I recently became interested in a little bit of true crime. It mostly stemmed from a blog, “Talk Murder With Me”, that I found online. It goes over a variety of different cases from the past few decades, ranging from murder to missing persons. I’ve also noticed an increase in interest in true crime in general. Several of our staff members enjoy true crime and we have a particular book series, Missing 411, that is probably the most popular item we send out for ILL. With that in mind, I have compiled a list of true crime books for you to enjoy. All these items can be found either in our library or in our catalog.
In Cold Blood – by Truman Capote
In Cold Blood became an instant success after it was published in 1965, becoming one of the top-selling true crime books. It details the 1959 murder of the Clutter family when two individuals, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, broke in and killed husband and wife, Herbert and Bonnie, along with their two kids, after attempting to rob them. Capote examines the murder, going into detail of the killers’ background and psychological state, and he even went so far as to interview the killers after they were caught. The author also goes into the background of the Clutter family and looks at their neighborhood. It is widely regarded as the pioneer for true crime books.
Missing 411 series – David Paulides
The Missing 411 series is probably one of the more popular series that we own. The series focuses on missing persons cases from all over the U.S. and even some from other countries. It all started when Paulides found patterns in cases where people have disappeared from National Parks and Forests and grew from there. Some books parallel others in the series, like Missing 411: Hunters, but each book offers its own group of cases. These are an excellent option for readers who like true crime books but may not necessarily want ones that deal with murder. There have also been documentaries made from the books, some of which can be found in our catalog.
I’ll Be Gone In the Dark – McNamara, Michelle
Content Warning: This book mentions multiple acts of sexual assault
Michelle McNamara is determined to find the Golden State Killer, a man who committed fifty sexual assaults and ten murders in California before disappearing. McNamara pours over every aspect of the case she can to find possible clues. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark details this task as she reconstructs the case and what she finds. She includes stories from many people who have worked on the case and their thoughts and feelings. It also recounts her three-decade-long journey in completing this task, admitting that it became an obsession to her. Many readers have commended McNamara for the writing in this book. Unfortunately, she passed away before the book could be finished so some parts rely on earlier manuscripts and notes.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption – by Bryan Stevenson
This book isn’t exactly a true crime book, but it does offer an interesting insight into the justice system from the perspective of a lawyer. Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer who works for a nonprofit agency that focuses on the poor, incarcerated, or wrongly convicted. Many of his clients are those who have faced injustices due to the color of their skin or the amount of money they have. This book talks about Stevenson's experiences handling these cases and the reality of those clients. He points out flaws in the system that need to be worked on, and many people have commended his writing and how he isn’t afraid to shed light on serious issues.
The Stranger Beside Me – by Ann Rule
Content Warning: This book mentions sexual assault
Did you know Ted Bundy used to work at a suicide hotline? Pretty ironic. Ann Rule knew Ted Bundy from University and their time working at the hotline together. She considered Bundy to be kind and had a hard time believing that he could be capable of the crimes he committed. The Stranger Beside Me describes Rule’s experience finding out about these crimes and connecting the man committing them to the man that she knew. The book has been updated a couple of times to include his execution and accounts from other women that encountered him.
What is your favorite true crime story? Do you prefer books or podcasts? Let us know in the comments! Be sure to check out our catalog for more true crime books.