Forensic psychology is defined by the American Psychological Association as “a specialty in professional psychology characterized by activities primarily intended to provide professional psychological expertise within the judicial and legal systems.” Forensic psychologists are employed in research and academia as professors, in police stations and investigation agencies as consultants, and in courtrooms as expert witnesses. Many psychologists working in the field earn as much as $100,000 per year.
It’s a requirement in most places for aspiring forensic psychologists to have a master’s or doctorate degree in their field of specialization. While the journey towards becoming a forensic psychologist can be lengthy, you can start by reading some of the best forensic psychology books available in the market. And even if you have no intentions of pursuing a career in forensic psychology, forensic psychology books can provide excellent insight into the work done in this highly intriguing field.
If you are on the lookout for the best forensic psychology books you can buy, read ahead. Here is Best Psych Books‘ recommendation for forensic psychology books to read in 2022.
Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application
Author: Curt Bartol and Anne Bartol
What it’s about: A textbook authored by Curt Bartol and Anne Bartol, both of whom specialize in criminal psychology and criminal justice, Introduction to Forensic Psychology is an essential read for anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of forensic psychology.
The textbook’s official description is as follows: “Focusing on research-based forensic practice and practical application, this text uses real-life examples and case law discussions to define and explore forensic psychology. This text introduces you to emerging specializations within forensic psychology, including investigative psychology, family forensic psychology, and police and public safety psychology.” Introduction to Forensic Psychology is a good first read for anyone starting out with their forensic psychology journey.
What it’s about: Inside The Criminal Mind is a classic forensic psychology book written by Dr. Stanton E. Samenow. A renowned psychologist and writer, Samenow has spent most of his career applying principles of psychology to legal and forensic issues. He has provided trainings and seminars to law enforcement agents, social service employees, and mental health groups.
Samenow summarizes his expertise in the book Inside The Criminal Mind, which provides valuable insights into the psychology of criminal behavior. “Throughout, we learn from Samenow’s four decades of experience how truly vital it is to know who the criminal is and how he or she thinks differently. Only once equipped with that crucial understanding can we reach reasonable, compassionate, and effective solutions,” writes the book’s official description.
What it’s about: Celebrated FBI profilers John Douglas and Mark Olshaker wrote the forensic psychology book The Anatomy of a Motive as a way of sharing decades of expertise in criminal profiling and behavior. In The Anatomy of a Motive, Douglas and Olshaker discuss motives behind the behaviors of violent criminals and provide analysis of some of the most notorious killers in history, such as Lee Harvey Oswald, Theodore Kaczynski, and Timothy McVeigh. “Every crime is a mystery story with a motive at its heart. With the brilliant insight he brought to his renowned work inside the FBI’s elite serial-crime unit, John Douglas pieces together motives behind violent sociopathic behavior.”
What it’s about: Murderous Minds is written by Dr. Dean A. Haycock. A neuroscientist and science writer, Haycock received his PhD at Brown University. An official description of the book is as follows: “Neuroscientist Dean Haycock examines the behavior of real life psychopaths and discusses how their actions can be explained in scientific terms, from research that literally looks inside their brains to understanding how psychopaths, without empathy but very goal-oriented, think and act the way they do. Some don’t commit crimes at all, but rather make use of their skills in the boardroom.”
Where to get it: You can buy a hard copy or Kindle version of Murderous Minds on Amazon.
The Confidence Game
Author: Maria Konnikova
What it’s about: The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It… Every Time is a forensic psychology book authored by Dr. Maria Konnikova, a New York Times bestselling writer with a PhD in psychology from Columbia University. The book talks about the psychology behind con artists, as well the people who find themselves repeatedly victimized by their trickery.
“From multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes to small-time frauds, Konnikova pulls together a selection of fascinating stories to demonstrate what all cons share in common, drawing on scientific, dramatic, and psychological perspectives. Insightful and gripping, the book brings readers into the world of the con, examining the relationship between artist and victim.” The ConfidenceGame is an intriguing read for those interested to learn about the mind games con artists play.
What it’s about:TheAnatomy of Evil is a criminal psychology book written by Dr. Michael H. Stone, the host of Discovery’s Most Evil. In this book, Stone links two personality traits to criminal behavior: narcissism and aggression. “What do psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience tell us about the minds of those whose actions could be described as evil? And what will that mean for the rest of us? Stone discusses how an increased understanding of the causes of evil will affect the justice system. He predicts a day when certain persons can safely be declared salvageable and restored to society and when early signs of violence in children may be corrected before potentially dangerous patterns become entrenched.”
What it’s about: Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard Taylor authored The Mind of a Murderer, which is based on decades of experience working on hundreds of murder cases. This memoir, Taylor shares his insights and experiences on these cases, ultimately answering questions about why people kill other people. This is a fascinating criminal psychology book for anyone interested in delving into professional experiences of a veteran in the field of forensics. “As Taylor helps us understand what lies inside the minds of those charged with murder – both prisoners he has assessed and patients he has treated – he presents us with the most important challenge of all: how can we even begin to comprehend the darkest of human deeds, and why it is so vital that we try?”
What it’s about:Whoever Fights Monsters is a book by Robert K. Ressler, an FBI veteran who is best known for coining the term “serial killer.” He is also the inspiration for the character of Agent Bill Tench, the protagonist of the hit Netflix series Mindhunter. Here is an official description of the book: “Ressler, the FBI Agent and ex-Army CID colonel who advised Thomas Harris on The Silence of the Lambs, used the evidence at a crime scene to put together a psychological profile of the killers. From the victims they choose to the way they kill to the often grotesque souvenirs they take with them―Ressler unlocks the identities of these vicious killers. And with his discovery that serial killers share certain violent behaviors, Ressler goes behind prison walls to hear bizarre first-hand stories from countless convicted murderers, including Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy; Edmund Kemper; and Son of Sam. Getting inside the mind of a killer to understand how and why he kills is one of the FBI’s most effective ways of helping police bring in killers who are still at large.”
What it’s about: What Lies Buried is a book by Kerry Daynes, a forensic psychologist with 25 years of experience in the field. In this book, Daynes takes readers with her on a deep dive into the motivations behind some of the most disturbing or inexplicable crimes. According to the book’s official description: “Whether she is dealing with a young murderer who says he has heard voices telling him to kill, a teacher who daubs children in red paint and threatens to abduct them, or an aspiring serial killer who faints at the sight of blood, Kerry’s quest is to delve beyond the classic question asked of her profession: ‘Are they mad or are they bad?’ In her new book, Kerry provides an unflinching, enlightening and provocative insight into the minds of her clients, shedding light on the root causes of their behaviour and challenging our notions about who, and what, is dangerous.”
The Science of Evil
Author: Simon Baron-Cohen
What it’s about:The Science of Evil is a book by renowned psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen. In this book, Baron-Cohen explains evil through the lens of science, referencing decades of research to explain human cruelty. “He explores the social and biological factors that can influence our empathy levels, explains the key distinction between cognitive and affective forms of empathy, and shows how low empathy can lead to dehumanizing behavior. The Science of Evil continues to challenge our understanding of human cruelty,” according to the book’s blurb.