While I like to think I march to the beat of my own drum, in reality I know myself to be entirely susceptible to trends. The hipster teenager in me viciously resents this - I was one of those kids who never listened to mainstream music (indie all the way - see my weekly playlists for some more insight into my taste), spurned all school activities, and was always the first one to know about a cool new book or movie. I was pretty insufferable...although no one really know because I was too uncool for any of my peers to realise what an arrogant hipster I was. This was before the term hipster, though. I was even a hipster before it was cool. That may be the most disgusting statement I've ever made.
Anyway, despite my natural aversion to all things 'trendy' (as true hipsters/trendsetters know - once something is cool, too many people have already heard of it), I do follow quite a few trends these days, even in my reading, such is the danger of spending your life on the Internet. And so I am now unveiling a new series for the blog - TBR Trends. I'll be sharing my latest obsessions to make their way into my reading habits, specifically my ever-growing TBR.
This winter the new obsession is true crime. Everyone is talking about Netflix's documentary series Making a Murderer (H & I binged the whole series over Christmas), and now last winter's runaway hit podcast Serial is back investigating a new mystery (sadly missing the murder hook from the first series). I'm finding myself drawn to real-life mysteries, true stories about real people and mysteries that are as vivid and harrowing as the most imaginative fiction. And so for the first instalment of TBR Trends, I'm talking about the true crime books I've added to my TBR - I'm itching for some good real-life mysteries.
My True Crime TBR
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
This is one I started to read years ago but set it aside. The story is of the murder of an innocent family who lived on a farm and were killed in their home after a robbery turned violent. I remember picking up this book one night when I was still in high school and living on the farm - as I was reading about the grisly murder, and such a random occurrence, I realised that I had inadvertently picked up the book on the very same date the murders occurred, November 15. Needless to say I got a little spooked and never finished reading. This is a classic of the true crime genre. And the film adaptation, which follows Truman Capote and Harper Lee as they investigate the story for this book, is also stellar.
Murder in Mississippi by John Safran
This one is a journalist's true crime investigation that takes on more than just a murder. The story follows a journalist who interviews a notorious white supremacist, who is later murdered. The journalist returns to the town to investigate the story behind the murder, delving into the murkiest areas of society in the American South. As the blurb describes it - Safran paints an engrossing and revealing portrait of race, money, sex, and power in the modern American South.
The Stranger Beside Me by Anne Rule
This is another classic of the genre and just reading the blurb gives me chills, so you know it's bound to be a good read. Anne Rule is one of the most noted writers of true crime and this is the story of how she unknowingly befriended Ted Bundy, one of the most notorious serial killers in American history. Bundy charmed Anne Rule who then had to come to grips with the terrifying truth of a man so likeable on the surface and twisted within.
People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief, and a Journey into Japan's Shadows by Richard Lloyd Parry
This book takes on the strange, mystifying murder of a young English woman in Japan - after her disappearance, her dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave. There aren't so many true crime stories about murders outside of the US and so this one sounds particularly interesting for its exploration of violence in a different culture.
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer is the king of engrossing nonfiction. This is the story of two brothers who believed they were called by God to commit violent acts in the name of their fundamentalist Mormon faith. It's more than another story of a brutal murder - it's a look into the psychology of religious extremism and fanaticism. A harrowing, timely, and fascinating topic.
The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
This book is heralded as one of the best works of nonfiction and it takes on the practice of writing true crime with a psychoanalytic eye. It is the story of a lawsuit between a convicted murderer and the journalist who wrote a true crime book about the killings. But really it's an investigation of the relationship between journalist and subject. This sounds like a perfect match for the themes in Making a Murderer - taking on the grey areas of a case, in legal as well as human terms.
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker
This book tells the story of the ongoing search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, NY. Like in Making a Murderer cultural and class prejudices have affected the police investigation - the victims were all escorts and their status as sex workers has clouded the media coverage and investigation. Kolker takes on the responsibility of humanising the victims, telling the sad story of the real people who choose sex work and are overlooked by society.