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Comprehending Columbine Paperback – January 28, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press (January 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592134912
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592134915
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,386,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Larkin creates a powerful lens to examine the complexities of the socio-cultural and psychopathogical forces which contributed to the Columbine tragedy... he does an excellent job of situating school shootings in the larger cultural landscape of violence in America. Larkin's book is destined to be the definitive work on the Columbine shootings." Raymond Calluori, New Jersey Institute of Technology "This book is not just about Harris & Klebold's motivations . . It is about the influence of social structure on those labeled as outsiders . . about structurally entrenched sources of gendered violence and degradation." Peter Freund, Montclair State University "Think you know all there is to know about the Columbine school massacre (4/20/1999)? Think again. Larkin covers known and little-known details, aiming to answer why Eric Harris and Dylan Keble went on their shooting rampage...Some will say that Columbine doesn't need any more scrutinizing. But after the recent Virginia Tech shootings, people will be looking for more insights into youth who feel ostracized and ways to help them avoid feeling so alienated in the first place. There is an audience for this book, which should be considered by public and academic libraries." Library Journal "Larkin's book is obviously the result of a great deal of research... He provides interesting history and details of both the perpetrators of this horrendous shooting, Harris and Klebold." Metapsychology Online "Larkin has undertaken an important task in this work. He deconstructs the Columbine High School tragedy, attempting to reach an objective understanding of a complicated event that has become tangled in myth and emotion. He presents the events at Columbine carefully before examining the influences that may have contributed to this crisis... The author pulls the reader closer to the situation by including narrative from his interviews, quotes from important sources, and specific examples. The resulting work is well organized and written...The content of this book should be required reading for school administrators, educators, counselors, and others who work regularly with young people" Choice

More About the Author

Ralph W. Larkin received his bachelor's degree at UC, Santa Barbara in Elementary Education and taught elementary school for five years. He received a master's degree in educational psychology at California State University, Northridge in 1966. In 1970, he was awarded his Ph.D. in Sociology of Education from UCLA. He worked as a researcher in the Center for the Study of Evaluation at UCLA and the Center for Urban Education in New York City. He taught in the sociology department at the Newark campus of Rutgers University for eight years. He is presently employed as an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is the author of three books: Suburban Youth and Cultural Crisis (Oxford University Press, 1979), Beyond Revolution: a New Theory of Social Movements (with Daniel Foss, Bergin & Garvey, 1986), and Comprehending Columbine (Temple University Press, 2007). Beyond Revolution and Comprehending Columbine were both awarded honors as outstanding academic books by Choice Magazine, published by the American Library Association. Dr. Larkin has also written on education, youth, sociology of religion, social movements, and rampage shootings.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By M. Hill TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was led to this book after reading Columbine by Dave Cullen. For me, that book raised more questions then it answered. Ironically, I live in the community and had resisted reading any of the books on the subject. Locally, the coverage of the murders was relentless and I had read and seen enough to last a lifetime. I thought I never wanted to hear about it again. Then I saw the press release for Cullen's book and decided that after ten years perhaps it was time to read a comprehensive exploration of the subject.

I found Cullen's book a great disappointment. There are so many factual errors and assumptions throughout the work that at the end I felt I had to do more reading. I checked my library's catalog to find other relevant material on Columbine which is how I found this book, along with Jeff Kass' book and Brooks Brown's memoir. So, I started out reluctant to read even one book on the subject and in the end read four.

Brooks Brown's book is a heartfelt book by a boy trying to sort out unfathomable events caused by people he knew. It is worthy of a read, but it is not, nor does it claim to be, a thorough exploration like Cullen's, Kass' or Larkin's work. Of the group I feel Larkin's book is the most objective. It has a clear academic perspective in its execution but unlike a dry thesis it reads well. The logic isn't faulty and the evidence for statements and conclusions is provided. There is little opinion offered without substantiation. I read the book from cover to cover.

Unlike the other two author's, Larkin does not have an obvious agenda -- except to find answers. Kass' book focuses too long on the racial aspect of one child's murder which is a worthy subject but throws the balance of the book off in its length. It becomes distracting.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A. Koutsunis on June 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is very thorough and written in a scholarly manner. However, the author seems to want to support the bully hypothesis so badly that he insists on claims which are unsupported. The claim that bothered me the most was that Klebold was bisexual. The only evidence the author provides for this is that a reporter came forward after the shooting and said he encountered Klebold in a chat room, where he identified himself as bisexual. Besides this book, I have never read this anywhere else, and the claim seems unreliable to me. Also the author insists that the Klebolds are a dysfunctional family because Dylan and his brother argue; the parents have different religious beliefs; and they are not very touchy. The Klebolds do not seem any more dysfunctional than any other family. Most siblings fight; a home where religion is a choice seems healthy; and affection comes in many different forms. I don't agree with some of the claims in the book but if you're curious about it, I would suggest getting a used copy and making your own judgments. Best Wishes -A. K.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lasha VINE VOICE on August 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a book with new theories, FBI reports, shocking pictures, then this is not the Columbine book for you. However, if you are looking for an academic book on the subject with an author who conducted numerous hours of research in the field that has a solid basis in empirical evidence, then you should read "Comprehending Columbine." Dr. Larkin presents scholarly approach to topic that can be controversial.

As a former high school social studies teacher, now full-time graduate student getting my second Masters in Criminal Justice, my topic is homophobic bullying and how it leads to school violence. Hence Columbine is a part of my thesis. In the past four months gathering research for my thesis, I have read nearly every book and academic article on school shooters and "Comprehending Columbine" did give me some useful insights into Klebold and Harris' motives, Columbine's toxic atmosphere and added more infomation to my own research. My only complaint and the reason I did not give the book 5 stars is that Dr. Larkin in the first six chapters of the book kept referring to Eric Harris' web site as the "Trenchcoat Mafia" web site, which is not correct. As Dr. Larkin explained in later chapters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not members of the Trenchcoat Mafia, they only knew people who were. That incorrect fact was my one pet peeve with the book.

So, if you are looking for a book the Columbine tragedy that has solid writing, excellent resources and examines the shooting in depth, I suggest buying Dr. Larkin's book. If you want to read more on the topic, then buy others like Dave Cullen's or Jeff Kass' as supplemental reading on the subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Observer on February 24, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So much psycho babble from psychiatrists/psychologists/FBI profilers and all from a distance no doubt. Do any two of these people ever reach the same conclusion? All the evidence seems to point to the isolation of the so-called loser students and to their denigration by those at the top of the pile, yet it is continuously denied. For sure 90% of the bullying must pass beneath the radar but it is shocking to learn that some of the bullying took place in front of teachers or coaches, who turned a blind eye to it. And what's more, in the event of some confrontation, the attacked rather than the attackers were brought to book. I would say that the Headmaster has got off very lightly in this tragedy.

I'm not an American but I find it truly amazing the extent to which sporting prowess, good looks, social skills and MONEY play a part in the hierarchy of the students. The parents must surely be held accountable here. What values do they inculcate in their children? Judging from the literary skills of the students interviewed by the author, maybe some of the emphasis should shift from football to the English language.

I won't comment on the behavior of the evangelical Christians in the Columbine community. It boggles the mind of an outsider.

A very instructive book.
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