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Columbine

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4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  31,903 ratings  ·  4,502 reviews
Ten years in the making and a masterpiece of reportage, "Columbine" is an award-winning journalist's definitive account of one of the most shocking massacres in American history.

It is driven by two questions: what drove these killers, and what did they do to this town?

*****

"On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: t
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Hardcover, 417 pages
Published April 6th 2009 by Twelve (first published March 1st 2009)
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Joel
I used to think that the Columbine massacre would be the defining event of my generation, the one friends and I would discuss years later, trading "where you when?" stories like I'd heard my parents do when remembering John F. Kennedy. It seemed so... monumental at the time. I was a senior in high school, the same age as the killers. The media attention was omnipresent and relentless and soon even at my small town school (and when I say "small town," I mean it, not the way the news will describe ...more
Paul

What does it matter that two crazy teenagers shot 12 other teenagers and one teacher to death at a school somewhere in the American Midwest over ten years ago? It was just another school shooting and since then we have had Virginia Tech which accounted for nearly three times as many victims, didn’t it, not to mention any amount of death and catastrophe in places other than schools. Why should anyone want to write a book about this particular school shooting a decade down the line? Why should we
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Gus Sanchez
Right off the bat, I will state that "Columbine" is one of the most riveting, fascinating, heartbreaking and revolting works of non-fiction you will ever read.

What sets "Columbine" apart from all of the investigative reporting done during the aftermath of perhaps the most notorious school shooting in US history is Dave Cullen's skillful ability to cut through the mythology and hysteria surrounding the entire event. Many of the myths that were accepted as "fact" - that Eric Harris and Dylan Kleb
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Dave Cullen
May 31, 2009 Dave Cullen added it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
I wrote the book, so I'll forego rating it, just thought it should show up my list so you would find me. (But I'm new to goodreads, so tell me if I'm going about it all wrong.) Thanks.
Matt
I was a senior in high school on April 20, 1999. I thought the same thoughts as every other student in the country: could it happen here? who among my classmates are potential threats? what would I do?

The Columbine Massacre remains the most famous school shooting in history. It goes beyond body counts. It wasn't the first shooting, it wasn't the last, and after Virginia Tech, it isn't the worst. Something about it, though, stands out. It marked an evolution in youth violence - a horrible meldin
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Stephen
4.0 stars. This poignant, extremely well done true crime/history takes a comprehensive look at the Columbine massacre. As a rule, I do not read a lot of true crime stories or follow too closely these kinds of national tragedies when they occur (I just find it too depressing). Thus, before I picked up this book, my knowledge of the events surrounding Columbine was limited to “headlines” and “10 minute news segments” that dealt with very little beyond the surface of the shooting.

This award winnin
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Greg
1. Last night I googled "Eric Harris Columbine", I was curious what the little monster looked like. He looked so average and normal, no wonder I hadn't remembered what he looked like from the incessant news coverage 11 years ago. One can see pictures of him and Dylan Kebold dead in the library from at least two different angles in google images. Apparently some people believe that there is still more to the Columbine story, that something else happened to two boys to make this happen.

2. I've re
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Maciek
On April 20th, 1999, two students of Columbine High arrived at their school for the last time. They were about to begin what would be known as the deadliest schooting in an American high school, killing one teacher and twelve students. What is less known is that Columbine has originally been planned as a bombing; the pair has left two petrol bombs in the school cafeteria, and positioned themselves outside the entrances so they could shoot possible survivors: it is probable that had the bombs exp ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
I have to hand it to you, April. You truly know how to test human endurance. After my usual routine of blasting NPR all week at work while entering data, I decided yesterday that I had well beyond reached my horror, disgust, frustration, and doomsday-fears capacity, shut off the station, plugged up my ears, and listened to 69 Love Songs and múm's discography all the way through instead. Despite the fact that I keyed in the date hundreds of times, it never crossed my mind what the symbol I was re ...more
Stephanie
April 20th 1999 was a Tuesday. I remember this fact because my day off was Tuesday. I was probably doing some laundry and cleaning with the TV on in the background. Then I remember stopping and watching as the news came across the TV. There had been a school shooting......a bad one. My first thought was "bad things always happen on Tuesdays."

