53 books like Homicide

By David Simon,

Here are 53 books that Homicide fans have personally recommended if you like Homicide. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Journalist and the Murderer

David Wilson Author Of A History Of British Serial Killing: The Shocking Account of Jack the Ripper, Harold Shipman and Beyond

From my list on true crime about murder and serial murder.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a former Prison Governor who has had to work with a number of murderers and serial murderers – and who now writes about them as Emeritus Professor of Criminology – my professional life has inevitably been dominated by violent men. As they might say in the United States, I have “walked the walk” before doing my talking and I try and bring this applied dimension into my written and more academic work.

David's book list on true crime about murder and serial murder

David Wilson Why did David love this book?

First published in 1990 – based on a series of articles originally written for The New Yorker, this book is a warning to true crime authors the world over about the morality of reaching out and writing with and about murderers. 

The journalist in question is Joe McGinniss and the murderer is the former Special Forces Captain Dr Jeffrey MacDonald who became the subject of McGinniss’s 1983 book Fatal Vision. Is it ethical to collaborate with someone who has been accused of murder? What are the pitfalls that need to be managed? And, at the end of the day, who is conning who – the journalist or the murderer?

By Janet Malcolm,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Journalist and the Murderer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible'

In equal measure famous and infamous, Janet Malcolm's book charts the true story of a lawsuit between Jeffrey MacDonald, a convicted murderer, and Joe McGinniss, the author of a book about the crime. Lauded as one of the Modern Libraries "100 Best Works of Nonfiction", The Journalist and the Murderer is fascinating and controversial, a contemporary classic of reportage.


Book cover of Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder from the Frontier to the Inner City

Martin Daly Author Of Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide

From my list on why people sometimes kill one another.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my late wife Margo Wilson suggested, over 40 years ago, that we should study homicides for what they might reveal about human motives and emotions, her idea seemed zany. But when we plunged into police investigative files and homicide databases, we quickly realized that we had struck gold, and homicide research became our passion. Our innovation was to approach the topic like epidemiologists, asking who is likely to kill whom and identifying the risk factors that are peculiar to particular victim-killer relationships. What do people really care about? Surveys and interviews elicit cheap talk; killing someone is drastic action.  

Martin's book list on why people sometimes kill one another

Martin Daly Why did Martin love this book?

Florida-based historian David Courtwright is best known for his analyses of the history of drug addiction and the drug business in the United States, but this volume is a fact-filled page-turner on America's lethal violence problem. Courtwright describes a frontier culture in which a reputation for violent capability was an essential social asset and persuasively explicates its similarities with the situation that faces single young men in America's underserved inner cities to this day. The interdisciplinary scope of Courtwright's scholarship guarantees that any reader will learn a great deal from his book. I found it unputdownable.   

By David T. Courtwright,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book offers a look at violence in America - why it is so prevalent, and what and who are responsible. David Cartwright takes the long view of his subject, developing the historical patterns of violence and disorder in this country. Where there is violent and disorderly behaviour, he shows, there are plenty of men, largely young and single. What began in the mining camp and bunkhouse has simply continued in the urban world of today, where many young, armed, intoxicated, honour-conscious bachelors have reverted to frontier conditions. "Violent Land" combines social science with a narrative that spans and reinterprets…


Book cover of When Men Murder Women

Martin Daly Author Of Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide

From my list on why people sometimes kill one another.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my late wife Margo Wilson suggested, over 40 years ago, that we should study homicides for what they might reveal about human motives and emotions, her idea seemed zany. But when we plunged into police investigative files and homicide databases, we quickly realized that we had struck gold, and homicide research became our passion. Our innovation was to approach the topic like epidemiologists, asking who is likely to kill whom and identifying the risk factors that are peculiar to particular victim-killer relationships. What do people really care about? Surveys and interviews elicit cheap talk; killing someone is drastic action.  

Martin's book list on why people sometimes kill one another

Martin Daly Why did Martin love this book?

Rebecca and Russell Dobash had studied men's violence against their female partners for decades and were already heroes of the women's movement when they began interviewing incarcerated killers in Britain. Two fine books have resulted, one focused on men who killed women, the other on men who killed men. It is the former, especially the section on intimate partner homicide, that I find most captivating. The Dobashes skilfully blend national statistics with the self-serving testimony of their interviewees, who minimize their lethal acts as things that "happened" rather than things that they did, and apparently believe themselves to be the victims. These insights are essential.    

