My favorite books covering the criminal justice system in America

Why am I passionate about this?

When writing about true crime it is important for me to write about the victim’s lives before, during, and even after the crime happened. Unlike the rest of us, after the trial ends, their life continues dealing with the after-effects including parole hearings for the murderer. I've written 12 true crime books and I am the host and producer of the popular true crime history radio show House of Mystery on NBC news talk radio network throughout the U.S. & Canada. I am autistic and I have a master’s degree in Music from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a bachelor of Arts in Criminology from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. 


I wrote...

Book cover of Murder Times Six: The True Story of the Wells Gray Murders

What is my book about?

On August 2, 1982, three generations of a family set out on a camping trip – Bob and Jackie Johnson, their two daughters, Janet, 13 and Karen, 11, and Jackie's parents, George, and Edith Bentley. A month later, the Johnson family car was found off a mountainside logging road near Wells Gray Park completely burned out. In the back seat were the incinerated remains of four adults, and in the trunk were the two girls.

Murder Times Six shines a spotlight on the crime that captured the attention of a nation, recounts the narrative of a complex police investigation, and discusses whether a convicted mass murderer should ever be allowed to leave the confines of an institution. Most importantly, it tells the story of one family forever changed.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of In Cold Blood

Alan R. Warren Why did I love this book?

It was the first book to show you how the justice system works, from the investigation, arrests, trial, and executions of the killers. It gave the readers the opportunity to see how each part of the justice system worked through the eyes of not only the victim’s families, but even the criminals that were involved in the case. This book became the blueprint for what would become the true crime non-fiction category of books.

By Truman Capote,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked In Cold Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The chilling true crime 'non-fiction novel' that made Truman Capote's name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics.

Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote's comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly…


Book cover of Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit

Alan R. Warren Why did I love this book?

This book along with its authors, really became popular after it became a Netflix series. It gives an excellent example of how the twenty-five-year career of Douglas, in the FBI Investigative Support Unit and the development of psychological profiling of the most notorious serial killers in America.

By Mark Olshaker, John E. Douglas,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Mindhunter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a Netflix original series

Discover the classic, behind-the-scenes chronicle of John E. Douglas’ twenty-five-year career in the FBI Investigative Support Unit, where he used psychological profiling to delve into the minds of the country’s most notorious serial killers and criminals.

In chilling detail, the legendary Mindhunter takes us behind the scenes of some of his most gruesome, fascinating, and challenging cases—and into the darkest recesses of our worst nightmares.

During his twenty-five year career with the Investigative Support Unit, Special Agent John Douglas became a legendary figure in law enforcement, pursuing some of the most notorious and sadistic serial…


Book cover of In the Name of the Children: An FBI Agent's Relentless Pursuit of the Nation's Worst Predators

Alan R. Warren Why did I love this book?

An excellent book for delving into the life of an FBI struggling to maintain a family life for himself while relentlessly chasing after some of America’s worst predators of children. Following his journey, you get an inside perspective of not only the physical but mental demands that comes with this kind of job. In order to really understand how law enforcement officers, work a case, you need to read this book.

By Jeffrey L. Rinek, Marilee Strong,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In the Name of the Children as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The voice that narrates In the Name of the Children: An F.B.I. Agent's Relentless Pursuit of the Nation's Worst Predators, which Rinek wrote with the journalist Marilee Strong, sounds warm and humane, qualities missing from much crime writing. Their book is a professional job, filled with illuminating details about the day-to-day operations of the bureau."

—New York Times Book Review 

 

FBI Special Agent Jeff Rinek had a gift for getting child predators to confess. All he had to do was share a piece of his soul . . .

In the Name of the Children gives an unflinching look at…


Book cover of Killing Women: The True Story of Serial Killer Don Miller's Reign of Terror

Alan R. Warren Why did I love this book?

This is a relatively new book, but not only does it take you through the case of serial killer Don Miller it explains how difficult it can be for the survivors to move on with their lives. In general, most people think that once the trial is over  that everyone can move on with their lives, but that’s not always the case. Killers like don Miller come up for parole, and that’s when the second part of the journey continues for these survivors. It becomes really hard to move forward with their lives when they have to relive the murders at every parole hearing until either the killer is released or dies.

By Rod Sadler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Killing Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Rod Sadler takes us through the twisted world of a serial killer, in a labor of love that pays respect to those lives the monster destroyed and reminding us why they should never be forgotten and he should never be free." - Dave Schrader, host of Darkness Radio and True Crime Tuesday, and host of The Travel Channel's 'The Holzer Files'

Will A Serial Killer Soon Walk The Streets Again?

Don Miller was quiet and reserved. As a former youth pastor, he seemed a devout Christian. No one would have ever suspected that the recent graduate of the Michigan State…


Book cover of Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall

Alan R. Warren Why did I love this book?

This is a great book for discovering the way that the American Justice System has handled the LGBT community and the crimes perpetrated against them over the years. This is a detailed example of the prejudices and hidden history of violence against the gay community in history. Like it’s title, Victims were quite often accused of having made indecent advances. 

By James Polchin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Indecent Advances as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A grisly, sobering, comprehensively researched new history.' - The New Yorker

Indecent Advances is a skilful hybrid of true crime and social history that examines the often-coded portrayal of crimes against gay men in the decades before Stonewall.

New York University professor and critic James Polchin illustrates how homosexuals were criminalized, and their murders justified, in the popular imagination from 1930s 'sex panics' to Cold War fear of Communists and homosexuals in government. He shows the vital that role crime stories played in ideas of normalcy and deviancy, and how those stories became tools to discriminate against and harm gay…


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Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

Book cover of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

Antonieta Contreras Author Of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

As a trauma therapist and dedicated researcher, I love uncovering valuable insights within lesser-known books. There are hidden gems, free from the pressure of commercial success, crafted by authors deeply committed to research, understanding, and the art of writing itself. Their dedication resonates with me, as I believe in the profound value of information and the power of critical thinking. Through my own book, Traumatization and Its Aftermath, I aim to emphasize that psychological concepts often lose their depth in translation and my mission is spreading awareness and fostering a deeper understanding of trauma and its intricate facets. With that idea in mind, I chose these five titles. 

Antonieta's book list on uncovering the human experience and exploring the depths of trauma

What is my book about?

A fresh take on the difference between trauma and hardship in order to help accurately spot the difference and avoid over-generalizations.

The book integrates the latest findings in brain science, child development, psycho-social context, theory, and clinical experiences to make the case that trauma is much more than a cluster of symptoms to be tamed, but instead best understood as development gone off course, away from growth and towards (only) survival.

This book prompts a profound shift in perception, inviting to view trauma as an intricate and diverse experience, a point of view that ultimately leads to sharper treatment and, hopefully, more healing. It encourages a transition from asking, "What happened to you?" to the deeper question, "What is your relationship with what happened to you?"

Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

What is this book about?

The book is comprehensive, bold, and practical-a much-needed resource for the assessment and treatment of trauma. Instead of the traditional focus on the overall importance of healing, Traumatization and its Aftermath decodes why some people don't heal as easily as others, analyzes the various failures of diagnosis, and explains how to make therapeutic interventions truly effective.

This book offers a systemic deep dive into traumatization that clarifies myths and misinformation about the entire spectrum of trauma and provides both clinicians and non-clinicians with the right level of validation, preventive measures, conceptualization methodology, assessment tools, and healing facts that have not…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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