Criminal logo

The 11 Scariest Books About Serial Killers

by Iggy Paulsen 2 years ago in book reviews

Reading books about serial killers is always going to be chilling, but these might just give you nightmares

A serial killer is the real-life version of the boogeyman.

They are murderous, they are evil, they are monsters that live inside human bodies, and they can be anyone in your neighborhood—even the couple who lives next door.

It's the cold-blooded and twisted ways that serial killers strike that make them the subjects of myriad true crime books. Killers under this category are studied, and to a point, are almost treated as a separate species by criminologists.

We are going to talk about some of the most notorious criminals of all time, and their stories make for some seriously good true horror tales. If you love to read things that'll give you chills, these books about serial killers will petrify you.

You probably already know the movie based off this book, by the same name. Bret Easton Ellis's account of the inner workings of Patrick Bateman is eerily realistic—which is what made American Psycho such a great movie and book.

The movie version of American Psycho has shown the world the strange balance of violence, insecurity, and obsession that goes on in a killer's mind. The book does it oh, so much better.

Though this book is totally fiction, it still remains one of the most popular books about serial killers in existence. It's also one of the most terrifying, since Bateman's behavior almost seems just a little bit too relatable at times.

Ann Rule is currently one of the most famous true crime authors in the world, and wrote books on just about every major killer there was. From the Green River Killer to the terrifying story of the I-5 Killer, Rule is able to tell tales of crime in ways that most simply can't.

The Stranger Beside Me is her first book, and tells the tale about her first foray into the world of true crime. Back when she worked as an operator for a suicide hotline, she shared an office with a handsome young man by the name of Ted Bundy.

Yes, that Ted Bundy.

Rule describes the terrifying, sinking feeling of realizing that the sensitive guy who was trying to help save lives next to her was a prolific serial murderer in gruesome detail. It's chilling, to say the least.

A lot of the scariest books about famous serial killers involve people who were in contact with them, in one way or another—and that includes journalists like Robert Graysmith who covered their deeds.

Graysmith was a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle during the 1960s and 1970s. This gave him access to details typical readers wouldn't have had, and it sparked an obsession inside him.

With a hope to help unmask the enigmatic Zodiac Killer, Robert Graysmith embarked on an intrepid journey, filled with research and investigations. Zodiac is the result of his journalistic pursuits.

Vincent Bugliosi served as a prosecutor on the Charles Manson murder case, and like Robert Graysmith, had access to little-known evidence in the case. After seeing the murders Manson ordered and the dramatic court case that followed, Bugliosi was inspired to tell the tale.

Helter Skelter quickly became known for being one of the most terrifying books about serial killers ever to be written by a lawyer. This hybrid between a court case drama and a murder mystery will leave you spellbound.

Over 7 million copies of this book were sold, causing it to gain New York Times bestseller status.

You might recognize Mindhunter after the similarly named Netflix series following an FBI profiler's life as he tracks down serial killers. Believe it or not, that series is based on true events!

Mindhunter isn't just a book about a single killer in particular. It's a book about criminal investigators, and their understanding of a typical serial killer's mind.

This groundbreaking true crime book tells the stories that FBI agent John E. Douglas lived through as he worked to catch multiple killers. You'll hear about close scrapes with nationally famous murderers, quick judgement calls that saved his life, and how he learned to think like a monster.

It's very hard to find books about serial killers that involve female killers. In fact, it's almost unheard of. However, there are still a couple of good titles that are worth reading that show the inner workings of a female serial murderer.

Marybeth Tinning is a great, yet obscure, example of a female serial killer who skated under the radar because of her "family-friendly" appearance. With a tragic and sketchy string of deaths, including nine of her own children, it took ages to figure out that Tinning was a wolf in sheep's clothing.

The question still remains though: Why? That's what makes this book so creepy. She was a pediatric nurse, a school bus driver, and a waitress. She was Jane Everyman—and that's what made her so damn dangerous.

During the mid-80s, California was terrified of a new serial killer on the loose. They called him "The Night Stalker" because of how he would stalk his victims before he raped them, robbed them, and occasionally killed them.

Philip Carlo's The Night Stalker is a story of brutality, murder, and satanismbased on the life and crimes of Richard Ramirez—and it's a terrifying account. Carlo brings out the gore he caused, in serious detail, and yet also manages to make Richard Ramirez almost relatable at times.

Added to the written story is a real life interview Carlo had with Ramirez about life on death row, his rampant drug abuse, and what really sparked him to go on a murder spree.

One of the most terrifying types of serial killers would have to be the "Angel of Death" type. They are notoriously difficult to catch, and are often the most prolific serial killers in their regions.

These are killers who take jobs in the medical field in order to gain access to victims. Once they find a victim, they use medicine, overdoses, or poisonings to kill them. Victims do not have a say in this; it is decidedly not euthanasia.

Blind Eye is one of the most terrifying books about serial killers that focus on an Angel of Death. Not only does it show how a serial killer managed to end the lives of innocent patients, but it also shows how the medical community enabled him to do so.

A truly honest account of modern medicine, this is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the mind of an evil doctor.

We all hear about women who find themselves inexplicably attracted to killers—and Claudia Rowe is one of those people. Rowe first found herself delving in the world of true crime while working as a New York Times reporter.

Her first case brought her to the home of Kendall Francois, a 27-year-old man who hid the dead bodies of eight young women in his basement. Fascinated by how his family seemed to ignore the obvious clues and curious as to why he would do this, Claudia reached out to him behind bars.

What makes this book creepy is how revealing it is about human nature. You might second guess your sanity after reading this.

If you're tired of hearing tales of Ted Bundy and other major killer names, why not take a trip to another country with your reading? The Monster of Florence takes a look at one of Italy's most notorious serial killers.

When Douglas Preston and his family moved to Florence, he didn't expect his home to be the scene of an infamous double murder. The more he learned about the case, the more curious he became.

After an interview with the killer takes place, Preston and his fellow investigator get jailed. It's a tale of intrigue, murder, and mayhem—and it'll knock your socks off.

If you're looking for books about serial killers that will make your stomach turn, then Rites of Burial is one title you will need to grab. This non-fiction book is filled with sickening details that are guaranteed to freak you out.

As far as true crime accounts go, this one doesn't skip on the details. Those who want a ghoulishly good book, with a little bit of horror thrown into the mix, will find it to be a great read.

book reviews
Iggy Paulsen
Iggy Paulsen
Read next: Chad Alan Lee
Iggy Paulsen

Iggy Paulsen is a fan of anything and everything wholesome. He loves his two dogs, hiking in the woods, traveling to Aruba, building DIY projects that better humanity, and listening to motivational speakers. He hopes to eventually become a motivational speaker himself.

See all posts by Iggy Paulsen

Find us on socal media

Miscellaneous links