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Columbine

by Dave Cullen

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3,0251943,326 (4.31)304
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.
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Showing 1-5 of 194 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  sarahlh | Mar 6, 2021 |
It's a bit weird to think to oneself, "I'm in the mood for a nice depressing yet thoughtful read" and come up with Dave Cullen's "Columbine," but that's how I got here. ( )
  resoundingjoy | Jan 1, 2021 |
Sobering, devastating book but very important and timely. It was actually really tough to read yet something I couldn't put down. Cullen does a great job balancing the storytelling, interspersing the lead-up and aftermath with the horrific events of the massacre. He also includes lots of detail and the myths and untruths surrounding the case. He humanize so everyone in the story in the attempt to understand why. Excellent yet tough to read. ( )
  JustZelma | Dec 20, 2020 |
Excellent narrative of the horrific events at Columbine high school. I'd seen several friends had reviewed this book, so I wanted to check it out. As one reader noted, it's best to get the second edition (which came out only one yr later) as it has an epilogue. ..
Many of the news reports about the killers and victims that came out at the time, 1999, and later, were false. I never realized so many myths had been perpetuated in the media and never were corrected after. A book written by one of the victim's mothers, Misty Bernall, She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall was published despite the fact that Cassie's murder was misreported and many "facts" about it were disproved, even before publication date. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not part of the "trench coat mafia", nor were they trying to seek revenge against jocks. They were not outcasts and they weren't bullied. Cullen pointed out they were in fact bully-ers.
It was encouraging to read the epilogue- to see many of the victims healing, living, finding their own way despite surviving an indescribable trauma. Highly recommend this book.
( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Dec 1, 2020 |
I remember watching the news back in April, 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 more at Columbine High School in Colorado. I was a single parent of an 8-year old at the time, and the incident terrified me. I couldn't fathom why two teens would bring bombs and guns to school. I couldn't imagine how terrifying it must have been for the kids and faculty trapped in the school or how the victims' families could ever deal with the losses and aftermath of the incident. With the issue of school shootings and gun control becoming more heated over the years, I decided it was time to do some reading and learn more information about the incidents, perpetrators and victims as I try become more informed. As a mother, the subject is a very emotional one for me. I'm going to take my time to research and learn at a pace that doesn't traumatize me. One book at a time....then a break.....and another, until I feel confident that I'm forming opinions based on facts and not emotional response. I started my research with Columbine because it's the first school shooting I vividly remember following on the news.

I have to admit that over the years I have formed harsh opinions about the parents of school shooters, their home environment, and what I assumed must be lax discipline......and a bad opinion of school faculty and other adults that must have missed warning signs before these mass shootings. Not to mention fellow students who must have bullied and abused these kids until they broke badly enough to want to kill their peers. I formed these opinions based on emotion because I never bothered to research the learn the facts. I am trying to teach my 13 year old to always fact check things he reads on the internet or sees on television before forming opinions on people, events, etc.....but I am guilty of not following that advice myself.

Columbine recounts not only the shootings but the years leading up to the incident and its aftermath. Dave Cullen spent more than 10 years going over police records, journals and other writings left by the two shooters, survivors and family accounts and media reports. In the years following the shooting, it has been revealed that many media reports were exaggerated or completely false. Cullen points out several things reported as fact that didn't happen, exploitation of the event by media and various organizations, and the community and victims' wishes to just be able to heal and get on with their lives. Media hounded the community and opened old wounds constantly for years following the shootings.

I found the facts interesting and incredibly disturbing. Most of what I thought about the Columbine murders was based on bad information. I wanted someone to blame. Surely the fault couldn't lie with two teenaged boys. But, in the end, the blame belongs to the two boys who pulled the trigger. They killed 13 people and wounded 20 more because THEY WANTED TO DO IT. Their plan was much bigger....blow up the school, kill a majority of the students and faculty, and escape and continue killing until they themselves were killed or committed suicide. And they lied, conned and tricked their way through life -- fooling everyone around them -- while writing about their secrets and beliefs in journals. Are there other contributing factors? Sure. They were able to buy high powered guns at a gun show without completing any background checks. That was legal back then. They made comments to fellow students about hating people, wanting to kill, making bombs, etc....but none of their peers took them seriously. Their parents were concerned about their behavior and tried to discipline them. But the boys lied and conned their way through life, pretending to learn from mistakes....then bragging their journals about how they had their parents, teachers and law enforcement fooled. They spent more than a year planning to kill as many people at the school as possible. They would blow up the building with bombs....then pick off survivors as they tried to exit the building. They wanted to kill more people than died in the Oklahoma City bombing. They didn't target athletes, bullies, students of color or Christians -- they just wanted to kill everyone. I paused the audio book multiple times and looked up these two boys journal writings to read for myself. It's horrifying. They were two deeply disturbed individuals.

I'm not sure how this might effect my opinions about gun control or prevention of mass shootings at schools. I have to do more reading and take time to think before I reform any opinions or stand firm. But I do know that I am learning that the blame I placed on the parents, faculty and law enforcement was at least partially unfair. The majority of the blame for these murders belongs to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

I listened to the audio book version of Columbine. The recording is just over 14 hours long and narrated by Don Leslie. He reads at a even pace and has an easily understandable voice. Given the subject matter, this is NOT an easy book to listen to and not appropriate for children. The journal excerpts from the two shooters contains graphic and oftentimes vulgar language. There are graphic details about the shootings and actions of the shooters. If you are at all triggered by descriptions of fear, violence, murder, etc -- then this is not the book for you. It's heavy stuff. Be forewarned. But, it is informative and never disrespectful. The information is presented without bias. The Harris and Klebold families are not vilified, and the shooters are not demonized. But the truth is not sugar-coated either. ( )
  JuliW | Nov 22, 2020 |
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Dave Cullenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Leslie, DonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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

Dedication
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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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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Hachette Book Group

3 editions of this book were published by Hachette Book Group.

Editions: 0446546933, 0446546925, 0446566993

 

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