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4 Scariest Non-fiction Books I've Read

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

Today I am talking about the four scariest nonfiction books that I have ever read. Being scared is so subjective, and what scares you might not necessarily scare me, so the books that I'm going to talk about in the post are ones that just made me feel scared. Like I did in a recent post where I recommended scary graphic novels.

I'm going to go from least scary to most scary, and again, this is just according to my own experience that I felt when I was reading these books.


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Scariest Non-fiction Books
Scariest Non-fiction Books

1) Stiff by Mary Roach

This book covers anything you ever wanted to know about cadavers. I liked this book a lot because it did incorporate some horror, an engaging style of writing into it, which is helpful. I think, in general for nonfiction because it's very easy to zone out to get distracted. After all, if the content that you're reading about is very serious and not as engaging as a typical novel, then it's just easy, I find, to have my mind wander. But Mary Roach in this book managed to hold my attention by having a very engaging writing style. It was scary to me, though, because cadavers in general just make me a little bit uncomfortable and kind of squeamish. Cadavers are dead bodies and that's just not a very comfortable concept for me, so that's why I am putting this one on this list. 2) Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.

This one is scarier, and it's one that you probably already know because it was very popular when it came out. This book is an account of Michelle McNamara's investigative journalism to figure out the real identity of the Golden State Killer. This is a killer that terrorized California in the 1970s and '80s by murdering, as well as doing home invasions burglaries, and even rape. Not for soft people. If those topics make you uncomfortable, then just be wary of going into it. And I want that to be a disclaimer for all of these books. I'll Be Gone in the Dark was detailed, and it was very thorough. And there is this sense of desperation and paranoia even, and that comes through in Michelle McNamara's writing as she's working and sifting through hundreds of thousands of files, I think, to figure out who the killer was. I was impressed by the investigative work but also creeped out by the details of this case. 3) The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.

This book scared the hell of me out even more, and this is because the setting got to me. This takes place in the late 1800s in Chicago, and the focus is the World's Fair. The World's Fair took place in Chicago in 1893. I find turn-of-the-century stories to be very enticing, particularly going from the 1800s to the the1900s. That's just a point in world history that I find very fascinating, and I thought that Erik Larson did a great job of creating this evocative setting in this book. This book looks at a string of murders happening at the same time as the fair was occurring, and that's the basic gist of the book. It does go back and forth between what was happening with the fair and what was happening with the murderer. This back-and-forth was interesting to me. In some reviews, people have criticized that to say that Erik Larson couldn't make up his mind, and he ended up telling what felt like two different stories in one. But I enjoyed this. And as I said, the setting got tome. I love fair and carnival settings in general, but add in this historical element of the turn-of-the-century setting, and that is just right up my alley. It was creepy because of the murder, but very evocative because of the World's Fair happening. 4) Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

This book encapsulates the investigation that Ronan Farrow did to expose what was going on with the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein during the #MeToo movement. This was terrifying to me, knowing that all of these events happened. The information and aspects surrounding the sexual-assault portion of the books were very uncomfortable to read about. And I don't remember how fully into detail Ronan Farrow's writing goes into this book, but it was enough to make me feel uncomfortable, and I think I had to take some breaks when I was reading this book and just put it down and walk away for a bit. But something else that scared me out was Ronan Farrow's paranoia as he was doing this work to expose Harvey Weinstein and there were times when he was followed and stalked. That was terrifying. As I was reading it, I had this feeling that things were just not going to be okay for Ronan Farrow, and that he was going to be captured or kidnapped or killed, and there was all of this suspense building up inside me as I was reading this, and that added this level of creepiness to the story. This book ended up being one of the top five books that I read in 2019. So I loved this book. It was so engaging. It really inspired a lot of uncomfortable, scared feelings in me, but I look back on, that and I'm so glad that I read it because I learned a lot about the Harvey Weinstein case, and also I learned so much about the limits that investigative journalists will push themselves to when they are trying to crack open a very important story. Wrap up: So those are the top five scariest non-fiction books that I have ever read. I know that there are tons more out there, especially focusing on true crime, and I would love to break into some more books. So if you have any very scary nonfiction recommendations, definitely leave some comments below. I've heard great things about a new book called The Five. I can't remember who the author is, but that one is about the victims of Jack the Ripper, I believe, and that sounds very interesting to me. So if you have read that one, in particular, I would be especially interested to hear from you.


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