The most recommended investigative journalism books

Who picked these books? Meet our 42 experts.

42 authors created a book list connected to investigative journalism, and here are their favorite investigative journalism books.
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Book cover of Around the World in Seventy-Two Days

Tracey Jean Boisseau Author Of Sultan To Sultan - Adventures Among The Masai And Other Tribes Of East Africa

From my list on travel and exploration written by women in the Victorian Era.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of feminism, I am always on the lookout for sources that reveal women’s voices and interpretation of experiences often imagined as belonging primarily to men. Whether erudite travelogue, personal journey of discovery, or sensationalist narrative of adventure and exploration, books written by women traveling on their own were among the most popular writings published in the Victorian era. Often aimed at justifying the expansion of woman’s proper “sphere,” these books are perhaps even more enthralling to the contemporary reader —since they seem to defy everything we think we know about the constrained lives of women in this era. In addition to illuminating the significant roles that women played in the principal conflicts and international crises of the nineteenth century, these stories of women wading through swamps, joining military campaigns, marching across deserts, up mountains, and through contested lands often armed only with walking sticks, enormous determination, and sheer chutzpah, never fail to fascinate!

Tracey's book list on travel and exploration written by women in the Victorian Era

Tracey Jean Boisseau Why did Tracey love this book?

Bly was a brilliant investigative journalist best known in the United States for her exposé of the Women’s Lunatic Asylum based on her feigning of insanity as an undercover patient … until she became even more famous for her circumnavigation of the globe, inspired by Jules Verne’s fictional Around the World in 80 Days. Sponsored and encouraged by Joseph Pulitzer (editor of the tabloid newspaper, The New York World) and written in a witty, breezy style, Bly’s pithily-told tale upends every stereotype of fragile Victorian womanhood; her gutsy candor about her madcap race around what was supposed to be a wholly man’s world still stuns and delights!

By Nellie Bly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Around the World in Seventy-Two Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"She was part of the 'stunt girl' movement that was very important in the 1880s and 1890s as these big, mass-circulation yellow journalism papers came into the fore." -Brooke Kroeger

Around the World in Seventy-Two Days (1890) is a travel narrative by American investigative journalist Nellie Bly. Proposed as a recreation of the journey undertaken by Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), Bly's journey was covered in Joseph Pulitzer's popular newspaper the New York World, inspiring countless others to attempt to surpass her record. At the time, readers at home were encouraged to estimate…


Book cover of Diary of a Misfit: A Memoir and a Mystery

Amber J. Keyser Author Of Pointe, Claw

From Amber's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Paddler Circus artist Evolutionary biologist Storyteller Introvert

Amber's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Amber J. Keyser Why did Amber love this book?

How do we tell our own story? What are the lies we tell ourselves? How do we change the narrative?

In this memoir, Casey Parks unpacks growing up gay in the rural south, navigating a challenging relationship with her on-again, off-again addict mother, and unraveling the mystery of Roy Hudgins, a self-proclaimed misfit whose life challenged every preconceived notion about the south.

Diary of a Misfit is a deeply honest and sometimes uncomfortably revelatory memoir deeply rooted in place, and I loved it, especially the audiobook, read by the author. I’m working on my own memoir now, and Parks’ example inspires me to lean into the parts of my own story that hurt the most.

By Casey Parks,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Diary of a Misfit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2022 by The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, New York Public Library, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Part memoir, part sweeping journalistic saga: As Casey Parks follows the mystery of a stranger's past, she is forced to reckon with her own sexuality, her fraught Southern identity, her tortured yet loving relationship with her mother, and the complicated role of faith in her life.

"Most moving is Parks’s depiction of a queer lineage, her assertion of an ancestry of outcasts, a tapestry of fellow misfits into which the marginalized will always, for better or…


Book cover of Fletch

Gayleen Froese Author Of The Girl Whose Luck Ran Out

From my list on hard-boiled comfort reads for a disappointing world.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was nine years old, I joined a book club. The members were me and my dad. He’d throw detective books into my room when he was done with them, and I’d read them. We’d never discuss them. But that’s why hard-boiled detective fiction is comfort food for me and how I know it so well. I’ve been binging on it most of my life and learning everything the shamus-philosophers had to teach me. Now I write my own, the Ben Ames series, for the joy of paying it forward.

Gayleen's book list on hard-boiled comfort reads for a disappointing world

Gayleen Froese Why did Gayleen love this book?

