Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine. A word that has become synonymous with terror, pain and sadness. So what compelled me to read and review a book about the worst school shooting America has ever known? Well, for much the same reason that most adults who work with teens want to read it: to try and understand WHY. Author Dave Cullen, a journalist who covered the shooting for, has been researching the horrific events at Columbine High School for the last ten years. His fascinating findings are detailed in this groundbreaking book, which debunks several of the myths surrounding the shooting and provides a chilling portrait of Eric Harris, who Cullen states was the ringleader in this deadly gang of two. In clear, accessible prose, Cullen takes readers through the terrifying time line of the shooting and the events leading up to it. He presents detailed descriptions of the killers Harris and Klebold, the tragically slain victims & their families, and most poignantly, the injured survivors, some of who persevered against incredibly debilitating injuries. Based on hundreds of interviews with eye-witnesses, families, police and health professionals, Cullen challenges the false media perception of the so-called “Trench Coat Mafia,” the martyrdom of victim Cassie Bernall, and the notion that the two boys who coldly planned this apocalyptic event were themselves loners and targets of bullies. He also suggests that all the evidence points to this incident being less a school shooting than a failed bombing attempt, and should be categorized as such. Particularly absorbing is Cullen’s psychological portrait of Eric Harris, who emerges as a “textbook psychopath” with the ability to lie so well he completely convinced both his parents and his therapist that he was on the road to responsible citizenship after committing a spate of petty crimes. I highly recommend this title for high school students AND their parents. Far from being a titillating tabloid text, this meticulously researched and sensitive tome works to further our understanding of a terrible event and underlines the fact that we are all responsible for each other and for monitoring the warning signs that can lead to such a fatal tragedy as Columbine.

11 thoughts on “Columbine by Dave Cullen

  1. A good follow up to any school shooting book is the movie Home Room, starring Erika Christensen and Busy Philipps. It looks at the aftermath through the eyes of two survivors. It premiered at a private screening at Columbine and was well received.

  2. I, too, thought this book was well done, particularly the first half. I was worried that it would have a lookey-loo quality to it but instead I thought the subtitle should have been why everything you thought you know is wrong. Harris was particularly scary, and the ability to lie himself out of situations was disturbing.

  3. Thanks for the nice review, and the comments.

    For films on the subject, I really liked two:

    “Zero Day,” which got an Indie Spirit nom–mostly about the killers.

    “April Showers,” about the survivors. It was directed by a survivor, and really well done. It came out this spring and is available on itunes.

  4. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Always nice to hear from an author! A very important book for teens as well as adults and I’m happy to spread the word.

  5. Jen, I was totally absorbed and and also sickened by this book!!! Loved it, couldn’t put it down and having been working in a school library at that time—I was also compelled to read this. We will also read this in the fall for FACULTY BOOK CLUB. Cullen’s research was thorough, exhausting and soooo enlightening. I blog about the books I read on Goodreads so here is my review :

    status: Read in June, 2009

    This is a searing account of the fateful day in April ten years ago when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 students, 1 teacher and maimed many others. Author Dave Cullen, an investigative reporter, who was there that day and he tells us he was one of the ones who gave false information that day. What he gives us is an absorbing, sickening account with the many truths that were withheld and still leaves us all to ask “why” because other than psycho Eric Harris and follower Dylan Klebold’s rants, writings and obsessions, the reader doesn’t find out why they did it, just that they planned it for 2 years and their parents never knew. Yes, there were signs, but you have to read this thoroughly researched book to begin to get a sense of what the shootings at Columbine HS have become in the last ten years. Highly recommended, but achingly sad for the many losses still felt today.

  6. Thanks, Jen and BJ. What is Faculty Book Club? I googled, but found several. Let me know if you’d like me to call in, if it’s a physical meeting.

  7. Dave, Each year we have a Faculty Book Club at Abington Senior High School in Abington, PA and there are about 20+ teachers and they read books that I have been looking for (spring and summer) and read beforehand and the teachers make recommendatioons as well. We don’t really have the time to meet, so each time a faculty member finishes reading, I discuss with the teacher(s). I cannot tell you how much of an impact this book had on me! Literally, I couldn’t put it down and found it compelling reading because I really didn’t know the true facts, I was believing the old lies, so thanks for a terrific read. I have been talking it up this summer and have been passing around my copy. I know your book will be generating alot of discussion as the teachers read it.

  8. Another movie that made me think of Columbine is “April Showers”. You can read about it more here, .

  9. im only 17 but am fascinated by the columbine tragedy,this book is very helpful and gives answers to the quesions that people have been asking or years

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