By R. Emerson Dobash, Russell P. Dobash,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the United States and Great Britain, 20-30% of all homicides involve the killing of a woman by a man, and it is far rarer when a woman is killed by another woman. Unfortunately, this is not a very well understood phenomenon. Most books on the topic discuss serial killings, but those only make up 2% of sexual murder-a sensationalist subset of a subset. There has never before been a comprehensive book that has covered the entire scope of homicide cases in which men
murder women.

Dobash and Dobash, two seasoned researchers and longtime collaborators in the study of violence…


Book cover of Killings

Martin Daly Author Of Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide

From my list on why people sometimes kill one another.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my late wife Margo Wilson suggested, over 40 years ago, that we should study homicides for what they might reveal about human motives and emotions, her idea seemed zany. But when we plunged into police investigative files and homicide databases, we quickly realized that we had struck gold, and homicide research became our passion. Our innovation was to approach the topic like epidemiologists, asking who is likely to kill whom and identifying the risk factors that are peculiar to particular victim-killer relationships. What do people really care about? Surveys and interviews elicit cheap talk; killing someone is drastic action.  

Martin's book list on why people sometimes kill one another

Martin Daly Why did Martin love this book?

It was Calvin Trillin's hilariously enthusiastic stories about the world's best restaurants (most of which seem to be situated in his hometown of Kansas City) that initially made me one of his many fans. Between 1967 and 1982, however, he also wrote a series of long articles for The New Yorker entitled "U.S. Journal," in which he used singular events, often homicides, as the launchpads for tales rich in local history and lifeways. Sixteen of Trillin's best are assembled here. Has anyone written more penetratingly about how rivalries and resentments are embedded in social settings?  

By Calvin Trillin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

True stories of sudden death in the classic collection by a master of American journalism

“Reporters love murders,” Calvin Trillin writes in the introduction to Killings. “In a pinch, what the lawyers call ‘wrongful death’ will do, particularly if it’s sudden.” Killings, first published in 1984 and expanded for this edition, shows Trillin to be such a reporter, drawn time after time to tales of sudden death. But Trillin is attracted less by violence or police procedure than by the way the fabric of people’s lives is suddenly exposed when someone comes to an untimely end.  As Trillin says, Killings…


Book cover of Maria Murder and Suicide

Martin Daly Author Of Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide

From my list on why people sometimes kill one another.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my late wife Margo Wilson suggested, over 40 years ago, that we should study homicides for what they might reveal about human motives and emotions, her idea seemed zany. But when we plunged into police investigative files and homicide databases, we quickly realized that we had struck gold, and homicide research became our passion. Our innovation was to approach the topic like epidemiologists, asking who is likely to kill whom and identifying the risk factors that are peculiar to particular victim-killer relationships. What do people really care about? Surveys and interviews elicit cheap talk; killing someone is drastic action.  

Martin's book list on why people sometimes kill one another

Martin Daly Why did Martin love this book?

People share a complex core of humanity that transcends cultural differences. Rather than being incomprehensibly strange, the passions that move people in "exotic" societies are all too familiar. Compendia of homicide cases in tribal societies that are in many ways different from the one we inhabit support this claim, and my 5th pick is a particularly readable example. Anthropologist Verrier Elwin amassed court records on 107 homicides among the "Bison-Horn Maria" of central India in the first half of the 20th century. The Maria then lived as slash-and-burn horticulturalists and part-time hunter-gatherers, and were, like other "tribals," left to their own devices by the British Raj unless a violent death provoked state intervention. The killings described here are tragic, and the protagonists, though sparsely introduced, fully human.     

By Verrier Elwin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maria Murder and Suicide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After providing a brief sketch of Maria life and custom, Elwin goes on to examine the records of one hundred cases of murder and fifty cases of suicide, and finally makes valuable suggestions for improving the treatment of aboriginal in jail. The commonest motives for crime among the Bison-horn Maria were found to be sexual jealousy and resentment or shame caused by public rebuke; fatigue and the use of alcohol were also found to be factors.


Book cover of Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere

Geoffrey C. Fuller Author Of The WVU Coed Murders: Who Killed Mared and Karen?

From my list on crime exploring more than the crime.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m always intrigued by certain kinds of crime stories, but usually not by the crimes themselves. Straightforward whodunits bore me, and simplistic retellings of the hero myth just strike me as wrong. About thirty years ago, I began to wonder why—which crime stories intrigue me and which seem more like exercises in voyeurism. Turns out the stories I really get into wrap me in previously unseen worlds. They offer a fresh take, bring up unexpected considerations, present a new way to view the crime, or demonstrate why what I’d always thought was mistaken or insufficient. Such books present the crime, but contain much more than the crime.