When my shoulder are in knots, I can get a massage, or I can reread Fletch.

If you know the book, that will seem weird. It’s not a pretty story and it’s got a pile of seventies misogyny and homophobia that definitely grates. This is not a comfort read. Except it is, for me, because I.M. Fletcher is an artist in the medium of trouble.

This is the story of Fletch’s impossible mountain of problems, personal and professional, and watching him work makes me feel like I’ve seen someone solve a Rubik’s cube underwater with their eyes closed. At the start, a mess. At the end, elegance. Everything is sorted and resolved, no matter how reprehensibly Fletch got it done. My neck tension releases. I can go to bed.

By Gregory McDonald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book one in the bestselling mystery series that brought to life an iconic literary antihero of subversion and schemes
Fletch, investigative reporter extraordinaire, can’t be bothered with deadlines or expense-account budgets when it comes to getting his story.

Working undercover at the beach to dig up a drug-trafficking scheme for his next blockbuster piece, Fletch is invited into a much deeper narrative. Alan Stanwyk, CEO of Collins Aviation and all-around family man, mistakes the reporter for a strung-out vagabond and asks him for a favor: kill him and escape to Brazil with $50,000. Intrigued, Fletch can’t help but dig into…


Book cover of The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids

Andrea Malkin Brenner Author Of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You're There)

From my list on under-prepared first-year college students.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having worked on college campuses for 25 years as a professor, administrator, and first-year experience program designer, I’ve seen first-hand how freshmen are increasingly failing at “adulting” because they are unprepared for the realities of campus life. I take on this needed preparation as co-author of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There) and as the creator of the Talking College™ Card Deck, discussion prompts for college-bound students and their parents/guardians. I share my insider knowledge with college-bound students and their parents at talks and workshops throughout the U.S. My goal is to help both groups thrive as they prepare for the upcoming transition.

Andrea's book list on under-prepared first-year college students

Andrea Malkin Brenner Why did Andrea love this book?

In the year of her tenth reunion, journalist Alexandra Robbins returns to her former high-pressure public high school in Bethesda, MD. For the next year, she follows eight intelligent, motivated, and overachieving high school students through their daily lives. The author presents a host of complicated issues plaguing high-achieving suburban high schools including intense stress amongst students in AP courses, an epidemic of cheating, parental pressures to perform, unprescribed ADD drug use, and a cutthroat college admissions process. Although this is a nonfiction book scaffolded by investigative journalism, it reads like a novel. Robbins presents a clear warning to students as they navigate the pressures of achieving at peak levels and to parents about how serious the “Ivy-league obsession” is in American culture.

By Alexandra Robbins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The bestselling author of Pledged returns with a groundbreaking look at the pressure to achieve faced by America's teens

In Pledged, Alexandra Robbins followed four college girls to produce a riveting narrative that read like fiction. Now, in The Overachievers, Robbins uses the same captivating style to explore how our high-stakes educational culture has spiraled out of control. During the year of her ten-year reunion, Robbins goes back to her high school, where she follows heart-tuggingly likeable students including "AP" Frank, who grapples with horrifying parental pressure to succeed; Audrey, whose panicked perfectionism overshadows her life; Sam, who worries his…


Book cover of Gator Aide (Rachel Porter Mysteries)

Pamela Beason Author Of Endangered

From my list on women sleuths in wild places.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nature is my passion. As an avid hiker, kayaker, snowshoer, and occasional scuba diver, nothing thrills me more than observing wild species in their native environments. Freedom from the constant noise of civilization helps maintain my sanity. I want to share my passion for the endless fascination and solace of nature with my readers, and I also enjoy using my ten years of experience as a private investigator to craft each mystery. And last but never least, I relish strong characters who must rely on their own ingenuity to solve problems, so using a setting where 911 cannot immediately deliver help is a key element in many of my stories. 

Pamela's book list on women sleuths in wild places

Pamela Beason Why did Pamela love this book?

