The most recommended books about sex crimes

Who picked these books? Meet our 18 experts.

18 authors created a book list connected to sex crimes, and here are their favorite sex crime books.
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Book cover of Break the Fall

Emma Kress Author Of Dangerous Play

From my list on YA featuring badass sporty girls.

Who am I?

I adore books about sporty badass girls. Yet, when I first began to write Dangerous Play, there were few young-adult novels featuring fierce sporty girls. Of those, there were fewer which portrayed the powerful friendships that can emerge on girls’ sports teams. I want to read and write about girls who are defined by more than their love interests, who are dogged in the pursuit of their goals. In a world that so often judges girls by how their bodies look, sports offers an arena in which girls can view and value their bodies in an alternative way. And who doesn’t love to cheer for someone who beats the odds? 

Emma's book list on YA featuring badass sporty girls

Emma Kress Why did Emma love this book?

I inhaled Break the Fall, set in the world of elite gymnastics. After an injury, Audrey is not only ready to return to gymnastics but does the impossible thing of qualifying for the Olympics. Finally, she’s on the cusp of achieving all that she’s dreamed of and trained for all these years. Everything unravels, however, when their coach is accused of sexual assault. Iacopelli does a gorgeous job capturing all of the highs and lows of this story, as well as the intensity of elite athletics. While we don’t typically think of gymnastics as a team sport, I was especially appreciative of the way Iacopelli showed the girls standing up for each other as a team, which is rare in YA girls’ sports books. 

By Jennifer Iacopelli,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fiercely told survivorship novel about one girl's determination to push her body to win gold at the Olympics, and the power of uniting as women to speak out.

The only thing seventeen-year-old Audrey Lee dreams about is swinging her way to Olympic glory. Nothing is going to stop her, not even the agony in her back. Every spasm and ache will be worth it once she has that gold medal around her neck.

But none of her training prepares her for her coach being led away in handcuffs, accused by a fellow gymnast of the unthinkable. No one knows…


Book cover of Tears of the Silenced: An Amish True Crime Memoir of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Brutal Betrayal, and Ultimate Survival

Emily Paulson Author Of Hey, Hun: Sales, Sisterhood, Supremacy, and the Other Lies Behind Multilevel Marketing

From my list on nonfiction about cults, scams, and schemes.

Who am I?

I spent 7 years in a commercial cult. I was indoctrinated into, rose to the top of, and finally escaped from a multilevel marketing company. When I started my exit, I wondered how I had become so brainwashed, which led me to do research into coercive control. I started to understand that different types of authoritarian control; behavior, information, thought, and emotional, drove me further into the cult and away from my outside friends and family. I read as many cult books and watched as many documentaries as I could find, and became fascinated with uncovering why people find themselves in the same situation I was in.  

Emily's book list on nonfiction about cults, scams, and schemes

Emily Paulson Why did Emily love this book?

This book is heartbreaking and enlightening.

Admittedly, I didn't know much about the Amish culture religion prior to reading this book, other than what I saw in Pennsylvania when I lived there, but I was always curious. After reading this book, I started to question the idea of ‘religious freedom’ in our country, that can so shield people who are abusing their freedom by exploiting women and children. 

Religion in its worst manifestation can be so damaging, which is so well explained in this book.

By Misty Griffin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Surviving Severe Child Abuse, Sexual Assault and Leaving the Amish Church

In May 2022 Misty Griffin released #invisible, a petition calling on congress to take action and help abused children in religious communities. It is currently gaining momentum and national media attention.

Watch Sins of the Amish on Peacock
#1 Best Seller in Cults & Demonism, Parenting & Relationships, Notable People, Religious, Survival, Sexual Assault, and Biographies & Memoirs

A gripping story that takes you on the journey of a child abuse and sexual assault survivor turned activist. (Photo gallery included).

True story of child abuse. When Misty Griffin was…


Book cover of Becoming Unbecoming

Jo Scott-Coe Author Of Unheard Witness: The Life and Death of Kathy Leissner Whitman

From my list on nonfiction that reclaim lost history or silenced voices.

Who am I?

As a book lover and as a nonfiction writer and researcher, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that a book is truly a portal that can connect people across time and space. I’m a Catholic (stray) by education and tradition, and for me this interconnectivity resonates with the familiar theology of the communion of saints. Whether you are religious or not, if you love words, there is something rather miraculous about how language, past and present, from authors living and dead, can connect and surprise us and spark new conversations even with those yet to be born. You never know who may need to hear what you are putting on the page. 

