Published: December 4, 2021
Our list of 38 books about serial killers takes you behind the scenes of the most infamous murderers in the world. You'll find top reads on John Wayne Gacy, the Zodiac Killer, and Ted Bundy.
We also included books by those that solved the cases and put many of these criminals behind bars. To make the list even more interesting, we added a few books on serial killers that are not as famous or well known but have stories that are just as intriguing.
Written by: Maureen Callahan
Published: July 2nd, 2019
If you've read books about serial killers or watched the news, then you know John Wayne Gacy, the Son of Sam, Ted Bundy, and others. However, you’ve probably never heard of Israel Keyes. In January 1985, a young woman was raped and murdered in the woods near Wilmington, Delaware.
The killer's brutality sent shockwaves through the community - but he wasn't done yet. Over the next two decades, this American predator would set his sights on more than ten victims in six different states.
What made him so deadly? How did law enforcement finally capture him? What happened to him? Journalist Maureen Callahan takes readers inside one of America's most prolific serial killers and how close he came to getting away with his crimes.
Written by: Tom O'Neill and Dan Piepenbring
Published: June 25th, 2019
Charles Manson and the murders he committed in the late 1960s continue to fascinate people today. The most basic questions about his life and crimes have been asked repeatedly by true crime fans: How could a man who had never killed anyone before suddenly decide to do so? And why did he want his young, mostly female followers to do it for him? In Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, Tom O'Neill offers a surprising and frighteningly plausible answer.
According to O'Neill's research, Charles Manson was a product of his mental illness and mind control experiments conducted by agents working for America's spy agencies -- experiments that were aimed at creating killers. O'Neill does his best to find the truth using information gained from the many different law enforcement agencies and people working on the case.
Written by: Robert K. Ressler & Tom Shachtman
Published: May 1st, 1992
Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI is a memoir written by Robert K. Ressler, a retired FBI agent who helped pioneer the field of criminal profiling and spent twenty years as an investigator with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In his book, he discusses how he became interested in catching some of America's most notorious serial killers, such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and David Berkowitz (Son of Sam).
He also talks about his experiences interviewing some genuinely evil people who committed unspeakable acts on innocent victims and shares many details about these cases that were never made public. If you are fascinated by true crime stories or want to learn more about how serial killers think, this is a book you need to read.
NOTE: Ressler advised Thomas Harris on the movie The Silence of the Lambs and tv’s Mindhunter. He is the real deal.
Written by: Terry Sullivan and Peter T. Malkin
Written by the prosecutor for the John Wayne Gacy case, it will always be remembered for its creepiness. Between 1972 and 1978, the serial killer raped and murdered at least 33 young men in Illinois. The bodies were often buried under his home or dumped elsewhere. He was known as "The Killer Clown" because he worked at a local hospital and dressed up as a clown named Pogo.
One of these parties occurred on December 11, 1978, when police arrested him after finding human remains in his crawl space under his home. This book tells the story behind this terrifying figure who killed dozens over several years before being caught by law enforcement officials in Chicago's Cook County just days before Christmas back in 1978.
Written by: Nigel Blundell
Published: July 30th, 2010
Want to know what makes a serial killer tick? This book goes into some of the most famous serial killers, such as John Wayne Gacy, The Green River Killer Gary Ridgway, Aileen Wuornos, and others. An example of this is that the inspiration for Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s character in The Silence of the Lambs was Ed Gein, and yet almost no one has ever heard of him.
However, the truly interesting part of this book is that there are so many serial killers who are just as evil, if not more so, who get ignored and forgotten in history. Some kill, others torture, others eat their victims, and others sell the skin and meat off their victims to people who didn’t realize it. These books are the stuff of nightmares, but aren’t all serial killers?
Written by: Jack Rosewood and Rebecca Lo
Published: June 19th, 2017
This book contains profiles of 150 serial killers worldwide, and this encyclopedia-style book provides information on each killer's background, methods, and victims. It also includes over 100 photos and illustrations to help readers understand the horrific crimes committed by these dangerous people.
The goal of this book is to highlight some of history's most infamous murderers so you can get inside their heads and see up close how they think and how they went about their murders. If you are interested in learning more about some of society's most evil individuals, this book will give loads of reading material.
