71 books like Street Justice

By Bruce A. Jacobs, Richard Wright,

Here are 71 books that Street Justice fans have personally recommended if you like Street Justice. 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 Collision of Wills: How Ambiguity about Social Rank Breeds Conflict

Jill Leovy Author Of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

From my list on escaping the true-crime rut.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jill Leovy, author of Ghettoside, is a journalist and independent researcher who covered the Los Angeles Police Department and homicide for fifteen years, and who is currently working on a book dealing with murder and feud in human history. She has covered hundreds of street homicides and shadowed patrol cops, and she spent several years embedded in homicide detective units. More recently, she has been a Harvard sociology fellow and a featured speaker on Homer and violence at St. John's College, New Mexico. She is a senior fellow at the USC Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.

Jill's book list on escaping the true-crime rut

Jill Leovy Why did Jill love this book?

Here’s a radical idea: let’s think deeply about murder. Let’s imagine that understanding why we fight and kill each other is as lofty an intellectual challenge as any other great, sweeping mystery of human nature or human origins.

Roger C. Gould never came out and said that a higher vision of murder was his purpose, but his book Collision of Wills achieves nothing less. It set a new bar for theorizing on human violence, and is a great, complex, and surprising tour de force about petty street violence.

If you're interested in lawlessness, Collision of Wills is indispensable, right up there with Donald Black's Behavior of Law. On a personal level, I'm grateful to this Harvard sociologist simply because he took the topic of petty street violence so seriously. Gould related rampant argument violence to the problem of unstable status in the criminal underworld.

His ideas are game-changing. He died…

By Roger V. Gould,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Minor debts, derisive remarks, a fight over a parking space, butting in line-these are the little things that nevertheless account for much of the violence in human society. But why? Roger V. Gould considers this intriguing question in Collision of Wills. He argues that human conflict is more likely to occur in symmetrical relationships-among friends or social equals-than in hierarchical ones, wherein the difference of social rank between the two individuals is already established.

This, he maintains, is because violence most often occurs when someone wants to achieve superiority or dominance over someone else, even if there is no substantive…


Book cover of Police Power in the Italian Communes, 1228-1326

Jill Leovy Author Of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

From my list on escaping the true-crime rut.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jill Leovy, author of Ghettoside, is a journalist and independent researcher who covered the Los Angeles Police Department and homicide for fifteen years, and who is currently working on a book dealing with murder and feud in human history. She has covered hundreds of street homicides and shadowed patrol cops, and she spent several years embedded in homicide detective units. More recently, she has been a Harvard sociology fellow and a featured speaker on Homer and violence at St. John's College, New Mexico. She is a senior fellow at the USC Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.

Jill's book list on escaping the true-crime rut

Jill Leovy Why did Jill love this book?

This is a much-needed antidote to the navel-gazing tendencies of American criminal justice thought.

Reading contemporary treatments, you might almost be fooled into thinking that certain types of police controversies have a specifically American – or at least modern origin. They don't. In fact, the peculiar challenges of policing and its inevitable discontents might even be universal.

Certainly, they were present at an early stage in medieval Italy, long before the first English "bobbies" ever dawned a uniform. Use-of-force controversies, weapons prohibitions, reluctant witnesses, hostile crowds, simmering beefs among local gangsters: it's all here. Roberts' medieval world so eerily resembles our own when it comes to law enforcement that one ends up surprised to encounter any differences at all.

Here's one, though: medieval town dwellers did not have cell phones with which to film the cops misdeeds. Instead, they hollered for notaries to scribble records on the spot.

By Gregory Roberts,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Police Power in the Italian Communes, 1228-1326 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Medieval states are widely assumed to have lacked police forces. Yet in the Italian city-republics, soldiers patrolled the streets daily in search of lawbreakers. Police Power in the Italian Communes, 1228-1326 is the first book to examine the emergence of urban policing in medieval Italy and its impact on city life. Focusing on Bologna in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, Gregory Roberts shows how police forces gave teeth to the communes' many statutes through a range of patrol activities. Whether seeking outlaws in the countryside or nighttime serenaders in the streets, urban police forces pursued lawbreakers energetically and effectively.…


Book cover of Crime Control and Everyday Life in the Victorian City: The Police and the Public

Jill Leovy Author Of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

From my list on escaping the true-crime rut.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jill Leovy, author of Ghettoside, is a journalist and independent researcher who covered the Los Angeles Police Department and homicide for fifteen years, and who is currently working on a book dealing with murder and feud in human history. She has covered hundreds of street homicides and shadowed patrol cops, and she spent several years embedded in homicide detective units. More recently, she has been a Harvard sociology fellow and a featured speaker on Homer and violence at St. John's College, New Mexico. She is a senior fellow at the USC Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.

