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Columbine

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Author: Dave Cullen

Published: April 6th 2009 by Twelve (first published March 1st 2009)

Format: Hardcover , 417 pages

Isbn: 9780446546935

Language: English


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"The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . . " So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of "spectacle murders." It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grow "The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . . " So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of "spectacle murders." It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year. What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we "know" is wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world's leading forensic psychologists, and the killers' own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.

30 review for Columbine

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dave Cullen

    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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    unknown

    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 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 a sleepy hamlet of 30,000), everyone began looking askance at the outsiders, the loners, the kids who came to school dressed in black and roamed the halls with a look on their faces like they hated the world, and it deserved it. How surreal was it to turn on the television about a year later, after class in my freshman dorm room, to see the students from my high school running from the building, fleeing danger while news copters circled overheard? Turned out the "bombing incident" was the result of an idiot with a cherry bomb and access to a toilet, but Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had already shown us that there is no such thing as a harmless threat when it comes to violence in high school. Columbine (or rather, the media circus it became) had changed everything. Then one day, it was September 11, and I had a new definition for generation-defining tragedy, and Columbine stopped being something I thought about much. Dave Cullen never stopped thinking about it. He was a reporter on the scene that very first day, April 20, 1999, when bodies began dropping from library windows and no one knew what the hell was happening. For ten years, he followed the case, the accusations of a police coverup, the lives of those who survived, the sorrows of the families of those who did not. Columbine, the book, is an exhausting, heartbreaking, minute-by-minute, year-by-year analysis snaking into the past and future from the pivot point of April 20. Meticulously, he explains how everything we thought we knew about the violence that day -- you probably remember: outcasts targeting jocks, the Trench Coat Mafia, Marilyn Manson -- is totally wrong, the truth a victim of a media whirlwind that descended upon the tragedy, picked up garbled rumors and incorrect assumptions and flung them onto TVs and broadsheets across the country. No, Eric and Dylan were not outsiders; they were popular with a certain crowd and Eric even dated. No, they were not part of a cabal that hated jocks; the killings were random and the only real target was humanity. The killers didn't even like Marilyn Manson, preferring KMFDM. If you have read anything about the case in the last decade, you probably know this already, but for many, the initial reporting of rumors and suppositions (fueling a 24-hour cable news cycle that was just gearing up in 1999) is what they remember, and has become the "truth" of the whole bloody affair. People read, and probably write, books like this because they want to know why. After a decade of analyzing police records, psychological profiles, and the killers' own writings, Cullen presents an answer, but you aren't going to like it: Eric Harris was a psychopath, and Dylan Klebold was a manic-depressive hanger-on. That... doesn't make me feel any better. Wouldn't it be easier to think, those kids were picked on, it was wrong, but you can see it, they just snapped, it could happen to any of us? But no. Eric Harris didn't snap. He was a bright kid, a smooth talker, and he fooled the world while he spent a full year planning his masterpiece. Did you know that Columbine wasn't even a school shooting, not really? The actual plan was to blow up the building, killing hundreds indiscriminately. The guns were just an afterthought, to pick off the survivors. You know, for fun. Like Doom (there's another rumor for you). This book is heartbreaking (the stories of the survivors and the grief-stricken nearly brought me to tears more than once, and not because Cullen is slick with his prose). This book is infuriating (details of a police coverup provide more than enough evidence that this tragedy probably could have been prevented). This book is strangely cathartic (I hate using sports as shorthand for healing, but I choked up when Columbine won the state football championships the year after the murders, and the crowd of students chanted together: "We.. are.. COLUMBINE!" Reclaiming the word, making it theirs again.) I also wonder, and I am adding this a few days after the rest of the review, how necessary it really is. Why is Columbine such a big deal? As a day, it was certainly a pretty crappy day. But there have been a lot of other crappy days before and since, days that killed a lot more than 13 people, that we don't know about or can't remember. It was a seismic event because we let it be one -- I don't think it taught anyone anything, not really. Except maybe how useless constant as-it-happens reporting was going to turn out to be. I don't like that the book, in essence, continues to give Eric Harris exactly what he wanted, which was recognition that he had done something important. As an analysis of the fallout on a formerly unknown town, it's less troubling. As a warning against future violence, it's useless, since it's pretty clear there wasn't much that could be done to change the way it all turned out. Whenever I see footage from 9/11 (something I try to avoid, but hey, it happens), my breath catches and my heart stops. Every time I see those burning towers, part of me thinks, hopes, that maybe this time, they won't fall. But no. They always fall.