The Rachel Porter Mysteries by Jessica Speart are not well known, but they deserve to be. These books are available now only as Kindle ebooks and used mass-market paperbacks. Based on years of experience as an investigative journalist focusing on wildlife law enforcement and endangered species issues, the author created protagonist Rachel Porter, a new wildlife agent who is determined to protect animals wherever she is assigned, no matter what dangers and challenges may erupt from the environment, the local citizens, or her own bosses, who typically believe that she doesn’t belong in the field. Speart writes amazing scenes that are both suspenseful and funny, a trick that as an author I envy. I learned a lot about the illegal wildlife trade in each book, and I never tired of the quirky characters and Rachel’s fearless dedication to protecting wildlife at all costs

By Jessica Speart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gator Aide (Rachel Porter Mysteries) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Investigating the death of an alligator that was found chained near the body of a murdered prostitute, rookie Fish & Wildlife Agent Rachel Porter learns that the creature was being used to smuggle heroin. Original.


Book cover of And the Band Played on: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic

Michael B.A. Oldstone Author Of Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present, and Future

From my list on understanding how viruses cause disease.

Why am I passionate about this?

Michael B.A. Oldstone was head of the Viral-Immunobiology Laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute, devoting his career to understanding viruses, the diseases they cause, and the host’s immune response to control these infections. His work led to numerous national and international awards, election to the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Medicine. Oldstone served on the SAGE executive board of the World Health Organization and as a WHO consultant for the eradication of polio and measles.

Michael's book list on understanding how viruses cause disease

Michael B.A. Oldstone Why did Michael love this book?

This book characterizes the discovery and spread HIV and AIDS. Shits an investigative journalist provides an extensive look into the disease itself, the politics and politicians battling to control or ignoring the disease. Also discussed are the events that shaped the pandemic leading to its expansion or its control. 

By Randy Shilts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Upon its first publication more than twenty years ago, And the Band Played on was quickly recognized as a masterpiece of investigative reporting.

An international bestseller, a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and made into a critically acclaimed movie, Shilts' expose revealed why AIDS was allowed to spread unchecked during the early 80's while the most trusted institutions ignored or denied the threat. One of the few true modern classics, it changed and framed how AIDS was discussed in the following years. Now republished in a special 20th Anniversary edition, And the Band Played On remains one…


Book cover of Fair Warning

Anthony Lee Author Of Doctor Lucifer

From my list on thrillers with the most unique premises.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love thriller stories. I also love a variety of types of thrillers because there are so many ways for someone to face great challenges, overcome those hurdles, and achieve a major goal, all in the context of high stakes and fast-paced situations. It doesn’t matter if the story is related to crime, medicine, science, law, politics, espionage, etc. After experiencing such a diversity of thriller stories, including the books recommended below, I am passionate about creating my own stories, based on my life experiences and endless imagination.

Anthony's book list on thrillers with the most unique premises

Anthony Lee Why did Anthony love this book?

I love Michael Connelly’s crime thrillers featuring Harry Bosch and legal thrillers centering on Mickey Haller, but let’s not forget his thrillers focusing on journalist Jack McEvoy, especially this third one.

What gripped me so much while reading this story is how the villain knows more about the protagonist than the other way around, along with the horrifying consequences of genetic information getting into the wrong hands. Combine that with not knowing yet who the villain is, and you have a thriller that is no doubt heart-pounding.

By Michael Connelly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

HOW DO YOU FIND A KILLER WHO KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU?

'AS EXCITING AS ANYTHING CONNELLY HAS WRITTEN' THE TIMES

* * * * *

Jack McEvoy is a reporter with a track record in finding killers. But he's never been accused of being one himself.

Jack went on one date with Tina Portrero. The next thing he knows, the police are at his house telling Jack he's a suspect in her murder.

Maybe it's because he doesn't like being accused of a crime he didn't commit. Or maybe it's because the method of her murder is so chilling that…


Book cover of Six Stories

Heather Critchlow Author Of Unsolved

From my list on true crime podcasters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been hooked on true crime podcasts ever since Serial burst onto the scene in 2014. My favourites are set in remote locations and breathe life into long-forgotten cases, giving victims’ families hopes of resolution and delivering justice. Initially dispassionate podcasters often find themselves sucked into the stories they cover, continuing for years in a bid to discover the truth. I’m fascinated by what motivates the men and women behind the microphones, which inspired me to write my own podcast novel. Now Unsolved is out there, I love reading other authors’ takes on true crime podcasters and these are five of my favourites – dark and sinister with buckets of atmosphere!

Heather's book list on true crime podcasters

Heather Critchlow Why did Heather love this book?

When I had the idea for my book, I had originally wondered about writing full podcast episodes but abandoned that idea as it was so tricky. In Six Stories Matt Wesolowski does exactly that and very successfully.

