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Milka Recommends: True Crime (Books, Podcasts, and Series)

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When it comes to true crime books, podcasts and series, I am a HUGE fan. So much so that I often opt for tales of true crimes rather than listening to music as a bike around, spend my money on true crime books instead of novels and eagerly wait for new true crime series to make their premiere. A while ago I was asked to recommend my favorite true crime books on Twitter. While I did share some recommendations there, I got the idea of putting together a more comprehensive list of books, podcasts and series I often recommend to my friends and family members. Let me know in the comments if you have read/listened to/watched intriguing true crime content recently -- I am always looking for recommendations for new stuff to familiarize myself with. In Cold Blood  by Truman Capote "Imagination, of course, can open any door -- turn the key and let the terror walk right in." Without Truman Capote's In Cold Blood  the true crime genre would probably be very different than it is today. In Cold Blood  is a monumental account of murders that took place in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. This careful, precise observation of the murders, the investigation, and trials of the accused made waves in the literary world when it was published and over 50 years after its publication it still manages to shock, awe, and intrigue. If you pick up only one recommendation from this list I hope it is this one! Columbine  by Dave Cullen "The final portrait is often furthest from the truth." Written in astonishing detail, Dave Cullen's Columbine  is an account of the 1999 school shootings that shook the United States and the world. A result of ten years of investigation, Columbine  offers a very factual, often brutal, representation of the events by utilizing expert statements from psychologists, the FBI, and so on. Interestingly, Cullen spends quite a bit of time trying to understand the killers and in a sense builds profiles for them. In many ways, Cullen has an almost academic approach to the issue -- some have blamed him for lacking humanity, but I personally appreciated the very fact-based, objective approach.  Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town  by Jon Krakauer "When an individual is raped in this country, more than 90 percent of the time the rapist gets away with the crime." A book that will, and should, break your heart. A scary, harrowing, and heartbreaking read about situations way too many young women are forced into. The way the women Krakauer writes about were treated by the police and the judicial system made me SO ANGRY. If you have felt like you need to read a comprehensive account of victim blaming and rape culture, this one should be on your list of potential books to read.  Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives  by Gary Younge "Americans are no more inherently violent than anybody else. What makes its society more deadly is the widespread availability of firearms. Every country has its problems, unique to its own history and culture. But in no other Western socity would this book be possible." On average, seven children and teens are killed by guns daily in the United States. That means an average of 210 children/teens in a month. An average of 2555 children/teens in a year. And this statistic does not include suicides. In Another Day in a Death of America, Gary Younge tells the stories of ten children/teens who lost their lives in fatal shootings on Saturday 23 November 2013. Rather than focusing directly on gun laws or racial issues, Younge states that his book is "about America and its kids viewed through a particular lens in a particular moment." I found this book to be EXTREMELY interesting and heartbreaking and the stories the families of the dead children are endlessly devastating and heartbreaking.  A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of a Tragedy by Sue Klebold "Life is full of suffering, and this is mine. I know it would have been better for the world if Dylan had never been born. But I believe it would not have been better for me." A brave, personal, emotional account of her life after the Columbine shootings by Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the shooters. If you are among those who felt like Dave Cullen's Columbine  lacked humanity and compassion I recommend picking this one up because Sue Klebold's account is based more on feelings and memories than hard facts. Sue Klebold accounts what happened during the hours, days, months and years after the massacre at Columbine high school -- the judgment she faced as a mother, the sorrow she felt for the loss of her son, and the time spent wondering what she could have done to stop Dylan. Klebold writes quite a lot about suicide survivors/survivors of suicide -- the friends and family of someone who has committed suicide -- which is something I could relate with since I am a survivor of suicide myself. While this made the book a bit more difficult for me to read, I think the research and the personal accounts Klebold shares with the reader might have been good for me too, since they made me think of things I usually try to bury extremely deep.  All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues! Serial  season 1 "It's Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he's innocent -- though he can't exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon. But someone can. A classmate at Woodlawn High School says she knows where Adnan was. The trouble is, she's nowhere to be found." It feels kind of useless to recommend Serial  since I feel like EVERYONE has listened to it already, but at the same time I deemed it impossible to publish this list would including Serial on it. A brilliant feat of journalism and research, the first season of Serial  proceeds like an intriguing fictional crime story, adding more to the mystery episode by episode. What really happened to Hae Min Lee? Was Adnan somehow involved in her murder? If you are interested in my opinions on the case, hit me up on Twitter @milkamilka or let me know what you think in the comments! Undisclosed "The Undisclosed podcast investigates wrongful convictions, and the U.S. criminal system, by taking a closer look at the perpetration of a crime, its investigation, the trial, and the ultimate verdict...and finding new evidence that never made it to court." Undisclosed  started as a podcast focused on the case covered during the first season of Serial  -- the murder of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of Adnan Syed. While Serial presents the case as a narrative story of sorts, Undisclosed' s focus is more on the court proceedings, the little details of the evidence and the statements given by people, and so on. After a successful first season, the Undisclosed  team started to focus on other cases such as those of Joey Watkins and Freddie Gray. A new season titled "The State v. Shaurn Thomas" has just premiered and is available via the Undisclosed  website and different podcast providers.  