The FBI has been involved in some of the most high-profile cases in history. These 25 books from former FBI agents and journalists detail everything from story of its famed leader J. Edgar Hoover to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.
They offer an inside look at the bureau's work, and how it handles investigations of this magnitude.
Whether you're a fan of crime thrillers or want to learn more about the inner workings of the FBI, these nonfiction books are sure to keep you entertained and informed.
Written by: John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker
Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas is a riveting account of the author's experiences working for the FBI as one of its foremost experts on serial killers.
Douglas provides a fascinating look inside the workings of the FBI's serial crime unit and offers keen insights into the minds of some of history's most notorious killers.
He discusses high-profile cases, including The Trailside Killer (from the San Francisco Bay Area), the John Wayne Gacy killings, and the Atlanta Child murderer.
It’s one of the top FBI books about criminology, psychology, or true crime stories.
Written by: John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker
This is another work by FBI criminal investigator John E. Douglas. In this book, you'll get details about additional cases he worked on during his time in the FBI.
You’ll also learn more about his strategies to discover the identities of predatory killers and how he can capture them.
Cases discussed in this book include the Charles Manson murders, the “Son of Sam Killer,” and the “BTK Strangler.”
Written by: David Grann
In the 1920s, the Osage tribe in Oklahoma became the targets of brutal murders. The killers went after those who had inherited oil money from leases on Osage land, and the death toll quickly rose.
In response, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was formed (previously called the Bureau of Investigation) to investigate the killings. It was their first investigation dealing with homicide.
Grann's book tells the story of this dark period in American history, shining a light on the courage of those who fought back against their attackers and the institutional racism that allowed the murders to go unsolved for so long.
>> More books about Native American history
Written by: Joseph W. Koletar
Are you interested in a career with the FBI? If so, you'll want to read this book.
It contains inside information on how to get chosen for the FBI, what the job is like, and how to succeed once you're there. You’ll find out how to select the right education and early career decision to help your chances of getting hired.
The book also covers day-to-day duties, different roles available, and what it takes to advance in a career with the FBI. You’ll also learn things about the salary and benefits for FBI agents.
Whether you're just starting out your career or looking to make a change, this guide has everything you need to know about the FBI.
Written by: Alston W. Purvis, Alex Tresniowski
In the early 1930s, FBI agent Melvin Purvis was one of the most celebrated lawmen in America. He had brought down some of the nation's most notorious criminals, including bank robber John Dillinger.
But his success came at a price.
Hoover, the director of the FBI, grew jealous of Purvis's popularity and began to plot against him.
As media attention around Purvis continued, Hoover demoted him and continued to try to bring him down.
This book is the work of his son, Alston W. Purvis. It will give you an insider’s look at what happened based on his experience and his research about his dad.
>> More books about J. Edgar Hoover
Written by: Betty Medsger
In 1971, eight burglars broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania and found evidence that the Bureau had been spying on Americans for decades. The story of the burglary and what the burglars found is told in Berry Medsger's book The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI.
The book is based on interviews with the burglars and FBI agents and previously classified documents. It tells a fascinating story of government misconduct and abuse of power.
You'll also learn about J. Edgar Hoover's involvement and how he used unethical tactics to gather information about US citizens.
Written by: Jeffrey Haas
On December 4, 1969, Fred Hampton, a leader of the Black Panther Party in Chicago, was assassinated during a raid by the FBI and Chicago Police. Hampton was sleeping at the time of the raid and was shot twice in the head.
His pregnant fiancée also sustained injuries in the attack, and another Black Panther leader, Mark Clark, was also killed.
Later documents revealed that the FBI had planned to kill Hampton years before his death.
In this book, you'll learn everything about what led to Hampton’s surveillance by the Chicago Police and FBI. You’ll also read about why they felt the need to assassinate him and which way the jury went after hearing all of the evidence.
The assassination of Fred Hampton remains one of the most notorious acts of government violence against American civil rights activists.
Written by: Jeffrey L. Rinek
In the Name of the Children is a gripping account of one FBI agent, Jeff Rinek, and his relentless pursuit of the nation's most wanted child predators.
During his time in the FBI, Rinek has seen and heard things that none want to experience. He gave everything to work with the suspected criminals of these cases to secure a confession.
