If reading about mob bosses, the prison industrial complex or the death penalty is on your must-do list this summer, The Crime Report can help.
Our first-ever Summer Reading List — compiled with suggestions from TCR staff — includes titles to look forward to, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as recent research that provides context to some of the topical issues in criminal justice this year. And we’ve also added some classic from years past that are worth a second look (or a first look, if you overlooked them before).
In the comments section below, please feel free to share your own recommendations for books with a criminal justice bent that are worth spending time with this summer.
By Arthur Browne
Veteran New York Daily News reporter Arthur Browne used an unpublished manuscript by Langston Hughes to pen this dramatic tale of Samuel Battle, the “Jackie Robinson of the NYPD,” who broke the color barrier of the country’s largest police force more than 100 years ago.
“Native-born and foreign-born whites on the police force all united in looking past me as though I were not a human being. In the loft in the dark, with the Stars and Stripes, I wondered! Why?” reads an excerpt shared by The Daily News.
By Harper Lee
No summer reading list on books related to criminal justice would be complete without one of the most anticipated books of the decade: Harper Lee’s sequel to the American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. The book, released July 14, follows Scout Finch as an adult recounting the events of the first novel, easily one of the most important fictional dramas on fairness, racial bias and the flaws of America’s legal system.
For a sneak peek, The Guardian released the first chapter here.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
By Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson, a public-interest lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, writes on his experience in the legal system, fighting bias against the poor and people of color.
“The message of this book, hammered home by dramatic examples of one man’s refusal to sit quietly and countenance horror, is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. ‘Just Mercy’ will make you upset and it will make you hopeful,” writes Ted Conover in The New York Times‘ Sunday Book Review.
By Radley Balko
Before the militarization of America’s police departments became a widely covered national storyline following the events in Ferguson, Missouri, investigative reporter Radley Balko attacked the subject in his 2013 book, Rise of the Warrior Cop.
“Balko concludes, and I agree, that there are many good police officers, but that “systems governed by bad policies and motivated by incentives will produce bad outcomes.” Most notably, Balko points out the increasing levels of disrespect and distrust between law enforcement and the communities they serve as we employ more military tactics in the day-to-day job of policing,” writes Diane Goldstein in a Huffington Post review.
Blue: The LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing
By Joe Domanick
Joe Domanick, an award-winning investigative reporter and The Crime Report‘s West Coast Bureau Chief, explores the history of the LAPD from the violent early 90s through the summer of 2014. Blue, Domanick’s fourth book, will be published by Simon and Schuster in August, 2015.
By Jerry Capeci and Tom Robbins
Mafia expert Jerry Capeci teams up with veteran New York City investigative reporter Tom Robbins to tell the tale of Little Al D’Arco, aka “The Professor,” who ruled the Lucchese crime family. According to Capeci and Robbins, Little Al was the highest-ranking mobster to ever turn government witness when he flipped for the feds in 1991.
By Attica Locke
Mystery lovers bored by stories without a social conscience can try Attica Lockes’ award-winning second novel, The Cutting Season.
By Amy Kate Bailey and Stewart E. Tolnay
Amy Kate Bailey, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Illinois–Chicago, and Stewart E. Tolnay, S. Frank Miyamoto Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington, provide a comprehensive portrait of the men and women lynched in the American South.
By Michelle Alexander
Heralded as a modern classic by some and criticized by others for what it omits, no book on America’s prisons has garnered more attention in recent years than The New Jim Crow. If you haven’t read it, this summer is as good a time as any to catch up on the conversation.
Rag and Bone
By Michael Nava, Esq.
Penned by attorney Michael Nava, Rag and Bone is the final in this popular mystery series featuring protagonist Henry Rios, a gay Mexican-American criminal defense lawyer working in Los Angeles.
By Jack Black
Jump ahead of the crowd and read this cult classic before it’s made into a film starring Michael Pitt of Boardwalk Empire fame. First published in 1926, You Can’t Win is the memoir of hobo burglar Jack Black. Though it may seem like an odd book to get your criminal justice fix, the book provides an astounding, first-hand account of what it takes to be a criminal and what it takes to stop.
The Executioner’s Toll, 2010
By Matthew Mangino
In a rather unusual take on the American death penalty, Mangino’s book takes the reader through “the crimes, arrests, trials, appeals, last meals, final words, and executions” of every person who was executed in 2010.
As capital punishment continues to be debated in state legislatures and courthouses across the country, Mangino’s book is as relevant as ever. Last year, he spoke with The Crime Report about his book, read the Q and A here.
By The United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
After unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a Ferguson, MO police officer, the use of force by police has become front-and-center in the criminal justice news world. In June, The New Press published the full report on the incident by the DOJ Civil Rights Divison with an introduction by famed Civil Rights attorney Theodore M. Shaw.
In a recent interview with The Crime Report, Shaw said the report “teaches all Americans what we should have known for a long time.”
“These issues are not black issues. These are issues that all Americans must own,” he continued.
By the Journal of Adolescent Health
If cutting edge research studies are up your alley, take a look at the Journal of Adolescent Health’s study of 483 first-year college women. Researchers conclude that rape has reached “epidemic” levels and that more needs to be done to address sexual violence on campuses across the country.
“During their first year in college, one in seven women will have experienced incapacitated assault or rape and nearly one in 10 will have experienced forcible assault or rape,” the researchers wrote.
Adam Wisnieski is a Hartford-based freelance reporter. You can follow him on Twitter @adamthewiz. Have favorites of your own? Please share them in the comments below.