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Columbine [Hardcover]

Dave Cullen
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (743 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 6, 2009
On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school, Oklahoma-City style, and to leave "a lasting impression on the world." Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence-irrevocably branding every subsequent shooting "another Columbine."

When we think of Columbine, we think of the Trench Coat Mafia; we think of Cassie Bernall, the girl we thought professed her faith before she was shot; and we think of the boy pulling himself out of a school window -- the whole world was watching him. Now, in a riveting piece of journalism nearly ten years in the making, comes the story none of us knew. In this revelatory book, Dave Cullen has delivered a profile of teenage killers that goes to the heart of psychopathology. He lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris, and the quavering, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who went to prom three days earlier and obsessed about love in his journal.

The result is an astonishing account of two good students with lots of friends, who came to stockpile a basement cache of weapons, to record their raging hatred, and to manipulate every adult who got in their way. They left signs everywhere, described by Cullen with a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boy's tapes and diaries, he gives the first complete account of the Columbine tragedy.

In the tradition of HELTER SKELTER and IN COLD BLOOD, COLUMBINE is destined to be a classic. A close-up portrait of hatred, a community rendered helpless, and the police blunders and cover-ups, it is a compelling and utterly human portrait of two killers-an unforgettable cautionary tale for our times.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this remarkable account of the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School shooting, journalist Cullen not only dispels several of the prevailing myths about the event but tackles the hardest question of all: why did it happen? Drawing on extensive interviews, police reports and his own reporting, Cullen meticulously pieces together what happened when 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold killed 13 people before turning their guns on themselves. The media spin was that specific students, namely jocks, were targeted and that Dylan and Eric were members of the Trench Coat Mafia. According to Cullen, they lived apparently normal lives, but under the surface lay an angry, erratic depressive (Klebold) and a sadistic psychopath (Harris), together forming a combustible pair. They planned the massacre for a year, outlining their intentions for massive carnage in extensive journals and video diaries. Cullen expertly balances the psychological analysis—enhanced by several of the nation's leading experts on psychopathology—with an examination of the shooting's effects on survivors, victims' families and the Columbine community. Readers will come away from Cullen's unflinching account with a deeper understanding of what drove these boys to kill, even if the answers aren't easy to stomach. (Apr. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Many reviewers were more concerned with coming to grips with the attack rather than assessing the book, but their concern may be a testament to Cullen’s work. His reporting fundamentally reframes the event: Columbine, he writes, should be thought of as a failed bombing rather than a school shooting. Furthermore, much of the conventional wisdom about how to prevent such attacks—essentially, watch out for pimply outcasts with a grudge—is confounded by an investigation into Harris’s and Klebold’s actual lives. Most critics, with Janet Maslin a notable exception, thought that Cullen’s account helps us to better wring meaning from the tragedy. In sum, Columbine “is an excellent work of media criticism, showing how legends become truths through continual citation” (New York Times Book Review).
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; First Edition edition (April 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780446546935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446546935
  • ASIN: 0446546933
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (743 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dave Cullen spent ten years writing and researching Columbine, a haunting portrait of two killers and eight victims. It became a break-out bestseller and won several major awards.

Cullen has been described as a cultural translator, writing about Evangelical Christians, gays in the military, Barbie doll collectors . . . anyone on the margins. He has contributed to the New York Times, Washington Post, Times of London, Slate, Salon, Daily Beast and the Guardian.

Dave began writing as a young boy in the Chicago suburbs. He dove passionately into journalism in high school and college, then wandered. He became an infantry soldier, management consultant, computer systems analyst and undergraduate instructor in scattered cities across the U.S., England, Kuwait and Bahrain. He traveled to 26 countries, with a penchant for north Africa and south Asia.

At 33 Dave devoted himself to writing full-time. He began with the University of Colorado-Boulder's writing program, where he won the Jovanovich Award for best master's thesis. He later won a GLAAD Media Award, an SPJ Award and is an Ochberg Fellow at the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma at Columbia University's Journalism School.

Columbine spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists. It won the Edgar Award, Barnes & Noble's Discover Award, the Goodreads Choice Award, and The Truth About The Fact's Literary Nonfiction Book of the Year Award. It was a finalist for the LA Times Book Award, the ALA's Alex Award, the Audie Award, and the MPIBA Book Award. Columbine was named to two dozen Best of 2009 lists, including the New York Times, LA Times and Publishers Weekly. It was declared Top Education Book of 2009 by the American School Board Journal.

Dave was planning a move to New York City when Columbine happened. He remained in Denver to research, write and promote the book, and moved to NYC in July 2010. He is happy there. He travels extensively to high schools and colleges to teach writing and discuss the tragedy.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
549 of 593 people found the following review helpful
Ten years have passed since the tragic event that has become synonymous with school shootings. Columbine was once a word that simply denoted a high school, a football team or a state flower. But now the word is tainted. Despite the fact that we have moved on to newer tragedies with higher body-counts, the stain has not been scrubbed off of the word `Columbine'. But perhaps we need to do something other than wish it away. A better solution might be a deeper understanding of Columbine and similar events. The What, How and Why. Most of our answers to these simple questions have been dead-wrong and it is time to replace myth with truth.

But this is easier said than done. The Columbine shootings remain one of the most-thoroughly covered crimes in American history. However, despite the voluminous output of media coverage, what really happened that day, and the motivation behind the tragedy, is understood by very few people. The result of our curiosity led to more falsehoods than fact, making a clear picture of the events on and leading up to April 20th, 1999 difficult to discern. In many ways the vast outpouring of information makes this tragedy even harder to grasp; the chaff vastly outweighs the wheat.

