The most recommended Charles Manson books

Who picked these books? Meet our 20 experts.

20 authors created a book list connected to Charles Manson, and here are their favorite Charles Manson books.
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What type of Charles Manson book?



By Jeff Guinn,

Book cover of Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

Liam Bell Author Of The Sleepless

From the list on communes and cults.

Who am I?

I don’t think I’m alone in considering cults and those who join cults fascinating, but I’ve also always found it frustrating when non-fiction accounts or documentaries focus on the logistics of how the communes operate rather than finding out the why. Why do people join a cult, why do they stay, why do they follow increasingly erratic and dangerous instruction? For me, researching cults for my new novel The Sleepless – about a commune whose disciples believe that sleep is a social construct – was about finding out about the characters, the individuals, who are drawn into organisations which often ask you to relinquish that self-same sense of individuality.

Liam's book list on communes and cults

Why did Liam love this book?

It wasn’t until I picked up this book that I realised how little I actually knew about Charles Manson and his followers.

Sure, it had filtered down to me – through a variety of popular culture – that he was a notorious murderer and that his female followers were truly brainwashed, but how had that come to be and was there any way of making sense of his seemingly senseless violence and crimes? Guinn’s meticulously-researched book has the answers. 

By Jeff Guinn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After more than forty years, Charles Manson continues to mystify and fascinate us. One of the most notorious criminals in American history, Manson and members of his mostly female commune killed nine people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate. Now, drawing on new information, bestselling author Jeff Guinn tells the definitive story of how this ordinary delinquent became a murderer.

Mansonhelps us understand what obsessed him and, most terrifying of all, how he managed to persuade others to kill. Guinn interviewed Manson's sister and cousin, neither of whom has ever previously cooperated with an author. Childhood friends, cellmates, and even some…

The Family

By Ed Sanders,

Book cover of The Family: The Story of Charles Manson's Dune Buggy Attack Battalion

Richard Boch Author Of The Mudd Club

From the list on music, mayhem, drugs, and sex.

Who am I?

I was a Brooklyn kid who grew up on Long Island. I started hitting the bars and clubs in NYC when I was still a teenager. I found my way to CBGB in 1975, moved to Bleecker St in 1976, and in a right place/right time moment I found myself working the Mudd Club door in early 1979. That moment was a life changer. The Mudd Club book tells the story.

Richard's book list on music, mayhem, drugs, and sex

Why did Richard love this book?

The best book written about 1960’s Pop-Culture madness and mayhem. As founding member of The Fugs and a unique literary voice, Ed Sanders tells this tale brilliantly. The warning signs, the goosebumps, and knowing when it’s time to stop are all there in The Family.

By Ed Sanders,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

extremely rare,very good condition

Killer on the Road

By James Ellroy,

Book cover of Killer on the Road

William Cook Author Of Blood Related

From the list on first-person serial killers.

Who am I?

As a writer of Psychological Horror who specializes in stories about serial killers, the first-person serial killer narrative stands out as a fascinating vehicle to explore the psyche of real human ‘monsters.’ Which is precisely what I did, using books from this list as subject material for my Master’s thesis. The research also informed Blood Related, my debut novel, a first-person serial killer narrative and the most controversial book I’ve written so far. Perhaps, gaining insight from fictional serial killers would be a failed enterprise if life didn’t imitate art, but the fact is that these types of narratives are mostly informed by their real-life counterparts. Be warned – read at your own discretion.

William's book list on first-person serial killers

Why did William love 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. From the prologue to the epilogue the reader is presented an interior world-view saturated with violence and nightmarish insights into the psychopathology of a disturbed killer. 

