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Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine (edition 2009)

by Dave Cullen

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2,2321692,882 (4.3)264
Authors:Dave Cullen
Info:Twelve (2009), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 432 pages
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Columbine by Dave Cullen

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I was not in the United States when Columbine occurred. Although it made world wide news it wasn’t obsessively covered overseas like it was here. After I came back, frequent reference was made to Columbine whenever there was a shooting. Eventually, I saw Bowling for Columbine by Michael Moore.

It was the events at Sandy Hook that had a really profound effect on me. I recently watched a Frontline special on the survivors of Sandy Hook and a brief reference was once again made to Columbine. I decided I needed to read about this seminal event in more detail.

One thing I can say is that this book does an excellent job of debunking many of the myths that seem to have sprung up about Columbine. I felt that I understood in a much more clear and concise manner the role the media played in hyping this tragedy and reporting incorrect or speculative information that has since become enshrined as “fact”.

I also felt that I got a much better picture of the victims and each of the individual perpetrators. Although the two who caused the tragedy are lumped together, after reading this I realized they were two distinct personalities, with different issues and that their coming together, created the conditions for this tragedy.

The victims and their families were better delineated and what each went through as they struggled to come to terms with the events and outcomes at Columbine High School. The survivor’s stories were very powerful and speak to the ability of the human species to triumph while never forgetting what happened.

The worst part of this story was the role the media played. Incorrect reporting, constant live footage, perpetuating it year after year in ways that did not allow survivors to heal and move on, and the hype around the perpetrators that mythologized their actions creating blueprints for future tragedies.

This is a heavy book and I am glad I read it with some time behind these events. I fear with the 20th anniversary coming up, these events will be dredged up by the media yet again. I don’t believe that is a good thing. It gives weight to what the perpetrators did and dishonors those who died and those who survived.

I urge those who have questions to abandon internet searches and read the book. It delves more deeply into the mental health issues and truths surrounding these events and debunks some of the myths and misunderstandings about this tragedy. A great read, but very heavy material. ( )
1 vote ozzie65 | Apr 25, 2017 |
Heartbreaking. I could only skim this book and am at a loss at how to rate it given the disturbing subject matter therefore I will score based on the writing versus the content. I'm giving 4/5 stars as the author was compelling, articulate, and well researched. ( )
  GirlWellRead | Feb 25, 2017 |
Review originally posted at Dangerously Cold Tea

When the Columbine tragedy occurred, I was only nine years old and still in elementary school. I barely recall what happened but I remember somewhat the coverage afterward about the TCM and the shooters. The repercussions from the events of April 20 will never go away, even in the wake of similar events like the Virginia Tech shooting - which was described as another Columbine. Reading this book, I am struck by the piece of history I lived through unknowingly, like small children who lived during 9/11 or the Iranian Revolution, peripherally aware but not really.

The book itself is an unnerving and thought-provoking take on the day of the Columbine shooting by combining several streams of narrative into one: Harris and Klebold's lives leading up to that day; the lives of those involved before the shooting; the day itself in detail; the aftermath from then to now - pretty much up to when the book was published. Pretty much every myth surrounding April 20 is touched upon, from the story of Cassie Bernall confessing her belief in God to the reasoning behind the shooting itself. It valiantly attempts to be neutral, but it is hard to stay neutral on such an emotional topic, and sometimes dips dangerously into the waters of preaching to pull at the readers' emotions. There is also the fact that some of the details within have been contested by officials and other writers, but to be completely fair, the author does not present his work as the definitive work on the Columbine shooting - although time may soon prove that it is. It is certainly a lot more unbiased and detailed than the loosely-connected documentary Bowling For Columbine, which not only sets itself up on the false myth that the boys bowled before the shooting but also uses the shooting itself as a springboard for the rest of the film, which is very much pro-gun control and anti-NRA.

There are no answers to be found in this book regarding whether or not Klebold and Harris were horrible people or whether or not Columbine still deserves to be "the" school shooting that defines all others. In his narrative, Cullen refuses to judge one way or another, leaving this heavy and personal burden on the reader. By the end of the book, you may have already made up your minds or not, but the stories on the pages just closed will settle into your mind and stay there for a very long time, leaving you to look back upon them on occasion and wonder what may have been. A good deal of "what if" scenarios present themselves while reading the story of the two shooters: What if someone had taken action earlier? What if they had better friends or more attentive family? What if the two boys had never met? But "what ifs" are simply things we think about when its too late and we want to placate ourselves by imagining differing scenarios with happier outcomes. There are many things you can take from reading this account of Columbine, and one of them is a lesson we all need to learn: how to prevent another similar incident so that more families are not forced to grieve over the loss of loved ones and wonder nothing but "what ifs" forever. ( )
  SarahHayes | Feb 20, 2017 |
I won't say this is the easiest book to read due to the subject matter, but it was hard to put down. I finished it in just over a week. It is that good, that gripping, and David Cullen does an amazing job with taking an event in American history and totally, thoroughly, researching the people and what led to this tragedy.

