Best Non-Fiction Crime Books for the True Crime Obsessed

Can’t go a day without Serial or Crime Junkie whispering in your ears? Is Unsolved Mysteries your Friday-night comfort watch? Are you someone that prefers “real” terror over fiction? 

Then we’ve got the literary match for your true crime love.

Our best non-fiction books on true crime will bring that perfect mix of thrills and chills. To that end, prepare to slip on your detective hat and escape into a tale too terrifying for fiction.

The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer—Liza Rodman

Image Source: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Babysitter/Liza-Rodman/9781982129477

The most frightening (and riveting) part of true crime is its proximity to life—anyone from a neighbor to a coworker could be a culprit. And for young Liza Rodman, a murderer lived closer than she ever dreamed.

A memoir-turned-investigation, The Babysitter shares tales of Rodman’s childhood caregiver, Tony. But in 1969, Tony Costa turns from past nanny into world-famous serial killer—and Liza must reconcile her memories with his dark legacy.

Why you’ll love The Babysitter:

  • First-person account of an infamous serial killer
  • Engaging mix of personal recollections and cutting investigation
  • Nuanced takes on criminal minds and human nature

The Unusual Suspect: The Rise and Fall of a Modern-Day Outlaw—Ben Machell

Image Source: https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-593129-22-7

Not all true crime is horrifying. In fact, some crimes may even have a spark of justice—at least for a fledgling bank robber.

In the wake of the 2007 Recession, British college student Stephen Jackley set out to solve economic disparity. His method? Bank holdups. Learn how this amateur robber almost got away with thousands of pounds in the name of wealth distribution.

Why you’ll love The Unusual Suspect:

  • Morally ambivalent criminals
  • Ponderings on economic equality and justice
  • Zero gruesome or gory details (for those who get queasy)
  • Intimate looks at Jackley’s diaries and writings

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith—Jon Krakauer

Image Source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/95444/under-the-banner-of-heaven-by-jon-krakauer/

American media often frames religious crime as a foreign terror. However, Under the Banner of Heaven reveals that spiritual misdeeds happen right in our own country. In this deep dive, Jon Krakauer explores the tight-knit Mormon Fundamentalist community and their God-driven crimes, from enforced polygamy to cruel murder.

Why you’ll love Under the Banner of Heaven:

  • Secretive religious communities
  • Krakauer’s thorough research on LDS culture
  • Provocative debate on the merits of devotion and religion

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer—Michelle McNamara

Image Source: https://www.harpercollins.com/products/ill-be-gone-in-the-dark-michelle-mcnamara

Forty years—that’s the time between the first murder and eventual arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo, a.k.a. The Golden State Killer. And at the helm of this decades-long investigation was tour-de-force journalist Michelle McNamara. 

Although she did not live to see DeAngelo’s conviction, you can experience McNamara weaving together the clues of this infamous case in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

Why you’ll love I’ll Be Gone in the Dark:

  • Puzzle-like reporting with incredible attention to detail
  • McNamara’s personal passion for investigative journalism
  • American serial killer lore
  • An (unwritten) satisfaction of a murderer brought to justice

The Beat: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail—Oscar Martinez

Image Source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/228888/the-beast-by-oscar-martinez-introduction-by-francisco-goldman/

The Central American migrant trail is equal parts hope and terror, marking thousands of mysterious disappearances every year. 

On a quest for truth, El Salvadoran writer Oscar Martinez placed himself in the middle of the chaos. Between jumping freight trains and shadowing border patrol, Martinez gives a scarily close view of the horrors migrants face in hopes for a new life.

Why you’ll love The Beast:

  • Timely reporting on the migrant community
  • Up-close look at Central America’s crime landscape
  • Rare interviews with underserved Latino citizens
  • Martinez’s compassionate investment in his subjects

Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York—Elon Green

Image Source: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250224354

In 1990’s New York, underground gay culture was finally emerging into the mainstream. But amidst the AIDS epidemic and high city crime rates, another negative force awaited these men—the Last Call Killer. 

Elon Green’s Last Call brings this tragic serial killer saga to light, sharing the long journey to justice for these queer men. 

Why you’ll love Last Call:

  • Raw, uncovered stories on marginalized communities
  • 1990’s NYC metropolitan and queer culture
  • Dramatic prose building to a satisfying release

The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing—Sonia Faleiro

Image Source: https://groveatlantic.com/book/the-good-girls/

Sisters Padma and Lalli were inseparable, to the point where locals referred to them as “Padma Lalli.” But one summer evening in this rural Indian town, the girls go missing—only to be found hanging from an orchard tree. 

Tying together politics, class structure, and family dyanmics, The Good Girls explores not only the intricacies of Padma Lalli’s murder, but also the this heinous crime’s impact on a community.

Why you’ll love The Good Girls:

  • Cultural and political framing on crimes
  • Heartfelt tales of family love
  • A tense, slow-burn pace

Stay Curious and Investigate Literati’s Luminaries

Sure, we love true crime for its non-stop thrills. But this heart-racing genre is more than sensational fluff—our Literati picks include some of the best books to read for a taste of incredible nuance and gifted prose.
Looking for equally stunning reads? Check out Luminary Book Club, filled with celebrity picks from world leaders. Join the club, and you can share your literary passion with fellow members on our public forums.

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