The best criminology books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about criminology and why they recommend each book.

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The Female Offender

By Cesare Lombroso,

Book cover of The Female Offender

Why are female criminals "ugly"? Italian criminologist Professor Caesar Lombroso discusses crime causation, justice systems, penology, and the female offender. Lombroso rallied for humane treatment of inmates, advocating programs to reform the penal system, and believed both generated a better society. He argued that criminal behavior is inherited and categorizing offenders as: crimes of passion, aka "lunatics", occasional offenders, and born criminals. He also tried to identify them by physical attributes: the skull, features, and tattooing. 

Lombroso's atavistic theories initially seem outdated - and even laughable - but are still practiced today. "(S)he looks like a criminal" is something you commonly hear. Or, people instantly judge someone's tattoos. Lombroso's approach is still utilized in true crime media. The case becomes more interesting when perpetrators are attractive. Even the monikers for female criminals are modified: femme fatale, black widow, she-devil. Readers will enjoy the contrast/comparison to 1900s criminology. The Female Offender…

The Female Offender

By Cesare Lombroso,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. To ensure a quality reading experience, this work has been…


Who am I?

I am an award-winning true crime author, criminologist, and victims advocate who has written and presented on crime for over 30 years. I know that history teaches us how and why crime occurs and why it will happen again, but crime doesn't happen in a vacuum. History, personality, and human nature all play a part. There is always a "story behind the story." I appreciate true crime books that teach us rather than sensationalize. The faster we share knowledge, the easier it is to catch criminals.


I wrote...

When Nashville Bled: The untold stories of serial killer Paul Dennis Reid

By Judith A. Yates,

Book cover of When Nashville Bled: The untold stories of serial killer Paul Dennis Reid

What is my book about?

He was evil personified. In the Spring of 1997, a serial killer held Nashville, Tennessee in an icy grip of terror. Paul Dennis Reid, Jr. was caught and sentenced to seven death sentences, yet a new chapter began in the saga of one of the most heinous serial killers in our time, and the people whose lives he cut short. The victims were reduced to being called "the victims of Paul Reid." Until now. Here, for the first time, and with the approval of the family and friends, are the stories of those innocent, young people whose lives were ended far too soon. It is also the story of how a crime ripped a city apart.

Policing the Crisis

By Stuart Hall, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, Brian Roberts

Book cover of Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order

We are brought up to think of racism as a matter of individual attitudes and biases. If only it were that simple. Stuart Hall and his colleagues taught me that understanding how racism worked required much deeper thinking. First published in 1978, Policing the Crisis argued that race is a key constituent of Britain’s social and economic structures. It presented a picture of Britain in the 1970s as caught in a crisis of authority. Society was fracturing, giving rise to new authoritarianism in response. A moral panic about black crime was the surface justification for new “law and order” policies. But in a strange way, the country was using black people to work through its own anxieties. This was Thatcherism in embryo. The same processes continue to shape our lives today. There is no better book on how politics in Britain has functioned in the last fifty years.

Policing the Crisis

By Stuart Hall, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, Brian Roberts

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This special 35th anniversary edition contains the original, unchanged text that inspired a generation, alongside two new chapters that explore the book's continued significance for today's readers. The Preface provides a brief retrospective account of the book's original structure, the rich ethnographic, intellectual and theoretical work that informed it, and the historical context in which it appeared. In the new Afterword, each of the authors takes up a specific theme from the original book and interrogates it in the light of current crises, perspectives and contexts.

Who am I?

Kundnani writes about racial capitalism and Islamophobia, surveillance and political violence, and Black radical movements. He is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic War on Terror and The End of Tolerance: racism in 21st century Britain, which was selected as a New Statesman book of the year. He has written for the Nation, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Vice, and The Intercept. Born in London, he moved to New York in 2010. A former editor of the journal Race & Class, he was miseducated at Cambridge University, and holds a PhD from London Metropolitan University. He has been an Open Society fellow and a scholar-in-residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.


I wrote...

The Muslims Are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror

By Arun Kundnani,

Book cover of The Muslims Are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror

What is my book about?

The Muslims are Coming! is the story of how the United States and British governments developed a sprawling infrastructure of surveillance to counter the threat of domestic terrorism. At least 100,000 Muslims in the US were placed under scrutiny – many were entrapped and wrongfully imprisoned by the FBI and federal prosecutors.

