The Millions

Why I Read True Crime

For years I have been unsuccessfully recommending true crime books to friends. The second you tell someone you’ve just read a mind-blowing book about Jeffrey Dahmer that they simply must read, they start to back away from you. The first rule of reading true crime, evidently, is that you don’t talk about reading true crime.

And yet I’m clearly not the only one reading (or watching) it. Books by Ann Rule and Harold Schechter are perennial bestsellers; the podcast Serial and the Netflix series Making a Murderer have led to a resurgence in true crime popularity, with more people reading it than ever before.

The question is, why?

Does true crime permit people to “ventilate their sadistic impulses…in a socially acceptable”?  Or does it serve as a “”? Or do these stories prompt us to “take a long, hard look at the contexts in which such atrocities arise” and “”?

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