Written by: Jack Rosewood and Rebecca Lo
Published: November 21st, 2019
The second of the 2-book anthology is a follow-up with 150 more serial killer profiles. It continues with information about serial killers from all over the world. Some of these are the famous that we all know, but many are lesser-known since they are from different countries and at varying times in history.
The stories are brutal, scary, and sometimes genuinely insane, but they are all true, and they are all based on evidence, data, and testimony whenever possible. However, it also gives insight into why they possibly did their crimes and what might have led them down this path to pure evil.
Interestingly, this book looks at the five countries with the highest rates of serial killers per person. Do you live in one of them? Read it and find out!
Written by: Robert Kolker
Published: July 9th, 2013
Many unsolved mysteries exist in American history, but none are as compelling and haunting as the story of five young women who disappeared from a small town on Long Island over ten years. Robert Kolker's Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery is a fascinating account of their lives, the mystery surrounding them, and the efforts to solve it.
The book raises profound questions about how society treats its most vulnerable members, including sex workers.
Kolker also seeks to answer why these five women were targeted for murder by someone they knew or at least had encountered before their deaths. As you read this tragic yet captivating tale of loss and hope for justice, you will also start to question how our society treats and ignores the most vulnerable.
The police believe that there were between 10 to 16 women murdered, but since the Long Island Killer was never found, we may never know the true extent of the killings.
Written by: Mara Leveritt
Published: October 8th, 2002
Mara Leveritt's Devil's Knot is a gripping, investigative account of the West Memphis Three. It tells the story of three young boys accused and convicted of life in prison for murder. The book explores how these three innocent children became victims of one of America's most notorious criminal cases.
Leveritt gives readers an inside look into what happened when the eight-year-old friends Michael Moore, Stevie Branch, and Christopher Byers went out to play, only never to return home again. She reveals facts about this case that clarify why Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. were innocent and only released 18 years later in 2011.
NOTE: This book has been adapted into the 2013 movie Devil’s Knot with Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon.
Written by: Bill James
Published: September 19th, 2017
Bill James is a former baseball player turned writer. He has authored many books on the game, but this book is very different than anything he’s written before. It dives into one of the most famous unsolved mysteries in American History—the identity of one of America's first serial killers—and uncovers new evidence that could finally bring closure to this story.
James takes readers on an engaging journey from New York to California using thousands of documents, old newspapers, interviewing people, and more. James will stop at nothing to track down clues that may lead him to the man responsible for over 100 murders and countless other crimes from 1898 to 1912.
Written by: Jason Moss
Published: April 1st, 1999
When Jason Moss was just 18 years old and given a college course assignment, he started writing to some of the most famous serial killers in prison. Surprisingly, many of them began to write him back and tell them about their fantasies and desires. As he continues, you will be taken on a journey through his life as he conducts extensive research on serial killers and becomes obsessed with contacting them.
From his early fascination with Ted Bundy to receiving firsthand correspondence from Jeffrey Dahmer to John Wayne Gacy, this true story is full of dark moments that are both intriguing and disturbing. Jason's work has been praised by numerous celebrities, including Stephen King, who said that it was "filled with pain" but also "a valuable insight into criminal psychology." The rest of Moss's life story is just as intriguing as the serial killers' stories.
Written by: Peter Vronsky
Published: October 5th, 2004
Serial killers are some of the most fascinating and terrifying figures in modern culture. They exist in our nightmares, haunt our headlines, and inhabit the dark corners of our imaginations. But who are they really? And how can we understand what drives them to kill?
A leading expert on serial murderers explains it all in this compulsive story of violence and obsession that will change everything you know about the murder.
As he traces their roots from ancient Rome to twentieth-century America, Vronsky reveals how these social outsiders live; why some become serial murderers. He examines how they select their victims (sometimes seemingly random) and what is involved when they strike (often without warning).
Why do police struggle with catching them and, most importantly, how to recognize them, stay safe, and so much more.