Meanwhile, British police and intelligence officers surveilled children as young as five as potential extremists. These abuses were backed by an industry of freshly minted experts and commentators, who helped propagate a series of racial prejudices about Muslims living in the West. Based on several years of research and reportage, in locations as disperate as Texas, New York, and Yorkshire, this is the first comprehensive critique of the War on Terror at home.

Chasing the Scream

By Johann Hari,

Book cover of Chasing the Scream: The Opposite of Addiction is Connection

Hari’s Chasing the Scream is not an exhaustively researched book but it still merits listing given how viscerally the author addresses the history of the global war on drugs in the light of his own personal addiction. Hari shines in his depiction of circa 1930s U.S. Drug Cop #1, Henry J. Anslinger, who, among other dubious endeavors, sought to throw the book at jazz singer Billie Holiday, who also happened to be a heroin addict.  

Chasing the Scream

By Johann Hari,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

Over my two decades as a scholar of American foreign policy and international politics, I had multiple opportunities to serve as a Latin America foreign policy aide. Given that Latin America plays a central role in the U.S.-hatched modern war on drugs, much of my policymaking was directly or indirectly tied to drug policy. I thus wrote Drugs and Thugs above all to make sure that I had a good sense of the history of this seemingly eternal conflict, one that is “fought” as much at home as abroad. 


I wrote...

Drugs and Thugs: The History and Future of America's War on Drugs

By Russell C. Crandall,

Book cover of Drugs and Thugs: The History and Future of America's War on Drugs

What is my book about?

How can the United States chart a path forward in the war on drugs? In Drugs and Thugs, Russell Crandall uncovers the full history of this war that has lasted more than a century. As a scholar and a high-level national security advisor to both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, he provides an essential view of the economic, political, and human impacts of U.S. drug policies. Backed by extensive research, lucid and unbiased analysis of policy, and his own personal experiences, Crandall takes readers from Afghanistan to Colombia, to Peru and Mexico, to Miami International Airport, and the border crossing between El Paso and Juarez to trace the complex social networks that make up the drug trade and drug consumption. 

Transnational Art Crime

By Edgar Tijhuis,

Book cover of Transnational Art Crime

When I first started out, there were very few books ever written about the study of art crime. Tijhuis was one of the few authorities, approaching it from a criminological perspective. This is a really strong academic survey of the phenomenon, perfect for those interested in the intersection of criminology and art.

Transnational Art Crime

By Edgar Tijhuis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How does transnational crime interact with legal companies andgovernments? Are legal actors primarily victimized by transnationalcriminals or are the two connected by collaborative relationships? Andhow are these crimes often transformed into legitimate activities?This book seeks to answer these and related questions. Its main topicis the translational illicit art and antiquities trade, based on a thoroughempirical study of data gathered in France, Italy, the Netherlands andother places around the world. The reader will encounter a large numberof case studies, from auction houses selling looted antiquities to violentrobberies of museums and castles, and much more.Added to this is an analysis of the…

Who am I?

Back in 2006, a New York Times Magazine feature article about me announced that I had essentially founded the field of the study of art crime, while still a postgraduate student. I’m often mentioned as the world’s leading authority on the history of art crime and I’ve been a professor teaching the subject for more than a decade (I’m not actually that old). I also founded ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, the world’s first think tank and research group on art crime. We launched the first academic journal on the subject, The Journal of Art Crime, as well as the first academic study program, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection, which runs every summer in Italy. I’m also the author of more than a dozen books, many best-sellers, and one a Pulitzer finalist. I write on art crime for TED Ed videos, I host TV programs on the subject, and I recently curated a virtual exhibit of lost art called Missing Masterpieces.


I wrote...

The Devil in the Gallery: How Scandal, Shock, and Rivalry Shaped the Art World

By Noah Charney,

Book cover of The Devil in the Gallery: How Scandal, Shock, and Rivalry Shaped the Art World

What is my book about?

Scandal, shock, and rivalry all have negative connotations, don't they? They can be catastrophic to businesses and individual careers. A whiff of scandal can turn a politician into a smoking ruin.

The Devil in the Gallery is a guided tour of the history of art through its scandals, rivalries, and shocking acts, each of which resulted in a positive step forward for art in general and, in most cases, for the careers of the artists in question. In addition to telling dozens of stories, lavishly illustrated in full color, of such dramatic moments and arguing how they not only affected the history of art but affected it for the better, we will also examine the proactive role of the recipients of these intentionally dramatic actions: The art historians, the critics and even you, the general public.

