The most recommended criminal books

Who picked these books? Meet our 125 experts.

125 authors created a book list connected to criminals, and here are their favorite criminal books.
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Book cover of The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose

Skip Press

From my list on finding justice.

Who am I?

I have a passion for people who do whatever it takes to improve themselves and their circumstances under the worst of conditions. I grew up very poor in north Texas country towns and knew I’d be a successful writer while in the second grade, only hardly anyone encouraged me. The most inspiring movie I saw growing up was To Kill A Mockingbird and it got me orientated toward helping people find justice. I was only in jail once, overnight on a driving while intoxicated charge, and that was enough. I saw the error of my ways, and I appreciate other writers who not only do the same but inspire others to improve no matter what.

Skip's book list on finding justice

Skip Press Why did Skip love this book?

Author Wes Moore wrote the Foreword to this book he called “a philosophy that we should all take to heart” and suggested we “honor the redemptive possibilities inherent in every person.” This was reminiscent to me of Greg Lindberg’s interaction with convicted cocaine dealer Willie Colon who, like Chris Wilson, grew in in a very rough neighborhood. 

Wilson’s crime was even more serious, as he killed a man at age 17. His plea of self-defense didn’t work; he was sentenced to life in prison. Not giving up, he came up with a list of things he wanted to do – his Master Plan – and 16 years later, he was triumphant. It’s a memoir that can inspire anyone to accomplish greater things.

By Chris Wilson, Bret Witter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The Master Plan is less of a road map and more of a philosophy that we should all take to heart: We are all better than our worst decision, our sense of justice should honor the redemptive possibilities inherent in every person, and our destinies are truly intertwined."--Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore

Growing up in Washington, DC, Chris Wilson was surrounded by violence and despair. He watched his family and neighborhood shattered by trauma, and he lost his faith. One night when he was seventeen, defending himself, he killed a man. He was sentenced to life in…


Book cover of Catwoman: Soulstealer

Kate Berberich Author Of Picture Imperfect

From my list on unpredictable protagonists.

Who am I?

I’m going to date myself horribly here, but…I’m an old-school fan of the guy in the grey hat. Think Kerr Avon of Blake’s 7. The guy you could never quite predict. Or Han Solo until about halfway through The Empire Strikes Back. Are they going to do the right thing? Are they going to follow their heart? And it’s so satisfying when they do! Of course, it’s equally satisfying when they go right ahead and sucker punch the bad guy, ‘cuz hey—only the good guys give warnings, right?

Kate's book list on unpredictable protagonists

Kate Berberich Why did Kate love this book?

Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman, is probably my all-time favorite “Whose side is she really on?” character.

Soulstealer is a brilliant reimagining of Gotham City and its denizens. Catwoman will always be a thief, but it’s her motivations and her heroine’s journey that make her so interesting to me.

By Sarah J. Maas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Catwoman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Sizzling with action and suspense, #1 New York Times bestselling author SARAH J. MAAS delivers with this DC Icons coming-of-age Selina Kyle who will steal readers' hearts in the YA blockbuster: CATWOMAN!

DC ICONS IS NOW A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING SERIES!

"A Catwoman story with Maas' signature touch. . . . Devilish." --Entertainment Weekly

When the Bat's away, the Cat will play. It's time to see how many lives this cat really has.

Two years after escaping Gotham City's slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a…


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

Liam Bell Author Of The Sleepless

From my 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

Liam Bell 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…


Book cover of American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

Brady Dale Author Of SBF: How The FTX Bankruptcy Unwound Crypto's Very Bad Good Guy

From my list on cryptocurrency, aka, magic space money.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing about cryptocurrency since 2015, and full-time since 2017. I’ve worked for the biggest crypto news site in the world, CoinDesk, but now I write about it every day for a more mainstream audience. Cryptocurrency fits at a nexus at the kind of things I’m drawn to: It’s technological, it’s economic and it freaks people out. Unlike a lot of people who write about crypto, I’ve actually played around with the stuff. I’m not an investor, but I have used it. Using it is really the only way anyone gets to the point of grokking it, and I grok the stuff.

Brady's book list on cryptocurrency, aka, magic space money

Brady Dale Why did Brady love this book?

I’ve never read a non-fiction book that felt so much like a novel as American Kingpin. The book absolutely bounds from event to event. 

It presents a solid cast of law enforcement misfits who all get sucked into chasing down the people behind The Silk Road website that’s giving so many people access to illicit drugs, and it details all the quirky little mistakes that The Dread Pirate Roberts made on his way to getting arrested. 

This is crucial to bitcoin history, like it or not, because The Silk Road was the first marketplace where there was real demand for paying in bitcoin. 

This book isn’t going to really help anyone develop a deeper understanding of cryptocurrency, but it will help them understand something that’s endemic in the scene: ideologues who gets sucked into a way of thinking and take it much too far. 

This is a great read for…

By Nick Bilton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The unbelievable true story of the man who built a billion-dollar online drug empire from his bedroom - and almost got away with it.