Jo's book list on nonfiction that reclaim lost history or silenced voices

Jo Scott-Coe Why did Jo love this book?

I was late to discover this book, but I devoured it instantly. Una’s is a hybrid work, a mixture of memoir and criminal history in stunning graphic novel form.

She tells her account of growing up in West Yorkshire, UK, in 1977 when the serial murderer Peter Sutcliffe (dubbed “the Yorkshire Ripper”—ick) was still at large. Her book connects her own traumatic history with local newspaper and media accounts as well as broader statistics of sexual violence and the failures of formal investigations.

By the conclusion, Una builds to her own recovery and survival process and creates one of the most beautiful endings—drawings only—I have ever experienced in a book delving into such heart-wrenching subject matter. 

By Una,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of In Broad Daylight: A murder in Skidmore, Missouri

Neal W. Fandek Author Of Peter Pike and the Revenge of the Romanovs

From my list on psycho killers.

Who am I?

I’m the author of the Peter Pike private eye series. Pike regularly tangles with psychos; you can’t have crime novels without them. Why? People love psychos. Psychos horrify and fascinate us. Do we wish we could be them? Maybe. The best psychos are outwardly lovable and charming and get whatever they want, making you laugh and shudder at the same time. Wish fulfillment? Fantasy? Subconscious longings? Again, maybe. I know such fiction lets you dive deeply into what’s now called transgressive territory without consequences. Does fiction get any better than that?

Neal's book list on psycho killers

Neal W. Fandek Why did Neal love this book?

This isn't a novel but a true crime narrative, a depiction of a man named Ken McElroy gunned down on the main street of a small Missouri town in, well, broad daylight. No witnesses. No suspects. Well, the whole town, the whole county, are suspects. This guy raped very young girls then got them to marry him, shot people, stole cattle and equipment, burned down houses. This book was a jolt to me because my wife is from that area, an area I, a man who's spent most of my life in urban areas, had always thought bucolic, filled with amiable, honest, peaceful people. I started looking at the natives in a different light after this. And, not to freak anybody out here, chances are pretty good there’s been a terrible crime, if you’re lucky an unsolved one, committed not very far at all from where you are right now.

By Harry N. MacLean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ken Rex McElroy was an illiterate hog farmer who lived on the outskirts of a small town in Northwest Missouri. For over twenty years he raped, robbed and burned almost at will. Cops were scared to arrest him, prosecutors were scared to prosecute him, judges were scared to judge him, and juries were scared to convict him. Over the years, Skidmore and many other small communities became convinced that the law was incapable of protecting them from McElroy. They watched in awe as he walked away from one crime after another. Ken McElroy was shot to death on the main…


Book cover of I Have the Right to: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope

Amber Smith Author Of The Way I Used to Be

From my list on me-too movement.

Who am I?

I began writing The Way I Used to Be back in 2010. For me, it started simply as a place to work through my own private thoughts and feelings about sexual violence. I was writing as a survivor myself, but also as someone who has known, loved, and cared for so many others who have experienced violence and abuse. By the time I finished, I realized my novel had evolved into something much bigger: a story I hoped could contribute something meaningful to the larger dialogue. These powerful books on this list are all a part of that dialogue, each based in a richly diverse, yet shared reality. Readers will learn, grow, heal, and find hope in these pages.

Amber's book list on me-too movement

Amber Smith Why did Amber love this book?

I Have the Right to is the true story of Chessy Prout, who was sexually assaulted as a freshman as part of a ritualized “game” of conquest perpetrated by the boys at her high school. The book follows her quest for justice, as her case and trial gained international media attention. She has become a passionate advocate for consent education, and in 2017 (at the age of eighteen!) she started a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness of sexual assault in high schools. I’m in awe and admiration of the bravery and strength of this young woman, and believe everyone—teens and adults, boys and girls, everyone—needs to read her story. 

By Chessy Prout, Jenn Abelson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Have the Right to as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

A young survivor tells her searing, visceral story of sexual assault, justice, and healing in this gutwrenching memoir.

The numbers are staggering: nearly one in five girls ages fourteen to seventeen have been the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. This is the true story of one of those girls.