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    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 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 waste one more thought on this loathsome pair Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold? It’s a reasonable question and this book has a 400 page answer. Eric was the driving force and Dylan (named after Thomas not Bob) was the depressive suicidal kid who was sucked into Eric’s mania. They planned the whole thing for a year. They called it “NBK” after the movie Natural Born Killers. Eric chose the date. David Koresh’s Waco siege ended : 19 April 1993 Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bombing which was his revenge for Waco: 19 April 1995 Columbine : 20 April 1999. Ah yes, it was going to be on the 19th, but Eric screwed up getting the right quantities of ammo, so it had to be put back by a day. In the 12 months before Judgement Day they wrote reams of journals, Eric had a website, they bragged about their plans to various pals who of course didn’t take it seriously, and starting on March 15th 1999 they made many videos of themselves acting out mass murder or explaining why they were going to do it, or apologising in advance to their parents. Eric described his parents as “the best” and said “It fucking sucks to do this to them. They’re going to be put through hell.” and he quoted Shakespeare on that point : “Good wombs have borne bad sons.” He also said: “I’ve narrowed it down. It’s humans that I hate.” and regarding the 1993 Brady Bill which had restricted the law on the sale of semiautomatics: “Fuck you Brady! It’s not like I’m some psycho who would go on a shooting spree.” and “It’s kinda hard on me, these last few days. This is my last week on earth and they don’t know.” But the overriding impression from these Basement Tapes (as they have been amusingly named) is one of glee – Eric and Dylan are so excited, they’re gagging for this huge one-performance-only production. They relish the greatness and horror they are about to unleash and express mild regret they won’t be around to enjoy everyone’s reactions or see the movie which will be made about it (that would be Gus Van Sant’s Elephant – sorry, Eric, not Spielberg after all.) What did they actually want to do? Dave Cullen sorts through all the mountains of evidence and discovers that Columbine wasn’t – actually – a school shooting, it was a bombing which went wrong. Eric and Dylan had been making bombs using internet information. The two big ones were made out of propane gas canisters, and others were in Eric’s car (to divert the police). On 20th April they sauntered into the school cafeteria and dumped down the big backpacks containing the bombs with timers ticking. Then sauntered out. No one batted an eye. The bombs were supposed to blow up the whole school, then E&D would be outside picking off any fleeing students. Death toll : over 500. When Eric’s timing and detonation devices all failed – big disappointment of course – they stalked into the school and started shooting. But within 15 minutes they were bored with that. After the bloodbath in the library, they could have gone round and shot dozens more kids but they didn’t. They sauntered past rooms packed with terrified kids and didn’t glance inside. After half an hour of aimlessness, some potshots at the police outside, perhaps the real point of the whole thing was reached, and both of them blew their brains out. And in their minds, that was : Cool. When the shooting began the police made a number of assumptions and a lot of mistakes, some of which they can’t be blamed for – the mayhem and the students’ accounts as they fled made it seem like there was a whole team of gunmen inside the school. This crippled the police response. When the press got hold of the story a whole new series of assumptions erupted - for instance, that Eric and Dylan were loners. That they were unpopular. That they were waging a private war against a target (maybe jocks, maybe Christians, maybe the whole school). That they had horrendous family backgrounds. That they were Goths, or on drugs, or that there was some significant incident which had triggered the rampage. All wrong. Then there was an assumption that there was a conspiracy (the Trench Coat Mafia). It surely couldn’t have just been two kids did all this, there were more involved. The police spent months trying to solve this notional conspiracy. There wasn’t one. The media was flailing : 20/20 on ABC reported an unnamed police source saying “the boys may have been part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement and that some of these Goths may have killed before”. A few days later USA Today began their piece “Whatever these two young men in Colorado imagined themselves to be, they weren’t Goths.” No one knew anything. Cullen’s simple solution to the why of it all is bathetic. He says Eric Harris was a psychopath, pure and simple, and this, dear friends, is the kind of thing some psychopaths do. Well. If there is evil, psychopaths are its living breathing rock and rolling embodiment. Motiveless malignity, Coleridge’s phrase describing Iago, catches the horror but we, the unpsychopathic, really struggle hard with it – everything has a motive, surely, we are motive-seeking missiles of brain and spirit, we need reasons like we need food, a reason to learn the violin and a reason to shoot 13 other human beings. Motivelessness offends us. Is there motiveless benevolence? Yes, this is known as altruism. But doing good to others is seen as its own motive – to do good IS the motive, doesn’t need an ulterior. So is doing evil also its own motive and its own reward for some? Do they bask in the pain