The most recommended books about massacres

Who picked these books? Meet our 35 experts.

35 authors created a book list connected to massacres, and here are their favorite massacre books.
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Book cover of Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam

Luke Peterson Author Of The U.S. Military in the Print News Media: Service and Sacrifice in Contemporary Discourse

From my list on a critical perspective on U.S. foreign policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a teacher, writer, scholar, and, above all, a critic of social injustice for my entire professional life. My experience living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank informed my critical voice around issues of language, knowledge, history, and policy in and about the Middle East, leading to the publication of my two scholarly monographs: Palestine in the American Mind: The Discourse on Palestine in the Contemporary United States and Palestine-Israel in the Print News Media: Contending Discourses. The titles I introduce here have been vital to my ongoing education on these issues and in my continuing advocacy for peace and justice in Palestine, the Middle East, and around the world. 

Luke's book list on a critical perspective on U.S. foreign policy

Luke Peterson Why did Luke love this book?

I came across the work of Nick Turse while working on the fifth chapter of my new book. I had been struggling to find a critical voice in the assessment of the American war in Vietnam that was sustained by a keen historical eye and the pure, intellectual critique of a scholar. When I found Turse, I found my answers.

Turse’s assessment of the unmitigated brutality of the American war in Vietnam chilled me; his powerful critique brought a new voice and vigor to my own burgeoning criticism of that U.S. slaughter in Southeast Asia.

Anyone looking for a strong voice condemning wholesale the U.S. anti-communist paranoia of the era and/or the indiscriminate killing capacity of the U.S. military machine need look no further than Turse and Kill Anything that Moves

By Nick Turse,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Kill Anything That Moves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by just a few "bad apples." But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese non-combatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of official orders to "kill anything that moves." Drawing on more than a decade of research into secret Pentagon archives and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals for the first time the workings…

Book cover of One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath

Anne Buist Author Of The Long Shadow

From my list on crime where mental illness is conveyed authentically.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Professor of Women’s Mental Health and have worked clinically, taught, and researched in the area of perinatal psychiatry for over thirty years. I do forensic psychiatry related to this; all this guides the books I write. I am passionate about promoting mental health and helping everyone understand the high level of trauma and its devastating effects on people; I have also been an avid reader of just about everything since I was eight, and love a gripping crime or psychological thriller. But it has to make sense, be authentic and not demonize mental illness; I have a particular hatred for the evil serial killer who was just “born that way”.

Anne's book list on crime where mental illness is conveyed authentically

Anne Buist Why did Anne love this book?

Mass killings are rare – especially in Norway, but we hear about them and they cause fear. Understanding why they happen has to be a way to try to stop them—even if it’s only stopping gun access (in the USA anyway) to those who are at risk. Seierstad takes a clear hard look at the tragedy where 77 people lost their lives—at the perpetrator’s childhood, where the system got it wrong and where the psychiatric profession couldn’t agree.

By Åsne Seierstad, Sarah Death (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On 22 July 2011 Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 of his fellow Norwegians in a terrorist atrocity that shocked the world. Many were teenagers, just beginning their adult lives. In the devastating aftermath, the inevitable questions began. How could this happen? Why did it happen? And who was Anders Breivik? Asne Seierstad was uniquely placed to explore these questions. An award-winning foreign correspondent, she had spent years writing about people caught up in violent conflict. Now, for the first time, she was being asked to write about her home country. Based on extensive testimonies and interviews, One of Us is…

Book cover of The Farming of Bones

Donna Hemans Author Of The House of Plain Truth

From my list on haunting: how the past lingers with us.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a culture that both fears and embraces spirits or outrightly rejects the idea that spirits live on beyond death. I grew up on stories of rolling calves and duppies that caused havoc among the living. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by what haunts us—whether it be our familial spirits that float among the living and continue to play a role in our lives, our memories, or our past actions. I’ve written three books that play with this idea of past actions lingering long into the characters’ lives and returning in unexpected ways.  

Donna's book list on haunting: how the past lingers with us

Donna Hemans Why did Donna love this book?

Even though I grew up in Jamaica, which is about 334 miles from Haiti, I knew nothing about the 1937 Parsley Massacre, during which thousands of Haitians were executed under the orders of Dominican President Rafael Trujillo.

