When it comes to true crime books, it can be hard to choose what to read next—there are so many different styles and sub-genres within the true crime umbrella. Whether you’re looking for something thought-provoking or spine-chilling, there’s something for every kind of true crime reader on this list. Some of these books read more like a crime novel than a work of nonfiction. Some of them blend memoir, true crime, and history into a unique whole. From the murder of a young Harvard student in the 1960s to the definitive biography of notorious crime boss Charles Luciano, these books explore the very worst of human nature. So keep the lights on, because once you delve into these real-life horror stories, you aren’t going to want to stop reading.
In 1969, Jane Britton, a 23-year-old Harvard graduate student, was murdered in her apartment. Forty years later, Becky Cooper, a Harvard undergrad, heard rumors of Jane's story: that a woman had an affair with a professor, who murdered her when she threatened to talk about it. Though that story wasn't true, it led Cooper on a years-long journey to discover the complicated truth. Weaving memoir and reportage, Cooper examines how Jane's story affects her own. We Keep the Dead Close is a haunting, heartbreaking, and sometimes beautiful book about misogynist violence, sexism in academia, and the harm that comes from burying women's stories.
Judas is another book that brilliantly blends memoir and true crime. Astrid Holleeder recounts her childhood and family life and then delves into a terrifying account of how she worked to help arrest and jail her criminal brother, Willem. Holleeder acted as a double agent, keeping her brother's trust so that she could gather evidence against him and ultimately turn him in. This book is both a complicated family saga and a chilling portrait of a criminal mastermind.
For crime buffs looking for something a bit different, this photographic history of true crime in New York City will hit the spot. Undisclosed Files of the Police highlights over 80 cases from the NYPD's long history, beginning with crimes that took place in the early part of the 19th century, before the police force was even established. From the anarchist bombing of Wall Street in 1920 to the Summer of Sam, this in-depth book examines some of New York City's grittiest crimes.
If you're hankering for a true crime biography, you won't want to miss The Luciano Story, an in-depth account of the life of international crime boss Charles Luciano. Drawing on both research and many interviews with Luciano himself, Feder examines Luciano's rise to power in the New York crime world in the 1920s, his eventual capture in the 1930s, and his life after being released from prison, when he ran the International Crime Syndicate from Italy.
Erik Larson's books are perfect if you enjoy true crime mixed with history. In The Devil in the White City, Larson will transport you back in time to the events of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. He weaves together the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect who designed the fair, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer thought to be responsible for the string of murders that took place during the fair. Larson's prose is so engrossing, and these real-life characters so fascinating that you'll have trouble believing this book isn't a novel.
If history isn't your thing, All-American Murder might be your kind of true crime book, as it's about a more recent crime. In this harrowing book, James Patterson examines the life of pro football player Aaron Hernandez, one of the youngest players ever in the NFL. But in 2012 and 2013, he was connected to the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player who was dating Hernandez's fiancée's sister. Hernandez was eventually tried and convicted of first-degree murder. Patterson takes a hard look at Hernandez's downward spiral from sports hero to a convicted murderer.
No list of true crime books would be complete without Truman Capote's classic In Cold Blood, which has become a defining work of the genre. First published in 1965, it's still beloved today, revered as a work of both journalism and creative nonfiction. The book explores the murder of four members of the Clutter family in a small Kansas town in 1959. Capote recounts the murder, the investigation, and the trial of the killers, bringing the whole story to gruesome life.
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