True Life Terror

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True Life Terror

Before I started working at the library, I read almost exclusively fiction books. Seeing all of the great nonfiction titles available, however, reminded me of the pleasures of reading stories of real life. Some of the titles on this list are historical and some are more modern, but they are all gripping tales, made even more gripping by the fact that they are true.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
Incredibly well-researched and mixing fascinating United States history with a terrifying crime story, this book revolves around the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. This was a huge event that showcased items and technologies from all over the world, and drew over 27 millions visitors (at a time when the population of the United States was only around 65 million). This was also the place where a serial killer, H. H. Holmes, lured victims to his “hotel” near the fair and performed horrifying acts of violence. This book tells an amazing story that is both of the past and very modern.
 
White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin by Michael Clune
Set mainly in Baltimore, this memoir recounts the tribulations of a young man struggling with an opiate addiction. Like many addicts, he lived a double life, teaching as a graduate student at a college while looking for heroin at the same time. This book separates itself from many other similar memoirs of addiction with its brutal honesty, gallows humor, and lack of sentimentality.
 
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account Of The Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
The story of how quickly and dangerously things can change on the highest mountain in the world. The author was with a commercial expedition that took climbers of varied skill levels on climbs of Mount Everest. The mood of the narrative, like the situation itself, changes from a pleasant description of the climb and the environment to something much more sinister. A very affecting book that honors the people who were involved.
 
In The Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson
Another exhaustively researched historical narrative by Erik Larson, this book focuses on Germany in the years leading up to the Second World War. We see, through the eyes of the United States’ ambassador to the country, how Germany changed under the rule of Adolf Hitler. It lays out how the evidence of Hitler’s true goals was present well before the world chose to acknowledge it.  A very interesting book that deals with a period of time not as well-known as the period that followed.
 
Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn
A true crime book told from a very interesting perspective, this book recounts the relationship between the author and a man who was nothing like he first appeared. Kirn meets someone he thinks is named Clark Rockefeller, a member of the famous Rockefeller family. To say too much more would ruin the story, but the inside information the author has access to makes this a fascinating look inside a troubled mind.
 
The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum
This book takes the reader back to a time when the invention of various poisons through scientific advances opened up many new avenues for crime. The author tracks the cat-and-mouse game between criminals and the police when it came to determining the cause of suspicious deaths. This was a really interesting read.