Geoffrey's book list on crime exploring more than the crime

Geoffrey C. Fuller Why did Geoffrey love this book?

I thought Love & Terror was a book about a killing in Chadron, Nebraska, which was correct. . . sort of. Ballantine’s sparkling prose and grim compassion hooked me immediately. The book does examine a death—suicide? murder?—but we don’t meet the victim, Steven Haataja, until page 62. 

Ballantine drives past the shuffling Haataja the night before his death and tells us Haataja “limped slightly from a recently broken hip. If I’d known what was going to happen to him, I would have run him over . . . hard enough to break his other hip, put him back in his wheelchair,” in order to prevent his death. 

When I first read Love & Terror, I learned crime doesn’t need to be the center of a true crime.

By Poe Ballantine,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fans of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil will embrace Poe Ballantine's Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere.

Poe Ballantine's "Free Rent at the Totalitarian Hotel" included in Best American Essays 2013, and for well over twenty years, Poe Ballantine traveled America, taking odd jobs, living in small rooms, trying to make a living as a writer. At age 46, he finally settled with his Mexican immigrant wife in Chadron, Nebraska, where they had a son who was red-flagged as autistic. Poe published four books about his…


Book cover of The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI

Geoffrey C. Fuller Author Of The WVU Coed Murders: Who Killed Mared and Karen?

From my list on crime exploring more than the crime.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m always intrigued by certain kinds of crime stories, but usually not by the crimes themselves. Straightforward whodunits bore me, and simplistic retellings of the hero myth just strike me as wrong. About thirty years ago, I began to wonder why—which crime stories intrigue me and which seem more like exercises in voyeurism. Turns out the stories I really get into wrap me in previously unseen worlds. They offer a fresh take, bring up unexpected considerations, present a new way to view the crime, or demonstrate why what I’d always thought was mistaken or insufficient. Such books present the crime, but contain much more than the crime.

Geoffrey's book list on crime exploring more than the crime

Geoffrey C. Fuller Why did Geoffrey love this book?

Somehow, I’d never heard of the crime The Burglary details: the 1971 burglary of FBI field offices. And somehow, the burglars remained anonymous for decades.

A reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer at the time, Medsger was one of journalists who received copies of the FBI files stolen by three professors, a daycare worker, a social worker, and others who called themselves The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI. The stolen files exposed COINTELPRO and other illegal FBI investigations, and fundamentally altered the FBI.

The Burglary told me the value of detailed research, especially relating a 50-year-old crime, and showed me the essential importance of understanding the society surrounding the crime in order to fully comprehend the crime.

By Betty Medsger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The never-before-told full story of the history-changing break-in at the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, by a group of unlikely activists—quiet, ordinary, hardworking Americans—that made clear the shocking truth and confirmed what some had long suspected, that J. Edgar Hoover had created and was operating, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, his own shadow Bureau of Investigation.

It begins in 1971 in an America being split apart by the Vietnam War . . . A small group of activists—eight men and women—the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, inspired by Daniel Berrigan’s rebellious Catholic peace movement, set out to use…


Book cover of A Death in Belmont

Geoffrey C. Fuller Author Of The WVU Coed Murders: Who Killed Mared and Karen?

From my list on crime exploring more than the crime.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m always intrigued by certain kinds of crime stories, but usually not by the crimes themselves. Straightforward whodunits bore me, and simplistic retellings of the hero myth just strike me as wrong. About thirty years ago, I began to wonder why—which crime stories intrigue me and which seem more like exercises in voyeurism. Turns out the stories I really get into wrap me in previously unseen worlds. They offer a fresh take, bring up unexpected considerations, present a new way to view the crime, or demonstrate why what I’d always thought was mistaken or insufficient. Such books present the crime, but contain much more than the crime.

Geoffrey's book list on crime exploring more than the crime

Geoffrey C. Fuller Why did Geoffrey love this book?

I’ve long admired Sebastian Junger, who writes with precision, empathy, and intelligence.

He’s best known for A Perfect Storm, but in A Death in Belmont, a 1962 photograph shows him as an infant in his mother’s lap, posing with the two carpenters who’d just added an art studio to the Jungers’ home: The younger man is Albert DeSalvo, later known as The Boston Strangler.

Junger argues, convincingly but not definitively, that DeSalvo may have been responsible for the rape-murder of Bessie Goldberg, who lived near the Jungers, despite the conviction, based on circumstantial evidence, of Roy Smith, an African-American man seen walking the neighborhood,

My copy is feathered with Post-it notes marking passages that speak to the nature of murder and the difficult process of investigating a wrongful conviction.

