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You don’t have to be a true crime junkie in order to partake in the genre. You need only be curious about the human condition. Whether you’re interested in scammers like Elizabeth Holmes or want to learn more about the real-life gangsters who served as the inspiration for Goodfellas, there’s a title here for you. Here are the 25 best true crime books to add to your reading list.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
While she was once known as “the next Steve Jobs,” Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is now best recognized as what she truly is—a scammer. You’re probably familiar with the general story (and have potentially seen Amanda Seyfried play Holmes in Hulu’s true crime limited series The Dropout). Still, you may not know all the details. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, written by investigative reporter John Carreyrou, charts the rise and fall of the former CEO and her fraudulent company.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Before her untimely death in 2016, true crime author Michelle McNamara became enamored with a man whom she dubbed “the Golden State Killer.” For over ten years, this enigmatic predator committed a slew of assaults and murders, yet he always escaped punishment. Three decades later, McNamara made it her mission to find out the truth about who this man was. Now, I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer is considered a true crime classic.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
“Can you find the wolves in this picture?”
After you’ve watched the teaser trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of Killers of the Flower Moon directed by Martin Scorsese, familiarize yourself with the source material. After discovering oil beneath their land in the early 1900s, members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma became the wealthiest people per capita in the world. Soon after, many started to die unexpectedly and under mysterious circumstances. The newly developed Federal Bureau of Investigation then began working on the case to uncover one of the greatest conspiracies and mysteries in U.S. history.
The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
Speaking of books whose film adaptations star Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street is perhaps the most well-known. In his memoir, the former stockbroker Jordan Belfort takes you behind the scenes of his time as a sleazy entrepreneur, from running up a $700,000 hotel tab to sinking a 170-foot motor yacht. This is as American as it gets—a story filled with greed, capitalism, drugs, and power.
Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake by Frank W. Abagnale
We’ve officially come to our last installment in the Leo Cinematic-Literary Universe. Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake tells the story of a notorious conman named Frank W. Abagnale. In just a few of his many scams (all committed before he even turned 21), Abagnale pretended to be a pilot, practiced law without a license, and cashed over $2 million in phony checks.
The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial by Maggie Nelson
For fans of Bluets or The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial offers a slight departure from the author’s usual style. In this part memoir and part account of a trial, Nelson investigates the death of her aunt who was murdered in Michigan in the late ‘60s.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
You simply can’t discuss true crime without mentioning Truman Capote. Widely regarded as one of the first non-fiction novels ever written, In Cold Blood tells the story of four members of a family who were murdered in 1950s Kansas.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
The Devil in the White City follows an architect who constructed the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and the serial killer who used the fair as his own personal torture chamber. A gas chamber and dissection table were just a few of the sinister components that this killer (who also happened to be a doctor) employed at the fair.
Black Klansman Ron Stallworth
If you’ve already seen the film adaptation directed by Spike Lee, give the book a try. In Black Klansman, a Black detective named Ron Stallworth goes undercover in order to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. To do this, he enlists his partner to play the “white” version of himself, while he feeds him messages over the phone.
Filthy Rich: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein by James Patterson
Thriller writer James Patterson tells the story of the late Jeffrey Epstein, a sex offender and financier from New York. For an in-depth look at Epstein’s various crimes and offenses, Filthy Rich includes interviews with his alleged victims and critical details about his case, including his subsequent death in 2019.
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
Religion, fanaticism, and faith are at the core of Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. He investigates the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the two Mormon Fundamentalist brothers who commit murders because God “commanded them” to. The Hulu miniseries starring Andrew Garfield is a great adaptation to watch once you’re done reading.
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker
Lost Girls investigates the disappearance of several escorts in their early 20s. All of the women advertised on Craigslist and Backpage, which couldn’t possibly be a coincidence. Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker attempts to solve this unsolved mystery and track down the serial killer who’s responsible for the lost lives of young women.
Monster: My True Story by Aileen Wuornos
Charlize Theron portrayed Aileen Wuornos in the 2003 film Monster and the book is just as intense and gritty. Told in her own words, Wuornos tells her story about escaping an abusive household, working as a prostitute, and then becoming one of the world’s few female serial killers.
Party Monster: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland by James St. James
Descend into the pit of hedonism and crime of New York’s downtown party scene with Party Monster. Drugs, sex, and murder fill the pages as the author James St. James, a former club kid, breaks down the underbelly of reckless nightlife. Home Alone’s Macaulay Culkin also stars in the film adaptation as the “king of the club kids.”
Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
The Zodiac Killer has become an essential part of pop culture lore, so it’s important to read the book so that you have the full context. If you’ve seen the film directed by David Fincher, then you’ll definitely be interested in taking a peek at the previously unreleased letters that the Zodiac Killer left behind, which are just a few of the exclusive contents that you can find in the book.
Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi
Calling all film buffs for this one. Get to know the real-life story behind the gangsters in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family tracks the life of Henry Hill, a Mafia associate who turns into an informant.
Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi
In another Nicholas Pileggi classic—which also served as inspiration for yet another Scorcese film—Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas tells the story of two men who oversaw a Las Vegas casino operation for the mob. This multi-million dollar illegal operation soon gets the attention of the FBI and chaos, lies, and betrayal ensue.
Molly's Game by Molly Bloom
Molly’s Game is the true story of “Hollywood’s poker princess.” Molly Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain in the Aaron Sorkin film adaptation) built one of the most exclusive underground poker games in the world and hosted several celebrities, businessmen, and millionaires. Here, she tells her story about how she gained and lost it all.
The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber
Known as “The Angel of Death” by many, registered nurse Charlie Cullen was responsible for the death of hundreds of his patients. The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder includes wiretap recordings, interviews with informants, and never-before-seen police records. After reading the book, make sure you check out the Netflix film adaptation starring Jessica Chastain.
All the President's Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
For the history buffs, All the President's Men: The Greatest Reporting Story of All Time is all about Watergate. Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein provide a first-hand account of one of the most well-known scandals in American politics.
Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster by Stephen L. Carter
Stephen L. Carter’s Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster tells the widely unknown story of the Black female prosecutor (who also happens to be his grandmother) and her journey to convict one of the most powerful Mafia bosses in history.
Columbine by Dave Cullen
Columbine is the result of nine years of research on the part of journalist Dave Cullen. He investigates the tragedy of the Columbine High School Massacre that took place in 1999.
Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
Much like the Netflix series of the same name, Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit investigates the lives of some of the world’s most dangerous serial killers. One of the authors, John Douglas, is a retired FBI agent, so you really get the inside scoop.
Catch & Kill by Ronan Farrow
In Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, journalist Ronan Farrow shines a light on the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and his decades of abuse against women. As the catalyst for the subsequent #MeToo movement, this book is an essential read.
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
The infamous Charles Manson murders are front and center in Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, the best-selling true-crime book in history. And this one’s a bit personal—one of the book’s authors, Vincent Bugliosi, was the prosecuting attorney in the trial.
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