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 and injured 24. Eric was the mastermind behind the massacre and young psychopath. Dylan was depressed, seemingly a b
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Tamora Pierce
This is the first complete coverage of the 1999 Columbine high school shooting that's been published, with information on the journals and videotapes seized by the police, on the survivors and their families, on the political changes in the town, on the school before and after. It debunks the jock revenge and heavy metal theories that the media generated in the information vacuum after the shootings and gives the information that proves there was no conspiracy.

I was disappointed at first by the
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Kim
About and around 19 years ago, I used to go to TT’s in Cambridge, MA on Mondays for Stone Soup Poetry. Maurice used to read during open mike and Brother Blue would perform and after awhile you’d get to know all the ‘regulars’---There was the really cute quiet guy who totally copped the beatnik look and would madly scribble in his notebook while others performed--only to shatter on stage. I’m talking complete, make-yourself-hoarse kind of raging, spitting his words out, knocking down chairs… Quit ...more
Jim
If you only read one book on the Columbine massacre, this should be the one. Cullen has devoted almost ten years of research to the subject and cuts through the crap that has grown up around the tragedy and the two boys who committed the crimes. It makes for depressing reading, but it is highly readable despite that.

The widely held picture of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold is of a pair of angry loners, the products of parental neglect, who were bullied at school and who killed out of revenge. Cul
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Diane
This was the best nonfiction book I read in 2009, and it's an incredible piece of journalism. A lot of media attention was given to the mass shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado on April 20, 1999, but so many of the details that were reported in those first few weeks were dead wrong. This book shattered all the things I thought I knew about the Columbine shootings. For example, it didn't have anything to do with jocks, gays, bullies, the Trench Coat Mafia or Marilyn Manson.

Eric Harris
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
It's inexpressibly sad that a book like this needed to be written, but we could not have asked for a better person to write it. The book is perfect. Cullen tells the entire story from all perspectives with honesty, professionalism, and great sensitivity. He dispels all of the myths and outright lies that came out of this tragedy, and explains how they came to be accepted as truth. He gives the full background on Harris and Klebold, removing the mystification as to why this happened. (In short, H ...more
Jenn "Awww Yeaaahhh"
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
This book was not easy to read (or listen to, in my case). But it is incredibly informative, if you can get past the emotional aspect. Such an intense experience, but really, really well done.
Lis
After reading this book, pen in hand, my copy was so marked up with scrawls and underlining that there might have been a second book written in the margins. I wish I could say it was praise for the author's insight into the Columbine tragedy, but instead it was sheer incredulity at the number of mistakes, lies, and misperceptions Cullen is trying to pass off as truth. If your only exposure to Columbine was watching it unfold live on tv, and then maybe reading a few magazine articles, you will pr ...more
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
This is the end all, tell all, book of everything you ever wanted to know about Columbine. I found it riveting, although sometimes a little too much. However, that didn't disturb me as the author had spent so much time and knew every detail. I loved the psychological look at these two boy's life's, wow was it disturbing. Also, the Sheriffs department that took so long to produce a final report and the reasons why are revealed. So much pain and stress could have been reduced for this town if only ...more
Monica
Apr 26, 2011 Monica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Monica by: Very Short List, EarlyWord
Shelves: 2009, nonfiction, genrex
I know this book may not be for everyone but it was such an informative, compelling, and heartbreaking piece of work. It feels important.

As other reviewers here have pointed out the author has been covering this material for Salon for nine years. He destroys commonly held misconceptions about what happened that day, and frames it in a timeline that unfolds along with our understanding of what really happened and who the killers really were. Cullen is visceral but never sensational, and writes f
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Jake
For all the eye-opening/jaw dropping material this book delivers, I'm most fascinated with Mr. Cullen's arrangement. He weaves past, present, and future together, jumping back and forth, and across multiple perspectives. And it all seems to work. My sense is this book is Pulitzer worthy, given its intelligence, accessibility, maturity, and comprehensiveness. I think it is extremely significant that the book offers no photos to tell a story most of us only know from the flawed and often mistaken ...more
Will Byrnes
UPDATE - 5/28/13 - new link at bottom

The very word “Columbine” summons an image of gun-toting teens mowing down teachers and students in their high schools. In the media frenzy of the time and in the years since certain misconceptions about the event have found their way into common wisdom. The perpetrators were portrayed as Goths, gays, members of a trenchcoat-wearing gang, victims of bullying jocks and social outcasts. None of this was true. Cullen was one of the reporters on the scene when Er
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Brandon
Columbine High School's story hits home for me in a number of ways: besides watching the whole thing on television during my first year of college (but who didn't, right?), I also now teach at a high school. Our school has protocols in place and gone through drills specifically designed to prepare for an attack. Considering how much time the author spent covering the story from the week it happened until the present day, he presents himself as the best authority and his research is as thorough a ...more
Laura
Sorry, but pretty much everything you know about Columbine is probably wrong.