The Man from the Train

By Bill James, Rachel McCarthy James,

Book cover of The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery

The baseball writer and analyst Bill James sets out to trace the path of a serial ax murderer who left a bloody trail across the US in the early 20th century. Starting with the well-chronicled deaths of eight people in Villisca, Iowa, in 1912, he reveals the signature connections between this crime and dozens of others committed over a period of 15 years from Washington State to Florida, crimes for which innocent people were put to death. A mind-boggling feat of research.

The Man from the Train

By Bill James, Rachel McCarthy James,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Edgar Award finalist for Best Fact Crime, this "impressive...open-eyed investigative inquiry wrapped within a cultural history of rural America" (The Wall Street Journal) shows legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applying his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century-old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history.

Between 1898 and 1912, families across the country were bludgeoned in their sleep with the blunt side of an axe. Jewelry and valuables were left in plain sight, bodies were piled together, faces covered with cloth. Some of these cases, like the infamous Villasca, Iowa, murders, received national…

Who am I?

I trace my interest in true crime back to the early 1970s when I worked as a staff cartoonist for a weekly newspaper in Wichita, Kansas. A former cop lent me his vast collection of mugshots. Looking into the literal face of crime awakened in me a lasting interest. He also gave me a copy of the complete police file of an unsolved murder from years earlier. Scrutinizing it gave birth to my passion for real-life mysteries like Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden, Mary Rogers, and the Black Dahlia. To my mind, questions are always more fascinating than answers.  


I wrote...

A Treasury Of Victorian Murder Compendium: Including: Jack The Ripper, The Beast Of Chicago, Fatal Bullet

By Rick Geary,

Book cover of A Treasury Of Victorian Murder Compendium: Including: Jack The Ripper, The Beast Of Chicago, Fatal Bullet

What is my book about?

I have written and illustrated eighteen graphic novels that recount famous murder cases of the 19th and 20th centuries. This volume collects four of them from the Victorian era. Included are: Jack the Ripper, The Beast of Chicago (about the serial killer H.H. Holmes), and The Fatal Bullet (the assassination of President James A. Garfield). In each thoroughly researched case, my goals have been, above all, clarity and accuracy.

Locking Up Our Own

By James Forman Jr.,

Book cover of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

This book is an excellent companion to Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and adds some important nuance to the story of how the United States came to imprison a higher proportion of its population than any other nation on earth. Forman notes that many African Americans in communities afflicted by rising drug abuse and crime rates in the 1970s were desperate to solve these problems and advocated more law enforcement along with greater investments in schools, jobs, and housing to address the root causes of the crisis. Instead, they got only increasingly draconian laws and punishments, often passed with the support of middle-class Black people seeking to discipline poorer African Americans. Writing from his personal experience as a public defender in addition to historical research, Forman includes dozens of illuminating examples of how race and class interact at every level in the…

Locking Up Our Own

By James Forman Jr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Locking Up Our Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction

Longlisted for the National Book Award

One of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2017

Former public defender James Forman, Jr. is a leading critic of mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of colour. In LOCKING UP OWN OWN, he seeks to understand the war on crime that began in the 1970s and why it was supported by many African American leaders in the nation's urban centres.

Forman shows us that the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges and police chiefs took office amid…

Who am I?

I’m a historian of the African American freedom struggle with more than two decades of experience researching and teaching on this topic. My work focuses especially on the connections between race and class and the ways Black people have fought for racial and economic justice in the twentieth century. I write books and articles that are accessible for general audiences and that help them to understand the historical origins of racism in the United States, the various forms it has taken, and the reasons why it has persisted into the present.


I wrote...

You Can't Eat Freedom: Southerners and Social Justice after the Civil Rights Movement

By Greta de Jong,

Book cover of You Can't Eat Freedom: Southerners and Social Justice after the Civil Rights Movement

What is my book about?

I look at how African Americans in the rural South continued their struggles for racial and economic justice after the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s, which failed to do anything about mass unemployment and poverty caused by agricultural mechanization. Social justice activists pressured the federal government to pay attention to these problems and invest more in anti-poverty initiatives, while white supremacists blocked every effort to help displaced workers who were left without jobs, homes, or income. These conflicts helped shape the experiences of other Americans whose jobs were lost to deindustrialization and globalization later in the twentieth century, and their outcomes still affect our lives today.