This book blends the personal love story of Amabelle and Sebastien with the history and politics of that time. I came away from this book with a greater understanding of survival, racism in the Caribbean, and the power of memory. 

By Edwidge Danticat,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is 1937, and Amabelle Desir is a young Haitian woman working as a maid for a wealthy family in the Dominican Republic, across the border from her homeland. The Republic, under the iron rule of the Generalissimo, treats the Haitians as second-class citizens, and although Amabelle feels a strong sense of loyalty to her employers, especially since her own parents drowned crossing the river from Haiti, racial tensions are heightened when Amabelle's boss accidentally kills a Haitian in a car accident. The accident is a catalyst for a systematic round-up of Haitians, ostensibly for repatriation but in fact a…

Book cover of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa

Daniel Combs Author Of Until the World Shatters: Truth, Lies, and the Looting of Myanmar

From my list on the human toll of civil war.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author, humanitarian, and diplomat, I’ve seen firsthand how the everyday brutality of civil wars and ethnic conflicts is often overlooked in favor of statistics: 100,000 displaced; 500 arrested; 7 villages torched. In places like Myanmar, Ethiopia, Congo, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, I have tried to use human-centered reporting to bring a magnifying glass to the effect of these tragedies on everyday people. By focusing on the stories that most of the world would rather turn away from, I think we have a better chance to understand, and ultimately prevent, these violent political and social upheavals. 

Daniel's book list on the human toll of civil war

Daniel Combs Why did Daniel love this book?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s civil wars have claimed 5.5 million lives since the mid-1990s, but most people have never heard the stories of those who died. Stearns is an academic who spent years in the DRC researching how and why communities that once lived side by side could descend into brutal violence. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to better understand how intercommunal conflict can turn neighbors into enemies, ethnicity into a weapon, and school children into genocidal street gangs. I spent two years living in DRC reporting on human rights abuses, and found Stearns’s treatment of his subjects and their personal histories arresting, respectful, and deeply humane. 

By Jason Stearns,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dancing in the Glory of Monsters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Best Book of the Year- The Economist & the Wall Street Journal At the heart of Africa is the Congo, a country the size of Western Europe, bordering nine other nations, that since 1996 has been wracked by a brutal war in which millions have died. In Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, renowned political activist and researcher Jason K. Stearns has written a compelling and deeply-reported narrative of how Congo became a failed state that collapsed into a war of retaliatory massacres. Stearns brilliantly describes the key perpetrators, many of whom he met personally, and highlights the nature…

Book cover of Mad Blood Stirring: Vendetta and Factions in Friuli During the Renaissance

Nicholas Scott Baker Author Of In Fortune's Theater: Financial Risk and the Future in Renaissance Italy

From my list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach the histories of early modern Europe and European worlds at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I developed a fascination for the period and, especially, for the Italian Renaissance as an undergraduate before going on to complete a PhD at Northwestern University in the United States. I love the contradictions and tensions of the period: a society and culture in transition from what we call medieval understandings and worldviews to what we see as more modern ones. These are some of the books that helped to fuel my passion for Renaissance Italian history and to answer some of my questions about what life was really like in Renaissance Italy.

Nicholas' book list on exploring what what Renaissance Italy was really like

Nicholas Scott Baker Why did Nicholas love this book?

This was another book that really inspired my choice of profession. Located in the northeast corner of the Italian peninsula, Friuli emerges as something like the wild west of Renaissance Italy in this engrossing study.

Far removed from the urbane cities and courts and the worlds of art and literature commonly associated with the Renaissance, Edward Muir reveals the continuing binds of feudal obligation, family, vengeance, and honor, and the violence they provoked in the early sixteenth century. Incidentally, the history he tells also encounters the real-life origins of the story that would become Romeo and Juliet.

Like Trexler, Muir explores the power of ritual in Renaissance Italian life, but rather than rituals of community and government, he focuses in this book on the rituals of aversion and violence.

