Thursday, March 5, 2015

Recommended Read: Popular Crime by Bill James

Author Bill James is most famous for his baseball abstract books. Popular Crime is quite the departure. This book will be a bit hard to fully explain, but here goes. The basic premise is a chronological review (at 482 pages!) of crimes that have impacted popular culture and/or the justice system. As a well-read true crime aficionado, he slips in critiques of books on the various crimes he discusses, he devises a system of labeling crimes, does some amateur sleuthing, and drops in his theories on why the justice system, and prisons in particular, need some reform.

Because the book is complex in topic it will turn-off some readers. However, I felt he wrote as though he was having a conversation with the reader. (And, who has a conversation in a completely linear way?) He has some interesting theories on the Kennedy assassination, and dissects the Lizzie Borden murders and Lindbergh baby kidnapping thoroughly (I won't divulge his opinions on the guilt or innocence in these cases). He doesn't touch on every famous case (Leopold and Loeb are missing, among others) and some cases you may not have heard of, but were a big deal in their time. Besides obviously appealing to true crime readers, it may also appeal to people interested in sociology and popular culture in general.