and misery they cause in just the same way that others might shout with joy and hug each other as another Haitian is pulled from another collapsed house? Then the pain and misery IS the motive. The existence of psychopaths in our midst has already been addressed in movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Children of the Damned, and all those other alien invasion movies in which the aliens look exactly like humans – we thought it was because the movie’s budget was so low they couldn’t afford impressive costumes, but in fact it was because aliens perfectly disguised as humans is the perfect metaphor for psycopathy – you can’t tell ‘em from normal people! We can’t fill in the blanks. Why would the fascinated, excited contemplation of suicide and mass murder, eventually fused together into one super-cool entity called NBK, so delight the minds of Dylan and Eric that it crowded out all the usual teenage boy obsessions such as having sex with teenage girls or being in a rock band and then having sex with teenage girls? It drives us crazy so we lunge around – where did this evil come from? Why didn’t anyone notice it? Why didn’t anyone prevent it? Who can we blame? – not Eric and Dylan, they were just kids. (You can hear this argument again and again, every time a kid gets caught for something – the parent says “he’s not to blame, it was his bad friends that led him astray”). Let’s blame video games, violent movies, porn, drugs, the devil, goth culture, gun laws, school bullies (uh oh, Eric WAS the school bully so that doesn’t work), the parents. Ah yes, of course, the parents. “It also appears that even the best parenting may be no match for a child born to be bad” (p241) – Cullen paraphrases Eric’s Shakespeare quote. This is so un-PC it explodes the whole thrust of child-centered theory and whatnot which has been trying to get away from the Victorian view that in a class of thirty children there will be one limb of Satan (hence the old insult “you young limb!”) Psychopaths know just as well as we do that certain things are considered to be bad, so they try their best not to get caught. But they just don’t agree that these things actually are bad. They think they should be allowed to do whatever takes their fancy. They must be in a permanent state of irritation with the world and its puerile petty rules. A couple of psychopaths once lived in a world where there were absolutely no restraints because they themselves made up the rules. Bliss! These were the Roman Emperors Caligula and Heliogabalus, and we may read about their idea of fun in Gibbon’s dolorous history. There are so many breathtaking side-stories in Cullen’s compelling, brilliantly organised book. Like Cassie Bernall, the Christian martyr who wasn’t, like the guy who made crosses for all the Columbine dead – 15 of them, one for D & E too (guess how long they stayed upright – 3 days). Like the lawsuits (naturellement) – turns out that Dylan’s parents had a home insurance policy which covered them for murder committed by their children. Like the discovery by a detective of Eric’s rampage fantasies in 1997 which Eric, as we know, published on his own website leading to the detective getting an affadavit for a search warrant for Eric’s house and how no one did anything about it, it was just kind of forgotten about, oops! - and how that major cock-up was covered up by county officials… on and on it goes. In his last year, Eric was constantly badgered by his parents about getting his life on track, having a goal and sticking to it. He couldn’t tell them that he did indeed have a goal, and he was sticking to it, through thick and thin. And it was going to be so cool. ********************* NOTE I hope this isn't too creepy, but readers of this review may be interested in my review of Going Postal which continues the discussion of this subject. The author of that book explicitly criticises Dave Cullen, and in many ways Mark Ames' book is a necessary corrective to this one. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    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 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed th 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 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed thirteen people at their high school, seriously injuring many more, and ruining the lives of scores. Dave Cullen - image from FocusFeatures.com It took years for much of the information about the case to find its way to public scrutiny, the local police force somehow managing not only to display considerable incompetence in their handling of the investigation, but an enthusiasm for hiding and destroying evidence of their actions and inactions. Cullen has pulled together all available info, and tells the story of the two boys who perpetrated this crime, how they came to their decision to act, how they went about gathering their deadly materials, how they planned their actions, and how they leaked enough information about their plans that anyone paying attention should have seen what was coming. Cullen looks at the impact on many of the casualties. One teen girl was reported to have proclaimed her faith in Jesus before being shot dead. It never happened. That did not stop her family and some religious hucksters from attempting to gain from the tall tale. Cullen tells of court cases that continued for years, of victims who courageously worked themselves back from catastrophic injury, of those who were never able to recover, and of some who nurtured their rage for years. It is a compelling story Cullen tells, moving, sad, hopeful and unfortunately, all too real. It is very a positive contribution for Cullen to have sorted out the many pieces of this complex puzzle and to show us how the pieces interlink. It is always better to operate and analyze from a base of knowledge. I cannot say that this was an enjoyable read, but it was very informative, very enlightening. =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Youtube and FB pages My review of Cullen’s 20190 book, Parkland