By Edward Muir,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mad Blood Stirring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nobles were slaughtered and their castles looted or destroyed, bodies were dismembered and corpses fed to animals-the Udine carnival massacre of 1511 was the most extensive and damaging popular revolt in Renaissance Italy (and the basis for the story of Romeo and Juliet). Mad Blood Stirring is a gripping account and analysis of this event, as well as the social structures and historical conflicts preceding it and the subtle shifts in the mentality of revenge it introduced. This new reader's edition offers students and general readers an abridged version of this classic work which shifts the focus from specialized scholarly…

Book cover of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

HP Newquist Author Of Behemoth

From my list on horror masterpieces from a horror writer.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by scary movies, creature features, and books that tell tales of the strange and supernatural. Years later, my own books explored those things that scare us, from monsters of the deep and the ways we die to the mythology of blood. Research for those books led me into realms that explained why we fear the things we do. Many of those fears are found in horror novels, which provide an endless source of fright, release, and entertainment within their haunting pages. I can’t think of any other genre of writing that takes its readers on such a joyously terrifying ride.

HP's book list on horror masterpieces from a horror writer

HP Newquist Why did HP love this book?

When I first read Cormac McCarthy, I was awestruck by the brutal beauty of the way he used language. His way with words is almost enough to make you look past the truly horrendous things he describes in this book . . . all while telling what appears to be a simple “tale of the Old West.”

I have never read a singularly more elegantly written book, yet I’ve never read anything as mind-numbingly horrific. This book is so intense and complex that it is considered the only Cormac McCarthy book that can never be made into a movie. (He also wrote All The Pretty Horses, The Road, and No Country For Old Men.)

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Blood Meridian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

Book cover of Down the Long Hills

Allison M. Azulay Author Of The Ghost of the Highlands

From my list on historical fiction those born in the wrong century.

Why am I passionate about this?

A psychic once told me I was born in the wrong century, and I can believe it. I have always been drawn to tales of the past, feeling a kinship for the men and women of whom I read―whether they are real or born of someone's imagination―and longing for a life not digitalized or controlled and one in which self-reliance and community are not at odds. Am I a romantic? You bet, and happy to be.

Allison's book list on historical fiction those born in the wrong century

Allison M. Azulay Why did Allison love this book?

There is a reason Louis L'Amour books remain popular. I wish I had the whole collection, and I read every one I can get my hands on. One I particularly recommend is Down the Long Hills, which is a slight departure from his usual tales. In this one, two children find themselves alone and pitted against weather, wilderness, warriors, and their own worry that they are too little for this journey. I could not help measuring my own knowledge and ingenuity against that of a seven-year-old boy and finding it wanting. Nor could I help admiring the resolve and sense of responsibility that would put most adults to shame. I'll be reading this one again, too.

By Louis L'Amour,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As part of the Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures series, this edition contains exclusive bonus materials!

Everyone was dead. Indian raiders massacred the entire wagon train. Only seven-year-old Hardy Collins and three-year-old Betty Sue Powell, managed to survive. With a knife, a faithful stallion, and the survival lessons his father taught him, Hardy must face the challenges of the open prairie as they head west in search of help. Using ingenuity and common sense, Hardy builds shelters, forages for food, and learns to care for Betty Sue. But their journey through this hostile wilderness is being tracked by even more hostile…

Book cover of We Need to Talk about Kevin

Kylie Orr Author Of The Eleventh Floor

From my list on losing yourself in motherhood (the good and the bad).

Why am I passionate about this?

As the mother of four children, I have observed over the last twenty years how women are viewed and often judged under a stifling patriarchal lens. Writing about motherhood in all its glorious colours has been one way for me to channel my frustrations. Stories that reach out to women and give them a voice when they feel unheard are vital. In a world where appearances and facades are taking over our social media feeds, where filters blur out the rough edges of our lives, I’m more determined than ever to write female characters who are raw and flawed but also valued as an integral part of an evolving society.

Kylie's book list on losing yourself in motherhood (the good and the bad)

Kylie Orr Why did Kylie love this book?

From the very first page, I was intrigued by Shriver's exploration of maternal complexities. It shone a light on motherhood that I’d never seen before. I found the raw emotion and psychological depth unparalleled and loved how the narrative really delved into nature versus nurture and went so far as to question: are people born evil? 

Being a mother myself, I couldn’t imagine living through the horror of my child becoming withdrawn and that disengagement resulting in such devastation in a community. The dismissal of the mother’s concerns by the father was also an interesting social commentary.

