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Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine (edition 2009)

by Dave Cullen

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2,0481643,255 (4.31)261
Authors:Dave Cullen
Info:Twelve (2009), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library

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Columbine by Dave Cullen

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After reading Sue Klebold's memoir, I realized that I didn't know all that much about Columbine, so I turned to this book, which is pretty much considered the definitive account of what happened. Be prepared to have most, if not all, of what you "know" about Columbine to be changed or discarded.

The timeline of the book can be a little confusing at first - the survivors' stories start with the shooting and move forward, while the killers' stories start at the beginning and move toward the shooting. So the book starts and ends with the shooting, told from different perspectives. I found this extremely interesting, to be honest, and liked seeing things through the different lenses.

The author has obviously put a lot of research into this book - I read somewhere that he worked on this book for eleven years, which is some insane dedication to the subject matter. He's very thorough, and unlike Sue Klebold, he doesn't have a personal stake in this. He presents an unvarnished account of what happened, and he demolishes a lot of myths about Columbine along the way. Eric and Dylan weren't Goths, weren't members of a group called the Trench Coat Mafia, and weren't aiming to be the most notorious school shooters - they were aiming for something much, much larger, something that would have eclipsed the Oklahoma City bombing (which killed 168). And if their bombs had detonated, it would have. They could have killed thousands. Cassie Bernall didn't say yes (someone else who survived, after being shot multiple times, was the one who said yes).

I found it interesting to compare Sue Klebold's portrayal of Dylan with that of Cullen's. Of course Sue's account is tempered by the fact that Dylan was her son, and she knew him for all of his life. But Cullen portrays a much less sensitive, more disturbed, more homicidal Dylan. He is still the "passive" partner - Eric did much of the planning and spending - but whereas Sue seems to get great comfort calling Dylan's death a suicide (and, technically, it was since he shot himself), Cullen presents evidence that Dylan was aiming for more than just an exit from the world. He wanted to take people down with him.

I found the book to be quite readable and engrossing, even though the subject matter is disturbing. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in learning what really happened at Columbine. ( )
  schatzi | Apr 22, 2016 |
I was disappointed by Columbine by Dave Cullen. Perhaps I expected too much. The first half when the author gave the killers' backgrounds followed by the actual event at the high school was great but the second half that included a chapter on what a psychopath is was a big humongous bore. ( )
  SigmundFraud | Feb 22, 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 hung onto 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. ( )
2 vote Olivermagnus | Feb 18, 2016 |
Meticulously researched and skillfully written, Cullen's book explores and debunks the myths that have persisted in the ten years since the shootings and gives a clearer picture of what happened before, during and after. Also offers some answers on "why"...or at least the best answers we're ever likely to have.

Keep tissues handy for the principal's first post-shooting address to the students. ( )
  Gingermama | Jan 24, 2016 |
I tend to read several books at a time, but once I started this accounting of the events at Columbine school I continued reading nightly until I'd finished it. Cullen covered everything important to know and did so in spectacular fashion. You really come to know the kids, parents, and young killers. This is an important work. ( )
  RalphLagana | Jan 23, 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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