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    The definitive book on the most memorable US school shooting (at least before Newtown and Stoneman Douglas) by a reporter who followed the story for at least last ten years. Dave Cullen demonstrates conclusively that almost everything we thought we knew about Columbine was wrong: 1) the shooters weren't particular objects of bullying, obvious misfits, members of "the trench coat mafia" or Marilyn Manson fans, 2)the shooters didn't target jocks or minorities (they hated a lot of things, including The definitive book on the most memorable US school shooting (at least before Newtown and Stoneman Douglas) by a reporter who followed the story for at least last ten years. Dave Cullen demonstrates conclusively that almost everything we thought we knew about Columbine was wrong: 1) the shooters weren't particular objects of bullying, obvious misfits, members of "the trench coat mafia" or Marilyn Manson fans, 2)the shooters didn't target jocks or minorities (they hated a lot of things, including Country Music, Puff Daddy and the WB network, and originally intended on blowing up the entire school, and would have, expect for the fact that the bombs fizzled), 3) the shooters weren't a couple of psychopaths, but one psychopath and one depressive, and 4) Fundamentalist Christian "martyr" Cassie Bernall never said "yes" to Jesus (it was another girl under another library table, and she was arbitrarily spared). Cullen has had years to study the video and audio tapes and journals the killers left behind; they are fascinating, but ultimately frustrating. The mystery of evil--as always--remains unrevealed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    There comes a time that everyone must not only see outside the box, but read things that make them less than comfortable. Life is not always honeybees and flowers bursting with colour. Dave Cullen offers this sobering perspective as he tackles an insightful view into one of the worst school shootings in history, though I am not prepared to posit how one ranks school shootings from 'best' to 'worst'. Cullen pulls the reader in to explore not only the event that took place in a small Colorado comm There comes a time that everyone must not only see outside the box, but read things that make them less than comfortable. Life is not always honeybees and flowers bursting with colour. Dave Cullen offers this sobering perspective as he tackles an insightful view into one of the worst school shootings in history, though I am not prepared to posit how one ranks school shootings from 'best' to 'worst'. Cullen pulls the reader in to explore not only the event that took place in a small Colorado community in April 1999, but also the vast array of sentiments surrounding this shooting, both before and afterwards. The book throughly examines all three time periods, though not in a clear division, allowing the reader to learn much about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who have long been deemed evil personified. Cullen gives these boys a personality as he searches for the triggers that led them to act. While both did have their issues with the law, there were no outward signs of aggression in the way they interacted with the general community or even their families. The revelation, found mostly after the fact, showed a detailed plot to exact general revenge, through taped messages and journal entries. What Cullen does highlight is that many of the signs, particularly a website, were pooh-poohed by authorities, or the depth to which the hatred was brewing seemed to have been lost as others missed the signs. Cullen then gives a thorough and heart-wrenching account of the shooting day and how members of the school community became victims of chance. It appeared as though there were no 'specific targets', as long as Harris and Klebold killed and hurt many. Cullen ties in the ominous date and how the boys sought to top Oklahoma City in loss of life, all in an attempt to make names for themselves. Victims received names and faces throughout the narrative, as did the injured. Cullen appears not to have wanted to simply lump them together into 'the victim group' or 'those who barely got away'. Cullen also exemplifies the reaction by authorities to the events, from police to SWAT and even the national reaction from the White House. The reader cannot help but be swept up as they see how things were managed. Cullen then pulls the story into the aftermath and the synthesising of all the emotions and outpouring of grief. "Why?" and "How?" remained on the tips of everyone's tongues, as well as how the school, the