In 2014, Chessy Prout was a freshman at St. Paul's School, a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire, when a senior boy sexually assaulted her as part of a ritualized game of conquest. Chessy bravely reported her assault to the police and testified against her attacker in…


Book cover of Oscar Wilde on Trial: The Criminal Proceedings, from Arrest to Imprisonment

Simon Joyce Author Of The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror

From Simon's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author College professor Researcher Advocate for trans kids Parent Music obsessive

Simon's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Simon Joyce Why did Simon love this book?

As an academic whose recent work has been LGBTQ+ history, it has been amazing and humbling to recognize that we haven’t a complete account of one of the most famous events of all—the trials of Oscar Wilde.

This absence hasn’t stopped us from speculating and theorizing about them and their significance, but that work will be easier in the future because of Bristow’s masterful book. Utilizing hard-to-find materials in archives and the digitization of newspapers, Bristow gives us the closest we’re likely to get to an accurate understanding of what happened in 1895.

It is a powerful case for how to understand the trials today, what we can conclude Wilde was guilty of, and how he was victimized by an unjust legal process.

By Joseph Bristow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Oscar Wilde on Trial as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most authoritative account of a pivotal event in legal and cultural history: the trials of Oscar Wilde on charges of "gross indecency"

Among the most infamous prosecutions of a literary figure in history, the two trials of Oscar Wilde for committing acts of "gross indecency" occurred at the height of his fame. After being found guilty, Wilde spent two years in prison, emerged bankrupt, and died in a cheap hotel room in Paris a few years after his release. The trials prompted a new intolerance toward homosexuality: habits of male bonding that were previously seen as innocent were now…


Book cover of Sexual Forensics in Victorian and Edwardian England: Age, Crime and Consent in the Courts

Katherine D. Watson Author Of Medicine and Justice: Medico-Legal Practice in England and Wales, 1700-1914

From my list on the history of forensic medicine.

Who am I?

I work on topics where medicine, crime, and the law intersect, aided by an undergraduate degree in chemistry and stimulated by my fascination with how criminal justice systems work. I have published on the history of poisoning, vitriol attacks, assault, child murder, and the role of scientific expertise in criminal investigations and trials, focusing on Britain since the seventeenth century. I’ve contributed to many TV documentaries over the years, and enjoy the opportunity to explain just why the history of crime is about so much more than individual criminals: it shows us how people in the past lived their lives and helps explain how we got where we are today.  


Katherine's book list on the history of forensic medicine

Katherine D. Watson Why did Katherine love this book?

This fascinating study shows that victim-blaming has a long history and doctors have been part of the problem, playing a significant role in constructing and reinforcing rape myths in the years 1850-1914. The unique focus on age, medical beliefs about puberty, and public concerns about sexual offences and working-class sexuality explains why even children under the legal age of consent might not be seen as sexually innocent. Medicine provided a scientific rationale for deeply entrenched and remarkably stable popular beliefs about ‘real rape’ and ‘victimhood’, contributing to the serious burden that female victims faced in court. 

By Victoria Bates,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sexual Forensics in Victorian and Edwardian England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing on court records from London and the South West, Sexual Forensics in Victorian and Edwardian England explores medical roles in trials for sexual offences. Its focus on sexual maturity, a more flexible concept than the legal age of consent, enables histories of sexual crime to be seen in a new light.


Book cover of Things We Didn't Talk about When I Was a Girl: A Memoir

Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman Author Of Sounds Like Titanic

From my list on memoirs with an unconventional structure.

Who am I?

I am a reader, writer, and professor specializing in memoir writing. I think every single person has a fascinating life. But, when writing it down, it can be difficult to find a narrative structure that allows the story to feel as unique as the human being writing it. I am drawn to memoirs that have fresh, creative ways of organizing their material—memoirs that go beyond or subvert the conventional, straightforward, chronological approach. After all, our memories are often scattered, fragmented, interrupted, non-linear, or just bizarre; memoirs that capture not only the person’s lived experience but also the messiness of memory itself feel more powerful and true to me. 

Jessica's book list on memoirs with an unconventional structure

Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman Why did Jessica love this book?

The best memoirs, to me, are not only records of past events. They are also the record of a writer grappling with how best to tell the story. Jeannie Vanasco takes this idea to an entirely new level in this brilliant meta-memoir that not only chronicles a sexual assault she experienced in college, but also her present-day investigation into her rapist’s memories of the event, his motives, and his present-day thoughts about what happened. This book challenged me to think in new ways—not only about sexual assault, but also about the ways we remember it and write about it. 

