A theme I notice in writing communities like TikTok, or Instagram is a severe lack of nonfiction acknowledgment. The book recommendations are always filled with fantasy, while the accounts with the most followers post about YA romance. As someone who wants to specialize in nonfiction writing, it’s a little disheartening. It’s not that these places don’t exist for us, but more so that they’re usually overshadowed by the fiction community or filled with already established journalists. Think about it, when was the last time you found a post about a nonfiction book? Exactly.
To an extent, I get it. Fiction gives more creative freedom to both the author and the reader. And sometimes nonfiction is just boring if it’s not something you’re interested in. But, the problem comes when people completely forget about great forms of nonfiction, a lot of which you may consume daily. That’s right, you may love nonfiction without thinking about it. It’s Crime Journalism week in TYWI’s Nonfiction camp and I’m talking about True Crime.
True crime is easily one of the most popular genres in entertainment. In case you need a reminder of what it is, it’s the exploration of real crimes. Content ranges from a specific criminal's career to a singular event. There’s Crime for fiction, then there's True Crime for nonfiction. Both explore heavy topics like murder or kidnappings but neither is for the faint-hearted. These retellings often are graphic and incredibly detailed, but I think that's why people like it so much. It takes curiosity and mixes it with mystery to almost become like a detective for a little bit. But seriously, be careful what True Crime you consume as some may be triggering, always read the descriptions first.
Yes, I’ll be recommending some True Crime content, but that's not the major takeaway I’m writing this for. Like these True Crime recommendations, there are all sorts of different mediums that are available to writers now outside of novel writing. This is something I may get more into in another article, but for now, I’ll just write some quick thoughts. So, without any more stalling here are some True Crime books to get things started.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
Let me just say this may be the first book I’ve ever seen my dad read in my 16 years of living. Reading is just not his thing and I understand that but he was really into it. So I’m putting it here as a recommendation because It was just that good. Bad Blood was written by an investigative journalist looking into this biotech company called Theranos that promised way more than it could actually do. Basically, they faked stuff to a bunch of shareholders and got rich and then things fell apart for them. It’s a typical rise and fall situation of a fraudulent corporation with weird stories from actual employees and one scary businesswoman. While I don’t really care for these kinds of stories I really liked how it was written and honestly the story is just a bit too bizarre to not read into.
We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence
This one may be more interesting to readers. It's about the killing of Jane Britton at Harvard that was never solved and only turned into a sexist rumor for decades on campus. The author investigates further into this murder uncovering the misogynistic nature of academia and male egos. This one I really enjoyed because it’s right up my alley of a feminist lens mixed with an academic setting, sprinkle in some history from archeology, and top it off with murder. Honestly, I can’t praise this book enough and I highly recommend it.
Novels are typically the first thing we think of when we hear writing. But, for some reason, and maybe it’s just me, but I never imagine novels when I think of True Crime. Maybe it’s just the internet culture around True Crime podcasts or I watch too many documentaries, but I never think of books. So, next up I’ll be going over some quick True Crime podcast recommendations that I think you’ll love, or probably already listen to.
My Favorite Murder
May contain mature language
I like my murder to be lighthearted, you know for contrast, and this one has that comedic effect. This has two ongoing series, “Minisode” and the regular episodes, minisodes typically last around half an hour while regular episodes are usually 1 hour and longer. It’s been going on since 2016 and there are 200+ episodes with new ones weekly, there’s plenty of content to go through to find something interesting to you. The hosts are funny and explain the story more as a discussion while retelling sources of what happened.
This one is more on the serious side, probably better for easy listening as it’s not too loud. It's just there to retell a crime story, no comedy, and I often go to bed listening to it. I should note that as of July 3rd they’re taking a break from new episodes, but there are 181 to go through. Episode lengths range from 20 minutes to 1 hour and are narrated like a story more so than an analysis if that makes sense. Like, My Favorite Murder describes the crimes more as a discussion while this narrates like a story. Both are good, just depends on personal taste.
I love podcasts, they’re just so convenient. As someone who’s picky about what media I consume, whether that's music or videos or books, finding staple creators like a favorite podcast or show makes everything so much better. My Favorite Murder is a strong staple for me and Casefile helps with sleep. Speaking of things that help with sleep, let’s move onto documentaries.
Don't Fk With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
Contains Animal Abuse
This however is one you do not want to sleep through because the story is just insane. It’s been out for a little while so it’s likely you’ve heard of it or seen it, but in case you haven’t, here's the gist. An internet psycho uploads videos of him harming his cats and internet vigilantes find him to bring him down, but it turns out he’s crazier than initially thought. The story grabs onto you and it pulls you with the plot in real-time. That’s one thing I love about nonfiction storytelling is that it feels like a narrative, but because it’s nonfiction it feels so much more real. I don’t know, maybe that's just me, but really I loved how they pulled together the different episodes into this miniseries. It’s 100% worth the watch.
Wild Wild Country
Truthfully I had a hard time picking this last documentary because there are quite a few I could recommend but I’m sticking with 2 per category. Wild Wild Country explores the Rajneeshs’ a prominent cult in the ’80s that initiated the first bioterrorist attack in the U.S. It uses footage from back in the ’80s with current speakers who were previous members of the movement. I’m struggling to find the words to express how good this documentary is with presenting the facts while maintaining this storyline of this mystic who turned himself into a spiritual leader of this giant cult. It’s unique, and that's largely why I’m struggling because I felt bad for them. I’m not sure how a documentary managed to make me feel pity for a cult, but here we are. I’d highly recommend watching it to really understand what I mean. But all in all the storytelling was incredible and it left a lasting impression on me.
These two are my personal favorite Crime documentaries on there, but Netflix has so many well-done documentaries it’s insane. I may just go back and rewatch these because they were that good. Of course, it’s all up to personal preference but Netflix always has something for everyone.
I hope this list was a bit of something for everyone too. I made this because nonfiction isn’t as boring as you’d think, it takes creativity, good writing skills, and also a knack for twisted things. I mean, what better way to explore reality than with the most gruesome genre out there? Jokes aside, Nonfiction is underappreciated and I’m just an advocate for changing that.
is a high school sophomore with aspirations for digital storytelling. She always seemed to understand things better if she could read it, versus videos or lectures, so English and History quickly became her favorite subjects. She volunteers for both Juven and The Meraki Organization to tell stories.