Written by: Ann Rule
Published: August 1980
Ann Rule authored one of the most chilling and famous actual crime books in history - The Stranger Beside Me. It tells the story of how she met and became friends with a man who would later be revealed to be one of America's most prolific serial killers, Ted Bundy.
The book reveals what it was like for Ann when she found out that her friend was a murderer, how she dealt with this news, and what happened afterward. She also writes about how difficult it is to write such an intimate account of someone you once considered your close friend or confidant but then find out they could commit such heinous crimes.
This book will make you question everything you know about everyone you know.
Written by: Michelle McNamara
Published: February 27th, 2018
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer is an actual crime book written by Michelle McNamara and published posthumously. The Golden State Killer is thought to be one of the most prolific serial rapists and murderers in American history.
He murdered at least twelve people, raped at least fifty women, and burglarized more than 120 homes from 1976-1986. The case remained unsolved until 2018 when police arrested an older man with DNA evidence linking him to some of those crimes.
This book was based on years of research that Michelle conducted before her death and then completed by the comedian Patton Oswald after her death.
Written by: Joseph Kozenczak and Karen Kozenczak
Published: November 3rd, 2003
This book is about investigating one of America's most brutal serial killers, John Wayne Gacy Jr., who is also known as "The Killer Clown." The book offers an in-depth look into the search that led to his capture and conviction, as well as how he was brought down by detective work and good old-fashioned police work.
Being that it was written by one of the detectives working the case, Joseph Kozenczak, you will get to see insight into murder investigations, criminal profiling techniques, forensic science advancements, and what it takes to be a successful law enforcement officer in modern times.
Written by: Harold Schecter
Published: October 1st, 1998
Probably the most infamous serial killer of all time, Ed Gein, is the subject of this book by Harold Schechter. What makes Gein so interesting? He was a necrophiliac who killed people because he wanted to make furniture out of their bodies.
Because of that, his house smelled like death because he had sex with dead women and made lampshades and other household items out of human skin; and even though he never sexually assaulted anyone himself, it's believed that he might have been responsible for some unsolved murders near where he lived.
Not only that, but the author also goes into detail about how much we don't know about him- such as what happened to his mother or why no one ever saw anything suspicious at the "murder farm." Ed Gein was the inspiration for characters in Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and more.
>> More books by Harold Schecter
Written by: Douglas Preston
Published: June 12th, 2008
This book tells the story of two men working together for over 30 years to solve a string of murders that occurred in Italy during the 1970s and 1980s. Douglas Preston was first introduced to this case while he was traveling through Tuscany on vacation with his wife. They decided to buy a 14th-century house and found out that the "Monster of Florence" lived near there.
He met an Italian man named Mario Spezi, who told him about the many unsolved murders that had taken place in this area throughout history. This conversation sparked his interest and curiosity when one day, he stumbled upon an article about these killings in an English newspaper given to him by another traveler on the train back home.
The story gets more insane than you can imagine as the search, and mistakes, to find the monster entraps others.
Written by: Robert Graysmith
Published: January 1986
The Zodiac killer is one of the most notorious serial killers in history. This book is about how Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle, became obsessed with solving the case of who was responsible for these murders.
It details his journey from being curious at first to becoming convinced of his guilt and then taking it upon himself to catch this person before he could kill again or, even worse- get away with what he had done.
The story takes you through all the twists and turns that led up to him finally identifying this man as Arthur Leigh Allen, but not without some skeptics on both sides.
NOTE: This book has been made into a movie, Zodiac with Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo.
Written by: Anthony Holden
Graham Young was born in England during World War II. He was a quiet boy who would only speak to adults when they spoke to him first. Throughout his childhood, he had many hobbies that were considered unusual for someone of his age group.
He enjoyed working with dangerous chemicals and spent most of his time locked up in the lab, conducting experiments on animals and insects.
At the young age of fourteen, Graham Young began poisoning people around him with antimony potassium tartrate, which led to multiple hospitalizations and even death for some victims. His infatuation with poisons led Graham to believe that he could kill anyone who got in the way of what he wanted by using deadly chemical agents as weapons against them.
By the end of his spree, he had not only killed at least eight people but members of his family.