Book cover of Death in a Deck Chair

Unlike so many heroines of historical mysteries who had dangerous jobs in the Great War—usually a spy, courier, or battlefield nurse—I found Iris Cooper refreshingly average, but not boring. She’s sailing from England to America after a round-the-world tour with her aunt. When a man dies in a deck chair, Iris searches for answers about his identity. I especially liked the fact that Iris used her shorthand and typing skills to become part of the ship-board inquiry into the death and holds her own with the panel, which is basically an old boy’s club. The parade of suspects is catnip for a mystery reader like me and includes a voluptuous film star, a mysterious professor studying criminology, a handsome musician, and an enthusiastic newspaper reporter. I enjoyed watching Iris come into her own as a sleuth and find a little romance along the way.

Death in a Deck Chair

By K.K. Beck,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

My love of mysteries began with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. I moved on to Elizabeth Peters and Mary Stewart before discovering Agatha Christie and other Golden Age authors. My love of mysteries inspired me to try my hand at the genre, first with cozy mysteries then with historical mysteries. The 1920s is my favorite time period to read and write about. I’m fascinated by the way society was changing then, and I can’t resist an English country house murder. I’ve listed some of my favorite undiscovered mystery gems from the 1920s and hope you find them the bee’s knees! 


I wrote...

Murder at Archly Manor

By Sara Rosett,

Book cover of Murder at Archly Manor

What is my book about?

London, 1923. Olive Belgrave needs a job. Despite her aristocratic upbringing, she’s penniless. Determined to support herself, she jumps at an unconventional job—looking into the background of her cousin’s fiancé, Alfred.  Before Olive can gather more than the basics, a murder occurs at a posh party. Suddenly, every Bright Young Person in attendance is a suspect, and Olive must race to find the culprit because a sly murderer is determined to make sure Olive’s first case is her last. 

Murder at Archly Manor is the first in the High Society Lady Detective series of charming historical cozy mysteries. If you like witty banter, glamorous settings, and delightful plot twists, you’ll love USA Today bestselling author Sara Rosett’s series for Anglophiles and mystery lovers alike.

Solitary Confinement

By Lisa Guenther,

Book cover of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives

My list would not be complete without a work of scholarship. Of the texts I encountered during my research, this one stayed with me. It helped me develop a deeper, more philosophical insight into solitary experience. This book begins in the early days of the penitentiary system in the US, analyzing the inmates' experiences through a phenomenological approach. It discusses sensory deprivation, the way the disorienting experience of time in solitary interferes with basic sensory perception, and what this type of confinement does to the human mind. The author shows that all the justifications about the redemptive, corrective or reformative potential of this form of punishment are weak attempts at concealing what it is: an effective tool for the annihilation of human subjectivity.

Solitary Confinement

By Lisa Guenther,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Prolonged solitary confinement has become a widespread and standard practice in U.S. prisons-even though it consistently drives healthy prisoners insane, makes the mentally ill sicker, and, according to the testimony of prisoners, threatens to reduce life to a living death. In this profoundly important and original book, Lisa Guenther examines the death-in-life experience of solitary confinement in America from the early nineteenth century to today's supermax prisons. Documenting how solitary confinement undermines prisoners' sense of identity and their ability to understand the world, Guenther demonstrates the real effects of forcibly isolating a person for weeks, months, or years.

Drawing on…


Who am I?

As a writer and journalist in Iran, I knew many activists and journalists who spent time in solitary confinement. I noticed that this part of their prison experience was the hardest one for them to put to words, even those keen on sharing their experiences have a much easier time talking about the interrogation room but remain strangely reticent about the solitary cell. When I set out to write a novel about a bus driver who ends up in jail, I decided to dedicate several chapters of the book to his time in solitary confinement. That research sent me down the rabbit hole of interviewing former prisoners and reading widely about the solitary experience.


I wrote...

Then the Fish Swallowed Him

By Amir Ahmadi Arian,

Book cover of Then the Fish Swallowed Him

What is my book about?

Yunus Turabi, a bus driver in Tehran, leads an unremarkable life. A solitary man since the unexpected deaths of his father and mother years ago, he is decidedly apolitical—even during the driver’s strike and its bloody end. But everyone has their breaking point, and Yunus has reached his.

Handcuffed and blindfolded, he is taken to the infamous Evin prison for political dissidents. Inside this stark, strangely ordered world, his fate becomes entwined with Hajj Saeed, his personal interrogator. Yunus endures a mind-bending cycle of solitary confinement and interrogation. As Yunus struggles to hold on to his sanity and evade Saeed’s increasingly undeniable accusations, he must eventually make an impossible choice: continue fighting or submit to the system of lies upholding Iran’s power.

