True crime is an intensely popular genre of books, which offers us an insight into the minds and actions of all kinds of criminals.
As the popularity of true crime documentaries and true crime podcasts has boomed over the last decade, so has the popularity of the true crime genre of books.
Readers are becoming increasingly interested in learning about criminal activity and the macabre, so it’s no surprise there are hundreds of true to choose from.
In this article, we’ll recommend 25 examples of amazing true crime books that are all great places to start in the genre. If you’re an experienced true crime reader, you can check our list for any you haven’t read yet.
New True Crime Novels
True crime novels blur the line between fact and fiction, as they draw from actual events but can also contain fictional or one-sided accounts, such as those found in a memoir. Here are five of the best true crime novels that were released in the last year.
The Maiden by Kate Foster
The Maiden is based on a true story of a woman who was falsely accused of killing her lover. Kate Foster sheds light on a female’s experience of murder and punishment in seventeenth-century Scotland—not something you’ll find in many books.
That Peckham Boy by Kenny Imafidon
That Peckham Boy is a moving story about redemption and life after being falsely charged for murder. Kenny Imafidon shares his first hand account of what it’s like being on trial as an innocent young man and what life in London is like after your name is tied to such a horrific crime.
Freezing Order by Bill Browder
Bill Browder shares the thrilling story of how he exposed Vladimir Putin’s plan to steal and launder billions of dollars, resulting in Browder becoming Putin’s number one enemy. Freezing Order provides an insider view of life from the perspective of someone willing to go up against one of the scariest political figures of our time.
Don’t Say a Thing by Tamara Leitner
Don’t Say a Thing is a gripping true crime story about the resilient victims of Claude Dean Hull II and how they recovered from sexual abuse. Leitner sheds light on the shortcomings of the justice system, highlighting the need for more effective support for survivors of sexual abuse.
The Art Thief by Michael Finkel
The Art Thief focuses on Stéphane Breitwieser, a mastermind art thief who amassed a collection of artworks worth over $1.4 billion combined. Michael Finkel gives us a unique insight into the world of crime around art and what it takes to steal over 300 pieces. Finkel reveals how Breitwieser conducted his heists and what motivated him to possess so much beauty.
Classic True Crime Books to Read
Classic true crime books are books you can read again and again. The word “classic” doesn’t always mean “old,” but it usually means well-regarded and essential to fans of the genre. Here are our recommendations for classic true crime books.
Talking with Serial Killers by Christopher Berry-Dee
Talking with Serial Killers is full of detailed interviews with some of the most notorious killers. The book provides insight into their mindset and how they committed their heinous crimes. Christopher Berry-Dee’s research is meticulous, making the accounts even more compelling.
Papillon by Henri Charrière and Patrick O’Brian
In Papillon, Henri Charrière shares his struggles to escape from a French penal colony based in South America. The book is an autobiography of his life as a fugitive, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Patrick O’Brian helped to write the book to allow Henri Charrière the chance to share his story, highlighting his resilience and determination to save his own life.
Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
Zodiac is a book detailing the story of one of America’s most notorious killers and how the authorities searched for him. Although the Zodiac killer has yet to be found, if you enjoy unraveling true crime, there’s an abundance of evidence and analysis in Zodiac that you can use to try to solve the case yourself.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Truman Capote details the murder of a Kansas family in 1959, then dives into the investigation that resulted in the capture of the young killers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock. In Cold Blood is a shocking tale of murder and shows how horrific, but ultimately human, the killers were.
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecutor who put Charles Manson away, and his recounting of the events that led up to the conviction is a terrifying reminder of how horrible Manson was. Helter Skelter tells the true story of how Charles Manson committed the Tate-LaBianca murders.
Top Books About Murders
One of the most popular subcategories of the true crime genre is books about murders. If you are curious about how killers commit their crimes and what a killer thinks about, there are plenty of books you can choose from featuring the real life stories of serial killers and murderers. We’ve narrowed down five you should read if you love reading about murder.
Homicide by David Simon and Richard Price
Homicide is a book about three solving murder cases in Baltimore, presenting an insightful account of what it’s like in the city homicide unit over the course of one year. You’ll learn about the most dangerous events which happen in Baltimore regularly.
