If you have been reading my blogs for awhile now then you know that I LOVE summer. It’s truly unfortunate for me that I was not born on the best coast/west coast and was unable to spend every waking moment with sea salt hair and tanned toned legs from early morning surf sessions and afternoons spent roller skating on boardwalks. This is the alternate reality I live in though, the dream world me, which is always blue skies, desert pink motels, and crashing waves. I know it would all be too good to be true, and even if I had been born closer to an ocean and far from all this red dirt, that would most likely NOT have been how I spent my days. But in my head I’m always living the Back to the Beach Gidget girl life, a reel to reel of forever sunny days and 1960s pop music. But this isn’t the really me, it’s just the best version of myself I sometimes pretend to be, because I mean, first off, I don’t even really tan, I go from pale to scorched red and back to a less pale version of that first pale. And on top of that I have far too much anxiety to actually enjoy that life even if it was mine (although I’d still like to give it a shot someday). I know far to good and well that danger lurks around every corner in life, and honestly that’s the true reel to reel in my head every day; a little loop of potential accidents, mishaps, horrible maladies, and foot in mouth scenarios. Some people would say this is called anxiety disorder, but personally I like to call it being prepared. I mean, not necessarily physically in any way but at least pretending to be mentally prepared for all the unthinkable tragedies that lurk behind dark corners in the not so sunny sides of life. So in keeping with this theme, let’s all remember that summer isn’t always snow cones and swimming pools, sometimes the heat brings out the monsters to remind us that being aware and prepared for the darkest things (I’m looking at you anxiety) maybe isn’t always a bad thing.
**Disclaimer: That was all a totally wordy paragraph to let you know that I have jumped on the bandwagon/gone down the rabbit hole/can’t get enough of all the true crime TV shows and podcasts that are out there these days! So this blog is for you fellow true crime lovers and murderinos!
American Heiress: the wild saga of the kidnapping, crimes, and trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin
I LOVED this book. The story of Patricia Hearst, her kidnappers, her life and the mystery that surrounds the ordeal is immensely fascinating and made even more so by all the questions still left unanswered. The main parts of the story begin with her kidnapping on February 4, 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Patty Hearst goes on to spend 19 months with the group, committing crimes along the way, eventually spending time in prison before her sentence was commuted by Jimmy Carter. What’s so interesting about this book is that Mr. Toobin presents so much material that could support or dissuade the reader from any assumption in the case. Was she a victim of brainwashing? Was she part of the kidnapping plan? Was she a willing participate or simply a 19 year old (albeit a wealthy one) making the best of a situation in order to stay alive? Toobin examines Patricia’s family history, the backgrounds and motives of her captors, the media, and the turbulence and the politics of the Bay area in the 1970s. AND one of my most favorite things in the book is the strange connection between the Patty Hearst story and the Jonestown Massacre (shout out here to another great book for all you fellow cult lovers out there, A Thousand Lives: the untold story of hope, deception, and survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres) but I’ll let you all read that connection for yourselves!
The run of his life: the People v O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin
The trial of O.J. Simpson and the murder of Nichole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, is perhaps one of the first instances I remember of watching a media frenzy (the likes of which we see far too often these days) play out in real time. I remember watching the white Bronco chase on MTV, but I for sure was not aware of all of the political and sociological elements that went along with the event. Honestly what got me interested in the OJ case all over again was the TV show based off of this book that is available on Netflix. I binge watched the show one weekend, then promptly read all things online (especially the conspiracy theories!!), and finally checked out this book! And I was not disappointed. It was really interesting to have watched this play out in front of my eyes on television (because I also remember being glued to the television to find out the verdict) and then to go back and look at everything some 20 years later. Not only did these murders and subsequent trials bring to the forefront of the public racial and class divides, it also in some ways created the celebrity and brand of that famous (for what) family, the Kardashians. This case involved so many different lives and aspects that it is goes much deeper than just what appears on the surface, although I do think the fact that 2 young lives were lost forever is often lost in the melee that surrounded the case. Definitely a great read and bonus, these murders did indeed take place in the middle of a Los Angeles summer.
Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert Ressler
I first heard of Robert Ressler and this book on one of my favorite podcasts, My Favorite Murder (if you haven’t listened, DO IT NOW!). Although this book is also over 20 years old, it is still an interesting book that chronicles Ressler’s years as an FBI agent on the case of some of the nation’s most feared serial killers. It also focuses on how he had to work carefully to not become a monster himself while being immersed in the lives of such horrific people. He is in fact the very man who coined the term, “serial killer.” In this book Ressler talks about how he is able to piece together bits of who the killers are by what is left behind (or not left behind) at crime scenes. It is surprisingly shocking the detailed profiles he can give on a killer based simply on what is left behind. I think this is the part I found most interesting. A definite must read for true crime fans as he talks about such high profile cases such as Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, and John Wayne Gacy. Keep in mind though that this book is NOT for the faint of heart as it does include graphic images and descriptions (which I pretty much tried to skim quickly through as I am extremely squeamish) as well as being overall VERY disturbing in general. SO, consider yourself warned.
**As an added bonus and to leave you on a much more positive note, one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this summer is this wonderful little book that focuses on happiness, from the Danish. A slim book packed with interesting facts about how and why the Danish are as whole much happier and content with their lives and the differences between them and other countries. A fun, quick, little read that will leave you longing to travel and to strive for finding more ways to achieve happiness on a daily basis! Please add this to your summer reading list: Happy as a Dane: 10 secrets of the happiest people in the world by Malene Rydahl