College in Prison

By Daniel Karpowitz,

Book cover of College in Prison: Reading in an Age of Mass Incarceration

In Daniel Karpowitz’s book, he takes readers behind the scenes in college-in-prison classrooms to explore what a liberal arts education can offer people who are incarcerated, and the educators who facilitate them. Karpowitz was a mentor and a guide as I was building my own college-in-prison program. His steadfast belief in the human capacity for transformative learning shines through in these accessible, riveting pages of what it means to read the canon from a position of marginalization.

College in Prison

By Daniel Karpowitz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The nationally renowned Bard Prison Initiative demonstrates how the liberal arts can alter the landscape inside prisons by expanding access to the transformative power of American higher education. American colleges and universities have made various efforts to provide prisoners with access to education. However, few of these outreach programs presume that incarcerated men and women can rise to the challenge of a truly rigorous college curriculum. The Bard Prison Initiative, however, is different. As this compelling new book reveals, BPI has fostered a remarkable transformation in the lives of thousands of prisoners. College in Prison chronicles how, since 2001, Bard…

Who am I?

I have been involved with teaching in prison for the last 22 years, and have taught everything from creative writing to meditation to college classes across carceral facilities in New York, California, and Massachusetts. As the founder and director of the Emerson Prison Initiative at Emerson College’s campus at Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord, I constantly work with faculty and students who are navigating the teaching and learning environment under some of the most adverse circumstances. These books have helped me feel less alone in this work.


I wrote...

Education Behind the Wall: Why and How We Teach College in Prison

By Mneesha Gellman,

Book cover of Education Behind the Wall: Why and How We Teach College in Prison

What is my book about?

This book seeks to address some of the major issues faced by faculty who are teaching college classes for incarcerated students. This volume brings together scholars who articulate some of the best practices for teaching their expertise inside prison alongside honest reflections on the reality of educational implementation in a constrained environment. The book provides essential guidance about teaching in prisons, and also places the work of higher education in prisons in philosophical context with regard to racial, economic, social, and gender-based issues. Rather than solely a how-to handbook, this book helps readers think through the trade-offs that happen when teaching in prison, and about how to ensure the full integrity of college access for incarcerated students.

The Sadist

By Karl Berg,

Book cover of The Sadist

Berg’s groundbreaking study of Peter Kürten, a blood-drinking serial killer with a diverse variety of victims in Düsseldorf, Germany, became a classic criminology text during the 1940s. Because Berg, a pathologist, had performed the autopsies, he had a privileged perspective on the murders. He noticed the use of different weapons and did his own research as he hypothesized how the assaults were linked. Going beyond mere case analysis, Berg offered a means for other professionals to consider the psychological details in the development of extreme sexual cruelty. When Kürten was arrested, Berg spent many hours face-to-face with him in his cell, watching his excited manner as he recounted his deeds. The Sadist is one of the earliest attempts to penetrate the deviant mind of a repeat offender, told by the person with the most accurate knowledge of how the killer had treated each victim.

The Sadist

By Karl Berg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lang:- english, Pages 192. Reprinted in 2015 with the help of original edition published long back[1945]. This book is in black & white, Hardcover, sewing binding for longer life with Matt laminated multi-Colour Dust Cover, Printed on high quality Paper, re-sized as per Current standards, professionally processed without changing its contents. As these are old books, there may be some pages which are blur or missing or black spots. If it is multi volume set, then it is only single volume. We expect that you will understand our compulsion in these books. We found this book important for the readers…

Who am I?

I’ve been immersed in books about true crime investigation for nearly thirty years, as a writer, a blogger for Psychology Today, and a professor of forensic psychology. Of my 68 published books and over 1,500 articles, many are devoted to historical accounts of forensic science, investigation, and serial murder, so I’ve perused hundreds of books from different time periods. Around a dozen books stand out for the quality of research and narrative momentum, or for the dogged persistence of a real-life Sherlock Holmes. Those five that I picked effectively demonstrate how an investigation should proceed, no matter the odds.


I wrote...

How to Catch a Killer, Volume 1: Hunting and Capturing the World's Most Notorious Serial Killers

By Katherine Ramsland,

Book cover of How to Catch a Killer, Volume 1: Hunting and Capturing the World's Most Notorious Serial Killers

What is my book about?

From forensic innovation and solid police work to mistakes killers made, this book covers the different ways in which thirty serial killers have been caught. Among them are famous cases like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, as well as lesser known offenders like the Italian soapmaker who dismembered three friends to save her son and the Japanese predator who posed as a partner for suicide pacts.

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