Jill's book list on escaping the true-crime rut

Jill Leovy Why did Jill love this book?

Another healthy dose of perspective, this time straight from the country that pioneered modern urban policing. Once again, we are forced to admit our present policing issues are in no way unprecedented. Police brutality complaints? Calls to abolish the police? It's all here in nineteenth-century England.

Based on the lessons of Victorian policing, Churchill argues for a more complex understanding of Max Weber's "monopoly on legitimate force" argument, pointing out the degree to which so-called popular justice can exist alongside the state's monopoly. He shows how in England, he says, the two forms were "pluralistic."

Modern law enforcement still has a generous dollop of self-help and vigilantism in its genetic makeup, I think, so this is an important point. Church's insights from England also apply to urban America in the twentieth century, where "posses" were still called up to hunt criminals well into the era of cars and trains.

By David Churchill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Crime Control and Everyday Life in the Victorian City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The history of modern crime control is usually presented as a narrative of how the state wrested control over the governance of crime from the civilian public. Most accounts trace the decline of a participatory, discretionary culture of crime control in the early modern era, and its replacement by a centralized, bureaucratic system of responding to offending. The formation of the 'new' professional police forces in the nineteenth century is central to this narrative:
henceforth, it is claimed, the priorities of criminal justice were to be set by the state, as ordinary people lost what authority they had once exercised…


Book cover of Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories

Jill Leovy Author Of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

From my list on escaping the true-crime rut.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jill Leovy, author of Ghettoside, is a journalist and independent researcher who covered the Los Angeles Police Department and homicide for fifteen years, and who is currently working on a book dealing with murder and feud in human history. She has covered hundreds of street homicides and shadowed patrol cops, and she spent several years embedded in homicide detective units. More recently, she has been a Harvard sociology fellow and a featured speaker on Homer and violence at St. John's College, New Mexico. She is a senior fellow at the USC Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.

Jill's book list on escaping the true-crime rut

Jill Leovy Why did Jill love this book?

The University of Michigan professor-emeritus William Ian Miller is, of course, essential reading on violence and revenge, particularly his Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga, Iceland.

But Miller has been so deservedly lauded elsewhere – and his books so widely recommended – that I'm using this space to suggest that readers also open his sources. Among the sagas, Njal's Saga is much more complex than this one, and probably more revealing of the Saga tradition. But I'm a fan of the shorter, more readable Hrafnkel's, not least because I have a weakness for spooky horses.

Hrafnkel is a bully who would not pay compensation, and the arc of his distinctly pre-modern biography is not what you might expect. In fact, it will make you realize exactly how much what we call "modern" is really a product of legal development, including our ideas about satisfying narratives.

Also, dark…

By Anonymous, Hermann Palsson (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written around the thirteenth century AD by Icelandic monks, the seven tales collected here offer a combination of pagan elements tightly woven into the pattern of Christian ethics. They take as their subjects figures who are heroic, but do not fit into the mould of traditional heroes. Some stories concern characters in Iceland - among them Hrafknel's Saga, in which a poor man's son is murdered by his powerful neighbour, and Thorstein the Staff-Struck, which describes an ageing warrior's struggle to settle into a peaceful rural community. Others focus on the adventures of Icelanders abroad, including the compelling Audun's Story,…


Book cover of Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South

Betsy Wood Author Of Upon the Altar of Work: Child Labor and the Rise of a New American Sectionalism

From my list on to make you excited about labor history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by how ordinary people can change the course of their own lives since I was a child. However, I had no idea until later in life that there were entire fields of study devoted to understanding how this process works historically. When I discovered “new labor history” many years ago, I knew I wanted to be part of it. It was the privilege of a lifetime to study under some of the best labor historians in the world at the University of Chicago. And I can’t describe how I felt when my dissertation won the Herbert Gutman Prize in Labor History. I hope these books spark your interest!

Betsy's book list on to make you excited about labor history

Betsy Wood Why did Betsy love this book?

Let’s face it. Christianity has been used to support slavery, encourage white people to be racist, and send women back to the 1950s.

That’s why I found Jarod Roll’s Spirit of Rebellion refreshing and important. It was a good reminder that faith can also provide the moral courage necessary for change. It can unite people instead of dividing them.