In the book, elusive podcaster Scott King investigates the murder of a teenager at a deserted outward-bound centre on Scarclaw Fell. As the reader you’re put in the shoes of listeners as King digs deeper into the horrifying setting and the group of people who were staying at the centre and live nearby.

This is the first in the series of six atmospheric novels. They’re chilling, unpredictable, and will keep you up at night. Matt’s writing skills blow me away.

By Matt Wesolowski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the murder of a teenager at an outward bound centre, in the first episode of the critically acclaimed, international bestselling Six Stories series...

For fans of Serial

'Bold, clever and genuinely chilling' Sunday Mirror

'Haunting, horrifying, and heartrending. Fans of Arthur Machen, whose unsettling tale The White People provides an epigraph, will want to check this one out' Publishers Weekly

'Wonderfully horrifying ... the suspense crackles' James Oswald

'A complex and subtle mystery, unfolding like dark origami to reveal the black heart inside' Michael Marshall Smith

________________

One body
Six stories
Which one is…


Book cover of Shrine

Sarah E. England Author Of Father of Lies

From my list on supernatural thrillers to scare and thrill.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an English author and an ex-nurse (psychiatry). Many years ago, when I was writing for magazines and floundering for direction, I met a woman who’d been hurt by ritual satanic abuse. She disturbed me badly, and I began to research the subject, becoming passionate about showing how evil affects people, and how fear and mind games are woven into the fabric of life, carrying on through families. I’ve also loved discovering beautiful prose and how to express the complexities of the human condition. I was reading my mum’s cast-off Victoria Holt novels at age seven, so perhaps I should add my other passion—simply books.      

Sarah's book list on supernatural thrillers to scare and thrill

Sarah E. England Why did Sarah love this book?

The late, great James Herbert is still, in my opinion, incomparable in the genre of British horror. I devoured most of his books as a teen, but stumbled on Shrine only a few years ago. This, and so relevant today, is a study on mass hysteriaa frightening enough conceptbut it isn’t that which lingered. For me it was one particular scene. The story centres around a church, and the protagonist, an investigative journalist, decides to look into how the entire village became a shrine to what was basically a vision. This leads him to a small privately owned ancestral estate, and it is here, in this small dark church with high wooden pews, where the bone-chilling encounter takes place. I have to say I’ve never read a more visual description of encroaching dread than this. Brilliantly executed. Second to none.       

By James Herbert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Now a major film called The Unholy starring The Walking Dead's Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

In James Herbert's horror novel Shrine, innocence and evil have become one . . .

A little girl called Alice. A deaf-mute. A vision. A lady in shimmering white who says she is the immaculate conception. And Alice can suddenly hear and speak, and she can perform miracles.

Soon the site of the visitation, beneath an ancient oak tree, has become a shrine, a holy place for thousands of pilgrims. But Alice is no longer the guileless child overwhelmed by her new saintliness.

She has become…


Book cover of The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America's Food Business

Chloe Sorvino Author Of Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Fight for the Future of Meat

From my list on the meat industry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an investigative journalist who focuses on the intersection of finance, wealth accounting, and climate change. I head up food and agriculture coverage at Forbes, and have been reporting on the wealth and power hiding within the food industry for nearly a decade. I’ve been called a billionaire whisperer, and have a knack for getting folks to talk. Based in New York City, I’m a member of a Lower East Side community-supported agriculture share and keep composting worms on my terrace garden. 

Chloe's book list on the meat industry

Chloe Sorvino Why did Chloe love this book?

This book, in many ways, is the spiritual grandfather to mine. Christopher Leonard is a pioneer: He went to a level of detail that no one had before. His deep investigation of Tyson Foods is a formative example of how corporations pick profits over their farmers and use their power to exert control over producers, workers, and suppliers. It has informed my research time and time again. 

By Christopher Leonard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An investigative journalist takes you inside the corporate meat industry—a shocking, in-depth report every American should read.

How much do you know about the meat on your dinner plate? Journalist Christopher Leonard spent more than a decade covering the country’s biggest meat companies, including four years as the national agribusiness reporter for the Associated Press. Now he delivers the first comprehensive look inside the industrial meat system, exposing how a handful of companies executed an audacious corporate takeover of the nation’s meat supply.

Leonard’s revealing account shines a light on the inner workings of Tyson Foods, a pioneer of the…