If you devoured every episode of the podcast Serial, it's safe to say you're a true crime junkie. While you desperately wait for another season of the wildly successful podcast to be released, hold yourself over with a few true crime books fans of Serial should read.
These stories bring us closer to real life evil, even closer than the best art can, and I believe it has something to do with the fact that there are real people that can be linked to the horrible acts. It's a hell of a lot scarier to think about one person doing something so sinister, which is why society loves to attach conspiracy theories where they often don't exist. Which is not to say conspiracies don't exist, but they are rarely as complex as they are made out to be.
The best true crime stories contain serial killers and assorted evil the likes of which Hollywood could never fathom working into a film treatment. Don't listen to Serial for the third time, read some of these captivating true crime books instead.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
The story centers around the 1893 World's Fair, and a serial killer who used the event as a hunting ground to lure his victims. It is about the infamous H.H. Holmes, and how he used stolen money and faulty construction contracts to create a literal slaughterhouse.
Larson expertly weaves the World's Fair and the evil exploits of Holmes with skills so literary, it seems as if it's a novel he conjured up. Sometimes fact is indeed stranger than fiction, and it's one of the more addicting true crime books fans of Serial should read
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
In Cold Blood is a masterwork by the great Truman Capote. It's one of the best accounts of a crime ever written, and one of the best true crime books fans of Serial should read.
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were brutally murdered. There was no motive, and not many clues. Truman Capote investigates the scene and gets us into the mind of the violent American psyche.
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Charles Manson is a huge figure in pop culture, but no book takes us further into the mind of one of our most infamous serial killers more than Helter Skelter. There is no denying that folks are fascinated with anything Manson, and for that alone it's one of the best true crime books fans of Serial should read. It's also highly entertaining and gives us a good peak into Los Angeles during that much talked about time in our history.
The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
Ann Rule is huge name in true crime, and she wrote one of the best true crime books fans of Serial should read when she penned The Stranger Beside Me. Rule met Ted Bundy at a local crisis counseling center, where after sharing long nights helping those who were on the verge of suicide, they developed a friendship. Little did she know she was talking to one of the most notorious serial killers in American history.
The interesting angle she takes, along with her first hand insights, makes this book hard to put down.
People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Loyd Parry
Lucie Blackman was a young British woman who traveled to Japan in search of a good time, and three short months later she was dead. Her family tries to track her down, but shockingly, her disappearance is of little relevance to Japanese investigators.
Reporting the story, Parry discovered a side of Japan he hadn’t known, and what he discovered will chill readers to the core. It's an interesting yarn, and one of the best true crime books fans of Serial should read.
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker
The spookiest thing about Lost Girls is that it's about a serial killer who is still at large and most likely active. It delves into the unsolved case of the Long Island serial killer, and the women forgotten by society that he still may be preying upon.
Kolker gives us a detailed look at the shadow world of online escorts, where the grave danger is an everyday aspect of their existence. It's one of the best true crime books fans of Serial should read, because it's still an ongoing case. If nothing else, it can help keep the investigation alive, and maybe one day we will find out who killed these young women.
Devil's Knot by Mara Leveritt
The West Memphis Three is one of the most egregious cases of wrongful imprisonment of the modern era. Devil's Knot takes you deep into the psyche of the town that convicted three outcasts of the murder of three young boys. It's one of the best true crime books fans of Serial should read, because it gives you the same "what the fuck?" feeling the podcast does each play through.
If you haven't already, check out Paradise Lost as well, it's one of the most terrifying true crime documentaries every made.
The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer won the Pulitzer Prize for his unforgettable classic about convicted killer Gary Gilmore. Gilmore became famous in the 70s after he robbed two men and killed them both in cold blood. After being tried and convicted, Gilmore was given the death penalty and immediately insisted on being executed for his crime.
In doing so, he fought against a convoluted legal system that for some reason was keeping him alive long after he'd been sentenced to death. His fight for his right to die is what made him infamous, and one of our greatest writer's spun a tale that is impossible to put down. It's one of the best true crime books fans of Serial should read, because it digs deep into our wacky justice system.
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
Most known for his HBO masterpiece The Wire, David Simon got his start as a crime reporter on Baltimore's often bloody streets. Homicide takes you inside his year embedded with the homicide unit, and is written with the urgency of a page-turning thriller.
As he follows the lives of three detectives, he does an amazing job getting into their minds, and how seeing so much day to day violence messes with their psyches. It's among the true crime books fans of Serial should read, especially if you enjoyed The Wire.
The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcom
The Journalist and the Murderer is one of the more perfect true crime books fans of Serial should read. Janet Malcom takes an in-depth look at the entire genre and asks the question, "Why do we love writing about murder so much?"
Having written many true crime books herself, it's more of a mission for answers than a condemnation. It's about writer Joe McGinniss, who befriended Jeffery MacDonald, who had killed his wife and child. Instead of getting the story honestly, McGinniss used it to slam him as a psychopath. While people initially didn't respect Malcom's work, in the years that followed it became an important criticism and has become widely read.