The Mind of a Murderer by Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor shares his experiences in evaluating and caring for inmates and individuals accused of murder. If you like criminal psychology and you wonder how killers can commit such violent and horrific crimes, Taylor explores several cases to delve into the minds of killers and discover their motives.
Unsolved Serial Killers (Volume 1) by D.R. Werner
D.R. Werner shares the cases of murders that time has almost forgotten about. Unsolved Serial Killers contains ten different cases with all the details for you to learn about what happened and how the authorities have attempted to catch the killer.
The Big Book of Serial Killers by Jack Rosewood
If you’ve ever wanted a list of 150 serial killers with details of their crimes, The Big Book of Serial Killers is just that. You’ll learn about the killers you’ve heard of from the media and ones that aren’t so well known.
Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
Mindhunter is a book about how the FBI conducts investigations of serial killers and how they use criminal profiling to catch the killers. John Douglas is renowned for creating the profiling program used by the FBI when investigating criminal activity, which makes him the perfect person to tell you all about it.
Best True Crime Authors
Some true crime authors stand out among the rest because of their style of writing, the way they conduct their research, and their commitment to sharing the important details of shocking crimes. Here are five examples of the best true crime authors.
The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
The Stranger Beside Me is a chilling account from Ann Rule about her experiences with Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer. Speaking from a unique perspective, Ann Rule tells readers how she worked with Bundy at a crisis hotline.
Columbine by Dave Cullen
Dave Cullen has become one of the most respected voices regarding the Columbine high school shooting, which happened on April 20, 1999. Columbine is a riveting account of what happened, including a huge amount of evidence. Cullen aims to show exactly what the killers were like.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Michelle McNamara gained a high regard for her book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which reveals the crimes of Joseph James DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer. In the book, McNamara shares her obsessive search for the truth. McNamara passed away before the book was published.
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer is an amazing writer of true crime books, and Under the Banner of Heaven is one of his best. The book is about the murder of a mother and child by Ron and Dan Lafferty, who both insisted God commanded them to kill.
If You Tell by Gregg Olsen
Gregg Olsen is a brilliant true crime writer. If You Tell is a harrowing tale of survival about three sisters who suffered horrible abuse before they could get free and tell their stories.
Our Favorite Books About Crime
At ProWritingAid, we’re no strangers to crime fiction as we host our Crime Writers’ Week each year. However, some of us are avid true crime fans, and we’ve compiled a list of our five favorite books about crime.
The World’s 20 Worst Crimes by Kate Kray
Kate Kray has become a leading voice in true crime writing as she shares the details of 20 of the worst crimes that have happened in the world. Being married to Ronnie Kray, Kate is well versed in the criminal underworld, and she shares insightful details of the crimes in the book as she suggests potential motivations behind the criminals’ evil deeds.
The Devil You Know by Dr. Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne
The Devil You Know is a book of 12 criminals and how Dr. Gwen Adshead worked with them as a forensic psychiatrist. Each criminal shares their complex story and personality with Adshead before receiving rehabilitation treatment. The book gives a new meaning to “human nature.”
The Innocent Man by John Grisham
John Grisham is famous for his crime and thriller novels. However, The Innocent Man is his first true crime book. The novel is a gripping story following the journey of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, who were wrongfully accused of murder despite the absence of any physical evidence.
Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid
Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime is a book about forensic science featuring interviews with highly regarded experts in the field. McDermid reveals insights from her research and interviews on solving crimes and making breakthroughs in forensic science.
Murder Isn’t Easy: The Forensics of Agatha Christie by Carla Valentine
If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie, you might enjoy Murder Isn’t Easy: The Forensics of Agatha Christie. Carla Valentine aims to pull the curtain back and show the brilliance of Agatha Christie and how she used her knowledge of forensics to tell amazing crime stories.
There you have it, our list of 25 of the best true crime books of all time. We hope you’ve found some to add to your reading list.
True crime books are perfect for readers with a morbid curiosity, but they’re also great for writers of crime and thriller fiction to learn more about how criminals commit horrible acts of violence and crime. If you need inspiration for your writing, try reading some true crime books.