By Sebastian Junger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Death in Belmont as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the spring of 1963, the quiet suburb of Belmont, Massachusetts, is rocked by a shocking sex murder that exactly fits the pattern of the Boston Strangler. Sensing a break in the case that has paralyzed the city of Boston, the police track down a black man, Roy Smith, who cleaned the victim's house that day and left a receipt with his name on the kitchen counter. Smith is hastily convicted of the Belmont murder, but the terror of the Strangler continues.

On the day of the murder, Albert DeSalvo-the man who would eventually confess in lurid detail to the…


Book cover of On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore

Deborah Dash Moore Author Of Urban Origins of American Judaism

From my list on Jewish lives in urban America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in New York City on the corner of 16th Street and 7th Avenue in an apartment on the 11th floor. I loved the city’s pace, diversity, and freedom. So, I decided to study New York Jews, to learn about them from not just from census records and institutional reports but also from interviews. After publishing my first book, I followed New York Jews as they moved to other cities, especially Miami and Los Angeles. Recently, I’ve been intrigued by what is often called street photography and the ways photographs let you see all sorts of details that potentially tell a story. 

Deborah's book list on Jewish lives in urban America

Deborah Dash Moore Why did Deborah love this book?

Goldstein’s and Weiner’s history of Jews of Baltimore is an unconventional account of this border city. Jews in Baltimore were definitely located in the middle between white Christians on the one hand and Blacks on the other. The book does not flinch from uncovering just what this middle ground meant, how the antisemitism that pervaded Baltimore propelled some Jews toward conservatism (including the support of slavery) and others toward progressivism (including abolition). At the same time, the book explores the rich diversity of Jewish religious life in the city that parallels Jewish participation in building important elements of Baltimore’s economy. I loved learning about a city that was new to me.

By Eric L. Goldstein, Deborah R. Weiner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Middle Ground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A model of Jewish community history that will enlighten anyone interested in Baltimore and its past.

Winner of the Southern Jewish Historical Society Book Prize by the Southern Jewish Historical Society; Finalist of the American Jewish Studies Book Award by the Jewish Book Council National Jewish Book Awards

In 1938, Gustav Brunn and his family fled Nazi Germany and settled in Baltimore. Brunn found a job at McCormick's Spice Company but was fired after three days when, according to family legend, the manager discovered he was Jewish. He started his own successful business using a spice mill he brought over…


Book cover of Baltimore Revisited: Stories of Inequality and Resistance in a U.S. City

Mary Rizzo Author Of Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and the Wire

From my list on why Baltimore's problems are so hard to fix.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a cultural historian of 20th century America, I’m fascinated by how culture is used to rebel against the status quo and how the status quo fights back. In my first book, Class Acts: Young Men and the Rise of Lifestyle, I looked at greasers, hippies, and white hip hop lovers to understand how they used style and fashion to push back against being white and middle class. In Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and The Wire, I went beyond looking at how individuals shape their identity to thinking about how artists and city leaders shape the identity of a place. Can artists counter the efforts of cities to create sanitized images of themselves?

Mary's book list on why Baltimore's problems are so hard to fix

Mary Rizzo Why did Mary love this book?

The history that matters most to me is the history that can help explain the world we live in now. The editors of Baltimore Revisited, a collection of brilliant essays about the city, takes that to heart. Fascinating chapters trace the War on Drugs back to the 1910s, when the city outlawed cocaine, examine how Johns Hopkins University’s growth has displaced Black residents for decades, and surprise us with the fact that Maryland was home to the longest-running movie censorship board in the country (which only closed shop in 1981). More than curiosities, though, these authors reveal how race, gender, sexuality, and class have affected Baltimore.

Most importantly, the book focuses on how everyday people fought back against discrimination through acts as varied as pickets against segregation to dancing in gay bars. The book is good history, yes, but also a call to action. 

By P. Nicole King (editor), Kate Drabinski (editor), Joshua Clark Davis (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nicknamed both "Mobtown" and "Charm City" and located on the border of the North and South, Baltimore is a city of contradictions. From media depictions in The Wire to the real-life trial of police officers for the murder of Freddie Gray, Baltimore has become a quintessential example of a struggling American city. Yet the truth about Baltimore is far more complicated-and more fascinating.

To help untangle these apparent paradoxes, the editors of Baltimore Revisited have assembled a collection of over thirty experts from inside and outside academia. Together, they reveal that Baltimore has been ground zero for a slew of…


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