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Martin Michael Plunkett is a product of his times -- the possessor of a genius intellect, a pitiless soul of brushed steel, and a heart of blackest evil. With criminal tendencies forged in the fires of L.A.'s Charles Manson hysteria, he comes to the bay city of San Francisco -- and submits to savage and terrible impulses that reveal to him his true vocation as a pure and perfect murderer. And so begins his decade of discovery and terror, as he cuts a bloody swath across the full length of a land, ingeniously exploiting and feeding upon a society's obsessions.…

Dark Carnivals

By W. Scott Poole,

Book cover of Dark Carnivals: Modern Horror and the Origins of American Empire

Brandon R. Grafius Author Of Lurking Under the Surface: Horror, Religion, and the Questions that Haunt Us

From Brandon's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Horror nerd Academic Bible scholar Bundle of contradictions

Brandon's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Brandon love this book?

Poole builds off his remarkable 2018 Wasteland to explore the tangled relationship between the American horror film and the empire.

For Poole, the most dangerous films are those that imply that we can overcome any evil if we stick together, put our minds to it, and use a little American muscle and know-how.

Through this framework, a film like Jaws is convincingly read as a movie that makes us feel better about our role as dominators of the world, and the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels fit in perfectly with the callousness and cruelty of the 1980s. And rather than being a dry, academic tome – it’s a lot of fun to read.

By W. Scott Poole,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The panoramic story of how the horror genre transformed into one of the most incisive critiques of unchecked American imperial power

The American empire emerged from the shadows of World War II. As the nation’s influence swept the globe with near impunity, a host of evil forces followed—from racism, exploitation, and military invasion to killer clowns, flying saucers, and monsters borne of a fear of the other. By viewing American imperial history through the prism of the horror genre, Dark Carnivals lays bare how the genre shaped us, distracted us, and gave form to a violence as American as apple…

The Echo Man

By Sam Holland,

Book cover of The Echo Man

Jacqueline Grima Author Of The Weekend Alone

From the list on psychological thrillers that will have you gripped.

Who am I?

I’ve been an avid psychological suspense reader since I was at school, but have only recently begun to write in the genre myself. I’m not sure why it took me so long. If it was my most favourite genre to read, then why not write in it? When I came up with the idea for The Weekend Alone, I knew I had to write it, and I finally discovered what other suspense authors already knew: that playing with a reader’s perception can be the most amazing fun! My next psychological suspense book will be out with HQ Digital in summer 2023. Here’s hoping my own thrillers will keep readers gripped long past lights out!

Jacqueline's book list on psychological thrillers that will have you gripped

Why did Jacqueline love this book?

This serial killer thriller will have you up all night, even after you’ve finished it! Full of blood, gore, and shocking scenes, it tells the story of The Echo Man, who appears to be copying the world’s most famous, or infamous, serial killers, such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, and Ed Kemper. Will the police catch up with him before he strikes again? Keep the lights on, this one is not for the faint-hearted!

By Sam Holland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An incredible new thriller from an exciting new talent!

The murders have begun...
Across England, a string of murders is taking place. Each different in method, but each horrifying and brutal.

But the killer is just getting started...
Jess Ambrose is plunged into the investigation when her house is set ablaze. With her husband dead and the police pointing at her, she runs. Her only hope is disgraced detective Nate Griffin, who is convinced Jess is innocent.

And he's going to shock the world...
Soon, Jess and Griffin discover the unthinkable; this murderer is copying the world's most notorious serial…

Helter Skelter

By Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry,

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

Rob St. Clair Author Of Saving Stacy: The Untold Story of the Moody Massacre

From the list on true crime tragedies.

Who am I?

Working as a prosecutor, trial lawyer for defendants, and as a magistrate, I’m always bothered by the misconception most people have of our criminal justice system. Unfortunately, cops are crooked, judges are corrupt, and witnesses lie on the stand. Not everyone, not every day, but more often than you would ever imagine. I write true crime books about cases where the underlying focus is on officials who are incompetent, derelict in their duties, or simply downright corrupt. The cases are always suspenseful, but justice is rarely served, and both the defendant and the public are the ones who lose.

Rob's book list on true crime tragedies

Why did Rob love this book?

