes

Atavist / Via read.atavist.com

White Boy Rick is Detroit royalty, a drug kingpin celebrity to those who grew up in Motor City. Rick was just 17 when he went to prison, and the fact that he's still there nearly 30 years later is news to many.

As Hughes discovers, that may have something to do with the fact Rick was a prolific FBI informant. Available from The Atavist.

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Sublimely crafted w/ hard-nosed reporting, The Trials of White Boy Rick by @evanhughes gave me chills this morning. https://t.co/SHhjBtCccH

Joshua Emerson Smith@jemersmithFollow

Sublimely crafted w/ hard-nosed reporting, The Trials of White Boy Rick by @evanhughes gave me chills this morning. https://t.co/SHhjBtCccH

3:36 PM - 28 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

23. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Vintage

H.H. Holmes has been called America's first serial killer, a man who built a hotel into a murder weapon, complete with a gas chamber and crematorium, and targeted young women drawn to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

Larson takes a literary look at Holmes, intertwining his tale with that of architect Daniel Burnham, the man who built the titular White City. Two men, both architects, one building the future, the other, a murder castle. Chilling stuff.

Finally finished THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. Excellent non-fiction, well worth your time.

Corey Atad@CoreyAtadFollow

Finally finished THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. Excellent non-fiction, well worth your time.

3:22 PM - 30 Nov 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

24. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

Bloomsbury

In Wiltshire, in 1860, the gruesome murder of a young child received national attention, and caused Scotland Yard to dispatch their best detective, Jack Whicher, to investigate.

With impeccable research and narrative flair, Summerscale retraces the crime and Whicher's investigation and draws her own conclusions about the murder. At the same time she lifts a lid on the secrecy of Victorian society, and shines light on a case that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write crime fiction.

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I've just finished reading the majestic The Suspicions of Mr.Whicher.It is quite some time since I found a book so absorbing & compelling.

WillLynch@WillLynchFollow

I've just finished reading the majestic The Suspicions of Mr.Whicher.It is quite some time since I found a book so absorbing & compelling.

2:06 PM - 29 Dec 10ReplyRetweetFavorite

25. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Doubleday

Into the Wild author Jon Krakauer investigates the 1984 murder of a mother and her child by two brothers who believed in a fundamentalist branch of Mormonism. The book examines the origins of the Mormon faith, along with the events that led the brothers to kill.

Just finished Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Brilliant & troubling book. Highly recommended.

William Fitzsimmons@wfitzsimmonsFollow

Just finished Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Brilliant & troubling book. Highly recommended.

9:42 PM - 27 Jul 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

26. Mind Hunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Simon & Schuster

John Douglas is one of the most famous criminal profilers in the world. Here he presents a chilling walk through his methods and case files as an FBI special agent and independent investigator.

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I'm so obsessed with serial killers, I'm still reading John E. Douglas at 5am. I'm a bit scared but it's worth it.

Nola@ohmistyeyeFollow

I'm so obsessed with serial killers, I'm still reading John E. Douglas at 5am. I'm a bit scared but it's worth it.

3:49 AM - 07 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

27. The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann

Simon & Schuster

A collection of articles by David Grann, including the brilliant "True Crime", about a Polish crime writer who commits a murder and uses that as a plot for his first book, which you can also read at the New Yorker website.

Stayed up until midnight last night to finish "The Devil and Sherlock Holmes" by @DavidGrann. Fantastic book, highly recommended.

Astros County@AstrosCountyFollow

Stayed up until midnight last night to finish "The Devil and Sherlock Holmes" by @DavidGrann. Fantastic book, highly recommended.

1:24 PM - 26 Nov 13ReplyRetweetFavorite

28. An Innocent Man by Pamela Colloff

AP Photo / Ricardo B. Brazziell

Not a book, but one of the most brilliant pieces of crime journalism this decade, Pamela Colloff's account of Michael Morton, a man wrongly convicted of killing his wife in Texas in 1986, and his 25-year fight for justice, is a gripping read.

The withheld evidence and prosecutorial misconduct are compelling enough, but it's Morton himself – his strength of character and relentless fight – and Colloff's peerless reporting that makes this a story Serial fans will devour. Free to read at texasmonthly.com.

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Just finished the excellent "An Innocent Man" by Pamela Colloff in @texasmonthly Thorough, nuanced, and a perfect ending. #longreads2012

Sara Gates@skgatesFollow

Just finished the excellent "An Innocent Man" by Pamela Colloff in @texasmonthly Thorough, nuanced, and a perfect ending. #longreads2012

1:11 AM - 28 Dec 12ReplyRetweetFavorite

29. The Incredible True Story of the Collar Bomb Heist by Rich Schapiro

Michael Schmeling / Wired

Again, not a book, but one of the most fascinating true-crime stories I've ever read. In 2003, a middle-aged pizza deliveryman named Brian Wells was attacked, had a homemade bomb strapped around his neck, and was given a treasure hunt of clues to follow to remove it, including robbing the local bank.

45-minutes after he walked into the bank, Wells was dead, and so began one of the most bizarre investigations local police and FBI bomb technicians had ever worked. It's free to read on wired.com.

Just read a fascinating article in @Wired about "The Collar Bomb Heist". An absolute must-read before somebody smart options for a film.

Orthy™@adam_orthFollow

Just read a fascinating article in @Wired about "The Collar Bomb Heist". An absolute must-read before somebody smart options for a film.

12:05 AM - 25 Dec 10ReplyRetweetFavorite

Read these? Great! Share some other recommendations for fans of true crime.

30.

Gary Gilmore was arrested for the murders of two men in Utah. An earlier version of this post said they were women.