Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers by Scott A. Bonn

I grabbed this book as part of my daily Book-Bub bargains. I expected a book that was somewhat more pop culture oriented but ended up with what is predominantly a sociological textbook, written from a functionalist perspective with its main Thematic idea being that the public needs serial killers to fulfill certain functions in society.

I myself do not subscribe to functionalism but that did not deter me in the reading of the book nor undermine what the writer was trying to convey. If you are a reader looking for an introductory academic discussion based on sociological perspectives, this is a good text to read from. The writer explains the basics of functionalism, delves deeply into anomie and how that applies to serial killers and then outlines his arguments on various topics from there.

If you are a reader who is looking for an entertaining, anecdotal pop culture perspective, then this book will probably not be for you. That being said, it is certainly refreshing to read something more academic on the subject even if I don’t subscribe to the perspective the author chooses to write from. I think it’s important for people to delve into the academic ideas behind the sociology of crime because with as much true crime “non-fiction” and interest in the ID channel as there is the United States, people need at least a cursory academic grounding in order to have any real insight into the subject.

While the average true crime reader may have read about any number of cases, most would be hard pressed to be able to discuss any of it from any kind of academic perspective and while this one is definitely tilted in a certain direction, it is still a good introduction. American’s on the whole, need to better understand some of the social phenomena better and be able to argue and discuss the issues with more than just trivial pursuit answers and thirty second sound bites.

The author brings up many  well known cases but spent time corresponding with David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) and Dennis Rader (BTK). Both men offer observations to the author about their own cases as well as commentary on his (the authors) theories. It will be up to each individual to consider the validity and veracity of what these men have to say about serial killing and about their own crimes.

This is a good introductory sociology text written from a functionalist perspective. For a student wanting to write an essay on this subject, this would be a good text to use as reference material. For the average reader with an interest and basic understanding of sociology, its accessible – not too dry but definitely not “True Crime” as one would find in most bookstores. What is refreshing for the average reader is an academic book that can be useful in furthering a discussion about the topic even if one does not subscribe to the theory behind it.


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