For example, you know the Trench Coat Mafia -- the one that shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold belonged to? Well, although there was such a thing, they didn't belong to it (and actually, they were dusters, not trench coats). Nor were Harris and Klebold bullied (they bullied others, actually), nor did they target jocks, or Christians, or anyone else (the shootings were random). And the martyr Cassie Bernall, who was
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Shaun
Extremely well-written and readable.

Interestingly, I've read some reviews where Cullen has been accused of getting important details wrong. As a result, I'd like to read Jeff Kass' account to see if that criticism has any substance.

That said, I thought this succeeded on many levels. I particularly appreciated Dr. Fuselier's contribution. Dwayne Fuselier was an FBI agent who happened to have a son attending Columbine at the time of the shooting. A veteran agent, a clinical psychologist, and a ter
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Liz
This book was amazing. I'll have to say that I only read this book because of reading "the hour i first believed" by Wally Lamb...which was a fictional (but fact filled) story of what happened after the Columbine shootings. I was mesmerized & kept forgetting that it was fiction. Same holds true for Columbine by dave cullen. I kept forgetting that this book is non-fiction!! I have to say that I'd lost track of all the news & updates on all things Columbine - it's been almost ten years (Ap ...more
Steve
When it comes to school attacks, it's becoming clear that April is the cruelest month. As I sit here writing this, there's been yet another shooting event down in Christiansburg, Va. Some asshole, who sounds a lot like Eric Harris, shot two young women with a shotgun. The women are still alive. Pray for their recovery.

The Columbine attack occurred on April 20, 1999. It had been planned for months, and if you follow Cullen's timeline trajectory (I do), the chain of events (pipe bombs, vandalism,
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Cynthia
Even this removed in time (2010) from the Columbine tragedy is still freshly horrifying. There were so many good things about this book but the best was learning some real facts after listening for years to all the media hype. Cullen provides one of the best descriptions of Psychopathy I think I've ever read and uses it to analyze Eric Harris' reasoning. He also separately explores Harris and Klebold's motivations. They were very different people whose illnesses dovetailed and played off one ano ...more
Edan
On Monday I spent 6 hours reading this book it was so utterly absorbing, terrifying, thoughtful and compassionate. I am amazed by the breadth and depth of Cullen's research, and the facility with which he organized and presented it to the reader. The content is obviously daunting and difficult, but Cullen manages to show not only the what and where and who and how of the event, but the why--or, almost the why. Can such an act ever, really, be comprehensible? Cullen got as close as answering that ...more
LeeAnne

Columbine by David Cullen

Riveting and disturbing

I was shocked by how much of what was reported in the news about Columbine was dead wrong.

Misconception #1:The boys were good kids, bullied into a last resort of retaliation
Truth: They bullied younger students just as often, if not more, than they were bullied themselves. Both had serious psychological issues. They wanted to kill everyone, even people they considered friends.

Eric Harris was a cold-blooded, predatory psychopath. He was a cunning
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Well written and good analysis 3 12 Nov 15, 2014 05:57PM  
Looking for similar non-fiction i.e. books with satisfying insight 9 99 Jul 05, 2014 06:08PM  
Psychology background? 14 242 Jan 17, 2014 12:39PM  
7DRAKE: Columbine Book Review 1 7 Dec 11, 2013 06:46PM  
Little Falls High...: Columbine 2 20 Jan 18, 2013 01:15PM  
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Dave Cullen is the author of the New York Times bestseller Columbine, a haunting portrait of two killers and their victims. He has written for New York Times, BuzzFeed, Times of London, Newsweek, Guardian, Washington Post, Slate, Salon, and Daily Beast. He is now writing "Soldiers First" for HarperCollins, about two senior gay army officers.

(Columbine is summarized concisely in this three minute C
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More about Dave Cullen...
Soldiers First

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“You can't really teach a kid anything: you can only show him the way and motivate him to learn it himself.” 45 likes
“The final portrait is often furthest from the truth.” 29 likes
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