Someone Knows Something "In 1972, five-year-old Adrien vanished while on a faily fishing trip in Eastern Ontario. Despite an intensive search and investigation, no sign of Adrien was found, no clue as to where he might be. Ridgen goes back to investigate." "On December 31, 1997, at a New Year's Eve party broadcast on live TV, Sheryl Sheppard accepted a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Michael Lavoie. Two days later, she disappeared." I came across the first season of Canadian podcast Someone Knows Something which focuses on the disappearance of a five-year-old boy in Eastern Ontario by accident and listened to the whole season within the span of few days. I waited for season 2 anxiously and it certainly did not disappoint -- while the first season is brilliant in its own right, the second season really intrigued me from the get go and managed to keep me interested in it for months. David Ridgen is a brilliant journalist and an engaging storyteller who shows curiosity and compassion towards the cases he covers. Season 3 of Someone Knows Something  is set to premiere in November 2017! Missing & Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams "Sparked by a chilling tip, Missing & Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams? is an eight-part podcast investigation that unearths new information and potential suspects in the cold case of a young indigenous woman murdered in British Columbia in 1898." A CBC podcast I came across while listening to Someone Knows Something . The story of Alberta Williams is heartbreaking and the mystery behind the last moments of her life is extremely intriguing. The podcasters Connie Walker and Marnie Luke are engaging and narrate the events surrounding Alberta's death in a manner that made me look forward to listening to every episode.  S-Town "John despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who's allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthning of the mysteries of one man's life." S-Town, a spin-off of sorts of Serial, starts as a true crime podcast and ends up being something completely different. I have always had a fascination with the Southern United States which is why this podcast focused on a man from a small town in Alabama instantly caught my attention. Brian Reed, the senior producer of This American Life , is an incredible storyteller and the connection that forms between him and the subject of the podcast feels extremely special and unique.  Making a Murderer (Netflix) "If we wanted to eliminate Steve, it would've been a whole lot easier to eliminate Steve than to frame Steve...or if we wanted him killed, it would be much easier just to kill him." Netflix's Making a Murderer  premiered to critical acclaim in November 2016. The 10-episode documentary focuses on the murder of Teresa Halbach on October 31, 2005, and the criminal trial that followed the intensive investigation into the matter. The producers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi present a well-researched, comprehensive account of the murder, investigation, and the trials as well as an interesting study of Steven Avery, the accused man, and the place he comes from.  T he Confession Tapes (Netflix) "This true crime documentary series investigates cases where people convicted of murder claim their confessions were coerced, involuntary or false. The Confession Tapes  is a recent addition to Netflix's true crime line-up. The episodes focus on different cases in which the people convicted of murder discuss their confessions and the possibilities that those confessions were coerced. The first few episodes are certainly the most interesting out of the whole series and on a general level, the series provides an interesting look into the US judicial system and the practices of law enforcement.  The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst  (HBO) "I did not knowingly, purposefully, intentionally lie." I really hope you have not been spoiled for the ending of this documentary series, because honestly, that ending is one of the most impressive things I have ever seen -- I seriously felt like I am going to shit in my pants as events started to unfold. Even if you have been spoiled this series is worth a watch, though. Robert Durst seems like such an unlikely subject for a murder investigation, yet it all starts to make sense as the series proceeds. Andrew Jarecki, the documentarian, has also directed a true crime documentary film called Capturing the Friedmans  which is absolutely brilliant and one of the best docs I've ever seen.  BuzzFeed Unsolved (BuzzFeed) "BuzzFeed Unsolved in a WebSeries created by BuzzFeed that discusses unsolved mysteries, both Criminal and Supernatural cases." I kept seeing mentions of this show my Twitter timeline on daily basis during the summer and felt like I needed to know what Buzzfeed Unsolved  is all about. While the hosts, Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej, have also discussed cases of the paranormal on the show, I have mainly just focused on watching the true crime episodes. They don't necessarily add anything new to the conversation, except their wonderful senses of humor, but have managed to introduce some interesting cases that I had not heard of before. If you are like me and consume quite a bit of true crime content some of the cases might seem overly familiar, like the case of JonBenét Ramsey, but the fact that the episodes are so short and interestingly narrated makes this series worth a watch.  The Staircase "Miniseries by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade documenting the trial of Michael Peterson, accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson." I've seen and heard this being called the best true crime documentary ever made and in many ways, I have to agree with that argument. I was completely engrossed by this documentary series focused on the murder of Kathleen Peterson and the trial of Michael Peterson -- in fact, I watched the whole thing on one sitting through the night. The Staircase  gives an in-depth look into the work of lawyers, the process of trial preparation, and more.  In case you are sitcom fan you might already know that the NBC sitcom Trial & Error  parodies this documentary and the details of the case.  So here they are -- my true crime recommendations. I hope you found something interesting to read/listen to/watch from this list. Let me know in the comments if you are planning on to take on any of my recommendations. If you have any recommendations of true crime content please share those in the comments as well!

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