May 20, 2024

Forbes Top 20
True Crime Books

Forbes have collated their top 20 intriguing true crime books to tease your curiosity.

True crime can run the gamut from grisly to shocking to sad to preventable to horrifying, but there’s always one common string running through these stories—the struggle of good vs. evil and the promise that the criminal will be stopped in the end. True crime books and stories build on these themes to present truly incredible feats of humanity in the face of the ultimate tragedy. The best true crime books have a compelling narrative arc that draws the reader in and goes beyond the simple question of “who did it?” They also answer the question of why and explain how things could be different the next time, though they don’t give happy endings. This list of top true crime books includes everything from first-person accounts of murder and mayhem to scholarly deep-dives into the psychology behind the crime.

True crime books are nonfiction. They tell stories of actual crimes that have taken place. How does true crime compare vs. crime fiction? In crime fiction, the author can make up details to suit the story, while true crime books are strictly based on facts.

While crime fiction often includes series of novels about a detective or police investigator, there really aren’t any true crime series, since most crimes are one-offs or part of a single spree, but not part of a longer story related to other crimes. However, some top true crime authors have written many books in the genre. The queen of true crime is Ann Rule, who appears twice on the Forbes list and wrote more than two dozen true crime books. The list is based on critical acclaim, book sales and the general interest in the crimes online and in other media.

Ann Rule’s two books featured in the list are:

Number 14: Small Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder (1988)

Rule’s first book on the list is about young mother Diane Downs, who claimed a stranger had shot her three children but later became the main suspect. Farrah Fawcett famously portrayed Downs in the made-for-TV movie based on the book, which was a sensation when it was published.

This book is best for those new to the work of Rule, a former policewoman who examines the psychology of her protagonists from that angle.

Number 2: The Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy (1980)

The New Yorker called Ann Rule’s third book “perhaps the most unnerving true-crime book ever published,” and with good reason. Rule worked with Ted Bundy at a Seattle crisis clinic, and they became friends. Years later, her pal was unmasked as an infamous serial killer, and Rule struggles to reconcile friend with murderer.

This book is best for those looking for a unique take on a much-written-about case.

See the full list at Forbes here.