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The Best True Crime Books, Podcasts, and TV Shows – From a Criminology Major

The true crime genre is taking the world by storm. From documentaries to books, we are learning every day about the unsolved cases, disappearances, murders that we have never heard about. We learn about these cases through books, podcasts, and television by hearing and watching eye witness accounts, listening to the gory details, and watching law enforcement agencies try to solve the case. I have been passionate about true crime since I can remember. I remember sneaking into my parent’s room when they were watching Dateline when I was 10 years old and that sparked my love for true crime. Now, I live in the world of true crime and it consumes everything I do; from studying for my criminology classes to listening to murder podcasts while I go for a run. I am a true crime junkie. The past 10 years I have probably watched, read, and listened to over one hundred true crime stories. Here are my favorite stories:

 

PODCASTS

  • My Favorite Murder, hosted by two hilarious female comedians, this podcast is my favorite podcasts. Georgia and Karen (the hosts) cover a wide variety of cases from murder to airplane hijackings. This podcast is great to listen to in long car rides, running/walking, cleaning the house, and basically in any other situation.
  • Crime Junkie, also is hosted by two women who cover a wide range of cases. I like Crime Junkie because they do a very thorough job on each of their cases. These episodes are shorter and are great to listen to on short car rides.
  • Down the Hill: The Delphi Murders, this podcast is pretty disturbing. This podcasts covers the brutal murder of two teenage girls while they hiked on a popular trail. The craziest part is that one of the victim’s was able to get an audio recording of the supposed killer and a blurry photograph, till this day he has never been caught.
  • Up and Vanished, has two seasons currently and each season covers a different case. The host of this show is brilliant and has actually produced numerous other true crime podcasts and TV shows. The show’s host actually goes and interviews witnesses, relatives, and even the potential killers.
  • Serial, is the OG of podcasts. This was one of the first true crime podcasts ever released, and it has three seasons. The first season is the most well-known and numerous other true crime shows have been made based off of the case covered.

BOOKS

  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. This book is probably the best true crime book I have ever read. McNamara, an amateur detective and web sleuth, tries to break the unsolved case of the Golden State Killer. Many credit McNamara for finding the Golden State Killer who was discovered a couple months after the book was released.
  • Lost Girls by Robert Kolker. Kolker investigates a string of murders in a wealthy beach town community on the East Coast. The victims, all sex workers, all vanish and their bodies turn up in the same location. Kolker interview’s the victim’s families and residents in the beach community.
  • Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. Bugliosi is a former assistant DA in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and he was the prosecutor against the Manson Family. This book covers the murders, the trial, and the crazy stories of the Manson Family members.
  • Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. This book covers the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI. Grann interviews the victim’s families and explains the community dynamic in this small town where Osage tribe members are being brutally murdered because of land and environment resources.
  • American Predator by Maureen Callahan. This book covers the serial killer Israel Keyes and how Keyes got away with murder for almost 10 years and the shocking discovery of how many victims Keyes actually has killed. Almost making him the most prolific serial killer in the world.
  • We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper. This book just came out in late 2020 and it covers the murder of a Harvard student. This book has many twists and turns that involve a love affair with a professor, a strange family dynamic, and a death ritual.

TV SHOWS

  • Conversations with a Killer: the Ted Bundy Tapes. Playing on Netflix, this show plays the tapes recorded by police when interrogating Ted Bundy. It gives the timeline of Ted Bundy’s life and his crimes.
  • Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel. Also playing on Netflix, this show covers the strange death of a foreign student Elisa Lam. It goes over the investigation and gives background into Elisa Lam and her battle with mental illness. It also portrays the media’s involvement in the case and how one particular video took the internet by storm.
  • The Ripper. On this Netflix show, it lays out the case of the Yorkshire Ripper. The Yorkshire ripper case went on for many years and he took many victims who police believed were all sex workers. This ignited a women’s rights protest and turned the way police viewed women and sex workers.
  • Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer. This documentary covers the Serial Killer Richard Ramirez who terrorized the city of Los Angeles for a year before he was caught. This Netflix series goes into graphic detail about the murders and the two detectives who solved the case.
  • Making a Murderer. This show is by far my favorite True Crime Documentaries. Making a Murderer covers the case of a man named Steven Avery who is convicted of TWO murders he didn’t commit (at least in my opinion). It goes into detail about the cases, the cops pinning it on him, the trial, and his new lawyers trying to prove his innocence.

 

I hope this small guide into the True Crime world is helpful. These cases and stories have taught me many life lessons especially as a female. The true crime genre is both scary and fascinating and there is no way to get yourself out of it. As for now, I wish you happy reading, watching, and listening. And as my favorite true crime girls always say – “Stay sexy and don’t get murdered” (My Favorite Murder).

Peyton Kosman is a student at the University of Utah studying Criminology and Political Science with minors in Psychology, Arabic, and Middle Eastern Studies.
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