He also debunks the myths that are associated, some even still, with the massacre at Columbine. One of the things I always thought was that a police or SWAT agent had shot the two killers in the library but it was covered up. Nope, not the case, not at all, and there is documentation to prove how they died. Cullen details the lives of Klebold and Harris, and he also documents the lives of teachers, administrators, and the life of the school itself. Columbine was barely a town in the 70's, for example. Cullen also takes a series of interviews with friends of Klebold and Harris, as well as their diaries, to show a difficult look at what a psychopath's mind and its ramblings looks like. And the follower of said psychopath.

Again, the subject matter is hard but reading this book is an in-depth look at the whys (as near as we can make them) and how it all happened. It also details how law enforcements' handling of active shooter situations have changed since the tragic events at Columbine and also how it could have been much, much worse. ( )
  threadnsong | Jul 4, 2016 |
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Kleybold, two Columbine high school students, killed twelve of their fellow students and one teacher in what was, at the time, the worst school shooting in America's history. After reading this book I felt that whatever I thought I knew about the Columbine massacre was completely wrong. The killers were neither unpopular nor resentful about wrongs done to them. There was no Trench-coat Mafia feud between the jocks and the goths. Speculation that the date (Hitler's birthday) was untrue. They planned to do the killings on April 19, but hadn't been able to get ammunition. Eric was a crafty and calculating psychopath who wanted to kill as many people as possible, and Dylan suffered from depression and just wanted to kill himself. Together, they decided that murdering as many people as possible was a great idea.

In Columbine, the author successfully argues that we should all be surprised that they only killed thirteen people in total. If the propane bombs they’d planted in the cafeteria gone off as planned, forcing the students out into the parking lot where they were waiting, they might have killed hundreds. Prior to writing this book, Dave Cullen researched everything available on the Columbine story and assembled a comprehensive account of what really happened at Columbine High School. The police went to huge lengths to cover up some of their own incompetence and refused to release numerous critical documents until years after the tragedy. Meanwhile, some people in Littleton embraced misinformation to advance their own requirements. Even though the massacre lasted less than an hour, press helicopters circled the school all day with nothing to report. That lead them to release some serious inaccuracies with their live reporting. The killers aren't the only people who look bad in this story.

What an interesting book. I really enjoyed the fact based narrative intertwined with the last moments of both the killers and the victims. I thought the author did a great job of humanizing both groups. The book gave the reader plenty of information to form their own opinions on what might, or might not, be the cause of this or any other school shooting. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jun 16, 2016 |
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The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
-- Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
I am a wicked man. . . . But do you know, gentlemen, what was the main point about my wickedness? The whole thing, precisely was, the greatest nastiness precisely lay in my being shamefully conscious every moment, even in moments of the greatest bile, that I was not only not a wicked man but was not even an embittered man, that I was simply frightening sparrows in vain, and pleasing myself with it.
--Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

For Rachel, Danny, Dave, Cassie, Steven, Corey, Kelly, Matthew, Daniel, Isaiah, John, Lauren, and Kyle. And for Patrick, for giving me hope.
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He told them he loved them. Each and every one of them.
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Book description
Provides an account of the shootings at Colorado's Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, focusing on the teenage killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, drawing from interviews, police files, psychological studies, and writings and tapes by the boys to look at the signs they left that disaster was looming.
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"On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school and to leave 'a lasting impression on the world.' Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence ... Dave Cullen delivers 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 the prom three days earlier and obsessed about love in his journal. The result is an account of two good students with lots of friends, who were secretly stockpiling a basement cache of weapons, recording their raging hatred, and manipulating every adult who got in their way. They left signs everywhere. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boys' tapes and diaries, he gives a complete account of the Columbine tragedy ... A close-up portrait of violence, a community rendered helpless, and police blunders and cover-ups, it is a human portrait of two killers"--From publisher description.… (more)

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