I’m not just a fan of movies and TV, I’m also a total podcast addict. I especially love true crime podcasts, as I was a complete “murderino” before that term even existed (went pretty hard on those Baby-sitters Club super mysteries and Sweet Valley High thrillers and chillers). As an avid reader, a Murderino Reading Challenge seems like the perfect thing to help me build my 2019 TBR list. Want to play (and slay) along? (Savable/printable graphic at the end of the post.)
Look and listen, and read on for the categories and recommendations:
1. A book written by the host(s) of a true crime podcast.
This is easy peasy for fans of My Favorite Murder — Karen and Georgia’s hybrid memoir, Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered, will be released in May. Another option is Undisclosed host Rabia Chaudry’s book, Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial, which is a fascinating look at Adnan’s life and the murder of Hae Min Lee from a perspective outside and beyond the scope of the mega-popular podcast that put both on the map. Chaudry’s book could also check off the next category on the list…
2. A book about a case covered on your favorite true crime podcast.
Adnan’s Story qualifies here, as does Asia McClain Chapman’s Confessions of a Serial Alibi. How about Tamam Shud: The Somerton Man Mystery, which has been covered on multiple podcasts, including My Favorite Murder and Casefile. The Missing Beauty Queen chronicles the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, whose murder was covered in the first season of Payne Lindsey’s podcast Up & Vanished.
3. A book recommended by a true crime podcast host.
There are a ton of options for this one, more than I can list here, but here are a few off the top of my head. On My Favorite Murder, Georgia has talked a lot about listening to a book about NecroSearch, the volunteer organization that helps locate dead bodies and bring closure to the families of missing loved ones. No Stone Unturned would be a great pick for this category. Over on Wine & Crime, the gals interviewed Elizabeth Greenwood, the author of Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud, and co-host Lucy raved about the book.
4. A book about an unsolved cold case.
Robert Kolker’s Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery explores the elusive Long Island serial killer who preys on internet escorts; James Renner’s True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray recounts his descent into obsession over a cold case; Beverly Lowry’s Who Killed These Girls? delves into the Texas yogurt shop murders which remain unsolved nearly two decades later (and, bonus — it was covered on My Favorite Murder so it can fulfill category #2 as well).
5. A book about a cold case that was solved.
Matthew McGough dives deep into the long-unsolved but recently solved murder of Sherri Rasmussen in The Lazarus Files, due this April and currently available for pre-order. Michelle McNamara penned the incredible I’ll Be Gone in the Dark before her tragic death but the case of the Golden State Killer, which she obsessively researched and wrote about, was finally solved in 2018, shortly after her book was posthumously published. And there’s After the Eclipse, one of my favorite books of last year, written by Sarah Perry; she was in the next room when her mother was murdered in their home, and she lived years without knowing who did it — until recently.
6. A book about a serial killer or mass murderer.
Ann Rule is the queen of true crime and has been much-discussed on My Favorite Murder. She is the author of both The Stranger Beside Me (covering Ted Bundy, with whom she worked!) and Green River, Running Red (covering the Green River Killer) among numerous other entries. Robert Graysmith’s Zodiac and Zodiac Unmasked investigate the notorious uncaught serial killer of Northern California and the downslide of the author himself as he disappeared into his obsession.
7. A book about a true crime survivor (bonus points if it was written by the survivor!).
The Other Side: A Memoir is Lacy Johnson’s story of survival despite her ex-boyfriend’s kidnapping and imprisonment of her. Elizabeth Smart chronicles her kidnapping survival in My Story and Jaycee Dugard shares hers in A Stolen Life. John Glatt’s Lost Girls covers the incredible survival and escape of three women abducted and held captive in Cleveland. And, of course, there’s Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean, about amazing survivor Tere Duperreault Fassbender, whose story was told on My Favorite Murder.
8. A book about a crime that happened in your home state (bonus points if it happened in your hometown).
Devil in the White City, Erik Larson’s classic about H.H. Holmes, is a must for Chicagoans. Columbine by Dave Cullen digs into the school shooting that shook Colorado and America. John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is drenched in Savannah style. Party Monster has New York covered, American Fire is set in Virginia, David Simon’s Homicide clearly inspired Baltimore-set “The Wire”, and Killers of the Flower Moon is a fascinating look at historic murders in Oklahoma.
9. A book about a crime that happened in a country you’ve never visited.
If you live in the United States, consider: The Real Peaky Blinders (Britain — in honor of My Favorite Murder’s Karen Kilgariff); On the Farm (Canada); Searching for the Beaumont Children (Australia); Out of Thin Air (Iceland); The Daughters of Juarez (Mexico); The Killer Department (Russia); The Killer of Little Shepherds (France); People Who Eat Darkness (Japan); or The Monster of Florence (Italy).
10. A novel (fiction) based on a true crime story.
My personal favorite selection for this category is Joyce Maynard’s To Die For, based on the sensationalized Pamela Smart case of the early 1990s. (And you seriously have to watch the movie of it starring Nicole Kidman. It’s iconic.) The novels Psycho and Silence of the Lambs both borrow elements of Ed Gein’s life and story, and James Ellroy’s novel The Black Dahlia is evidence of his longtime obsession with the real crime (presumably because his mother was murdered in similar fashion around the same time). (It was made into a terrible movie — watch To Die For instead.) Anita Shreve’s The Weight of Water takes liberties with Maine’s Smuttynose Murders, and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin borrows from the real-life Columbine massacre of the 1990s. No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear is a young adult reimagining of the real-life murders covered in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.
11. A true crime book that has been adapted into a movie, documentary, or television show.
This is a great category to work in some classics of the true crime genre. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood has been made several times. Vincent Bugliosi’s definitive Manson Family tome Helter Skelter has been adapted as well (and is probably my favorite true crime book ever).
12. An audiobook related to true crime.
This one’s kind of a freebie — just choose any true crime book and listen to it (on Audible or through another audiobook provider — see if your local library lends audiobooks!). It’s a nod to the podcast format and, of course, Georgia Hardstark’s documented love of audiobooks. And if I may make a suggestion — why not try out the Audible exclusive Evil Has a Name, about the Golden State Killer and with narration from none other than superbabe Paul Holes?
Thanks for joining me on this reading challenge! Here’s a savable/printable list for you to keep track as you work through your TBR list:
Happy reading! Use the hashtag #MurderinoReadingChallenge or #MRC2019 if you post this challenge on social media so I can see what you’re reading and snag some more inspiration!
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