True Crime Reading Challenge 2020

Updated: Aug 3

Last year, I picked to read ghost stories as a yearly challenge - - - picking out 12 of the highest rated ghost story books I could find (you can see the list of books here). This year, I have picked the highest rated true crime books I could find, and below is the list of them. You can join me, starting in March, reading this top nonfiction books and share your thoughts and opinions with me!

My Picks

Click any of the book covers to get your own copy!


March, 2020 - "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote

"On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces.There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. "

(Click here to read my review of "In Cold Blood")



April - "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson

"Erik Larson intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction. "



May - "Who Killed These Girls: the Unsolved Murders That Rocked a Texas Town" by Beverly Lowry

"The facts are brutally straightforward. On December 6,1991, the naked, bound-and-gagged, burned bodies of four girls---each one shot in the head---were found in a frozen yogurt shop in Austin, Texas. Grief, shock, and horror overtook the city. But after eight years of misdirected investigations, only two suspects (teenagers at the time of the crime) were tried; their convictions were later overturned and detectives are still working on what is now a very cold case. The story has grown to include DNA technology, coerced false confessions, and other developments in crime and punishment. But this story belongs to the scores of people involved, and from them Beverly Lowry has fashioned a riveting saga that reads like a novel, heart-stopping and thoroughly engrossing. "



June - "Helter Skelter" by Vincent Bugliosi

"In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress(and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his 'family' of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the proportions of myth. The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era."



July - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt

"Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours on May 2,1981. Was it murder of self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case. "


August - "The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple" by Jeff Guinn

"In the 1950s, a young Indianapolis minister named Jim Jones preached a curious blend of the gospel and Marxism. His congregation was racially mixed, and he was a leader in the early civil rights movement. Eventually, Jones moved his church, Peoples Temple, to northern California, where he got involved in electoral politics and became a prominent Bay Area leader. But underneath the surface lurked a terrible darkness. "


September - "Shot in the Heart" by Mikal Gilmore

"Gary Gilmore, the infamous murderer immortalized by Norman Mailer in 'The Executioner's Song,' campaigned for his own death and was executed by firing squad in 1977. Writer Mikal Gilmore is his younger brother. In 'Shot in the Heart,' he tells the stunning story of their wildly dysfunctional family: their mother, a black sheep daughter of unforgiving Mormon farmers; their father, a drunk, thief, and conman. It was a family destroyed by a multigenerational history of child abuse, alcoholism, crime, adultery, and murder. Mikal, burdened with the guilt of being his father's favorite and the shame of being Gary's brother, gracefully and painfully relates a murder tale 'from inside the house where murder is born...a house that, in some ways, [he has] never been able to leave. ' Shot in the Heart is the history of an American family inextricably tied up with violence, and the story of how the children of this family committed murder and murdered themselves in payment for a long lineage of ruin. "


October - "Zodiac" by Robert Graysmith

"A sexual sadist, the Zodiac killer took pleasure in torture and murder. His first victims were a teenage couple, stalked and shot dead in a lovers' lane. After another slaying, he sent his first mocking note to authorities, promising he would kill more. The official tally of his victims was six. He claimed thirty-seven dead. The real toll may have reached fifty. Robert Graysmith was on the staff at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 when Zodiac first struck, triggering in the resolute reporter an unrelenting obsession with seeing the hooded killer brought to justice. In this gripping account of Zodiac's eleven-month reign of terror, Graysmith reveals hundreds of facts previously unreleased, including the complete text of the killer's letters."


November - "Small Sacrifices" by Ann Rule

" 'Somebody just shot my kids!' Diane Downs brought her car to a halt in front of a Springfield, Oregon, hospital, her three gravely wounded children beside her. Thus begins the tale of a truly unthinkable crime that shattered the tranquility of a tight-knit community. As police searched for the 'shaggy-haired stranger' Diane accused of shooting 8-year-old Christie, 7-year-old Cheryl, and 3-year-old Danny, a suspicion grew that was even more horrifying than the crime itself: Did Diane shoot her own children? Haunted by this question, a dedicated district attorney searched for the answer and uncovered a chronology of incest, psychological wounding, desperate affairs, and surrogate mothers. "


December - "The Wicked Boy" by Kate Summerscale

"In the summer of 1895, Robert Coombes (age 13) and his brother Nattie (age 12) were seen spending lavishly around the docklands of East London--- for ten days in July, they ate out at coffee houses and took trips to the seaside and the theater. The boys told neighbors they had been left home alone while their mother visited family in Liverpool, but their aunt was suspicious. When she eventually forced the brothers to open the house to her, she found the badly decomposed body of their mother in a bedroom upstairs. Robert and Nattie were arrested for matricide and sent for trial at the Old Bailey. Robert confessed to having stabbed his mother, but his lawyers argued that he was insane. Nattie struck a plea and gave evidence against his brother. The court heard testimony about Robert's severe headaches, his fascination with violent criminals and his passion for 'penny dreadfuls,' the pulp fiction of the day. He seemed to feel no remorse for what he had done,and neither the prosecution nor the defense could find a motive for the murder. The judge sentenced the thirteen-year-old to detention in Broadmoor, the most infamous criminal lunatic asylum in the land. Yet Broadmoor turned out to be the beginning of a new life for Robert--- one that would have profoundly shocked anyone who thought they understood the Wicked Boy."


January, 2021 - "The Monster of Florence" by Douglas Preston

"In 2000, Douglas Preston fulfilled a dream to move his family to Italy. Then he discovered that the olive grove in front of their 14th century farmhouse had been the scene of the most infamous double-murders in Italian history, committed by a serial killer known as the Monster of Florence. Preston, intrigued, meets Italian investigative journalist Mario Spezi to learn more. This is the true story of their search for---and identification of--- the man they believe committed the crimes, and their chilling interview with him. And then, in a strange twist of fate, Preston and Spezi themselves become targets of the police investigation. Preston has his phone tapped, is interrogated, and told to leave the country. Spezi fares worse: he is thrown into Italy's grim Capanne prison, accused of being the Monster of Florence himself."


February - "All-American Murder: the Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez" by James Patterson

"Aaron Hernandez was a college All-American who became the youngest player in the NFL and later reached the Super Bowl. His every move as a tight end with the New England Patriots played out the headlines, yet he led a secret life--- one that ended in a maximum-security prison. What drove him to go so wrong, so fast? Between the summers of 2012 and 2013, not long after Hernandez made his first Pro Bowl, he was linked to a series of violent incidents culminating in the death of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player who dated the sister of Hernandez's fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins. All-American Murder is the first book to investigate Aaron Hernandez's first-degree murder conviction and the mystery of his own shocking and untimely death."


March - "The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century" by Sarah Miller

"In a compelling, linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4,1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. Most of what is known about Lizzie's arrest and subsequent trial (and acquittal) comes from sensationalized newspaper reports; as Miller sorts fact from fiction, and as a legal battle gets underway, a gripping portrait of a woman and a town emerges."


Those are my picks! Let me know if there are any I should have chosen instead, and which ones you are excited to read about.


- Hadley

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