Written by: Katherine Ramsland
Published: August 30th, 2016
"I am a monster. I have murdered ten people, and it is possible that there are more than that. Some of the murders were easy, but most of them were hard."
These chilling words come from Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer who terrorized Wichita, Kansas, for over 30 years. He was known as BTK (Burn, Torture, Kill) because he would bind his victims before torturing them to death by strangulation or stabbing them with various objects such as knives, screwdrivers, and even a bayonet.
However, what makes this case incredibly fascinating is how normal Rader seemed in every other aspect of his life- he held down an ordinary job at ADT Security Services during the day while committing heinous crimes at night. He was even a church elder.
Ramsland delves deeply into his psyches as she visits him in prison, talks to him, discusses his drawings, and more.
Written by: Ann Rule
Published: September 28th, 2004
Ann Rule's Green River is a true crime story about the deadliest serial killer in American history. There is evidence he killed at least 49, and he has stated he killed up to 71. The book is told through interviews, court transcripts, and personal photographs of the victims. It is an eye-opening read for anyone who thinks they’ve read everything there is on serial killers. The book starts with how Ann became interested in writing about the case and follows her as she works with detectives to solve it, often visiting scenes of crimes before they are cleaned up.
She writes about each victim's life with compassion and respect, especially since most were prostitutes that lived rough lives in Seattle and were largely ignored by society in general. Strangely enough, even though
Rule didn’t know him, she would find out in interviews that he would often show up to have books signed by her since they both lived in Seattle.
Written by: Carol Ann Lee
Published: April 1st, 2010
This book tells the story of the infamous woman convicted in 1966 for being one-half of the Moors Murderers. This book goes into depth about her childhood, which was anything but typical, to her life imprisonment. It also discusses how she became involved with Ian Brady and what went on during their days together.
This book gives you an inside look at this very complex character while showing you just how much influence it takes before someone becomes so evil. You can feel sympathy toward Myra and disgust towards her actions because you get to see all sides throughout the book's pages. This is a page-turner.
Written by: Howard Sounes
Published: December 7th, 1995
Fred & Rose is the story of Fred West, one of Britain's most notorious serial killers. It also explores his wife, Rosemary's involvement in the murders and their marriage. Many people have called this book "the definitive account" because it provides a detailed insight into both Fred and Rose's lives that no other book does. This includes their daughter Heather and Fred West's 8-year-old stepdaughter.
The author Howard Sounes spent ten years researching this book and interviewing those who knew them.
He was able to get access to previously unseen police reports from when they were arrested and interviews with friends and family members, which he used throughout the book to completely understand how these two people could be so evil.
Written by: Erik Larson
Published: February 11th, 2003
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America is a classic written by Erik Larson. The book focuses on two men, Daniel H. Burnham, whose main objective was to get Chicago ready for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.
The other was Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, who used his charm to lure young women into his hotel room. This room had been designed and built specifically with murder in mind so that he could sell their skeletons to medical schools across the country.
Both men ended up working at this world's fair, but little did they know that one would save it from financial ruin while another would become its most infamous serial killer! Some of the book focuses on the world's fair, and there are appearances by Buffalo Bill Cody, Thomas Edison, and others.
>> Find additional books by Erik Larson
Written by: Hourly History
Published: December 20th, 2017
Edmund Kemper is one of the lesser-known serial killers in American history. Born in California, he had a genetic condition that made his body grow until he was 6 feet and 9 inches tall. His mother and many kids at school bullied him and harassed him. He killed his grandparents at the age of 15 and was sent to a mental institution for five years. When released, he enrolled in college and continued his ways as a serial killer.
As well as his grandparents, he killed his mother and his mother's best friend. He also committed at least six serial killings of Co-Eds at the UC Santa Cruz University before finally being caught by police on April 24, 1973.
He told investigators that he enjoyed killing people because it gave him a feeling of power over them--a psychological need that stemmed from his childhood abuse and feelings of inadequacy due to having been born with his physical deformities.
Written by: John Askill and Martyn Sharpe
Published: February 12th, 1993
The Angel of Death is the nickname given to Beverley Allitt, a nurse who in 1991 was found guilty of murdering four children and harming six more. Allitt's crimes were committed during "Angel Friday," when she injected insulin into patients' intravenous lines while working at Grantham and Kesteven Hospital.
