Modern-day society has a strange fascination with serial killers. Despite accounting for less than one percent of murders each year in America, such individuals are the topic of discussion for hundreds of books, movies and television shows. Cold-blooded killers are in style. Throughout the centuries, humans have always obsessed over serial killer's stories, and modern-day literature has provided some astounding revelations about the real lives of non-remorseful killers. This list will guide you through the top eleven must-read books about serial killers.
1. The Stranger Beside Me
This incredibly powerful novel delivers one of the best true crime serial killer books about Ann Rule’s interactions with serial killer Ted Bundy. The two volunteered together for a suicide hotline, and Rule spent countless hours alone alongside the sociopathic killer. Years later, Rule contacted the Seattle homicide detective hotline to report an anonymous tip that her long-time friend Ted Bundy matched the description of the perpetrator of several unsolved murders in Washington. The two became jail-house pen pals once Bundy was arrested and collaborated on the writing of “The Stranger Beside Me”.
For more information read this.
2. Helter Skelter
This true-crime story has sold over seven million copies since being published. It was written by prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi who built the criminal case against notorious serial killer Charles Manson. The gripping case is explained as one of the most bizarre mass-murder cases in American history. Bugliosi was successful in getting a verdict of the death penalty, and he is still convinced to this day that Manson was purely evil and not mentally ill.
3. Lost Girls
This tells the stories of five missing girls who are all tragically connected by one deranged Craigslist serial killer. Robert Kolker details the socioeconomic status and lives of these five women who were all self-proclaimed prostitutes, and he seeks to offer potential suspects in this still unsolved case. Kolker talks about the dangers of internet anonymity through websites like Craigslist.
Read the New York Times review.
4. How to Get Away with Murder in AmericaEvan Wright compiles years of research, investigations and reports to uncover one of the most sinister conspiracies come to life. It details the dual lives of Enrique Prado who was both a masterful CIA operative and a notorious Miami hitman. Prado, despite being suspected in participating in at least seven murders, was recruited by the CIA due to his extensive experience training the Contras in Central America. The string of Miami murders continued after Prado was recruited into the intelligence agency, and the serial murder was unbelievably given command over a covert, secret assassin operations team by the CIA. You need to read it to believe it!
Read more about it here.
5. The Devil in the White City
Erik Larson tells the vivid true stories of H.H. Holmes, often dubbed America’s first serial killer, and Daniel Burnham, architect of the infamous White City. Holmes used the White City fair to help attract tourists to his playground, the World’s Fair Hotel. The death trap hotel was filled with unimaginable tortures like an acid vat, dissection table and person-sized basement crematorium.
Get the book here.
6. Chasing the Ripper
Patricia Cornwell has spent over eleven years pouring research into history’s most famous serial killer, Jack the Ripper. In her famous book, she details, defends and offers proof for her ground-shaking theory about the identity of the killer.
Learn more about Jack the Ripper.
7. A Mind for Murder
Ted Kaczynski, better known as the “Unabomber”, shocked America by targeting people in a nationwide bombing campaign. Alston Chase pieces the puzzle together by portraying the serial killer’s life story and the formulation of the Unabomber’s murderous mindset in this novel. The fact-based story follows the serial killers life in sharp contrast to the media’s narrative of a wild mountain man.
Get the book here.
8. The Last Victim
This chilling serial killer book chronicles Jason Moss’ first-hand accounts with multiple high-profile murders including John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez and Jeffrey Dahmer. The gut-wrenching story describes how Moss was transformed from an interested journalist into Gacy’s last victim. Moss details his accounts of the predator manipulating and altering his own behavior. Gacy attempted to assault Moss during a jail-house visit which haunted the author until he tragically took his own life in 2006.
Kirkus reviews it here.
9. The Misbegotten Son
Serial killer Arthur Shawcross murdered two children in the 1970s but was later paroled. Once he was released, he went on to kill at least eleven more women and sometimes even ate his victims. This particular case was so baffling to leading psychologists that he was officially diagnosed with an abnormal genetic condition. Suffering with an extra Y chromosome, Shawcross was genetically predisposed to violent and irrational tendencies. Jack Olsen details the killer’s life, victim’s stories and Shawcross’ own testimony to create one of the best true crime serial killer books.
Read this book review.
10. The Wilderness of Ruin
One of the most unbelievable serial killer books tells the life story of a psychopath dubbed by the Boston Globe as an “inhuman scamp,”. This callous psychopath was caught at only twelve years old torturing and assaulting younger children, but he was only sentenced to reform school. Once he was released from school, he started killing young children almost immediately. This serial killer laid the initial groundwork for what would eventually become the modern-day insanity defense. Roseanne Montillo tells his story in “The Wilderness of Ruin.”
Read the Boston Globe's review for more information
11. My Friend Dahmer
Derf Backderf attended school with notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, and he chose to share his story in his latest book. The true crime novel discusses the partner’s friendship and Backderf’s personal reactions to learning of Dahmer’s true nature.
It's actually a graphic novel.
Serial killers have been recorded throughout human history, and some successfully maintained great positions power such as the “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory. Their stories are some of the most intriguing to study because of these individual’s absolute lack of that “something” that makes each one of us human. It is the yet unanswered question, what drives these people to kill without remorse?
Enjoy your summer reading!