Whenever people come to my house there’s this awkward moment when they look at my bookshelves and they’re like… “are you okay?”, and I’m like, “uh, why WOULDN’T I BE?” Then I scan my bookshelves and I get it… I have a morbid fascination!
Nonfiction gets a bad rap in my opinion. People are quick to dismiss it because it sounds boring. BUT and there’s a big BUT here: what if I told you that there is TONS of nonfiction for the morbid and macabre? Along with true crime (which is totally in the non-fiction category!), there are so many interesting books about the living and the dead. Spoiler alert: They can also be completely engrossing and will not make you feel like you’re reading a textbook.
If you’ve been trying to read more non-fiction, now is the perfect time to jump on board as November is #NonFictionNovember (a yearly reading challenge dedicated to reading more non-fiction, that I found on Instagram, check out the hashtag!). Here are 12 disturbing nonfiction books for you to read immediately.
I’m always impressed with the bravery and honesty some people possess (and also their memories, how can they remember so many details? I forget a conversation as soon as I walk away!).
A gripping memoir about fighting for justice and how of the cases Holes worked on impacted him both personally and professionally. Read a free excerpt here.
I Cried to Dream Again
The most powerful and heartbreaking memoir I’ve ever read. Kruzan is a survivor of child abuse and sex trafficking and she tells her honest and empowering story so eloquently. I cannot recommend enough. This is such an important story.
Dancing with the Octopus
Initially, I thought this memoir was about a crime but it’s so much more—Harding not only dealt with a life-altering experience (being kidnapped as a teen which resulted in PTSD) but she also grew up within a highly dysfunctional family and abusive mother. Great insight into how childhood trauma affects you well into adulthood.
I majored in Psychology so naturally, I am obsessed with learning about the human brain.
Brain on Fire
I definitely made this book my entire personality when I first read it years ago. Cahalan tells us the story of how she went from sanity to insanity in a very short amount of time and the diagnosis of a rare neurological disease.
Hidden Valley Road
Such a compelling read and touches on one of my favorite subjects: mental illness. Not only that, it tackles genetic markers as well. In this book, we meet the Galvin family who has 12 children, SIX of which are diagnosed with schizophrenia.
When Rabbit Howls
Oh my gosh, this book. I don’t know what to say other than it is so disturbing and sad. It’s about dissociative identity disorder and the fight to survive a childhood of abuse.
Death Curious Books
Death doesn’t have to be scary. You can learn everything you’ve always wanted to know about death and then talk about it at parties and really freak everyone out.
Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner
Melinek is a forensic pathologist working as the NYC medical examiner when 9/11 happens. She tells us what it’s like to perform autopsies, investigate death scenes as well as counsel grieving families.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
I can’t get enough of Caitlin Doughty. Her books are so informative and morbid but also FUNNY. Doughty definitely knows how to keep readers interested in all things dead.
All the Living and the Dead
This is actually my newest acquisition! I cannot wait to read it. Not only does it have an absolutely gorgeous cover but it’s about Campbell talks to embalmers and executioners and EVERYONE who has made death their life’s work.
Just plain SCARY books
Books about serial killers are terrifying.
The Stranger Beside Me
We’ve got to start with the most iconic true crime novel of all time. Ann Rule does it best and her first book about her time working with Ted Bundy—who ended up being a prolific serial killer is chilling.
American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century
I remember reading this book when it first came out and I could NOT put it down. I was completely engrossed in this fast-paced true crime story about a serial killer I’d NEVER heard of: Israel Keyes. The crimes are so terrifying, I can’t believe how this story ends.
The Ice Man
I don’t see this book mentioned often and it is a great read (albeit freaky AF). Carlo (who also wrote The Night Stalker), introduces us to Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski. Kuklinski is a top mob hitman who claims to have killed over 200 men and taking pride in his methods.