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10 Compelling and Powerful True Crime/Memoir Mash-Ups

These chilling tales of tragedy come straight from the source.

four true crime memoir book covers

Pain to power. Tragedy to triumph. Heartbreak to hope. These are just a few phrases that resonate with the powerful stories that are included in this list of unputdownable true crime/memoir mash-ups.

One of the internet's newest genre obsessions, true crime/memoirs are memoirs that feature a true crime plot; anywhere from a crime that the author was the victim of or a crime that occurred near the author in some aspect. 

These particular memoirs are so compelling because not only are they true but the authors have used their pain to create something beautiful.  Each story is unique. Each story is heartbreaking. But above all, each story shows us there’s always hope and is truly inspiring.

This genre is great for folks who like some sort of closure from tragic stories, as well as people who enjoy real-world plotlines and understanding the truly abhorrent consequences that come from the criminal mind, whether we're talking about people who were immediately involved in the event or those who became collateral damage. 

Here are 10 incredible true crime + memoir mash-ups you won't be able to stop reading.

True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray

True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray

By James Renner

James Renner's story is proof that our true crime addictions shouldn't always be taken lightly…

James fell in love with Amy Mihaljevic when he was 11 years old. Her face was on missing posters all over his neighborhood; and it was from her posters that his dangerous, lifelong obsession with true crime was born. In 2011, he came across Maura Murray's mysterious and infamous missing person's case, and began researching the 2004 disappearance of the girl in rural New Hampshire.

 His absorbing quest for answers not only leads him to important and shocking new clues as well as a successful career as an investigative journalist, but it also leads to PTSD, an uncontrollable toll on his personal life, and finding himself in increasingly dangerous situations for little regard for his own well-being. 

catch the sparrow

Catch the Sparrow

By Rachel Rear

Rear takes us with her on her journey to find the truth about the murder of her stepsister, Stephanie Kupchynsky. It’s an incredibly moving story detailing how Stephanie's disappearance affected her loved ones

 Rachel Rear’s mother married Stephanie’s dad, Jerry after the crime had already taken place but Rear always felt a connection to Stephanie even though they’d never met.

Although most of the book is about Stephanie, we also learn a lot about Rachel’s life and how intertwined the two became.

Dancing with the Octopus

Dancing with the Octopus

By Debora Harding

Dancing with the Octopus is described as being for readers who loved Educated and The Glass Castle and although I am yet to read The Glass Castle (it’s on the good ol’ TBR!), I couldn’t agree more with the Educated comparison.

At first glance, I thought this story was going to be fully about how Debora Harding was abducted at knifepoint when she was 14—but it’s so much more.

Harding survived her abduction but was soon returned to her dysfunctional and abusive household. Alternating between past and present, this story is sure to stick with you.

true crime memoirs

The Fact of a Body

By Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

The Fact of a Body is a two-part story: one-part young law student investigating the case of Ricky Langley, a convicted murderer, and the other detailing Alexandria’s own personal tragedy. This story really hit me hard. It took me a lot longer to read it than I expected because the subject matter was so heavy.

Related: 13 Riveting True Crime Books for Fans of I'll Be Gone In the Dark

true crime memoirs

The Babysitter

By Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

The Babysitter is such an unputdownable read. I have seen mixed reviews stating that they don’t understand how the memoir and the true crime aspect are related but I simply do not agree. I thought it made perfect sense.

Liza Rodman grew up summering in Cape Cod with her sister and mother. It wasn’t glamorous, Rodman’s mother worked in the local motel and associated with some shady characters. One of these shady people were Rodman’s babysitters.

A man named Tony Costa who turned out to be a violent serial killer. Of course, Liza Rodman never knew this as a child but once she became an adult, she learned the truth and became obsessed with the case.

tell me everything

Tell Me Everything

By Erika Krouse

“There were two sides to the football culture here: one hyper exposed under stadium lights, and the other one illicit, in bedrooms and hotel rooms. People cheered for one side and shrugged at the other.”

Erika Krouse is a private investigator and she has one of those faces that people are drawn to. Everyone instinctively trusts her and wants to divulge all their secrets to her. It works to her benefit with the job she has.

Krouse begins investigating a sexual assault lawsuit and quickly realizes she has no idea what she’s doing (and with her own past sexual assault trauma knows this isn’t good for her mental health) but once she decides that this investigation can potentially change things for the better, she is all in.

Tell Me Everything is a rage-inducing book. I despise the college football culture (well most college sports culture, honestly).

sex cult nun

Sex Cult Nun

By Faith Jones

All I can say is WOW. Sex Cult Nun is one of those books that will stay with you for a LONG time. I’m constantly recommending this one because it is so unbelievable that I feel you need to read it to believe it.

Faith Jones grew up in the Children of God cult. It’s extremely religious and oppressive. Most of her childhood was outside of the U.S. although the family did move around quite a bit (mostly to avoid detection in the U.S.)

It’s mind-blowing what the children and women experienced. As far as I know, Children of God is still a thing. Luckily, Faith was able to escape and reclaim her life at the age of 23. 

Slonim Woods 9

Slonim Woods 9

By Daniel Barban Levin

Another cult recommendation. I’m such a sucker for a cult story. Slonim Woods 9 is another book I recommend a lot because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read regarding cults.

Usually, we think of large groups and religion. Daniel’s experience is much different but just as traumatizing. Daniel Barban Levin was one of the original students living in Slonim Woods 9 in 2010 when roommate Talia Ray had her father, Larry Ray, move in with them.

Larry Ray used his power and manipulation to control Talia and her group of friends. It’s a seriously scary and sad story.

Ray was eventually convicted of extortion, sex trafficking, forced labor, and money laundering, but not before he sunk his teeth into unsuspecting college students.

know my name

Know My Name

By Chanel Miller

Know My Name is a must-read. In a world where perpetrators are protected and victims must scramble to protect themselves, Chanel Miller uses her voice to heal and shine a light on the injustices of the criminal justice system and how sexual assaults are handled.

 Chanel Miller isn’t just a victim. She’s a person with a name, hopes, dreams, a family and so much more.

Throughout this book, you will be angry but you’ll also see how resilient Chanel Miller is.

i cried to dream again

I Cried to Dream Again

By Sara Kruzan

OH MY GOSH, THIS BOOK. My heart broke so many times. Probably the most difficult book of the bunch to get through.

Sara Kruzan was sentenced as a juvenile to serve life in prison without parole for killing the man who sex-trafficked her for YEARS. It’s disturbing and heartbreaking, but Kruzan shows us her strength.

She tells HER story and it is empowering.