I can’t imagine a place and time more disposed to racist divisions than rural Missouri in the late 19th century. Yet, poor white and Black farmers there found common ground as rebels against the emerging capitalist order. How? Through the Pentecostal revivals that swept the region in this same period. If that’s not a message of hope in these trying times, then I don’t know what is.

By Jarod Roll,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Herbert G. Gutman Prize from the Labor and Working-Class History Association

In Spirit of Rebellion, Jarod Roll documents an alternative tradition of American protest by linking working-class political movements to grassroots religious revivals. He reveals how ordinary rural citizens in the south used available resources and their shared faith to defend their agrarian livelihoods amid the political and economic upheaval of the first half of the twentieth century.

On the frontier of the New Cotton South in Missouri's Bootheel, the relationships between black and white farmers were complicated by racial tensions and bitter competition. Despite these divisions,…


Book cover of Rebels on the Border: Civil War, Emancipation, and the Reconstruction of Kentucky and Missouri

Brad Asher Author Of The Most Hated Man in Kentucky: The Lost Cause and the Legacy of Union General Stephen Burbridge

From my list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian based in Louisville, Kentucky. When I moved here two decades ago, I could tell the vibe was different than other places I had been. Southern—but not like Tennessee. Midwestern—but not like Illinois. So I started reading, and eventually writing, about the state’s history. I have a Ph.D. in United States history so I lean toward academic books. I like authors who dig into the primary sources of history and then come out and make an argument about the evidence that they uncovered. I also lean toward social and cultural history—rather than military history—of the Civil War.

Brad's book list on the Civil War and the Lost Cause in Kentucky

Brad Asher Why did Brad love this book?

This book reminded me of the deep parallels in the histories of Missouri and Kentucky. I don’t tend to associate Kentucky with Missouri, but Astor’s book really drives home why that is wrongheaded. Both were border states and, during the war, both suffered guerrilla insurgencies, had divided populations, and ended up supporting the pro-Confederate Lost Cause vision of the war. And when so much writing on Kentucky’s history is focused on its white inhabitants, Astor restores agency to its African American residents, showing how they resisted slavery and then, after emancipation, created their own institutions to contest for racial equality in the face of fierce opposition.

By Aaron Astor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rebels on the Border as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rebels on the Border offers a remarkably compelling and significant study of the Civil War South's highly contested and bloodiest border states: Kentucky and Missouri. By far the most complex examination to date, the book sharply focuses on the ""borderland"" between the free North and the Confederate South. As a result, Rebels on the Border deepens and enhances understanding of the sectional conflict, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

After slaves in central Kentucky and Missouri gained their emancipation, author Aaron Astor contends, they transformed informal kin and social networks of resistance against slavery into more formalized processes of electoral participation…


Book cover of Enemy Women

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a child sexual abuse survivor who struggled for years with the help of therapy to become the person I am today. My sister, my mother, and I suffered years of emotional abuse by my father. When I was a child, my best friend (who also suffered abuse by her brother) and I made up stories that helped us navigate the situations in our families. I read, hiked, backpacked, and traveled alone for years in order to take risks and develop strength before attempting to write at age sixty-one. I love books that put me solidly in time and place and deeply empathize with characters who struggle and grow to become their genuine selves.

Karen's book list on strong emotion, excellent plotting, and vivid descriptions that put me securely in time and place

Karen Lynne Klink Why did Karen love this book?

I love this book mainly because the main character is an ordinary young woman with grit who defies all hostility in Missouri during the Civil War, including neighbors who turn against her.

I went through lots of emotions with this character during her journey to finding love, from anger and trepidation to wonder and exhilaration. The setting, historical context, and unsentimental yet tender and poetic writing make this book a triumph. 

By Paulette Jiles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A gritty, memorable book ... it is a delight from start to finish, without a single misstep." Tracy Chevalier

Missouri, 1865. Adair Colley and her family have managed to hide from the bloody Armageddon of the American Civil War, but finally even their remote mountain farm cannot escape the plundering greed of the Union militia. Her house is burnt, her father beaten and dragged away. With fierce determination, Adair sets out after him on foot. So begins an extraordinary voyage which will see Adair herself denounced as a Confederate spy and thrown in jail. Here she falls passionately in love…


Book cover of The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton

Susan Garzon Author Of Reading the Knots

From my list on women slogging through turbulent times.

Why am I passionate about this?

Foreign cultures have always intrigued me. I am a Midwesterner who lived for several years in Latin America, teaching English and later doing field work in anthropology. As a young woman, I lived through a violent coup d’état in Chile, and I drew on that experience when I later wrote about political upheaval in Guatemala. A Ph.D. in anthropology gave me the opportunity to spend time in Guatemala and Mexico, some of it in Mayan towns. My love of historical fiction stems from my desire to enter and understand other worlds, and I am grateful to authors who spin their magic to bring far-off places and times to life. 

