What You Don’t Know About Fear, Frauds, and Psychopaths: The Best True-Crime Audiobooks to Learn From
Jamie Canavés | October 22, 2019
I started reading and listening to true crime when I was way too young.
(Along with V.C. Andrews, so this may explain what is wrong with me—just kidding, I’m totally fine and awesome!) It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I realize I was never drawn to the genre for entertainment—really, no one should be—but rather as a way to understand. True-crime stories provide a look at the ills of our society, a way to learn about the dangers that exist. It’s why I’m drawn to works from true-crime authors that spotlight victims' voices, take a sociological approach, and help shine a spotlight on recognizing potentially dangerous situations or people. Here are four of the best true-crime audiobooks to learn from:
01. The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence
By Gavin de Becker, narrated by Thomas Stechschulte
You may already know de Becker from The Oprah Winfrey Show, or maybe you caught a quote in Amy Poehler’s memoir,Yes Please :
Gavin de Becker talks about this in his wonderful book, The Gift of Fear. He talks about how the word ‘no’ should be the end of discussion, not the beginning of a negotiation'. But have you listened to his audiobook? It works for anyone who wants to look deeper into recognizing the difference between unwarranted fear and gut instinct. It’s something I’ve thought about ever since I took a psychology class that talked about how when we teach kids not to be afraid of things or people, we sometimes also teach them not to listen to their own gut instincts. While this audiobook has been criticized for victim blaming, it offers plenty of practical advice for anyone who wants to feel prepared to deal with a potentially dangerous situation. And I always appreciate an even-toned, calm voice—like that of narrator Thomas Stechschulte—when it comes to detailing cases of violence.
02. Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered
By Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, narrated by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark, and Paul Giamatti
I’m going to start with why you should go with the audiobook. First, I always choose nonfiction in audio when it’s narrated by the author(s), because you really get their personality (and, obviously, their voice). Second, in this case, we also get delightful cameos from acclaimed actor Paul Giamatti throughout. (“Oh my god, they got Paul Giamatti to have a cursing discussion!” is a thing I said out loud while listening to the audiobook.) Third, the authors include clips from some of their live events, which really let you feel and hear their fandom. Now, onto these true-crime obsessed ladies and their audiobook, which is many things rolled into one—a thing I like very much. Kilgariff and Hardstark talk about how their famous podcast came to be, their childhoods, lessons they’ve learned, and their personal struggles. Having grown up in the 1980s and '90s when true crime was a thing—especially with shows like 48 Hours and Unsolved Mysteries—and kids played outside unsupervised until dark, this audiobook really expanded my understanding of why as a girl, and then as a woman, I looked to learn from true-crime stories. The ladies are funny, honest, and very open, which makes this a memoir that hits many emotional notes. Bonus: You don’t have to know about the podcast to enjoy the audiobook, but you may end up a fan of a new-to-you podcast.
03. Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married
By Abby Ellin, narrated by Therese Plummer
I listened to this in one day. It felt like I was out to dinner with a friend who told me the most bananapants story of her life—and then we sat around talking about our society and how things like this come to be. The beginning of the audiobook is Ellin talking about the relationship she had with a man who turned out to be a con artist. But rather than just telling her story, she sought out other victims and explored how society rewards the types of behavior that create con artists. She also takes on judging and victim blaming—and questions whether it’s better to be a closed-off person who always assumes the worst in everyone or to have faith in people. It’s definitely an audiobook that will make you think and open up discussions.
04. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry
Written and narrated by Jon Ronson
*We hear the word psychopath a lot, both in fiction and in everyday life, but do we really know what it means? In typically inquisitive fashion, journalist Ronson goes out in search of information on the condition by speaking with scientists, doctors, and psychopaths themselves. As with much of armchair psychology, there is a lot of misinformation out there. But what I found the most fascinating (and terrifying!) about this audiobook was the focus on psychopaths who aren’t violent criminals, but are in very prominent positions (CEOs, politicians) in society. Ronson's narration makes this a particularly good listen as his humor shines through. This one will definitely have you saying, “OMG, did you know…?!” to everyone around you.
05. Nobody's Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls
Written and narrated by Carrie Goldberg
This fascinating and empowering audiobook is by trailblazing victims’ advocate Carrie Goldberg, who experienced stalking and harassment by a jealous ex before becoming an attorney herself, representing alleged victims of Harvey Weinstein and others. Her riveting and timely analysis of of digital-age offenses (think shaming, trolling, nonconsensual pornography, cyberstalking) is also a call to arms for those on the receiving end to stand up for themselves and be victims no more. Part memoir, part manifesto, this compelling listen offers both warrior-like motivation and simple tools for joining Goldberg in the quest to fight back—both online and off.
She writes the Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter, never says no to chocolate or ‘80s nostalgia,
and spends way too much time asking her goat-dog, “What’s in your mouth?!”