After you read the book, you need to see Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood.

In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his "family" of devoted young women and men. What was the motivation behind such savagery?

The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era. Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his riveting account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only “two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi.”

The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor’s view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of…

By Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Helter Skelter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his "family" of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the…


By Tom O'Neill, Dan Piepenbring,

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

Nick Allen Brown Author Of Grainger County Tomatoes

From the list on drawing you into another world.

Who am I?

A book has the ability to change who you are as a person. The first time I read Charlotte's Web my perspective on death changed from something horrible to something that's a part of life. I still search for books that draw me into a world and when the book ends, a piece of me feels empty, but in a good way. The good news is that there are thousands of books that we can live in. My favorite quote of all time – “It is the reader that lives a thousand lives.” I've completed more than 80 book signings across the US, and I enjoy helping other writers achieve their goals.

Nick's book list on drawing you into another world

Why did Nick love this book?

What if I told you that Charles Manson was part of a United States CIA project that was directly responsible for the death of many people? This book will show you how author Tom O’Neil gathered government documents and testimonies about the link between the CIA and Charles Manson. See how The Beach Boys and Hollywood movie stars were pawns in a game controlled by several government programs and this book has the evidence to back up these outrageous claims. I used to have a very different point of view of Manson before this book, and now I see him very differently.

By Tom O'Neill, Dan Piepenbring,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As featured on The Joe Rogan Experience
A journalist's twenty-year obsession with the Manson murders leads to shocking new conspiracy theories about the FBI's involvement in this fascinating re-evaluation of one of the most infamous cases in American history.

Twenty years ago, reporting for a routine magazine piece about the infamous Manson murders, journalist Tom O'Neill didn't expect to find anything new. But the discovery of horrifying new evidence kick-started an obsession and his life's work. What had he unearthed and what did it mean: why was there surveillance by intelligence agents? Why did the police make these particular…

The White Album

By Joan Didion,

Book cover of The White Album

Sherry Marie Gallagher Author Of Boulder Blues: A Tale of the Colorado Counterculture

From the list on reliving the American countercultural experience.

Who am I?

As a degreed socio-linguist and international educator, my novel writing has been immersed in the human experience that began early on as a teen musician immersed naively in a non-mainstream world of creatives and cons, when the word 'counterculture' was perceived more as a renaissance than the drug-laden world of darker gatherings that it later came to be known as. Boulder Blues is a work of fiction drawn from both fantasy and personal exposure. From there I went on to teach in American alternative education and later at university with a focus on rhetoric and forensic writing. My draw to other cultures and their perspectives moved me to go on to teach internationally.

Sherry's book list on reliving the American countercultural experience

Why did Sherry love this book?

Coining an era of "sorry stuff of troubled times," The New Yorker calls this autobiography of journalist/fiction writer Didion’s a timely and elegant collection. Yet, it could also be seen as a culmination of depressing flashbacks to a scarier time of a seedier side of the ‘60s - ‘70s, when broken taboos of post-WWII boomers led to not only drug-induced spirituality and experimentation, but also depraved moralities and violent behaviours. The author relives personal experiences of friendships with others once close to key figures who had near escapes from encounters with the likes of the Manson Family and Black Panthers.

By Joan Didion,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Joan Didion's hugely influential collection of essays which defines, for many, the America which rose from the ashes of the Sixties.

We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea.

In this now legendary journey into the hinterland of the American psyche, Didion searches for stories as the Sixties implode. She waits for Jim Morrison to show up, visits the Black Panthers in prison, parties with Janis Joplin and buys dresses with Charles Manson's girls. She and her reader emerge, cauterized, from…


By John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker,

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

Kathryn Canavan Author Of Lincoln's Final Hours: Conspiracy, Terror, and the Assassination of America's Greatest President

From the list on true crime stories written by insiders and experts.

Who am I?

