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The Creepily-Fascinating True Crime Books I Want To Read

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Dear True Crime Diary,

So, this is probably one of the more disturbing topics I've written under, and understandably so.

While I'm not here to defend myself, I do feel a few things are important to note: I was 8 years old when Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered in prison. Growing up in Milwaukee, while the suburb my family lived in was largely unaffected, I do remember the urgency. Something was amiss. Something was wrong. People were disappearing, and the moment the street lights turned on, we were due inside now.

To be from a city, and to call a city my hometown with an association to the kind of pure evil Dahmer left in his wake, is odd to explain at best. Perhaps it's this association that sparked my interest in crime dramas, and forensic investigation shows. Perhaps it's this association that explains the Pre-Law double major I had in college.

Perhaps it's why I didn't throw up in my Dead Men Do Tell Tales course.

Still, whatever the takeaway may be, I'm curious to read the stories not found in the headlines surrounding this sort of infamy. While the crimes themselves are haunting and unspeakable, the process of achieving justice piques my interest time and time again. And that is why these books maintain a spot on my reading list:

1. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
Ted Bundy is one of the world's most infamous serial killers who, though he confessed to murdering 30 people before his execution in 1989, is accused to murdering countless more.

The author, Ann Rule, knew Bundy personally. They once volunteered together, and she worked as a journalist. This book recounts what happened and her relationship with Bundy; all accounts point to this being a gipping tale and a very well-written book.

2. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
In 1959, Truman Capote and his friend Harper Lee (yes, the Harper Lee of To Kill A Mockingbird fame) traveled to Kansas to investigate the quadruple murder of a family. Though the book reads like a novel, the story brings chills upon realizing it's all true. In fact, many critics have perceived this to be the first non-fiction crime novel.

3. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
I may be most afraid to read this book, but since it's written by the prosecutor of the 1970 trial, I'm interested in the firsthand account. I've already been warned that this book is incredibly hard to read at first, since it offers a reconstruction of the murders.

4. Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil by John Berendt
I purchased this book when Nick and I traveled to Savannah - the book's setting. A finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize, this book begins with the murder of a young man by his employer Jim Williams. The story set in 1980s Savannah follows Williams' trial and, despite being a work of fiction, is considered to fall under the true crime genre.

Read it, especially if you're considering a trip to Savannah.

5. Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Schactman
Written by an FBI profiler, this book recounts Ressler's work with the Behavioral Science Unit, tracking serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy. Ressler is credited with coining the term "serial killer," and reviews speak to this fascinating yet disturbing career.

Phew, now that I've confessed ... what fascinating books are on your reading list?

House Update: The Power of Paint

Dear Renovation Diary,

We purchased our tri-level split when the housing market in the Twin Cities was at its rock bottom.

With the idea this home would be for the short term in order to cash in on the equity when the market rebounded (a 5-year flip, if you will), we've been slowly tackling the cosmetic updates we felt would maximize our return.

We didn't change the footprint of the house, and not a single room was gutted to the studs. (Edit: our downstairs 3/4 bath may require a full demo now.) Despite its weird split layout, the home has really good bones!

Split levels are seemingly a suburban staple here, and ours was built in 1992. Two families have lived here previously to us, so as we put our own personal touch to it, we couldn't deny the sense of "community" that wove the tapestry of our common ground. It feels like our projects left a stamp that speaks to our tenure here - "we're a part of this story too!"

... Even if it means outsourcing the painting because the idea of picking up a roller made us nauseous.

And as you can see from the above panorama, our house was in quite the state of disarray. This was done on Halloween, on which we also hosted an informal party, so we were a little tense and cranky.

Still, a fresh, cool gray is now up on the walls throughout the main living areas of the house. It will offset the white trim nicely, creating a neutral backdrop for our current furnishings and for when we sell. It's easily the best money we've spent on the place.

It amazes me how something so simple (albeit time-consuming) and relatively budget-friendly can leave such a lasting impression on a space.

Never underestimate the power of simplicity, and an even paint job.

In other news, Nick installed a new storm door *with* a retractable screen. Now when people ring the bell, I no longer have to open my house up to them.

And the 3 windows in the lowest level got some new jewelry - nothing too fancy, and pretty basic but classic nonetheless. The bedroom down there has a pair of coral curtain panels to offset a navy comforter, and I'm pretty excited about it.

I didn't anticipate loving this color combination as much as I do - cool gray walls and sleek white trim really make my turquoise (IKEA!) curtains and sheers pop. 

The Ever-Evolving To-Do List:
Do necessary touch-ups
Paint the window trim in kitchen
Paint and install baseboards and remaining trim
Install hardwood on the support beam in the great room
Finalize cabinet stain for kitchen, upstairs bathroom and linen closet
Install flooring in upstairs bathroom
Figure out what the hell to do with the yellow 3/4 bath downstairs
(yes, it really is yellow ...)
Attend happy hour at the closest bar to ease tensions
Install white 6-panel doors
Discuss the idea of keeping dark wood pantry door as an accent
PURGE/ORGANIZE and donate the castoffs to Goodwill
(how do 4 people accumulate so much crap?!)
Finish decorating/staging

... Because when you cross off one thing, four more things arise to take its place!

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