This book will tell you more about the strategies he used on several high-profile crimes, including the Yosemite Park Murders.
Written by: Robert K. Ressler, Tom Shachtman
In his book, Whoever Fights Monsters, former FBI agent Robert Ressler looks at the Psychology of serial killers and what drives them to kill. He’s also famous for being the first person to coin the term “serial killer” in the 1970s.
He shares case studies and insights from his investigation into some of the world's most famous serial killers.
Ressler offers readers a unique behind-the-scenes look at the minds of these killers and provides valuable insight into the darkness that dwells within all of them.
>> More books about serial killers
Written by: Tracy Walder, Jessica Anya Blau
In this book, you’ll learn the story of a young woman that became a CIA agent shortly after college.
You'll read about what life was like in the CIA and why she transitioned to the FBI.
In the CIA, Walder tracked al-Qaeda members, tracked chemical terrorists, and hunted for mass destruction weapons. Her transition into the FBI led her into counterintelligence.
Find out what it's like to be a woman in these male-dominated roles and what led her to leave the bureau to teach young women.
>> Additional books about the CIA
Written by: Peter Matthiessen
Leonard Peltier is an American Indian activist who has been in prison for over 40 years. He was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975.
His case has been highly controversial, with many claiming that he is innocent and that he was unfairly tried and convicted.
Peltier's story sheds light on the FBI's long history of violence and intimidation against American Indians.
In this book, you'll learn about what led up to the shootout on the reservation in 1975, why some think that Peltier is innocent, and tactics the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use in their continuing battle against Native American communities.
It was originally released in 1983.
Written by: Stephen G. Michaud
In his over two decades with the FBI, profiler Roy Hazelwood has seen some of the absolute worst that humanity has to offer. He is one of three agents to form the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP), a program within the FBI that analyzes violent crimes and serial killers. His focus is on sexual predators.
From child molesters to rapists and serial killers, he's helped catch some of the most reviled criminals.
In this book, you’ll learn more about his strategies to get into the minds of sexual predators and what he did to help capture them.
Written by: John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker
In his long and illustrious career with the FBI, John Douglas became known as one of the world's top criminal profilers.
He helped develop groundbreaking investigative techniques still used today, and he was instrumental in bringing some of the most notorious criminals to justice.
In this book, you’ll learn more about Douglas. You’ll read about some of the highlights of Douglas's career and see how his work continues to shape law enforcement practices worldwide.
Written by: Ann Wolbert Burgess, Steven Constantine
Ann Wolbert Burgess is a nurse that consulted with John E. Douglas and the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit to help capture some of the US’s most notorious criminals.
During her storied career, she because famous for her groundbreaking research in sexual assault and trauma. Her work captured the attention of the FBI, which is when she began consulting on several well-known cases.
In this book, you’ll read more about her research, how she helped the FBI, and how she changed the way law enforcement tracks down sexual predators.
Written by: Andrew G. McCabe
On March 16, 2018, Andrew G. McCade learned of being fired from the FBI after two decades on Twitter. Former President Trump ruthlessly fired McCade just twenty-six hours before his scheduled retirement. This announcement left him, and many others in the FBI confused, frustrated, and concerned.
Now you get to hear McCabe's side of the story. In this book, you'll read about McCabe's early carrier in law enforcement and his time with the FBI. But, most importantly, you'll read all about the time between Trump being elected president and McCabe’s firing.
It's an important story that talks more about the FBI, how it works, and their fight to keep the integrity of America intact.
Written by: Joe Sharkey
Published: 2017 (1993)
Mark Putnam was an FBI agent in the late 1980s who worked undercover in Pikeville, Kentucky. He became friendly with a local woman named Susan Smith, who helped him with a critical case in the region.
Once the case closed, Putnam spoke with Smith less after the case closed, but she insisted that they continue their relationship. It quickly turned romantic.
He knew his relationship could ruin his family and career, so he requested a transfer. Upon his return to the region for another case, Smith informed him that she had a baby, and it was his.
In 1989, Putnam picked up Smith and took her to a clearing. The two argued, and Putnam strangled and killed her.
In this book, you’ll learn more about Putnam’s time in the FBI, details of this illicit affair, and what happened to him after the murder.
Written by: Tim Weiner
Many people think of the FBI as an organization that primarily deals with investigating and catching criminals. However, the FBI has a much more complex history than that.