One of my first newspaper jobs was as a crime writer, covering and discovering crime stories in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. There's a lot of chaff among the wheat in the true crime genre. Some books are padded with the author's personal lives. Some have paper-thin plots. The books I've recommended are well-told, well-researched stories that are hard to put down.

Kathryn's book list on true crime stories written by insiders and experts

Why did Kathryn love this book?

I learned so much from reading this book by the bureau's pioneering profiler.

Books by profilers and local police who solve major murders often focus on the author's career. No one cares. Douglas's books focus on the crimes and the perpetrators.

He has interviewed Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, Lynette Fromme, John Wayne Gacy, Edmund Kemper, Sirhan Sirhan, Richard Speck, Sara Jane Moore, and Charles Manson. He explains what makes them tick.

By John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker,

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…

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

By Quentin Tarantino,

Book cover of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Andrew Hook Author Of Candescent Blooms

From the list on fictional stories featuring real life people.

Who am I?

The central themes in my own writing have always encompassed those of identity, the nature of reality, and variations on immortality. The lives of ‘celebrities’ touch upon all those themes, albeit through a distorted kaleidoscope where their own lives and the public’s perceptions of their lives intersect and are amplified and a third ‘character’ – that of the composite person, is then brought into existence. I find it fascinating how we can all be myriad people dependent upon who we interact with, and this is heightened when layered over the notion of ‘celebrity’ and fame by association. The books I've chosen act as mirrors to celebrity, but also work as great storytelling.

Andrew's book list on fictional stories featuring real life people

Why did Andrew love this book?

I saw the film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood before reading the book. And I loved the film, one of Tarantino’s best, where – as in Inglourious Basterds – he uses fictional characters to create a world in which factual characters might exist, to the extent that the reality of the script and the reality of real life become inevitably intertwined, in ways in which reality can be distorted to a better end. This playing of fantasy and reality and the myths (the Once Upon A Time…) that storytelling can distort, is ably rendered by this book which I understand Tarantino wrote after the film was finished. There’s greater expansion on the back stories of the stuntman and his double, and less around the Manson murders, but for a film buff the book is a delight in which Tarantino’s fascination for cinema shines through, and therefore is well worth…

By Quentin Tarantino,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited first work of fiction - at once hilarious, delicious, and brutal - is the always surprising, sometimes shocking new novel based on his Academy Award-winning film.

The sunlit studio back lots and the dark watering holes of Hollywood are the setting for this audacious, hilarious, disturbing novel about life in the movie colony, circa 1969.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of washed-up actor Rick Dalton. Once Rick had his own television series, a famous western…

Reclaiming History

By Vincent Bugliosi,

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

Gerald Posner Author Of Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK

From the list on who killed JFK.

Who am I?

I was in the fourth grade when JFK was assassinated. I grew up in the late 1960s as conspiracy theories about ‘who killed Kennedy’ flourished. Jack Ruby’s murder of Oswald made me suspect the mafia played a role. After Oliver Stone’s controversial 1991 JFK film, I convinced a publisher to allow me to reexamine the assassination. I did not expect to solve the case. Halfway through my research, however, I realized there was an answer to ‘who killed Kennedy.’ It was not what I had expected. I discovered that the story of how a 24-year-old sociopath armed with a $12 rifle managed to kill the president was a far more fascinating one than I could have ever envisioned.

Gerald's book list on who killed JFK

Why did Gerald love 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.

By Vincent Bugliosi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At 1:00 p.m. on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead, the victim of a sniper attack during his motorcade through Dallas. That may be the only fact generally agreed upon in the vast literature spawned by the assassination. National polls reveal that an overwhelming majority of Americans (75%) believe that there was a high-level conspiracy behind Lee Harvey Oswald. Many even believe that Oswald was entirely innocent. In this continuously absorbing, powerful, ground-breaking book, Vincent Bugliosi shows how we have come to believe such lies about an event that changed the course of history.

The brilliant…