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True Crime: Books, Podcasts, and Documentaries

With Season 2 of the popular podcast Serial nearing the end of this current season, the FX original limited series, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and the runaway Netflix hit Making a Murderer, our fascination with crime stories doesn’t seem to wane. Maybe the draw is that we want to see justice served, or we want to know if we could spot the true crime in a situation, or maybe it has something to do with the fact that, as one of the lawyers in Making a Murderer says, “We could all say that we’re never going to commit a crime. But we can never guarantee that someone else won’t accuse us of a crime.” Whatever the reason, one thing it does is challenge our worldview.

true crime stories for young adults
CC image via Flickr user Tony Webster


For readers that enjoy a suspenseful or thriller type mystery, true crime can be a great nonfiction option. True crime can also be a great gateway to other narrative nonfiction for readers that don’t see themselves as nonfiction readers; through it they might find themselves spellbound. Here is a list of heart-pounding true crime books and other media.

Borden Murders Cover                  Chasing Lincoln's Killer              hole-in-my-life-cover

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century by Sarah Elizabeth Miller

One of the most followed crime cases of the late 1800s, Miller reexamines the brutal crime that left Lizzie Borden’s father and step-mother hacked to death with an ax, and why so many thought it was Lizzie’s doing.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson (2010 Best Books for Young Adults)

Relive the heart-racing account of the twelve-day chase and capture of John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices in this historical thriller.

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos (2003 Printz Honor Book, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2006, 2003 Best Books for Young Adults, 2004 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Shortly after graduating from high school, Gantos accepted an offer of $10,000 to help sail a boat full of hash from St. Croix to New York, eventually landing him in prison.

Mid-year Nonfiction Round-up

Earlier this month I was trying to find a list (comparable to the many lists of potential Printz and Newbery candidates) of YA nonfiction to watch for 2012 and couldn’t find much. So I decided to come up with a list of my own and share it with any interested readers of The Hub. This is pretty unscientific stuff: it’s mostly books that received stars from library journals or were that written by established nonfiction authors, but it definitely has given me a good start on where my reading should be. Please let me know what other nonfiction I should be reading in the comments.

New books by past winners and nominees of the YALSA Nonfiction Award

  • Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point, September 2012)
    Sheinkin won last year’s YALSA award for The Notorious Benedict Arnold. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book about the building of the first Atomic Bomb at ALA, and I think it is every bit as good as his last book. A huge contender.
  • Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal (Feiwel and Friends, February 2012)
    Blumenthal wrote last year’s Bootleg, and her new one has a star from Booklist.
  • Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies by Marc Aronson (Candlewick, April 2012)
    Aronson (Sugar Changed the World) always has something interesting to say, and the book has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus, so I’ll definitely be looking for this one.