See my list of best true crime books below!
[Excerpts and summaries pulled from respective links.]
1. Sleepers by by Lorenzo Carcaterra
The true story of a group of four boys brought up in New York’s notorious Mafia-run Hell’s Kitchen during the 1960s. After nearly causing a man’s death, they were sent to a reformatory where guards routinely brutalized them, leaving them with nothing but an undying loyalty to one another.
2. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.
3. Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abignale
Known by the police of twenty-six foreign countries and all fifty states as “The Skywayman,” Abagnale lived a sumptuous life on the lam–until the law caught up with him. Now recognized as the nation’s leading authority on financial foul play, Abagnale is a charming rogue whose hilarious, stranger-than-fiction international escapades, and ingenious escapes-including one from an airplane-make Catch Me If You Can an irresistible tale of deceit.
4. Columbine by Dave Cullen
What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we “know” is wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers’ own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.
5. Shot in the Heart by Mikhal Gilmore
Gary Gilmore, the infamous murderer immortalized by Norman Mailer in The Executioner’s Song, campaigned for his own death and was executed by firing squad in 1977. Writer Mikal Gilmore is his younger brother. In Shot in the Heart, he tells the stunning story of their wildly dysfunctional family destroyed by a multigenerational history of child abuse, alcoholism, crime, adultery, and murder. Mikal, burdened with the guilt of being his father’s favorite and the shame of being Gary’s brother, gracefully and painfully relates a murder tale “from inside the house where murder is born… a house that, in some ways, [he has] never been able to leave.” Shot in the Heart is the history of an American family inextricably tied up with violence, and the story of how the children of this family committed murder and murdered themselves in payment for a long lineage of ruin.
6. The Other Side by Lacy Johnson
Lacy Johnson’s rich and poetic memoir, The Other Side, chronicles her brutal kidnapping and imprisonment at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, her dramatic escape, and her hard-fought struggle to recover.
7. The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes—the moment she hears him speak of his crimes — she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.
P.S. Looking for another suggestion? My newest book, The Last Chicago Boss: My Life with the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club, is out now!