By Jeannie Vanasco,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Things We Didn't Talk about When I Was a Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Editors’ Choice and Best Book of the Year at TIME, Esquire, Amazon, Kirkus, and Electric Literature


Jeannie Vanasco has had the same nightmare since she was a teenager. It is always about him: one of her closest high school friends, a boy named Mark. A boy who raped her. When her nightmares worsen, Jeannie decides—after fourteen years of silence—to reach out to Mark. He agrees to talk on the record and meet in person.


Jeannie details her friendship with Mark before and after the assault, asking the brave and urgent question: Is it possible for a…


Book cover of My Dark Vanessa

Daisy Alpert Florin Author Of My Last Innocent Year

From my list on the pain of growing up.

Who am I?

My Last Innocent Year is about a young woman losing innocence and gaining wisdom (the flip side of the coin) as she does the hard and necessary work of becoming herself. As Isabel navigates the transition from child to adult, she discovers that adults are, in fact, as lost and confused as she is. The books I have chosen are ones that explore the sometime (often) painful process of growing up and the joy that comes from learning that our voice matters. As the mother of three teenagers, I feel I’m witnessing this transition in real time.

Daisy's book list on the pain of growing up

Daisy Alpert Florin Why did Daisy love this book?

Hailed as the first novel of the #MeToo movement, Russell’s debut grabs you by the throat and never lets you go.

Vanessa Wye is a bright, insecure fifteen-year-old when she meets Jacob Strane, her magnetic and manipulative English teacher. Before long, their relationship crosses the line into abuse.

Beautifully written and emotionally gutting, Russell succeeds above all in showing the long tail of abuse. We watch as Vanessa loses her innocence twice; first, at the hands of Strane and later as she realizes that what she thought was a great love story was in fact anything but.

By Kate Elizabeth Russell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My Dark Vanessa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An instant New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2021 DYLAN THOMAS AWARD

'A package of dynamite' Stephen King

'Powerful, compulsive, brilliant' Marian Keyes

An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher

ALL HE DID WAS FALL IN LOVE WITH ME AND THE WORLD TURNED HIM INTO A MONSTER

Vanessa Wye was fifteen-years-old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.…


Book cover of City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London

Mark D. Steinberg Author Of Russian Utopia: A Century of Revolutionary Possibilities

From my list on the modern history of cities.

Who am I?

I grew up in San Francisco and worked in New York City in the 1970s as a taxi driver and printing apprentice, and, after getting a doctorate at UC Berkeley, taught at Harvard, Yale, and the University of Illinois. Most of my publications and teaching have been about Russian history—I've written books on labor relations, working-class writers, the Russian Revolution, St. Petersburg, and utopias. I've been teaching comparative urban history for several years and am writing a new book on urban storytelling about street life, nightlife, and morality in Soviet Odessa, colonial Bombay, and New York City in the 1920s and 1930s. I recently retired and live in New York City and Turin, Italy.

Mark's book list on the modern history of cities

Mark D. Steinberg Why did Mark love this book?

This is Victorian London, a city of dynamic growth, extreme class divisions, obsessions with public sexual danger and pathology, growing anxiety in the face of so much that is unknown and uncertain, and moralizing campaigns for reform. Not least, and the book ends with this story, this is the city of Jack the Ripper. Sometimes Walkowitz is densely analytical, for she is skillful as both storyteller and theorist. In both genres, the experience of modernity is central, as are questions about the body and the self, ethnicity, class, and morality. The city that emerges, in all its dread and delight, is a story that inspires us to think about other cities, other streets, other scandals, and other modernities, including our own.

By Judith R. Walkowitz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From tabloid exposes of child prostitution to the grisly tales of Jack the Ripper, narratives of sexual danger pulsated through Victorian London. Expertly blending social history and cultural criticism, Judith Walkowitz shows how these narratives reveal the complex dramas of power, politics, and sexuality that were being played out in late nineteenth-century Britain, and how they influenced the language of politics, journalism, and fiction. Victorian London was a world where long-standing traditions of class and gender were challenged by a range of public spectacles, mass media scandals, new commercial spaces, and a proliferation of new sexual categories and identities. In…