I have a confession to make.
I’m one of those true crime aficionados. It doesn’t matter what the crime is (though let’s be honest, you know what the big one is). I will devour a book, tv show, and Netflix documentary. Looking at you, Making of a Murderer.
I know I’m not alone because True Crime is one of the most popular categories of books out there. Yet, few like to admit out loud that they enjoy reading about this stuff.
So when I meet someone who tells me in hushed tones that they ALSO are into murder and gore, it’s like finding a soul mate. I hang on to them for dear life and ask them for recommendations.
I find getting into the why behind the actions of someone who does something so unthinkable fascinating.
Now, I like to pretend that I am a high-minded reader. But, the fact of the matter is, I read a lot of topics because that’s the way I’m built. I have a lot of things I like. Occasionally, something classy will fall into the mix between YA fantasy, baseball reads, and classic true crime.
But in this post, I want to focus on the true crime of it all. I’m gonna share some of my favorite true crime books.
As a final caveat, before you think I’m a complete monster. I know that these books are only in existence because terrible things have happened. So, I am aware that people suffer for these stories to come out.
You’ll also see that true crime can actually cover quite a bit of ground. Most people associate them with serial killer type stuff, but that’s not true. There are lots of fascinating true crime books out there to dig into.
On to the books!
The Columbine massacre was hardly the first ever school shooting. But for people of my age (in their 30s) it was the one sort of sets everything off. In this book, Cullen goes beyond the acts and into the why.
He looks at the mindset and motivation behind the killers. How one seemed to be destined for this type of act and the other seemed to be the polar opposite. It’s a sad and yet fascinating look into the horror surrounding the events at Columbine.
I’m a big fan of Krakauer, I’ve read almost everything he’s written. Most find Into Thin Air as the read that stands above the rest. But I think Under the Banner of Heaven was one of the most fascinating stories I’d ever read.
It’s about a fundamentalist Mormon man who kills a woman and her baby because he claims he was told to by God. It provides a lot of background about this small offshoot of the Mormon faith, how it came to be, and the questions it raises about this branch of the religion.
This might have been one of my first reads in the genre, and oldie but goodie that I read back in high school. The book is written by a former Special Agent in the FBI. He served as a profiler and was the inspiration for Jack Crawford (Clarice’s boss) in Silence of the Lambs.
The book follows how Douglas and other FBI profilers use their psychological and observational skills to solve huge crimes. I spent a brief while being totally obsessed with all things FBI profilers and this book was a major contributing factor.
If you’re from Boston, you know about the story of Whitey Bulger. Whitey ran South Boston. He brought in drugs, took tributes, and murdered a lot of people. Turns out, he was also a rat. He was an informant with the FBI (yes they knew what he was doing) and run by a childhood friend from Southie.
This friend also tipped Whitey off before he was about to be indicted. He was finally arrested a few years ago by the FBI after over 20 years on the run. This book tells his story. It’s gripping from the start. And if you’re from Boston, it’s a must read.
You likely know John Grisham from one of his many fiction novels. But this one is true and I think is my favorite thing I’ve read by him. It tells the sad story of Ron. A guy from a poor town in Oklahoma who looks like he might make it out through baseball.
Until…well you can imagine the rest. But beyond this being a crime story, it’s also a story of the criminal justice system. And it’s a story of what being locked up does to a human. It’s what makes his book chilling on more than a few accounts.
For a bit more on a couple of the true crime books I’ve read recently, check out my post from December on In Cold Blood and Devil in the White City.