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Serial killers are a very uniquely warped, sick type of criminal—and that's exactly what makes them so fascinating. In the world of true crime, their strange crimes and bizarre way of thinking generated an entire genre of books that captivate readers and remind us of how horrible humanity can be.
It's true, most people love to read about these killers because their stories act as real-life ghost stories. There is, however, no denying that they exist, and that one is likely to be lurking in a corner of a small town somewhere in the United States at this moment.
Though just about every book about killers is interesting, some are far better than others. Critics agree that the following titles are currently the best books about famous serial killers that you can buy. Have you read them all?
My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
Jeffrey Dahmer was one of the most prolific serial killers in modern history, and became known around the world for eating his victims. But, just like with any other mass murderer on this list, he was once a teenager in a high school.
My Friend Dahmer is a graphic novel that was written by a classmate and friend of the famous killer. It gives readers an inside look on what life is like when you're going to school with a future killer, what Dahmer's home life was like, and what warning signs people saw.
Saying it's one of the best books about famous serial killers is an understatement. This book became so popular, it was actually made into a full length movie by Netflix. Fortunately, in a sadistic sort of way, Dahmer happens to be one of the most famous criminals that were murdered in prison, ensuring he would never be free to continue his hellish behaviors.
The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
Ann Rule is one of the most well-known true crime writers in the world right now. Her books are always very well researched and incredibly captivating. Unlike other true crime writers, Ann Rule wasn't just researching out of morbid curiosity.
She actually had a run-in with Ted Bundy.
The Stranger Beside Me was the debut book that made her famous, and it tells the true story of how she met the killer while working at a suicide hotline. This book gives readers the chills, especially since they'll know that he'll eventually be revealed to be a vicious murderer.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
The Golden State Killer was, at one point, the most elusive serial killer in California's history. The unknown assailant was tied to approximately 50 different sexual assaults and murders before he moved South.
After the killer struck 30 years later, a researcher named Michelle McNamara became obsessed with finding out who the killer was. This book is filled to the brim with police reports, interviews, and amazing firsthand accounts of brushes with the Golden State Killer.
Though Michelle McNamara ended up dying shortly after the book was written, I'll Be Gone in the Dark did end up doing what she hoped it would. It helped reveal who the Golden State Killer was.
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi
Vincent Bugliosi, like Ann Rule and Derf Backderf, had the dubious luck of having a firsthand encounter with a famous killer. In his case, he was the acting prosecuting attorney in the Charles Manson murders cases—and that means he had access to evidence others didn't.
Helter Skelter is a book that he wrote after having put Manson behind bars, featuring an incredibly detailed account of how the murders came to be. To date, critics call it one of the best books about famous serial killers to be written by someone tied to the investigation and prosecution.
Part courtroom drama, part murder case, and all thrills. That's Helter Skelter for you, one of the creepiest books about serial killers you'll ever read.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
There's a very small chance that you might already remember reading some of Truman Capote's work in school. If you haven't, you're missing out. He's one of the best true crime writers you'll ever come across, and his masterpiece is In Cold Blood.
Capote brings us into the late 1950s, in a small Kansas town called Holcomb. During this time, the Clutter family was found killed via a shotgun in what appeared to be a senseless murder. Readers get to follow the story of the investigation, discovery, and arrest of the killers.
Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
Unlike most books about famous serial killers, Zodiac is about a serial killer who was never caught. The Zodiac Killer was known for his brutal slayings and cryptic, coded notes that would appear right next to victims' bodies.
The Zodiac Killer was San Francisco's most terrifying criminal during the 60s and 70s. Try as they might, police never seemed to figure out who the killer was.
Graysmith, himself, was a journalist at the San Francisco Herald at the time of the murders. The killings struck a nerve in him, and led him to an obsessive research spree that resulted in this book.
His work revealed hundreds of unreleased letters, and launched him to a career that included becoming a New York Times bestseller writer. Not too bad!
Killer Clown: The John Wayne Gacy Murders by Terry Sullivan
John Wayne Gacy is the perfect example of what makes a serial killer so unnerving to think about. Prior to his arrest, he was deemed a pillar of the community and a respectable person. He was liked and trusted by his neighbors.
Killer Clown is a true crime novel that shows how terrifying the nice guy next door can be by following the tale of John Wayne Gacy's murders. It's about crime, terror, and a killer brought to justice after slaying a total of 33 men and boys.
Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door by Roy Wenzl, Hurst Lavania, Tim Potter, and L.Kelley
Speaking of the "nice guy next door," did you ever wonder what it was like to live right next to a serial killer? So did these four award-winning journalists. They set out to find out how a man like Dennis Rader slid under the radar for so long.
As their reports showed, Rader worked very carefully to cultivate the "good, hardworking dad next door" look with his neighbors. By the time he was revealed to have killed men, women, and children in horrific ways, all of Wichita was shocked.
This tell-all book explains how it happened, in spellbinding words.
Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho by Harold Schecter
Ed Gein is considered to be the first real modern serial killer by many criminologists, and to a point, you kind of have to expect that at least one of the best books about famous serial killers would focus on him.
Harold Schecter's Deviant is the best book devoted to understanding the killer who sparked pop culture horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's a book that asks all the questions people want to know about a killer like Gein.
Who was he? Why did he kill? What did his mother do to him that made him so sick and twisted? All those questions are answered in a level of explicit detail that may make you shrink in your seat.
The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn
Very few serial killers can also say that they were famous preachers, but that's what separates Jim Jones from the rest. The Jonestown Massacre was, up until 9/11, the largest mass murder of American citizens in history.
The Jonestown Massacre, though, wasn't an attack. It was a mass suicide that was lead by serial killer and mass murderer Jim Jones. The Road to Jonestown is one of the best books about famous serial killers and cults, which is why it's currently a bestseller on Amazon.
This account explains all the facts about Jonestown you didn't know, and how Jim Jones conned the most vulnerable people he could find in America into being nearly reliant on his word, giving him their possessions, and eventually taking their own lives in a horrific way.