Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Twelve, New York, 2009

Borrowed from the library.

This book as won multiple awards and been on many Notable and “Best of”  lists.

I waited a long time to read this book.  Even though I had no desire to revisit this horrible event I kept hearing and reading about Dave Cullen’s in-depth study of the 1999 Colorado high school shootings.  I finally borrowed a copy from the library and discovered that Columbine is so well-written and well-researched that I couldn’t put it down.

I remember Columbine, I remember the two shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and the horrible images that came over the television.  The stories of how these two students snapped and went after jocks, seeking revenge for bullying and harassment and how the “Trench Coat Mafia” was the group behind the murders was all over the media.  Turns out everything they told us about the Columbine shootings was wrong.

Dave Cullen,  reporting for Slate.Com, first visited Columbine High School at around noon on April 20th, 1999, the day of the shootings.  He spent 9  years researching this book, listening to tapes, watching videos, reading journals and conducting interviews. Talking to students, parents and teachers, investigators and police.   He dug deep and his reporting shows it.  It come across as clear and balanced.

Cullen gives us background on Harris and Klebold, in a way he makes these “monsters” human.  Reading their journals and listening to their friend,s investigators on the case believe Eric Harris was a psychopath and that Dylan Klebold suffered depression.  Reading their backgrounds and histories gives a very different view from the one the press reported.  The things I found most interesting in Columbine are Cullen’s analysis of the media circus surrounding the incident and the fact that the police covered up information they had on Harris and Klebold.  It turns out that this incident could have been avoided if certain people had communicated with other people, including some student who had hints of what was going on but never took the boys seriously.  Isn’t that always the way?

Columbine is not easy to read, the descriptions of the shootings and the suffering of the victims is intense, but I found it very worthwhile.

Other review:

Reading Rants

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Have you read and reviewed this book?  Leave a comment so I can link you.

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10 Comments

Filed under History, Nonfiction, Notable Books, Review

10 responses to “Columbine by Dave Cullen

  1. I thought this was a wonderful book. Mr. Cullen has done his research, that’s for sure. What I take away from it is the idea that we should never believe the initial media coverage of probably just about everything. It’s really only after some time has passed and the emotions have levelled off that someone can take the time needed to uncover what really happened.

    The media always needs a great story right now. They rarely take the time needed to find out what really went on.

  2. I have this book loaded on my Kindle, and when I asked for help prioritizing my summer reads a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Cullen even stopped by to give me motivation! So I shall be reading this within the week I think. How can I refuse him?

  3. gm davis

    Cullen , who first reported on the story for the online magazine Salon, acknowledges in the book’s source notes that thoughts he attributes to Klebold and Harris are conjecture gleaned from the record the pair left behind.

    Jeff Kass takes a more straightforward approach in “Columbine: A True Crime Story,” working backward from the events of the fateful day.
    The Denver Post

    Mr. Cullen insists that the killers enjoyed “far more friends than the average adolescent,” with Harris in particular being a regular Casanova who “on the ultimate high school scorecard . . . outscored much of the football team.” The author’s footnotes do not reveal how he knows this; when I asked him about it while preparing this review, Mr. Cullen said he did not necessarily mean to imply that Harris was sexually active. But what else would such words mean?

    “Eric and Dylan never had any girlfriends,” the more sober Mr. Kass writes, and were “probably virgins upon death.”
    Wall Street Journal

  4. I want to read this book, but know it will be difficult and keep putting it off… I need to make the time.

  5. JoAnn – I found Columbine far easier to read than I thought it would be. That has a lot to do with Cullen’s research, notes and balanced reporting.

  6. Pingback: Book Review: Columbine « ReviewsbyLola's Blog

  7. Pingback: Columbine, by Dave Cullen « Booking It Up!

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