Well, it’s official. If Joe Exotic is on this blog, he’s everywhere. Tiger King-fever has swept the globe. Why? What is so fascinating and why is it impossible to look away?
I think it’s because we are all unknowingly obsessed with the very niche sub-genre Nonviolent True Crime. True Crime books are so much fun because they are ABSOLUTELY BANANAS, and they are REAL. But, serial killers are macabre and disturbing. Hence, Joe Exotic. Terrible crimes, low gore, outrageous personality, bingo! Since discovering this genre just over a year ago, I have officially become obsessed. I am always on the lookout for my next true-crime fix.
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, here are some of my favorites.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
If the unending spiral of increasingly heinous crimes is what appealed to you about Tiger King, then Bad Blood is the right book for you! Elizabeth Holmes started out well-intentioned, wanting to bring to the world a machine that could run multiple blood tests on just one drop of blood. She raised a ton of money, had elite silicon valley executives on board, and created a state-of-the-art facility. But the machine never worked. The longer you read the more outrageous the lies, deception, and illicit activities get. By the end it all completely bonkers, and I loved every second of it.
The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson
If Tiger King hooked you because you found yourself saying, “Hang on, these people are into WHAT now?!”, then you are going to LOVE The Feather Thief. Did you know that there are thousands of men and women out there passionate about, not fishing, but tying the lures? What does that even mean? YEAH. I KNOW. It’s such a niche, out there hobby, and they are SO INTO IT that they are willing to break all kinds of international laws! This story follows one of the largest museum thefts in history as a college kid named Edwin Rist broke into one of the branches of the British Museum to steal dead birds. Yeah. AND HE GOT AWAY WITH IT! The whole thing was absolutely outrageous, and I could not put the book down. Perfect for fans of Tiger King (though there is no murder for hire, sorry).
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is a classic of this sub-genre. John Charles Gilkey stole rare books not to make money selling them on the black market, but just because he loved them. Follow Ken Sanders on his quest to catch him, and discover just how dangerous the rare book world can be. Bartlett’s first-hand account is one of a kind. Bonus points for a book about books and people obsessed with books! If you think this genre might be for you, you can’t miss this book.
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
Ah, the one that started it all. I admit I’ve never read The Orchid Thief, but it is one of true-crimes most beloved books. Orlean is a fantastic writer, and she brings the original “Wait, what now?!” shock to the genre. While this won’t be as sensationalist as Tiger King, I can’t not recommend this book. In fact, I should probably read it myself now…