In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine Web site hosted on the Dark Web where anyone could trade anything - drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons - free of the government's watchful eye. While the federal government were undertaking an epic two-year manhunt for the site's elusive proprietor, the Silk Road quickly ballooned into a $1.2 billion enterprise.…


Book cover of He Had It Coming: Four Murderous Women and the Reporter Who Immortalized Their Stories

Silvia Pettem Author Of In Search of the Blonde Tigress: The Untold Story of Eleanor Jarman

From my list on mysterious and intriguing women in history.

Who am I?

I've been writing for decades, as one genre evolved into another. Local Colorado history led to the identification of "Boulder Jane Doe," a murder victim. During that journey I learned a lot about criminal investigations and forensics. I devoured old movies (especially film noir), and I focused on social history including mysterious and intriguing women. Midwest Book Review (see author book links) credits In Search of the Blonde Tigress as "rescuing" Eleanor Jarman "from obscurity." So true! Despite Eleanor's notoriety as "the most dangerous woman alive," she actually was a very ordinary woman. I've now found my niche pulling mysterious and intriguing women out of the shadows.

Silvia's book list on mysterious and intriguing women in history

Silvia Pettem Why did Silvia love this book?

Using photo and newspaper archives from the Chicago Tribune, the authors of He Had It Coming tell the stories of four Chicago female murderers from the 1920s.

The documentation (both primary and secondary sources) and, especially, the newspaper's original high-quality historical photographs inspired me to dig deeply into similar archives when researching and writing my book.

By Kori Rumore, Marianne Mather,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked He Had It Coming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beulah Annan. Belva Gaertner. Kitty Malm. Sabella Nitti. These are the real women of Chicago.

You probably know Roxie and Velma, the good-time gals of the 1926 satirical play Chicago and its wildly successful musical and movie adaptations. You might not know that Roxie, Velma, and the rest of the colorful characters of the play were inspired by real prisoners held in "Murderess Row" in 1920s Chicago-or that the reporter who covered their trials for the Chicago Tribune went on to write the play Chicago.

Now, more than 90 years later, the Chicago Tribune has uncovered photographs and newspaper clippings…


Book cover of The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

Dames Handsome Author Of Fairy Knights: The Beginning

From my list on elementary students who love games.

Who am I?

I’ve been a gamer all of my life and am a teacher of elementary school students. After finding the LitRPG genre I wished to share this with other kids... like the one I had once been. Most parents in the genre push full 200k books on their children with an expectation of found love. While I imagine it works for a few of them, I rather expect that the majority of those attempts end in failure. Kids have their own world and their own sense of humor. I write to them, to inspire them and make them laugh, to make them entertained even as I teach them universal morals and lessons about the world.


Dames' book list on elementary students who love games

Dames Handsome Why did Dames love this book?

I bought the book out of curiosity not even knowing it was for kids. And once I realized what it was, I read it to my son. He loved it. Let me describe it in the style it is written:

High-energy text right from the beginning. Honestly the inspiration for my own series and its style of writing. The protagonist has special powers that are ranked in a game-like manner using levels. It appeals to the gamer youth of today, relating to the games that they play even now despite having been written thirty years ago. A solid A plus production.

By James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dangerous Days of Daniel X as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Fifteen-year-old alien hunter Daniel X is on a mission to finish the job that killed his parents - to wipe out the world's most bloodthirsty aliens on The List. At the number-one spot, The Prayer is Daniel's ultimate target. With mind-blowing skills like telepathy and the ability to transform and create, Daniel's got more than a few tricks up his sleeve. Along with his friends Willy, Joe-Joe, Emma and Dana, Daniel hunts down the aliens on The List one by one. But as he battles towards his top target he can't forget one thing: he's got a host of aliens…


Book cover of The Hunter

Verlin Darrow Author Of Murder for Liar

From my list on psychological thrillers that expand readers' minds.

Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in how people change, and how trauma and difficulties hasten change. After all, if we have to grow and gain new skills to stay alive, we find a way. Originally, personal transformation was a priority because I was terribly unhappy, scared, and had shielded myself from direct contact with the world around me in an effort to stay “safe.” Don’t do this. It doesn’t work. So I asked myself, as an author, how would murders, deception, and sanity-threatening events affect a depressed therapist? Murder For Liar is the product of exploring this.

Verlin's book list on psychological thrillers that expand readers' minds

Verlin Darrow Why did Verlin love this book?

Westlake gets into the head of a successful career criminal, making available the kind of attitude and thinking that most readers would normally abhor.

Somehow, we don’t in the Parker series. Even as the clever, convoluted plot unfolds, we never stop caring what happens to Parker and we root for him against creepier crooks.

I especially like the authentic feel of the techniques and procedures Parker employs. It’s almost as though Westlake was a criminal himself. His work inspired me to write about what I don’t think most authors have directly experienced—what happens in a therapist’s head.

So I think my books also feel real.

