The Best Forensic Psychology Books 2019
At the junction between psychology and the law lies the field known as forensic psychology. Forensic psychology is relatively new, and has grown out of the increasing importance psychology has in matters of law and justice.
As psychology continues to play a critical role in the development of the criminal justice system, the application of law, and the study of criminals, psychological professionals involved in those areas find themselves at the forefront of the new field.
Forensic psychology is a practical field, not limited by any restrictive theory applied to a wide variety of circumstances. Forensic psychologists might work in corrections facilities looking after inmates.
They may be involved in providing a psychological assessment for a court case. They might assist with the profiling of serial criminals, or alternatively they may perform counseling services for a local police forces.
Any psychologist working in those areas is performing forensic psychology, regardless of what particular psychological degree they may hold. At its heart, forensic psychology focuses on the relationship between all the various studies of modern psychology, and the entire range of the legal system.
Below, we’ve listed ten books covering a range of topics relating to forensic psychology. These books will appeal to a variety of readers, from devoted students of the field to interested amateurs, and include textbooks as well as books drawn from practical experiences.
Handbook of Forensic Psychology
The must have forensic psychology book
The Anatomy of Motive
Forensic Psychology for Dummies
Ideal for beginners or enthusiasts
Continue reading for a detailed breakdown of the best forensic psychology books available today:
1. Handbook of Forensic Psychology
Any list of books on forensic psychology must begin with the definitive textbook on the subject. The Handbook of Forensic Psychology is widely regarded as one of the go-to references for experts in the field.
Written by Irving Weiner and Randy Otto, the Handbook runs to over 900 pages. Ultimately, this a reference book by forensic psychologists, for forensic psychologists.
These are deep waters, but for someone looking for the most up-to-date resource on the subject there is no better place to start.
2. Unnatural Causes
One of several books on this list based on real-life, Unnatural Causes, by Richard Shepherd, chronicles the experience of a man who performed over 23,000 autopsies.
Being exposed to that much death changes a person, and Shepherd’s life demonstrates those changes. As a result, the book is a fascinating look at how the impact of murder and death goes beyond a simple duality of perpetrator and victim.
Beyond the gripping stories, Shepherd’s writing receives high praise for his lucid, engrossing style. The book also provides an intriguing counterpoint to most books on the subject, focusing its attention on the psychology of those around a killing rather than the killer himself.
3. Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application
Written by Curt and Anne Bartol, Introduction to Forensic Psychology aims to give a more general overview of the field.
At the same time, the text focuses on practical application of the principles taught in the book, with copious references made to specific cases, recent laws, and even including career advice for anyone considering forensic psychology, managing to be at the same time both an exhaustive resource, and a practical guide.
It also includes the most recent research into new frontiers of psychology, from studies on violent video games to cyberbullying. With a comparatively light tone compared to denser textbooks, the Introduction succeeds in being informative and, if not fun, at least not unbearably dry.
4. Listening to Killers
Insights gained from real-world experiences provide the foundation for this book from James Gabarino.
With over two decades’ of involvement as an expert witness in murder cases, Gabarino distills his experiences into an intriguing story.
Just as interesting, Gabarino uses the stories to delve into his perception of what makes a killer tick.
Listening to Killers provides not an academic study, but a practical, on-the-ground examination of the mental outlook of those who kill.
5. Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime
For the number 5 slot, here’s a book that is a bit less “psychology” and a bit more “forensics.”
An absolute classic from Val McDermaid, Forensics looks at the history of the crime-solving method and its drastic expansion and growth as a field.
McDermaid also writes crime fiction, and brings a lighter tone to a heavy subject. The book works well to introduce the more technical side of forensics without overwhelming with too much information.
Forensics presents the material side, while other books on this list focus on the mental.
6. Inside the Criminal Mind
The mental development and psyche of a criminal provide the framework for this book by Stanton Samenow. Based on a scientific study done in 1984, the book is somewhat controversial.
Many of Samenow’s assertions run counter to accepted doctrine on the subject. Nevertheless, Inside the Criminal Mind will appeal to readers looking for a slightly unorthodox approach to forensic psychology, while at the same time providing thrilling and at times poignant anecdotes.
Samenow also proposes a number of potential solutions to the problem of crime, starting with the adjustments required within the criminal’s own mind.
7. Psychological Evaluations for the Courts: A Handbook for Mental Health Professionals and Lawyers
Another textbook makes the list, one which again serves as one of the primary resources for the field. This one is set apart by its application for specific practical fields - namely the legal system.
Encompassing both lawyers and anyone called on to testify in the courts, Psychological Evaluations serves as an exhaustive compendium of what to do, what not to do, and how to do it.
Complete with examples and case studies, a glossary of terms, and even exercises, this book is one of the best aids available for mental health professionals who may be in contact with the legal system - that is to say, for all mental health professionals.
8. The Anatomy of Motive
John Douglas, a legendary FBI investigator and criminal profiler, has become a prolific author. Any of his bestselling books could fit on this list - Mindhunter, Journey into Darkness, Obsession - but Anatomy of Motive stands out as a great introduction to the practice of profiling serial criminals.
Diving deeply into both the criminal mind and the criminal method, Douglas and his co-author Olshaker demonstrate the thought processes behind serial killers. Douglas also lays out a deceptively simple formula for solving cases: HOW + WHY = WHO.
The trick is to apply that formula, but by drawing on real-world case studies, Douglas provides a convincing demonstration of the method. This is a non-fiction book, but is as gripping as any fictional thriller.
9. Snakes in Suits
Psychopaths. Everyone thinks they know a true psychopath - but what if you actually work with one? That’s the premise of this book, a combination of anecdotes and studies on what makes a psychopath, how to spot one, and how to deal with one.
Specifically, authors Babiak and Hare focus their attention on the workplace. In the modern corporate world, is there something that fosters psychological disorders in the workplace? Or is there actually some advantage to being a psychopath?
Snakes in Suits applies psychology to an overlooked but highly applicable area of life. Read it, and you might find an answer to your own workplace conflicts.
10. Forensic Psychology for Dummies
It’s all in the title! One of the best ground-level introductions of the field, this book starts at the beginning. It explains what psychology has to do with criminal investigations in the first place and talks about the relationship between psychology and the courts.
Forensic Psychology for Dummies never pretends to be exhaustive, but instead works to pique a reader’s interest, as well as to give some idea of the depths of the field.
If you’ve ever imagined yourself as a forensic psychologist, but still aren’t entirely sure what that actually means - start with this book. It might be the start of a new career, or just an brief glimpse, but either way you’ll be better informed about the fascinating field of forensic psychology.