9 Books About Serial Killers That’ll Make Your Blood Run Cold

I spent the weekend binge-watching the newly released Netflix series Mindhunter. By the time I was done, my mind was on one thing: serial killers.


If you haven’t seen the series (and you should!), it follows two FBI agents who try to understand the psychology of serial killers (coining the phrase themselves) in the early days of criminal profiling when little was known about what drove the behavior of these criminals. In order to understand them, the agents go right to the source, interviewing imprisoned serial killers who have committed vile and nefarious acts.


The series is based on true experiences described in the true crime biography Mindhunter. And it’s not the only written account offering a researched insight into the controversial and widely-contested crimes plaguing the century. Here are ten fascinating books about serial killers which will have your mind spinning…


1. Mindhunter by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker



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The Netflix series Mindhunter was adapted from this very book, written by FBI agent John E. Douglas. Throughout his twenty-five year FBI career, Douglas played a major role in our modern understanding of criminal profiling. Mindhunter offers a chilling first-hand account of infamous serial killers and the crimes they committed. Douglas’ written account of his interviews with figures from Charles Manson to Ted Bundy and so many more will leave you reeling.


2. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi


Helter Skelter

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Considered the #1 True Crime Bestseller of all time with over 7 million copies sold, Helter Skelter is a must-read for true crime fanatics. Bugles and Gentry go over gripping accounts of the Manson murders led by the criminal of all criminals, Charles Manson.


In the summer of 1969, Los Angeles residents became terrorized by seemingly random savage acts committed by Manson’s cult following. Notable murders include the Tate-Liabianca case in which Hollywood actress Sharon Tate, who was two weeks from giving birth, was brutally murdered in her home along with guests. Helter Skelter describes the unnerving crime scene in which the word ‘PIG’ was written on the front door of Tate’s home in her own blood. 


3. Zodiac by Robert Graysmith



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Acting as inspiration for the film Zodiac (2007), Graysmith’s true account of his desperate search for the Zodiac killer will captivate any true crime fan. The 1970s was not the best time for California residents between Manson’s murders and the chilling killer self-named Zodiac. The Zodiac killer committed a string of slayings between the 1960s and 1970s, responsible for at least five confirmed deaths, although he claimed to have killed thirty-seven more victims.


The Zodiac killer is by far one of the most fascinating killers because of the mysterious coded messages he terrorized California journalists and sheriff offices with. Graysmith’s close connection to the killer and fervent search to capture him will entice any reader.


4. The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez by Philip Carlo



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Richard Ramirez was a satan-worshipper and serial killer who targeted, raped, and killed at least thirteen people in the spring and summer of 1985 before being caught by authorities. His vile and immoral crimes are analyzed by Carlo, who traces his descent into violence.


Ramirez’s vile acts mirror his equally disturbing upbringing in which Carlo divulges in. From seeing someone murdered at the age of thirteen to experiencing debilitating health issues, Ramirez’s journey begs the question as to how an upbringing impacts violent behavior. Furthermore, Carlo’s intimate and honest interviews with Ramirez will leave readers reeling.


5. The Only Living Witness:The True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy by Stephen Michaud



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Considered America’s first celebrity serial killer, it’s theorized that Bundy may have killed as many as 100 victims, though he only admitted to killing thirty-six women. Bundy was a rapist and necrophiliac who largely committed crimes against women in various states in the 1970s. 


Bundy is particularly interesting to study because he was handsome, articulate, and educated, which challenges the image we may think of (i.e. Manson) when we think of a serial killer. Michaud offers new evidence and a thorough analysis into Bundy’s background and crimes to deliver readers a thrill. 


6. Deviant: True Story of Ed Gein, the Original Psycho by Harold Schecter



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His name may not be as familiar as Manson and Bundy, but Ed Gein is one of the most notorious serial killers. His crimes were so revolting that they inspired horror films like Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs.


Gein is the epitome of “mommy issues.” If you’ve seen Psyco or Bates Motel, then you know. Gein grew up on a farm in Wisconsin with a domineering mother with whom he had a troubling relationship. After her death in 1945, his mental health took a downfall, resulting in him digging up his mother’s corpse in a grave on their property. The act lead to other grave robberies and eventual murders. His horrendous and revolting crimes become fascinating narratives in this true crime account.


7. Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer



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This doctor’s crimes will make you hesitate to schedule another doctor’s visit. Kermit Gosnell was a respected doctor who offered abortion services at the Women’s Medical Society Clinic in Philadelphia. Gosnell ran the clinic for more than three decades and it was there that he performed gruesome mutilations on women and infants. 


Gosnell’s disturbing crimes are nauseating, yet the story is intriguing. McElhinney and McAllen investigate Gosnell’s background and how he was able to get away with his horrendous deeds for so long. From police misconduct to civilians who turned a blind eye, this tale will read like a gnarly thriller but is completely based on true events.


8. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule



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Ann Rule was one of the many writers who launched their writing career covering the Bundy slayings. What separates this true crime account from others is that Rule personally knew the serial killer.


While covering the story, Rule was unaware that the serial killer whose crimes she was covering was the same man that was her coworker and confidant at the Seattle Crisis Clinic. Her written tale describes the startling truth she arrived to as the serial killer’s face became clear.   


9. Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen



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Mixing true crime with art, this author/illustrator offers a visual narrative of the Green River Killer and his crimes. The Green River Killer, also known as Gary Leon Ridgway, murdered dozens of women throughout the 1980s in Seattle, Washington. Targeting mainly runaways and prostitues, Ridgway strangled them then put the corpses in woodsy locations.


After nearly twenty years, Ridgway was finally apprehended by authorities, including lead case detective Tom Jensen. Jeff Jensen, his son, incorporates second-hand knowledge of the case with stunning visuals, offering readers a terrifying yet artistic perspective of the infamous tale. 


Featured image shows Teddy Bundy via People/AP