The best Charles Manson books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Charles Manson and why they recommend each book. Soon, you will be able to filter this list by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books.

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Book cover of Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties

By Tom O'Neill, Dan Piepenbring,

Why this book?

In 1999, Tom O’Neill was hired to provide a retrospective magazine story on Charles Manson and the Southern California murder rampage that made him and his followers famous. O’Neill never completed the story because what he found seemed to exceed the conventional wisdom that Manson was a lone Svengali who let loose the violent madness of 1960s youth culture. Instead, Chaos explains, O’Neill came to suspect a much deeper conspiracy in which Manson served merely as a pawn in the direction history has taken (or was pulled).

The book can ramble a bit and, as O’Neill concedes, he cannot offer…

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Book cover of Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders

By Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry,

Why this book?

Joan Didion famously wrote that the 1960s ended at the precise moment the news of the Manson family murders began circulating around Los Angeles on August 9, 1969. To get a sense of the vertiginous horror wrought by the Tate-LaBianca killings, two books need to be read in tandem: the strait-laced, official account by LA county deputy district attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who investigated the case and prosecuted the perpetrators, and the tie-dyed street-level account by Ed Sanders, the underground journalist and founding member of the Fugs. One drops LSD, the other doesn’t, but both walk away from their excursions into…

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Book cover of Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

By Vincent Bugliosi,

Why this book?

Bugliosi, the famed former Los Angeles prosecutor of Charles Manson, directs his attention to dismissing the conspiracy theories in the JFK murder in his massive (1648 page) tome. Bugliosi writes with the caustic tone of a prosecutor and covers just about every issue in some detail. It is a great reference book and concludes that Oswald alone killed Kennedy. Published 14 years after Case Closed, I often refer to it as Case Still Closed.

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Book cover of Killer on the Road

Killer on the Road

By James Ellroy,

Why this book?

This book blew my mind when I first read it. In my opinion, it is one of the most visceral, scary, and under-rated serial killer novels of all time. Published in 1986 in the midst of America’s much-hyped real and fictional serial killer ‘epidemic,’ Killer on the Road stands out as a first-person serial-killer narrative, as well as putting forward a new kind of character (for the 1980s) – the homosexual serial murderer. In this novel, Ellroy delves into the phenomenon of motiveless serial murder from the perspective of the killer on a subversive journey through a hellish suburban America.…

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Book cover of The Killer Inside Me

The Killer Inside Me

By Jim Thompson,

Why this book?

This is one of my favorite books by Thompson. The thing that really hooked me in with this book is that the protagonist and killer in the book is a sheriff. On the surface he appears to be a dull, by-the-book law enforcer, but Lou Ford is harboring a dark side that has been with him since childhood. The idea of one who is supposed to protect probably being the most dangerous and violent person in town is quite intriguing to me. There is an extra element of danger added because of the killer’s profession. I also appreciate that Thompson…

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