Finally, Shriver’s writing is beyond beautiful yet so accessible for the readers.

By Lionel Shriver,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked We Need to Talk about Kevin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of a boy named Kevin who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who had tried to befriend him. Now, two years after her son's horrific rampage, Eva comes to terms with her role as Kevin's mother in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her absent husband Franklyn about their son's upbringing. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to…

Book cover of Paco's Story

Tobey C. Herzog Author Of Writing Vietnam, Writing Life: Caputo, Heinemann, O'Brien, Butler

From my list on Vietnam War literature by authors I've interviewed.

Why am I passionate about this?

From an early age, I have made a life out of listening to, telling, teaching, and writing about war stories. I am intrigued by their widespread personal and public importance. My changing associations with these stories and their tellers have paralleled evolving stages in my life—son, soldier, father, and college professor. Each stage has spawned different questions and insights about the tales and their narrators. At various moments in my own life, these war stories have also given rise to fantasized adventure, catharsis, emotional highs and lows, insights about human nature tested within the crucible of war, and intriguing relationships with the storytellers—their lives and minds.

Tobey's book list on Vietnam War literature by authors I've interviewed

Tobey C. Herzog Why did Tobey love this book?

For me, this book is the best of the Vietnam War “aftermath” novels, books dealing with veterans’ post-war physical and psychological struggles. Winner of the 1987 National Book Award for fiction, this novel, according to the author in our 2005 interview, was written to “get the hair up on the back of your [reader’s] neck.” Haunting, as well as times cynical, ironic, and brutally graphic, the author accomplishes his goal. Heinemann deftly portrays Army veteran Paco Sullivan’s cross-country odyssey, via interstate buses, in search of both spiritual and physical homes. This interstate nomad is a tragic character—mysterious and complex. At the end of this thought-provoking and uncomfortable novel, I am left with an unresolved question: is Paco a sympathetic victim of the war and America’s indifference to veterans or an active agent in his own physical and psychological turmoil? 

By Larry Heinemann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paco's Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paco Sullivan is the only man in Alpha Company to survive a cataclysmic Viet Cong attack on Fire Base Harriette in Vietnam. Everyone else is annihilated. When a medic finally rescues Paco almost two days later, he is waiting to die, flies and maggots covering his burnt, shattered body. He winds up back in the US with his legs full of pins, daily rations of Librium and Valium, and no sense of what to do next. One evening, on the tail of a rainstorm, he limps off the bus and into the small town of Boone, determined to find a…

Book cover of A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814

Mike Bunn Author Of Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812

From my list on understanding the Creek War of 1813 to 1814.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent a large part of my career researching and writing about the pivotal era in which these conflicts occurred, and continue to be intrigued by these cataclysmic events and their repercussions. Many conflicts in this nation’s history compete for the title of most unknown war, but the Creek War of 1813-1814 and the related southern campaigns of the War of 1812 have perhaps the best claim on that notoriety. Yet these conflicts nonetheless dramatically altered the United States’ history. They led to the forced removal of native tribes, ushered in the era of slave-based cotton agriculture in the Old Southwest, secured large portions of the Gulf South against European powers, and launched the career of one of America’s most influential military and political leaders. 

Mike's book list on understanding the Creek War of 1813 to 1814

Mike Bunn Why did Mike love this book?

In this book, talented archaeologist and historian Gregory Waselkov finally gives the Battle of Fort Mims the thorough analysis it so long deserved. The book features the most detailed and informed account of the tragic attack which brought the brewing conflict on America’s southwestern frontier to the nation’s conscious. While its scope extends to the treatment of the larger region in which the fight occurred and the battle in historical memory, the richly informed account of the fight here is unparalleled and definitive.

By Gregory A. Waselkov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The August 30, 1813, massacre at Fort Mims left hundreds dead and ultimately changed the course of American history. The Indian victory shocked and horrified a young America, ushering in a period of violence surrounded by racial and social confusion. Fort Mims became a rallying cry, calling Americans to fight their assailants and avenge the dead. In ""A Conquering Spirit"", Waselkov thoroughly explicates the social climes surrounding this tumultuous moment in early American history with a comprehensive collection of illustrations, artifact photographs, and detailed accounts of every known participant in the attack on Fort Mims. These rich and extensive resources…