While many people are aware that she murdered children, few know about her other crimes, including assaulting an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease and attempting to kill another patient by injecting air bubbles into her IV line. The book includes details of these lesser-known attacks and information on the investigation that eventually led police to arrest Allitt for murder.
Written by: Philip Sugden
Published: September 12th, 1994
It is hard to imagine a more gruesome and disturbing story than the one of Jack the Ripper. The victims were all sex workers, and they were killed in the most brutal ways possible. What's worse is that we still don't know who was behind this terrible crime spree - but Phillip Sugden believes he has finally discovered the true identity of Jack the Ripper.
In his book, The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, Sugden examines strands of evidence from across London that previous historians have ignored for centuries because they didn't fit into their preconceived notions about who committed these terrible murders.
This book will change how you view these horrific crimes and who was responsible for them forever!
Written by: Nancy Alyssa Veysey, Kurtis-Giles Veysey, and True Crime Seven
Published: November 24th, 2020
This one will be a little bit different from the others since this is not a book about a specific serial killer but a book about many. Serial Killer Trivia has over 500 facts and pieces of evidence that will allow you to learn all about these monsters. Even though you may think you know everything about famous serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer, but you'll find out more here.
Beyond the famous serial killers, there are also lots of lesser-known ones that will intrigue you and make you squirm with their stories. If you ever want to impress your friends or scare the hell out of them, this is the book for you!
Written by: Brian Whittle and Jean Ritchie
Published: April 1st, 2004
The story of Dr. Harold Frederick Shipman is a horror tale that will leave you terrified and shaking your head in disbelief. This book tells the accurate crime account of the most prolific serial killer in history who has been convicted for killing hundreds of people across England during his time as a respected general practitioner and family man. Some reports put his killing amount around 300 or so.
What makes this case so chilling is not just how many lives were taken but also how he got away with it for over two decades without being detected until someone finally caught on. How did they do this? Someone saw when they saw him inject an elderly woman with morphine who had no medical condition whatsoever.
Strangely enough, he first wanted to be a doctor by watching a PBS series about the human body when he was 12 years old.
Written by: Jack Olsen
Published: January 1st, 1974
In this book, Jack Olsen tells the story of Dean Corll and his accomplices who raped, tortured, and killed more than twenty-five boys in Houston, Texas. The victims were all teenage boys and young men who had been lured to a home under the guise that they would be paid for doing construction work. Instead, they were tied up at gunpoint and then raped repeatedly before being murdered by their captors.
This book was written about thirty years after the crimes, so Olsen did exhaustive research, did interviews, read articles, and any other way to get information; it is very in-depth.
It is incredible that a serial killer, and his two young accomplices, Elmer Wayne Henley Jr. and David Brooks, could go undetected for many years.
Written by: Anirban Bhattacharya
Published: June 13th, 2019
There are some criminals that we know about and those who do their deeds in the shadows. There is a whole other class of criminals, though, one that we never hear about because they kill so efficiently and effectively: serial killers. India has had its fair share of these infamous murderers, and the book highlights twelve of them.
These men have killed many people over several years without being caught or even identified as suspects by police investigators. One includes a serial killer who supposedly murdered over 900 people in the 1800s!
Their crimes were not just limited to killing either; most committed robbery, rape, kidnapping, and more, along with their murder sprees. Some were motivated by money, while others simply enjoyed torturing their victims before finally ending their lives.
Written by: Maury Terry
The Son of Sam murders were the crimes committed by David Berkowitz, a serial killer who terrorized New York City from July 1976 to August 1977. The name "Son of Sam" is derived from a dog belonging to his neighbor, John Carrino.
His victims ranged in age from 13-41, and he was convicted for six murders and seven attempted murders. In July 1977, Berkowitz confessed that he acted alone as the Son of Sam and claimed that he had been commanded by a demon-dog named "Harvey."
However, many people believe this story has holes in it because Berkowitz used an AR15 rifle which was not available at the time. Terry examines whether Berkowitz was aligned with a Satanic cult and other possible explanations regarding his serial killings.