county, and the country as a whole (perhaps even the world?) would bounce back from this. School officials did not wish to be burdened with the pall of events, though they could not simply turn a new page and forget. It is perhaps this thread that proved most powerful for me; how did the school seek to learn and yet not dwell? While media outlets sought to focus on Nazi worship and gun stockpiles, Columbine and county officials needed to rebuild. That said, Cullen also spends much time exploring the familial reactions to events, both the Harris and Klebold families as victims themselves, even though many sought to tar and feather them with ease. Bitterness and resentment were flooding the region, leaving little time for personal healing. Targets were painted, threats made, and families destroyed. How does one seek to rebuild when the core is gutted? It is this aspect of the tragedy that cannot be fixed with a coat of paint and new drywall, where steam cleaners and a memorial plaque cannot erase self-doubt and hatred towards those who destroyed the lives of many. There are so many more nuances within the book, though it is up to the courageous reader to sift through the book and pull out what touches them most deeply. Not a book for those looking to apportion blame or shake their heads at two lone souls. This is the kind of book that leaves readers thinking and examining themselves, as it will do for me while Neo continues his scholastic endeavours. Brilliantly presented and captivating on many levels! As a journalist for the events, Dave Cullen brings a wonderful perspective and his writing pulls the reader in throughout this piece. I have pondered throughout reading and come to realise that this book is more than facts and names and places, it serves as a biography of an event. Yes, a biographical piece of time, not a life or a school or even the killers. It is the event that needs a face, a life, and a death, which Cullen offers up and allows the reader to dissect at will. By putting a face on the event, those actors who shaped it also come to life. As Cullen admits in his opening notes, it would be too confusing to put names to EVERYONE, though he has done is best not to offer sweeping generalisations, but rather put names and faces and lives to those who were in the middle of things. While it would have been easy to go with the majority and dump on the Harrises or Klebolds, Cullen seeks to explore the family dynamics, as well as the lives of these two boys. He pushes into a zone that might have received much fodder already, labelling Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold as psychopaths, but uses much of the medical and psychological analyses to SHOW how these boys fit the bill. They did have psychopathy in them and the key traits were exemplified throughout their lives, even if hindsight was the only way to see it come to the surface. The book is wonderfully paced and pulls the reader in from the start. Topics and chapters move throughout time, though in a way that has much organisation. This is neither a book of excuses or finger pointing, but a thorough analysis of what we, as humans, go through and how there is never a single answer or path to determinations. Media push us around like sheep, but to take the time and examine what is going on around us, we see the nuances and the differences, allowing us to form our own conclusions. I am aware of how odd that sounds, as I place my trust in Cullen here, but that is why I am writing this review; for myself to express what I see from this book. I remain in awe and shock, as I remember the day well, but have come to see that I really knew NOTHING other than what was force fed to me in papers and later stilted documentaries. May those who perished and were injured feel the warmth of many, for you are more than the statistics that surround this event. Pain and loss continue to this day and will surely never completely disappear. However, looking forward, this was a learning experience for everyone touched by it. Blame no individual, for we all play a part in fostering personal sentiments towards or against others. Children are our future and it is they who exemplify what is to come. As Cullen so aptly puts it, the education the world got that chilly April morning is surely more powerful than any line-item in the curriculum. Have we learned from it? I suppose only time will tell! Kudos, Mr. Cullen for making me see that there is more than meets the eye. Your delivery has me hoping that you will return with more, on any subject, as you have piqued my interest! Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  7. 4 out of 5

