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What to read, watch, and listen to now that Serial's first season is over

Ramla Mahmood
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The first season of Serial, the addictive true crime podcast from This American Life, ended today. It won't be back for awhile — and when it returns, it will be telling a different story.

So what can fill the void Serial left in your life? Here's where you can start:

Great stories about murders in high school:

"The Killer Cadets," Skip Hollandsworth (Texas Monthly)

Texas Monthly's Skip Hollandsworth is a master of true crime. This 1996 story is about a high school couple who teamed up to kill another girl, a rival for the boy's affections. The case was well-known at the time, but 20 years later, it feels fresh and utterly unbelievable. And the web of acquaintances and suspects will remind you of the story Koenig is telling about what happened in Maryland a few years later.

"Flesh and Blood," Pamela Corloff (Texas Monthly)

Texas has more than its share of terrible, tabloid-worthy crime. (Yes, three stories in this list are from Texas Monthly.) In this case, a homeschooled teenager and her boyfriend tried to kill her family, and ended up murdering her mother and brothers. In this riveting story, Corloff tries to figure out why she would do such a thing.

A great story about possible wrongful convictions:

"Trial by Fire," David Grann (The New Yorker)

Grann's story will leave you convinced that Texas (Texas again!) probably executed an innocent man, accusing him of starting a fire that murdered his family. The Marshall Project recently explored the complicated relationship between the prosecutor in the case and the informant whose testimony convicted Cameron Todd Willingham.

A great yearlong, serialized reinvestigation of a disturbing murder case:

The Murders at the Lake, Texas Monthly. This long reinvestigation was published before the first episode of Serial even appeared, but it shares a lot in common with the podcast: "Every murder involves a vast web of people, from the witnesses and the detectives who first come to the scene, to the lawyers and the juries who examine the facts, to the families of the victims, who must make sense of the aftermath," it begins. "The more traumatic the killing, the more intricate the web."

A great case to read about if you want to think about Koenig's emotional investment in Adnan's case, and about how evidence is presented for guilt or innocence:

The Jeffrey MacDonald case.

If you think Koenig is tracing and retracing her steps as she reinvestigates the murder of Hae Min Lee, it's nothing compared to the way reporters and filmmakers have dug into the murder of Jeffrey MacDonald's family. The murder was the subject of a bestselling true crime book, Fatal Vision, written by a journalist, Joe McGinniss, who was ostensibly writing about a wrongful conviction but became convinced that MacDonald committed the murders. Then that book was the subject of a serialized New Yorker article, "The Journalist and the Murderer," by Janet Malcom, about McGinniss's involvement, and later a documentary by Errol Morris, Wilderness of Error, arguing that MacDonald didn't actually do it.

If reading several entire books (Fatal Vision is thick) and watching a documentary seems like too much commitment, there have been some good overviews written lately: Gene Weingarten wrote about the case in the Washington Post, and Evan Hughes wrote about them for The Awl.

A great thing to watch if you're tired of real-life murders and just want to poke some fun at Serial:

This extensive parody now stands at seven episodes. There's also "Cereal," a parody about… a missing bowl of cereal.

A great story to learn more about DNA testing and appeals:

"The Prosecution's Case Against DNA," in the New York Times magazine, is a fascinating story about why prosecutors still argue that the person convicted of a crime really did it — even when the DNA evidence says otherwise.

A great we-don't-know-where-this-will-end-up podcast that isn't Serial:

As Koenig was starting Serial, a fellow This American Life producer, Alex Blumberg, was starting Startup, a podcast about trying to start a podcast company. (Got that?) If you like the combination of This American Life-style storytelling with slightly shorter episodes, give Startup a try. Bonus: it's also sponsored by Mailchimp (Mail… kimp?), and in an early episode, you learn what Mailchimp actually does.

Two great stories written about Serial you might have missed:

The other way pay phones are important to Serial: every episode begins with "This is a Global Tel-Link call from Adnan Syed…" Those calls were at exorbitant rates, part of what Businessweek calls a "prison pay-phone racket."

What do defense lawyers and prosecutors think of Serial? Most of the defense lawyers think Adnan Syed didn't do it, and most of the prosecutors think he did. (The Marshall Project)

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