The best investigative journalism books 📚

Browse the best books on investigative journalism as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of 1979

1979

By Val McDermid

Why this book?

Thriller writer and contemporary ‘queen of crime’ Val McDermid draws deeply on her own years as a tabloid journalist to bring fictional reporter Allie Burns to life during the winter of discontent. This unputdownable tale of a newspaper investigation into matters of life, death, and corruption is so evocative of a 1970s Glasgow newsroom that I could practically smell the fags and taste the whisky. More Allie Burns stories are promised, and I for one can’t wait.

From the list:

The best books about journalists as heroes

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Book cover of Fletch

Fletch

By Gregory McDonald

Why this book?

Who said crime fiction couldn’t be hilarious? McDonald created the former Marine turned investigative reporter Irwin Maurice "Fletch" Fletcher in 1974, and eventually wrote nine novels in the series. Fletch and the second, Confess, Fletch, was the only time a novel and its sequel won back-to-back Edgars. 

In 1985, Fletch was adapted into a movie with Chevy Chase in the title role.

From the list:

The best old-school crime fiction novels that stood the test of time

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Book cover of The Odessa File

The Odessa File

By Frederick Forsyth

Why this book?

Searching for a story, a young German crime reporter stumbles on a case of suicide by a Holocaust survivor.

Having read the dead man’s diary, he starts investigating the allegations it contained. What he comes across shocks him and propels him into the dangerous territory of covert Nazi activities. From then on he finds not only his own, but also his girlfriend’s life being threatened. 

Fascism and the Nazis played a great part in my formative years and I had not only witnessed, but actually suffered their ruthlessness. 

From the list:

The best books (with photos) about the incredible struggles of a family over three generations, WWII and beyond

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Book cover of Night Film

Night Film

By Marisha Pessl

Why this book?

Night Film is a great example of impactful mixed media storytelling. It is a cult horror novel about a journalist’s obsession with a cult horror director. By combining mixed media ‘found objects’ like film posters, interviews, and newspaper articles with the main character’s narration, the novel achieves a high level of suspense as the reader is fully immersed into this dark ghostly world. I admire this book because it speaks to my own love for dark, cult movies; and I believe it is also a great learning text for all writers who want to develop their own mixed media storytelling…
From the list:

The best horror books with mixed media format

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Book cover of The Journalist and the Murderer

The Journalist and the Murderer

By Janet Malcolm

Why this book?

I could name any number of Malcolm’s books as favorites but I have to go with the granddaddy of ‘em all, The Journalist and the Murderer. Malcolm dissects a trial in which a man convicted of murder sues an author who wrote about his crime for libel. And the murderer wins. Can you believe?! Malcolm uses the case to analyze the journalistic transaction between writer and subject and thirty-three years after publication the book reads as contemporary. When talking about Malcolm’s writing, what doesn’t get mentioned enough is how laceratingly funny she is, and this book showcases that humor…

From the list:

The best true crime-adjacent books

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Book cover of Gun Baby Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of the Gun

Gun Baby Gun: A Bloody Journey into the World of the Gun

By Iain Overton

Why this book?

An astonishing well-researched and detailed analysis of the arms trade and the omnipresence of guns in the world today. Full of startling and worrying statistics, for example, that there are 12 billion bullets produced every year which kill at least 500,000 people. The book reveals how in some places it is easier to get a gun than to get a glass of water. Solo killers, the military, the hunters, the paranoid suburban Americans, they are all here, and it is not a pretty picture.

From the list:

The best books on how the world works

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