Susan's book list on women slogging through turbulent times

Susan Garzon Why did Susan love this book?

I love Lidie Newton. She is a newlywed who accompanies her abolitionist husband from Illinois to Kansas Territory, at a time when the territory is mired in partisan rage and violence. Lidie narrates the story, and her straightforward, often insightful accounts pulled me in immediately. I was right there with her as she forged her way through numerous exploits, some humorous, others heart-breaking. The story is populated with characters who are both colorful and believable, and I came away with a heightened understanding of the role played by events in Kansas and Missouri during the frightening months leading up to the Civil War.

By Jane Smiley,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lidie joins the pioneering Westward migration into America's heartland. It is harsher, more violent and more disorientating then Lidie could ever have imagined. They find themselves on a faultline - forces crash against each other, soon to erupt into the he American Civil War.


Book cover of The Whole Town's Talking

Jeff Billington Author Of Chicken Dinner News

From my list on an honest look at rural America.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nearly a quarter century has passed since my childhood spent in the Ozark Mountains, but it still remains home. It’s a unique corner of America, not quite the South and not quite the Midwest, but undeniably country. Growing up there on a farm, near towns in decades-long decline, I saw the best and worst of rural life, and of the folks who call it home. That place and those people inspire me and my writing, driving me to show the Ozarks and its people as complex and ever changing. I aspire to move past the nostalgia of rural life, but not at the sacrifice of its beauty and charm.

Jeff's book list on an honest look at rural America

Jeff Billington Why did Jeff love this book?

Many would point to Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café as her opus to rural America, but the broader scope of The Whole Town’s Talking pulled me in instantly.

She draws out a full history of a small town, its good and bad and the people that made their mark there, some from birth to death. Even after death, their voices remain an active part of her tale, remaining as unbashful observers from the cemetery on the hill.

So much of rural America has fallen into disrepair, as does Flagg’s fictional Elmwood Springs, but I hold out hope that the increase in telecommuting and simmering desires to leave urban (and suburban) lives behind can reinvigorate some of these sleeping villages that are spread across much of the nation. 

By Fannie Flagg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Whole Town's Talking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The bestselling author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is at her superb best in this fun-loving, moving novel about what it means to be truly alive.

WINNER OF THE SOUTHERN BOOK PRIZE 

Elmwood Springs, Missouri, is a small town like any other, but something strange is happening at the cemetery. Still Meadows, as it’s called, is anything but still. Original, profound, The Whole Town’s Talking, a novel in the tradition of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Flagg’s own Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, tells the story of Lordor Nordstrom, his…


Book cover of The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States

Mark Robert Rank Author Of The Poverty Paradox: Understanding Economic Hardship Amid American Prosperity

From my list on understanding the paradox of American inequality.

Why am I passionate about this?

For much of my career as a sociologist and professor of social welfare, I’ve focused my research and teaching on the issue of economic and social inequality in America. Why should the United States have both great wealth and yet at the same time extreme poverty and inequities? This question has motivated much of my scholarly and popular writing over the years. For me, this represents the fault line of America. We profess the importance that all are created equal, and yet our actions undermine such a belief. Why should this be the case, and how can we change the reality to reflect the ideal? 

Mark's book list on understanding the paradox of American inequality

Mark Robert Rank Why did Mark love this book?

This is a very powerful book that takes the city of St. Louis as a case study to illustrate the amount of violence, discrimination, and inequities that have happened across a 300-year period, particularly with respect to race. 

Johnson develops the idea of racial capitalism throughout the book, and notes that “the red thread that runs through this entire book is the historical relationship between imperialism and anti-Blackness.” At the same time, the city has also been home to both communist and Black radical organizing into the 20th century. 

A highly interesting and important case study of American inequality and exploitation.

By Walter Johnson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Broken Heart of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A searing and "magisterial" (Cornel West) history of American racial exploitation and resistance, told through the turbulent past of the city of St. Louis. From Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition to the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, American history has been made in St. Louis. And as Walter Johnson shows in The Broken Heart of America, the city exemplifies how imperialism, racism, and capitalism have persistently entwined to corrupt the nation's past. St. Louis was a staging post for Indian removal and imperial expansion, and its wealth grew on the backs of its poor Black residents, from slavery through redlining and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Missouri, revenge, and gangs?

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