Written by: Gerold Frank
The Boston Strangler is a book about one of the most notorious serial killers in history. It was written by Gerold Frank, who interviewed many people close to the case and studied all available evidence to create this detailed account of the crime spree that terrorized Boston for two years.
The book also goes into detail about how law enforcement handled these cases, which were considered some of the first major crimes against women since World War II.
The author uses interviews with both investigators and victims' family members as well as correspondence between police officials, psychiatrists, attorneys, reporters, and others involved in the investigation to tell us everything that we need to know about what happened from start to finish.
Written by: Thomas Thompson
Published: October 1st, 1979
Serpentine is an epic book about the life of a young French man named Hotchand Bwanani Charles Sobrah. He was known for being kind, stunningly good-looking, and very yet couldn't care less about anyone but himself.
What begins as a coming-of-age tale soon becomes something much more sinister, as he starts to kill people. Now, this list has lots of serial killers, but this one is different.
The "Serpentine" would travel all throughout different parts of the word and would slaughter at least 12, and possibly up to 20, on his way. Starting in France, going to Bangkok and Hong Kong, he left death and destruction everywhere. He was so difficult to catch that he got the nickname “The Serpent” from the police.
Written by: Jack Olsen
Published: February 1st, 1993
Born in 1945 in New York state, Arthur was known to be incredibly disturbed mentally and had several mental evaluations at a very young age. After graduating from school, he killed a young girl and a boy.
He was caught and spent time in prison. However, he was able to get early parole and was released. After being released, three different small towns refused to allow him to stay there. So, the police snuck him into another town without alerting the people living there. In fact, they didn't even notify the local police of his presence.
Not surprisingly, people started to be found dead, and the police began to figure out what was happening. He ended up killing eleven people during his reign of terror. For some reason, he stopped killing kids and then started killing very short women. Interestingly enough, the psychiatrist that later worked with him found out he had pyroluria and a genetic issue that was very rare.
Did this contribute to his serial killings? Read to find out.
Written by: Don Lasseter
Published: May 1st, 2000
Charles Ng and his partner Leonard Lake were responsible for torturing and killing as many as 25 people during the 1980s. The pair were known to kidnap, drug, rape, torture, and kill their victims in an isolated cabin they had built deep in the woods of Wilseyville.
During that time (and even now,) it would be hard to imagine anyone eviler than Charles Ng.
However, how Ng and Lake killed these eleven people was particularly horrible and terrifying. While we may never know how many died at the hands of these men (since some evidence has yet to be found), I can tell you one thing: this story will make your skin crawl.
It was the most expensive legal case in California for criminal prosecution and took 14 years.
Written by: Ray Biondi and Walt Hecox
Published: August 1st, 1992
Many of the serial killers above have tortured, mutilated, and then killed their victims. Richard Thomas, who was nicknamed "The Vampire Killer," would do all of that and more. After killing them, he would drink their blood or find ways to fulfill his desire for it. This book is written by detective Lt. Ray Biondi and is loaded with information and grizzly photos so that you can get an in-depth portrait of this monster.
It is incredibly intriguing to see how Lt. Bondi and the police worked to find him and take him to justice. This book was previously released as The Dracula Killer, A Thirst for Blood. This serial killer has been used as a character in both television shows Criminal Minds and CSI.
Written by: Philip Carlo
Published: May 1st, 1996
Last but definitely not least, on our list is the infamous “Night Stalker.” Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, was a serial killer who terrorized Los Angeles in 1984 and 1985. He went on a killing spree from June of 1984 to August of 1985, where he raped, tortured, and murdered 14 people in total.
To this day, police have never been able to find him or figure out why he did it. This is his story told by author Philip Carlo who interviewed Ramirez in prison for seven years.
This book gives you an insight into the mind of one of America's most prolific serial killers with interviews from friends, family members, and law enforcement involved with the case at hand. It covers everything from his early life to what led up to his horrific crimes, including how difficult it was for victims' families.
Also creepy is that one juror fell in love with him and thousands of women wrote letters to him while in prison because they wanted to meet him.