10 Great True Crime Books on My Shelf

I'm a HUGE true crime fan. The biggest. Here are just a few of my favorites.
  1. 1.
    Honor Killing: How the Infamous 'Massie Affair' Transformed Hawai'i by David E. Stannard
    A fantastic book about one of the most famous cases in Hawaii's history. Thalia Massie, a wealthy white woman, blamed 5 native islanders of gang rape, even though it was clear they had not done it. What followed was a case that had long-lasting effects on Hawaii's future as a multicultural state.
  2. 2.
    Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde by Jeff Guinn
    Jeff Guinn is one of my favorite underrated true crime authors (his book "Manson" is also great, but I didn't want to go too overboard on Manson here). Bonnie & Clyde's crimes are placed in the context of the Great Depression and the breakout of underworld crime happening at that time. He humanizes them in a way no one else has before. Highly recommended.
  3. 3.
    Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi
    Still the greatest true crime book ever. It's a good starting point if you want to get into true crime, but you can't decide which book to begin with. I lent it to my friend a few years ago and she had trouble sleeping for weeks because she was afraid someone was going to jump the gate to her house and cut the phone lines. That's the sign of a good crime story.
  4. 4.
    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
    True crime writers are STILL trying to live up to this book. Capote found beauty in the darkest places. He had a knack for fleshing out a terrifying true story until it sounded like a fanciful, almost fictional tale right out of his active imagination. Any time I hear the phrase "creative nonfiction," I think of Capote.
  5. 5.
    Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders by Greg King
    Too often, victims of violent crimes are not given a narrative. Their stories die with them. I had gotten frustrated with the lack of stories about Sharon and the abundance of stories about the murderers, so I bought this. There was not one single person who had an unkind thing to say about her. She was loving, compassionate, and bright. You'll cry over the loss of a woman you didn't know, but wish you had.
  6. 6.
    The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy, The Shocking Inside Story by Ann Rule
    A reminder that charm and good looks are an effective mask to hide sociopathy. Ted dispelled the myth that a rapist or murderer has to look or act a particular way. And it's often the ones we expect the least.
  7. 7.
    The Anatomy of Evil by Michael H. Stone
    While this book goes into the psychology of criminals and why they do what they do, it also covers the crimes themselves. Stone, a renowned forensic psychologist and prior host of "Most Evil" on ID, breaks the most violent criminals into different levels of evil. He shows us that nothing - not even evil - is quite so black and white. Perhaps there are grey areas that we may have overlooked in our moral judgments.
  8. 8.
    Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires by Selwyn Raab
    It took me months to get through this gigantic book but it was SO WORTH IT. Raab's exhaustive research into the mafia was surprisingly exciting and engaging, if you can get over the size.
  9. 9.
    A Cast of Killers by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick
    I still don't understand why this hasn't been made into a movie. In 1922, director William Desmond Taylor was shot in his home in Los Angeles. Things were mysteriously covered up and rumors flew about who had done it, but no one was ever caught. The case remains unsolved. Kirkpatrick lets you wander through the evidence and derive your own conclusions. My money is on Charlotte. Report back to me with your opinion.
  10. 10.
    Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
    I went through every emotion while reading this book. It was beautifully written, with a lot of empathy and understanding for the grave errors of our justice system in cases of rape and sexual assault. We know this story too well by now: football players, alcohol, gang rapes, cover-ups, victim-blaming, etc. Missoula is just one example of a growing national problem that our justice system is choosing to ignore.