In Enemies: A History of the FBI, Tim Weiner delves into the secrets and scandals of America's most famous law enforcement agency. From its early days catching spies during World War II to its controversial investigations during the Cold War and beyond, Weiner paints a fascinating picture of an institution constantly evolving to meet the needs of a changing world.
Whether you're a fan of the FBI or not, this book will give you a new perspective on its role in American society.
Written by: Robert Unger
Published: 2005 (1997)
On June 17, 1933, a shootout at Union Station in Kansas City. Once it was over, four law enforcement officers and one gang member died.
Due to the severity of the crime, the FBI stepped in to help solve the case.
In this book, you'll learn about the FBI's work to find out the killers' names and how they tracked them down. You'll also read about the controversy over one of the so-called fugitives turned convicts, as many say he was not with the gang when the crime occurred.
Written by: John Miller (Goodreads Author), Michael Stone, Chris Mitchell (Goodreads Author)
On September 11, 2001, four commercial airliners were hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists and flown into iconic targets in New York City and Washington DC. The devastation caused by the attacks is well known, but what is less well known is how close the FBI and CIA came to stop them.
In this book, investigative journalist John Miller details the investigation that led up to 9/11 and exposed the intelligence failures that allowed it to happen.
Drawing on his earlier research, experience, and interviews with key players in both agencies, Mill provides a startling account of how bin Laden's network was able to plan and execute one of history's deadliest terrorist attacks.
Written by: Tamer Elnoury, Kevin Maurer
Our list of the best FBI books includes several works by ex-FBI agents. This one is by Tamer Elnoury and offers a take on what it’s like to be an undercover agent that is Muslim.
Elnoury dedicated his life to protecting his country from terrorism. After 9/11, he became part of an elite squad that worked to gain the trust of terrorists.
He infiltrated some of the most dangerous terrorist networks in the world, and he's here to tell his story. Elnoury provides an inside look at the radicalization process and what motivates people to join extremist groups.
As a current undercover agent, Elnoury is an alias so that he can stay protected on the job.
Written by: Maureen Callahan
Israel Keyes was an American serial killer who preyed on lone women and couples. For years, he managed to conceal his crimes and elude law enforcement, but in the end, his arrogance led to his downfall.
In this book, you'll learn more about Keyes's crimes, how he managed to escape detection for years, and the true story of how the FBI eventually caught him.
You’ll also learn what it’s like to be an FBI agent trying to hunt down one of the most notorious and chilling murders in recent history.
>> Additional true crime books
Written by: Roy Hazelwood, Stephen G. Michaud
In his book, Dark Dreams, retired FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood sheds light on the motivations and methods of criminals who engage in sexual violence and homicide.
Drawing on his experience investigating some of the most notorious cases in history, Hazelwood offers readers a unique insight into the criminal mind.
In this book, you’ll learn some of Hazelwood's key findings and what they can teach us about keeping ourselves safe from these dangerous predators.
Written by: Kent Alexander, Kevin Salwen
On July 27, 1996, an explosive device detonated near the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia. The bomb killed two people and injured more than 50 others. In the days following the bombing, the FBI identified security guard Richard Jewell as a suspect.
Though Jewell was eventually exonerated, he suffered significant damage to his reputation and career.
This book details the case, how the media can skew public perception of an event, and how this error led to the real bomber getting away with murder. It also highlights some of the challenges law enforcement faces in dealing with high-profile investigations.
Written by: Ali H. Soufan
Written by FBI Special Agent Ali H. Soufan, this book details the account of what took place before and after 9/11. Soufan recounts mistakes made by the agency to prevent the attack and America’s successes and failures with Al-Qaeda.
You’ll also learn more about Soufan’s career as an FBI agent. The story also gives you an inside look at Al-Qaeda, its hideouts, soldiers, and its leader, Osama bin Laden.
It's one of the essential insider views of this significant and terrible event in US History.
>> More about the war in Afghanistan
Written by: James Comey
In his new book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, former FBI Director James Comey shares his personal experiences from his career in government.
Comey speaks candidly about the events that led to his dismissal from the FBI by President Donald Trump, offering readers a unique insight into the inner workings of our government.
Comey also provides thoughtful reflections on ethical leadership and its importance in society. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in American politics and the current state of our democracy.