The 10 Best True Crime Books of 2021

The definition of page-turners.

true crime books
(Image credit: Morgan McMullen/Courtesy)

Thus far, 2021 has combined terrible, horrific breaking news (an insurrection, multiple mass shootings, little kids crossing the border alone) with frivolous, negligible non-news (presidential pooch Major Biden bit various hands). If this is the kind of year 2021 is going to be—whipsawing from one extreme to the other—then I'm going to bury my head in a pile of riveting true crime stories to kill time until 2022.

Women have been shown to be more drawn to true crime stories than men, according to researchers Amanda M. Vicary and R. Chris Fraley. In their 2010 study, they looked at online book reviews and learned that men were more likely to choose books about gang violence or war, while women were drawn to gruesome stories of crime—even when those books involved women being kidnapped, rated, tortured, and/or killed.

One reason for this: By reading about these crimes and investigating the psychology of a criminal, we may hope that on some level we'll get clues on how to protect ourselves. The study by Vicary and Fraley concluded: "Women, more so than men, were drawn to the book that contained tips on how to defend oneself from an attacker. It appears that the potential to learn defense tactics from these stories is one factor that draws women, more so than men, to true crime books." So if an immersion in true crime lit makes us feel a little bit braver or a little bit more prepared, then have at it. I'll be here reading.

Maria Ricapito
Maria Ricapito

Maria Ricapito is a writer who lives in the Hudson Valley.