    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 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 Klebold were bullied loners who sought revenge against the jocks and the elites of Columbine - are irrevocably shattered. Utilizing countless pages and hours of testimony from survivors and others directly involved in the school shooting, including the infamous "Basement Tapes" recorded by Harris and Klebold just days before their rampage, Cullen paints in vivid detail the story of how an idyllic suburb suddenly became a buzzword for everything that was bad about everything; high school, parents, gun control, religion, etc. Cullen smartly deflects the blame cast on Harris and Klebold's parents. If anything, the journals those two kept demonstrate teenagers have a tremendous capacity to mask their true feelings in the face of authority. In Eric Harris' case, he masked a case of classic textbook psychopathy; no amount of intervention or psychological evaluation could have revealed both his lack of empathy towards others and his massive superiority complex, both which led him to eventually conclude that he was indeed like a God, ready to enact his wrath on a world he deemed too stupid and lazy to live. Klebold, on the other hand, was, on the surface, just melancholy, but hid suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and saw his own death as the only way of truly achieving any peace and tranquility in his life. Apart, the deadly rampage at Columbine may never have taken place; together, with Harris' cold-blooded planning and Klebold's eagerness, Columbine became all but inevitable. There is blame to be cast, and the villain0 of this story is the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. Their incompetence during the shooting and after inadvertently gave rise to much of the hostility and mythology that took place during the aftermath of the shooting. Regardless of all the details, Dave Cullen, on every page, painted a masterful image of the human tragedy that was Columbine. We became riveted with what Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold unleashed upon Columbine on April 20, 1999; Cullen reminds us that it's the "who" and the "why" of this event that gave it the gravity it deserved. "Columbine" is recommended ready for everyone. Everyone.

