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Good Reads: Recommended Criminal Justice Books from Our Faculty

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

Books are part of our everyday lives and are a learning model for students to apply to their future careers and goals. There are books out there that may not be your textbook for class, but still apply to your learning experience, and specifically, your learning experience in the Rasmussen College School of Justice Studies. We went to the experts, our School of Justice Studies faculty, and asked them what books they would recommend to their current or future students.

Below, you’ll find books ranging from fiction to nonfiction, organized into sections by the faculty member who recommended it, as well as their description of the book or reason as to why you should read it. In addition, let us know if you have read any of the recommended books below or if you are planning to read one of their recommendations for criminal justice books that every justice studies student should read.

The following books were recommended by Emily Little, School of Justice Studies Instructor, Lake Elmo, Minn.

1. The Rich Get Richer the Poor Get Prison, Jeffrey Reiman

“This book is a great examination of the conflict theory as applied to current events involving criminal justice topics,” said Little.

2. Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

“Everyone should read this book,” said Little. “The authors discuss cognitive dissonance and how our brains are wired to justify our actions. The book itself is not justice studies specific, but can be applied to all situations both personally and professionally.”

3. The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, Barry Glasner

“The author discusses the difference between media hype and reality, and how the public’s perceptions are often formed by inaccurate or exaggerated claims,” said Little.

The following books were recommended by Jason Weber, School of Justice Studies Program Coordinator, Bloomington, Minn.

1. You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader, Mark Sanborn

“This book gives insight into leadership and how students can apply it to their life and profession,” said Weber.

2. Cops Don’t Cry, Vali Stone

“This is one of many books on the emotional stress that comes with the law enforcement field,” said Weber.

3. Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement, Kevin Gilmartin

“A must read for all criminal justice students and their families to help understand the overall impact the field will have on them,” said Weber.

4. The Will to Survive, Bobby Smith

“A great story of a trooper who thought he was better than everything and how one mistake changed his life forever,” said Weber.

The following books were recommended by Kirk Olson, School of Justice Studies Instructor, Twin Cities, Minn.

1. My Life in Court, Louis Nizer

“Louis Nizer's is the least personalized and the most focused on cases,” said Olson. “He recounts the struggles to win. You will see some of his personal philosophy in how he handles the cases. Louis uses his wide reading and knowledge in many fields to bear on the law.”

2. Gunning for Justice, Gerry Spence

“Gunning for Justice by Gerry Spence shows one man's view on defending insurance companies vs. representing injured victims,” said Olson. “Spence deals also with media and sensationalized cases. Spence  built a larger than life personality and used his "persona" to draw attention to himself and then to the case, as needed. Spence deals directly with emotions and how they affect what a lawyer does. The poetry of life affected his practice, as well as the prose.”

3. Born Again, Chuck Colson

“In Born Again, Chuck Colson shows how arrogance leads to a fall,” said Olson. “His views changed radically when he was found guilty of crimes involving Watergate. He went from a close adviser to the U.S. president to being a prisoner. The book is still timely, as much of the legal profession, especially the upper reaches,has become arrogant in the extreme. The book focuses on his Christian faith. He also has major insight into how Colson integrates his views of the law, politics, government, and his new faith.”

4. The Defense Never Rests, F. Lee Bailey

“F. Lee Bailey shows how his military background helped him pursue the facts,” said Olson. “He deals with the cases he handled, and the theme is the relentless pursuit of justice.”

“Each of these books personalizes the quest for justice and peace in society,” said Olson. “In addition, they bring in the world views of the writers, as well as their view of what went right or wrong in specific cases.”

The following books were recommended by Rose Pogatshnik, School of Justice Studies Program Coordinator, St. Cloud, Minn.

1. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls

“This is a true story about overcoming adversity,” said Pogatshnik. “I read it for my book club. I thought it was a little sappy, but the other club members liked it.”

2. A Child Called It, David Pelzer

“I require my residential domestic violence class to read this,” Pogatshnik. “This book is about a domestic violence case that involves a child. It’s a book that has a lot of emotion and lessons to learn from.”

3. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander

“I have yet to read this book, but it is on my list as it was recommended by a friend,” said Pogatshnik.

4. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, Philip Zimbardo

“There is also a TED talk on this book that I show to my ethics class,” said Pogatshnik.

5. Inside the Criminal Mind, Dr. Stanton Samenow

“This book shows great psychological insight on cognitive behavior modification,” said Pogatshnik. “Several programs have been created based on Dr. Samennow’s model. I refer to it a lot in Criminology.”

The following books were recommended by Shauna Froelich, School of Justice Studies Program Coordinator, Green Bay, Wisc.

1. The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies, Adam Bedau

“This book brings up many interdisciplinary issues: justice, ethics, and the law,” said Froelich.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

“This book is a classic fiction piece that dissects a criminal trial in the socio-historical context of the segregated south in the 1930’s,” said Froelich.

3. The Nine, Jeffrey Toobin

“This is a book that profiles the Supreme Court, specifically the Rehnquist Court, and discusses political law,” said Froelich.

4. There are No Children Here, Alex Kotlowitz

“There are No Children Here is a true story of brothers growing up in violence ridden projects,” said Froelich. “This book challenges our current justice system as reactive and not preventative.”

5. The Trial, Franz Kafka

“This philosophical book sets out basic ideas of justice and fairness,” said Froelich.

6. Twelve Angry Men, Reginald Rose

“Originally depicted in a play, this book illustrates in criminal cases the jury process, burden of proof and the deliberation process,” said Froelich.

7. The Lottery, Shirley Jackson

“The Lottery is a powerful short story that questions issues of justice in society,” said Froelich.

8. A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest Gaines

“This book portrays a man on death row and his struggle with forgiveness, ethics and racial issues,” said Froelich.

9. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, Phillip Zimbardo

“This author conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment and discusses his results,” said Froelich.

Kendall Bird

Kendall is a Social Media Strategist at Collegis Education who is focused on bringing awareness and engagement to Rasmussen College's social media properties. She is passionate about helping others, the power of education and building strategies that put the needs of students first. 


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