Which makes Dave Cullen's new book, Columbine, an accomplishment that catapults him to the top of the genre. Not since Capote's In Cold Blood do we find such a thoughtful, illuminating, riveting, and disturbing portrait of the criminal mind. Columbine doesn't just explode the myths of what happened that day and why. Instead the book carefully dissects our biases, revealing a populace eager to blame this tragedy on poor parenting, Satan, rock music, or goth kids because it is simpler and more convenient than hearing the truth.
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290 of 313 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware of Reviewers with Murky Agendas August 17, 2009
To rate five stars, a book should be memorable, thoroughly researched, and well-written. The reader should be absorbed into the book to the point that he/she and the author have a "shared experience" and the reader should be changed in some way by that experience.

Dave Cullin succeeds on all counts. Columbine is a riveting narrative. He addresses many myths that the press created in the first moments after the tragedy and that most of us still believe. He also defends his premise -- that Eric Harris wasn't bullied, but a bully and a psychopath -- very well with ample substantiation. I recommend this book.

Now, a caution:

As of this writing there are 11 1-star and 12 2-star reviews of this book. Nearly all of these are written by reviewers who object not to the work itself, but to Mr. Cullin's premise. They are angered by the suggestion that the two boys weren't victims of bullying, or that their parents weren't to blame (although they made their mistakes as we all do), or that the school couldn't have anticipated the attack. These aren't legitimate reviews of the book. If an author presents a well-substantiated argument, he deserves credit for writing a good book, even if you don't agree with his conclusions.

The dialogue throughout the reviews (both reviews and responsive comments) is badly compromised by writers with their own agendas -- including authors of competing books. Be aware that the reviewer and commenter, Randy Brown who identifies himself as "A Columbine Parent" (creating legitimacy) generally fails to mention that his son Brooks wrote a book on the matter as well. Mr. Brown's comments are as welcome as anyone's, but by failing to mention this conflict of interest, he is misleading readers. Mr.
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224 of 247 people found the following review helpful
If "Columbine" were just a shot-by-shot account of the mass murder at a Colorado high school, this book wouldn't be worth a minute of your time. Anyone who was alive in America on April 20, 1999 knows how Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 12 students and a teacher, wounded 23 others, and then put their rifles to their heads and killed themselves. We've all heard the story of the girl who --- seconds before she was shot --- looked the killers in the eye and told them she believed in God. We've heard about the "Trench Coat Mafia" and the violent video games. And we've heard that Harris and Klebold were social outcasts who, angered by incessant bullying, decided to get even by staging the biggest massacre ever at an American high school.

Why "Columbine" is worth the pain and tears it will cost you to read it: Most of what you've heard is wrong. If Dave Cullen is even remotely correct, Cassie Bernall was not killed because she told Harris or Klebold she believed in God. Harris and Klebold weren't outcasts. They weren't bullied, they didn't target jocks. And they weren't addicted to violent video games.

What motivated them?

For Eric Harris, raw hatred. A desire to kill as many people as possible --- to end the world, if he could.

For Dylan Klebold, the hunger for love. And when he couldn't find it, an all-consuming desire to kill himself.

If that's the case, then the nationwide reaction to the Columbine massacre has given us no reason to feel secure --- metal detectors and guards can't tell the difference between a kid with a bit of teenage attitude and the grinning psychopath with raging violence in his heart.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I really enjoyed this book. Some of the things written can be considered controversial and I myself have yet to agree with a few things mentioned in the book. Read more
Published 16 hours ago by Miranda Ashley
5.0 out of 5 stars READ THIS
This was one of the best books I've ever read. I actually only read a little bit and the rest I used the "whisper sync" which is the audio version of this book, but uses... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Eric P
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 7 days ago by Linda Ouellette
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely stunning account
Fantastic book that truly uncovers the mystery around the Columbine shooting. Opens up your eyes to the true events and personalities of those involved. Read more
Published 9 days ago by FlyFisherman69
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Very good book about what really occurred.
Published 11 days ago by Kelli
5.0 out of 5 stars I had to read a non-fiction book for a school ...
I had to read a non-fiction book for a school project, so I chose this book. Columbine was very well-written, insightful, and has a lot of information about what went on behind the... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Austin Ballard
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and Insightful
A well-told, evidence-based narrative, drawing from a daunting number of sources. Cullen fleshed out an impossible tangle of the event's many truths and provided insight and new... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Book as described! Fast Shipping! Thanks!
Published 14 days ago by Amanda Lee
3.0 out of 5 stars okay
Interesting read but a little long... Could have described the same picture with a lot less pages. Glad I read it though
Published 17 days ago by m basgall
5.0 out of 5 stars Very sad
This was very well written, and I think with this book the truth has finally come out. It was very tragic and the cover-up just made things worse for everyone involved.
Published 18 days ago by Ryan
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Teen suicides from bullying? Its it possible to eliminate bullying from...
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Columbine: The newest book...
With all due respect, sir, and having read the exhaustive account you so casually dismiss, I am confused as to how a man's decade-long investigation can be so easily trivialized and, by implication, labeled as utterly fictitious. It appears that you, like so many others in this quick-fix culture,... Read More
Apr 26, 2009 by Brooke276 |  See all 234 posts
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This book is a bow to the status quo. Where's the quotes from those who experienced he day? Who knew Klebold and Harris? The author cites "authorities" to make his point - rather than the raw truth of those who experienced this tragedy. I acknowledge I am a horrified mother who... Read More
Jan 27, 2013 by Jeane Hamilton |  See all 2 posts
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