Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Columbine by Dave Cullen

This outstanding nonfiction work is probably going to be the definitive book on the Columbine tragedy. The author alternates Dylan and Eric's background, the telling of the actual events and the survivor/parents views. Some people might be put off by the way the author moves from topic to topic but I am not entirely sure I could have read a straight retelling of the events without having to put the book down so I appreciated the "breaks".


gm said...

On Nov. 21, 2008, the Harris and Klebold parents were sent the same letter requesting cooperation. "Your stories have yet to be fully told, and I view your help as an issue of historical significance," it said. "In 10 years, there have been no major, mainstream books on Columbine. This will be the first, and it may be the only one." The letter came not from Mr. Cullen but from Jeff Kass, whose Columbine: A True Crime Story, published by the small Ghost Road Press, preceded Columbine by a couple of weeks.

"Mr. Kass, whose tough account is made even sadder by the demise of The Rocky Mountain News in which his Columbine coverage appeared, has also delivered an intensive Columbine overview. Some of the issues he raises and information he digs up go unnoticed by Mr. Cullen." --Janet Maslin, New York Times

"A decade after the most dramatic school massacre in American history, Jeff Kass applies his considerable reporting talents to exploring the mystery of how two teens could have planned and carried out such gruesome acts without their own family and best friends knowing about it in Columbine: A True Crime Story. Actually, there were important clues, but they were missed or downgraded both by those who knew the boys best and by public officials who came in contact with them. An engrossing and cautionary tale for everyone who cares about how to prevent kids from going bad." -------Ted Gest, President, Criminal Justice Journalists

Lisa said...

A Librarian,

After I read "Columbine" I too thought that I would regard it as the definitive book on what happened at Columbine High School on 4/20/99. Then I read other books on the same subject, including the one that the previous poster gm mentioned as well as "No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death At Columbine" by Brooks Brown and I came to the sad conclusion that "Columbine" by Dave Cullen isn't the book that it's been made out to be by so many. It's very well written but has its faults. It dispels some rumors and inaccuracies but also creates and sustains some of its own.

If you haven't already I urge you to read the Jeff Kass book that gm mentioned as well as Brooks Brown's book. Also interesting reading is a very harsh review of "Columbine" by Randy Brown. Mr. Brown is Brooks's father (Brooks was a friend and schoolmate of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris) and was so unhappy and upset with "Columbine" that he all but called it a 'work of fiction'. I urge you to read his review of the book and other negative reviews of "Columbine" at Amazon. Here's the link in case you're interested:

starviego said...

The 'elephant' in the Columbine-room is the fact that more were involved than just Harris and Klebold. Read what the eyewitnesses had to say:

A Librarian said...

I will have to track down this book to read but I don't think we will ever know what really happened at Columbine. What I really like about the Dave Cullen book is how the reaction to the mass media/technology (cell phones, cameras) phenomenon was explored. Public perception actually changed how police and other rescue workers reacted to what was happening. I found that aspect fascinating.

Dave Cullen said...

Thanks for the kind words on my book, Librarian.

I appreciate that. Sorry about my tardy reply.

Dave Cullen said...

Thanks so much for supporting my book Columbine on your blog. Tuesday is the eleventh anniversary of the tragedy and I hope you might mention that the book was recently released in an expanded paperback edition featuring:
— A 12-page afterword: "Forgiveness." Vignettes on three victims in very different places eleven years later, and the central role "forgiveness" played in their recovery. Includes startling new revelations about the killers' parents.

— Actual journal pages from Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold.

— Book Club Discussion Questions.

— Diagram of Columbine High School and environs.

Friday I'm attending the LA Times Book Awards, where Columbine is a finalist--up against Tracy Kidder and Dave Eggers--and then on to NYC for the Edgars (nominated in the True Crime category). Last month it won Barnes & Noble's Discover Award. The paperback is now on the NY Times bestseller list.

I'm excited about the way students have embraced the book. They tell me they are taken in by the vivid way it captures teen-age lives and the adolescent experience. So this year, I'm devoting most of my touring to high schools and colleges. I posted some photos ( and will be adding video footage. I am also creating Instructor Guides for teachers and profs to use the book in classes, and have posted the first guide for English/Writing ( are coming for psychology, journalism, etc.

Some links and background info follows. Thanks again for helping get the word out to a wider audience.

Dave Cullen

- Book Trailer (3-minute intro video):
- Book Summary:
- Awards & Reviews:
- Bio:

Columbine spent eight weeks on the NY Times bestseller list in hardcover, and is currently on the paperback list. It appeared on two dozen 2009 Best lists, including the NY Times, Publishers Weekly, Salon, EW, Amazon and iTunes. It is a finalist for the Edgar Award, LA Times Book Award, and Audie Award, and has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Nonfiction of 2009. It was declared Top Education Book of 2009 by the American School Board Journal. Cullen has appeared on Today, ABC World News, Rachel Maddow, BBC-America and most of the major NPR shows.

Columbine relays the before, during and after stories of the massacre. It offers haunting portraits of two very different killers, and the remarkable stories of eight victims grappling with the aftermath for the next decade. Columbine has been cited as the definitive work on the tragedy by Newsweek, the Daily Beast, GQ, the New York Post and the Columbia Journalism Review.