The best books about true crime and the dark side of human nature

J.T. Hunter Author Of Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes
By J.T. Hunter

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by the dark side of human nature and the socio-psychological aspects of criminal behavior, especially those of serial killers, and my legal training and experience afforded me apt tools for exploring and writing about true crime. I have been interviewed and appeared on a wide range of podcasts, radio, and TV shows about true crime for nearly a decade.

I wrote...

Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes

By J.T. Hunter,

Book cover of Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes

What is my book about?

JT Hunter began researching serial killer Israel Keyes in 2014. He spent the next two years interviewing witnesses, reviewing police files, studying videotaped interrogations of Keyes, and visiting the sites where Keyes committed his crimes. He also obtained the transcript of an interrogation of Keyes that federal authorities tried to keep secret.

Although not as well known to the public as past killers such as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer chronicled in these pages was just as calculating, cruel, and cunning. This is the first detailed account of Israel Keyes and his terrible crimes, a monster who was arguably the most methodical killer in the modern age.

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The books I picked & why

In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote,

Book cover of In Cold Blood

Why did I love this book?

The seminal true crime book, Capote’s self-proclaimed “nonfiction novel” was my first true crime read, and one I return to again and again. Capote used the elements of fiction to craft a compelling story about a horrific true crime. Every true crime fan should read this book. (Bonus: for new theories of the case, see Gary McAvoy’s recent book, And Every Word is True).

By Truman Capote,

Why should I read it?

13 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 The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Why did I love this book?

This is a fascinating account of H.H. Holmes, a fiendish serial killer from the late nineteenth century. Larson weaves the tale of Holmes within the broader background of 1890’s era Chicago and the real-life characters of that time are interesting by themselves. Larson’s stuff is always good and this is one of his best.

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Devil in the White City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Chicago World Fair was the greatest fair in American history. This is the story of the men and women whose lives it irrevocably changed and of two men in particular- an architect and a serial killer. The architect is Daniel Burnham, a man of great integrity and depth. It was his vision of the fair that attracted the best minds and talents of the day. The killer is Henry H. Holmes. Intelligent as well as handsome and charming, Holmes opened a boarding house which he advertised as 'The World's Fair Hotel' Here in the neighbourhood where he was once…

Book cover of I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

Why did I love this book?

McNamara’s account of the long-unsolved case of the Golden State Killer is gripping by itself, but her decision to include the story of her obsession with solving the case is what really sets this book apart. You feel like you’re right there with her as she pursues theories of the killer’s identity. The timing of the book was also noteworthy as the GSK’s identity was at last determined through familial DNA testing almost contemporaneously with the book’s publication.

By Michelle McNamara,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked I'll Be Gone in the Dark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?




Washington Post | Maureen Corrigan, NPR | Paste | Seattle Times | Entertainment Weekly | Esquire | Slate | Buzzfeed | Jezebel | Philadelphia Inquirer | Publishers Weekly | Kirkus Reviews | Library Journal | Bustle 

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards for Nonfiction | Anthony Award Winner | SCIBA Book Award Winner | Finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime | Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence

The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist…

Book cover of Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI

Why did I love this book?

Written by one of the founding fathers of the FBI’s vaunted Behavioral Sciences Unit, this book covers an amazing array of cases that he worked, including those of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Edmund Kemper, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Richard Trenton Chase (and even the lesser-known John Crutchley). Full of great details from the perspective of a veteran serial killer expert, this book belongs on any serious true crime aficionado’s bookshelf. 

By Robert K. Ressler, Tom Shachtman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Whoever Fights Monsters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author of this book played a major part in the FBI's development of psychological profiles for serial killers, he even invented the term "serial killer". Whilst Thomas Harris made Ressler's work famous in fiction, Ressler did it for real. His work in the Behavioural Science Unit led him to meet some of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century - Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy and many more. In this book, Ressler describes the process of catching these men.

Book cover of True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa

Why did I love this book?

This book explores the relationship between writer and subject and provides a lesson on the lengths one should go in exercising one’s craft. An ironic twist comes in the form of Finkel himself being a victim of a crime, which gives rise to the thrust of this story. As a fan of memoirs and true crime, this book kept my interest all of the way through.

By Michael Finkel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Michael Finkel was a top New York Times Magazine journalist publicly fired and disgraced for making up a composite character for a big investigative news piece about Africa. This book is about how this brilliant, high achieving journalist found himself at that point in his life. But in parallel it's also about Christian Longo, a man accused of the multiple murder of his own wife and three children.

After the deaths, Longo fled to Mexico, where he passed himself off as Michael Finkel, New York Times journalist. These two weird stories come together as Finkel in turn becomes fascinated (perhaps…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in serial killers, journalism, and murder?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about serial killers, journalism, and murder.

Serial Killers Explore 227 books about serial killers
Journalism Explore 31 books about journalism
Murder Explore 728 books about murder

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Hidden Figures, Unbroken, and World's Fair Notes if you like this list.