6 Best Criminal Law Textbooks (2024 Review)

Criminal law is the entire body of laws that relate to crimes. This body of law covers the actions that the law may see as threatening or harmful to the property, safety, and health of another person. Criminal law and the penal code are usually enacted by lawmakers, meaning that they are set up by statute.

best criminal law textbooks

To this extent, criminal law also incorporates the punishment and restoration of people who violate the laws; contrary to civil law which centers on dispute resolution and compensation of aggrieved parties.

Criminal law and its applicability differ by county, state, and federal level – making a serious offense in one place a less serious offense in another place.

Best Criminal Law Textbooks: Our Top Recommendations

If you are a student of law or interested in criminal law, there are thousands of law books out there at your disposal. But our internal team of editors has waded through the junks to extract the 6 best criminal law textbooks for your attention. These 6 best criminal law textbooks are recommended for university education, law schools, and for a successful legal career. 

And more importantly, they are cheap and affordable and available in all formats.

1. Criminal Law


If you have always wanted to become an expert on the American justice system, then you must obtain Criminal Law textbook by Gardner and Anderson. Written by a professor of law and a practicing attorney with more than 50 years legal experience, this law textbook is the most recommended to have to understand and succeed at practicing law. 

In its 13th edition, this textbook has been thoroughly revised and updated to meet the needs of the current crop of law graduates seeking to take up legal practice. Written in a narrative and descriptive style with fewer citations of lengthy cases, this law textbook builds a practical comprehension of complex legal topics in an attractive style. 

  • Author(s): Thomas Gardner and Terry Anderson  
  • Publisher: Cengage Learning  
  • Current Edition: Hardcover, 13th Edition (January, 2017) 
  • Pages: 592

2. Understanding Criminal Law


Understanding Criminal Law is designed to complement classroom discussions in a substantive and practical way. It covers most of the treatise cited by courts and scholars as well as major casebooks. This law textbook also contains major revisions to the Model Penal Code. It also covers the sources and theories of criminal law, and the principles underlying legality and proportionality. 

According to the author, this textbook covers the “basic elements of, and defenses to, all crimes; provides indepth coverage of crimes such as homicide, rape, and theft; and covers major topics such as accomplice and inchoate liability.” Users who also desire to learn the complexity of sexual assault and self-defense as well as the relevant changing laws can equally acquire this textbook.

  • Author(s): Joshua Dressler  
  • Publisher: Carolina Academic  
  • Current Edition: Paperback, 8th Edition (June, 2018) 
  • Pages: 611

3. Basic Criminal Law: The Constitution, Procedure, and Crimes


This is the best law textbook to acquire if you want to have the most updated high-profile cases analyzed, newer sex crimes, revised appeals, latest crime statistics and definitions, current evidence concepts, and practical tips as well as strategies – Best Criminal Law: The Constitution, Procedure, and Crimes is the resource to have. With this textbook, you can be grounded and primed to enter the legal profession with success.

This 5th edition reveals the history of criminal law, how it is practiced in the courts, and the shapes it might assume in the future. It explores actual crime cases and workable legal procedures to tackle them. The author noted that this work scores high “in criminal law and criminal procedure (as well as supplementary readings in constitutional law) in the paralegal and more general criminal justice programs.”

  • Author(s): Anniken Davenport  
  • Publisher: Pearson  
  • Current Edition: Paperback, 5th Edition (April, 2017) 
  • Pages: 560

4. Criminal Law (Justice Series)


For law students desiring to have the latest research findings and trending legal events revolutionizing the legal profession at their fingertips, Criminal Law Justice Series is the textbook to have. Written in a simple and straightforward way, this law resource provides core concepts that students need to grow into established attorneys in the real world. 

The book analyzes scores of criminal cases, procedures that determined their outcomes, and intricacies that shaped their complexities. It contains eye-catching visuals and court decision citations that students can use to drive classroom discussions. This law textbook is recommended for students who are serious about their future legal prospects.

  • Author(s): Jennifer Moore and John Worral  
  • Publisher: Pearson  
  • Current Edition: Paperback, 2nd Edition (January, 2017) 
  • Pages: 288

5. Essential Criminal Law


If you are interested in learning the “most current development in criminal law and public policy,” then Essential Criminal Law is the textbook to have. It is even suitable for people of other professions who are only interested in understanding the essentials and intricacies of criminal law and appropriate defenses. It builds the legal reasoning skills of readers and takes them through the complexities of the legal system as well as appropriate case studies.

This law textbook is recommended for users who need an accessible introduction to the American criminal law and justice system.

  • Author(s): Matthew Lippman  
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications  
  • Current Edition: Paperback, 3rd Edition (August, 2019) 
  • Pages: 408

6. Criminal Law and Its Processes: Cases and Materials


This law textbook is designed for users who desire to sit for criminal law examinations and also acquire proficiency in the application of legal skills to real-world scenarios. With a major focus on the underlying principles, rules, and policy rationales behind all criminal laws, this textbook provides the essentials that users need to understand and apply criminal law doctrines. 

This textbook provides users with the analytic tools to excel at law school and succeed at the law courts. It provides users with a cohesive policy framework upon which they can base crime assessment, legal prosecution, and mounting defense in the courts. It is highly recommended for potential lawyers who even seek to establish their own chambers in the near future. 

  • Author(s): Sanford Kadish; Stephen Schulhofer; and Rachel Barkow  
  • Publisher: Wolters Kluwer  
  • Current Edition: Hardcover, 10th Edition (December, 2016) 
  • Pages: 1,440