By Richard Stark,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

You probably haven't ever noticed them. But they've noticed you. They notice everything. That's their job. Sitting quietly in a nondescript car outside a bank making note of the tellers' work habits, the positions of the security guards. Lagging a few car lengths behind the Brinks truck on its daily rounds. Surreptitiously jiggling the handle of an unmarked service door at the racetrack.They're thieves. Heisters, to be precise. They're pros, and Parker is far and away the best of them. If you're planning a job, you want him in. Tough, smart, hardworking, and relentlessly focused on his trade, he is…


Book cover of American Tabloid

Anthony Schneider Author Of Lowdown: A Mafia Romance Thriller

From my list on character-driven gangsters.

Who am I?

Growing up on a diet of The Godfather, The Sopranos, thrillers, and gangster novels, and living in New York City with eye-opening trips to Sicily, I became slightly obsessed with the Mafia. I came to see the American Mafia as a quintessentially American fabric, woven of family, power, immigrants, money, history, loyalty, legacy, and, yes, crime.  

Anthony's book list on character-driven gangsters

Anthony Schneider Why did Anthony love this book?

A history of the early 1960s in America, leading up to the assassination of JFK, seen through the eyes of the mobsters and criminals, crooked cops, spies, and sleazos who power the machines of history.

A comprehensive romp through the underbelly of American crime and politics (and you might, after reading this book, wonder what’s the difference), it’s a novel about characters you don’t like—but they’re vivid and fascinating.

Much more than a gritty gangster novel, it’s a tale about the people in history’s shadows, and, ultimately, history and the “never innocent” America itself. 

By James Ellroy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first novel in Ellroy's extraordinary Underworld USA Trilogy as featured on BBC Radio 4's A Good Read.

1958. America is about to emerge into a bright new age - an age that will last until the 1000 days of John F Kennedy's presidency.

Three men move beneath the glossy surface of power, men allied to the makers and shakers of the era. Pete Bondurant - Howard Hughes's right-hand man, Jimmy Hoffa's hitman. Kemper Boyd - employed by J Edgar Hoover to infiltrate the Kennedy clan. Ward Littell - a man seeking redemption in Bobby Kennedy's drive against organised crime.…


Book cover of Premeditated Myrtle

Cathy Pickens Author Of True Crime Stories of Western North Carolina

From Cathy's 12-year-old's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Storyteller True crime writer Lover of mysteries Reader Walker

Cathy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Plus, Cathy's 12, and 14-year-old's favorite books.

Cathy Pickens Why did Cathy's 12-year-old love this book?

Myrtle Hardcastle is a most unconventional twelve-year-old, especially for the 1920s—she loves forensic science. Raised by her father and her governess, she has access to his law books and court cases, her scientist-mother’s microscope and curiosity, and the sometimes reluctant encouragement and stalwart protection of Miss Ada Judson.


In this first in the series—which won the Edgar Award from Mystery Writers of America—Myrtle knows the death of her wealthy flower-breeding Miss Wodehouse was not natural, even if the prosecutor (her father) doesn’t want to believe it. Myrtle’s tenacity and talent had me wanting to get out my magnifying glass and go looking for clues—just as Nancy Drew did for me when I was younger.

By Elizabeth C. Bunce,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Premeditated Myrtle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

A 2021 Edgar (R) Award Winner, Best JuvenileA BookPage Best Book of 2020: Middle GradeA Mighty Girl's 2020 Books of the YearIntroducing Myrtle Hardcastle, your favorite new amateur detective: a wickedly smart twelve-year-old with a keen interest in criminology and a nose for murder in Victorian England. Twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle has a passion for justice and a Highly Unconventional obsession with criminal science. Armed with her father's law books and her mum's microscope, Myrtle studies toxicology, keeps abreast of the latest developments in crime scene analysis, and Observes her neighbors in the quiet village of Swinburne, England. When her next-door…


Book cover of City of Shattered Light

Laura Rueckert Author Of A Dragonbird in the Fern

From my list on feminist young adult sci-fi and fantasy.

Who am I?

I grew up loving sci-fi and fantasy, but especially today, I recognize how a lot of older sci-fi is patriarchal or even misogynistic. When I started to write my own books, like A Dragonbird in the Fern, I vowed to create my fantastical settings as I’d like our world to be someday—with all genders considered equal. Whether it’s a queen wielding all of the power or a witch who can save the world, women and girls in my stories get things done, and no one bats an eye. 

Laura's book list on feminist young adult sci-fi and fantasy

Laura Rueckert Why did Laura love this book?

The two girls in City of Shattered Light could not be fiercer! Asa’s a runaway rich girl who flees home to save her sister, a victim of scientific tests. Riven’s a tough smuggler gunning for a big bounty to guarantee her a place in one of the city’s matriarchal (!) crime syndicates. There’s kidnapping, a wild neon sci-fi world, and a healthy portion of romantic longing. I loved this misfit team!

By Claire Winn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As darkness closes in on the city of shattered light, an heiress and an outlaw must decide whether to fend for themselves or fight for each other. As heiress to a powerful tech empire, seventeen-year-old Asa Almeida strives to prove she's more than her manipulative father's shadow. But when he uploads her rebellious sister’s mind to an experimental brain, Asa will do anything to save her sister from reprogramming—including fleeing her predetermined future with her sister’s digitized mind in tow. With a bounty on her head and a rogue AI hunting her, Asa’s getaway ship crash-lands in the worst possible…