  8. 4 out of 5

    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 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 exploded all of the approximately 488 students in the cafeteria would have been killed. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the shooters, would have committed an atrocity equal in scope to Jonestown, undoubtedly the deadliest and largest murder at a high school in any country. Because their bombs failed to explode - they were badly made - the pair amred themselves up with shotguns, rifles and semi-automatic weapons, and entered the school, where they killed twelve students and one teacher, wounding many others, before taking their own lives. The worst part of the Columbine shooting occured in the school library, where students have been hiding under the tables, forgetting in fear that they could be easily seen. In the 13 minutes they spent in the library, Harris and Klebold have killed 10 students and injured 12 others. Part of the shooting which occured before they entered the library and the entrance itself is captured on a 911 phone call made by the teacher Patti Nielsen. The call is chilling: both Eric and Dylan can be heard shooting and cheering in the school corridors, dropping pipe bombs, and their voices have been caught on tape near the end of the call. Eric orders the students to "get up!" and Dylan shouts "everybody get up!". This is only a part of the call - Nielsen left the phone hanging as the moved to a better hiding position, and all of the massacre has been captured on police tape. The two shooters have returned to the school cafeteria, captured on the school camera in what is most probably the best known image from the shooting: there Eric tried to detonate the bombs they left by shooting at them, which is probably his first suicide attempt. They succeeded in starting a small fire, but as it was later revealed it was completely extinguished by the fire sprinklers. The two eventually returned to the library, where they comitted suicide; just 49 minutes after they entered the school. Dave Cullen's book is an attempt to study Columbine in depth: the author sets out to discovers what was the killers' motive and how they prepared for the event. The writing is very coloquial and pretty plain; at times it feels to b forcefully hip and in tune with the age group that is being described. It does not necessarily have to detract from the text, but it posesses neither the lyricism nor the power of "In Cold Blood", a work to which it has been compared. Nevertheless, "Columbine" moves at a brick pace and remains interesting and captivating throughout the whole text. I have significant problem with the author's thesis, which essentially boils down to this: Eric Harris was a psychopath - and killed people; and Dylan Klebold has been his accomplice because he was depressive and thought about ending his own life. That's pretty much it; it's the main point of the book and the explanation for the events that occured. The author cites many pages from the diary of Eric Harris which he uses to support his point. At the same time, he completely downplays the bullying which took place at Columbine; while he acknowledged that bullying existed, he states that Eric and Dylan never complained that they were bullied (but then what bullied kid would?) Eric wrote out his gruesome fantasies in his journal, but he also wrote how he was abused: "Everyone is always making fun of me because of how I look, how fucking weak I am and shit, well I will get you all back: ultimate fucking revenge here. you people could have shown more respect, treated me better, asked for my knowledge or guidence more, treated me more like senior, and maybe I wouldn't have been as ready to tear your fucking heads off. then again, I have always hated how I looked, I make fun of people who look like me, sometimes without even thinking sometimes just because I want to rip on myself. Thats where a lot of my hate grows from, the fact that I have practically no selfesteem, especially concerning girls and looks and such. therefore people make fun of me... constantly... therefore I get no respect and therefore I get fucking PISSED." Eric and Dylan made a series of tapes which they recorded in Eric's basement. Eric's family frequently moved and Eric recalls how he always had to earn respect anew, to "start out at the bottom of the ladder" and how people always made fun of him: "my face, my hair, my shirts". Dylan recalls how he was abused even by his own brother, who constantly ripped on him. He says: "If you could see all the anger I've stored over the past four fucking years...(...)You made me what I am. You added to the rage." During the library massacre, Dylan is said to have suggested that knifing people might be more fun than shooting them. Brooks Brown, who was a friend of both boys recalls one of the incidents of bullying, where both Eric and Dylan have been picked on in the cafeteria. Although Brooks is mentioned in the book, he is notably absent from the acknowledgments section. "People surrounded them in the commons and squirted ketchup packets all over them, laughing at them, calling them faggots," Brown says. "That happened while teachers watched. They couldn't fight back. They wore the ketchup all day and went home covered with it." In this clip from "The Columbine Killers", a documentary of the shooting, Brooks describes the bullying which took place at Columbine, and openly says that Eric and Dylan have been bullied daily and everybody knew about it. Brooks says that Eric and Dylan were the lowest of the low, two uncoolest kids in the whole school. A female friend of Dylan says how a jock pushed her into a locker when he saw her talking to Dylan, "that faggot". The except from the amateur video shot by Eric's friend seems to confirm that: it shows Eric, his friend with whom he is talking and another friend who documents their conversation. Please notice how both boys are cheerful and talkative during the beginning of the filming, and when they see a group of jocks approaching they immediately fall completely silent and stop all gesturing; in an instant they become sullen and fearful. As the jocks pass them, one jock rams his elbow into Eric's back so hard that he almost knocks out the camera from the hand of the boy who was filming. And as Brooks point out, neither Eric nor the two boys react in any way: they are so used to this behavior that they simply walk away and hope that they will be left alone. When Eric and Dylan entered the library, they ordered everybody with a white hat to stand up; at Columbine jocks wore white hats. Survivor of the shooting, Bree Pasquale, describes on video shortly after the shooting that one of the boys told her explicitly that at least one of the reasons was the fact that he was bullied. An article in the Denver Post describes in how for some students at Columbine life has been pure hell. Another article from the same newspaper expands on the issue, with one survivor recalling: ""They ... pointed a gun at my head and asked if I was a jock. They said it's revenge time on jocks for making us outcasts". Both boys have made amateur movies where they portrayed themselves as saviors of abused students from the evil jocks. In Cullen's book, Columbine is almost a storybook school; almost none of this is mentioned, and the principal is portrayed as almost saintlike (most of the time he is affectionately called "mr. D"). The bullying factor is completely neglected, brushed aside, as if it did not exist. Evidence indicating otherwise is ignored in favor of a simpler, perhaps easier explanation: the shooters were psychopatic and depressive, and there was nothing that anyone could have done to prevent them: Cullen goes for the theory that psychopaths are born, not made. This topic is the subject of intense discussion in the field of psychology and psychiatry, far from being settled. While there is no doubt that the author did an impressive amount of research for this book, it seems that he tailored it to fit his already made conclusion: a nice, reassuring wrap up, "he was just a psychopath" end of story. I am afraid that the story is far from settled and perhaps never will be, and that the book is far from being a definitive work on the topic of Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    This is a difficult review to write. Going in, you know the content will be extreme, controversial, and upsetting. While that was the case it was also quite eye opening. As the book gets into the details of the massacre (before, during, and after), it is going to be a difficult book for many. But, the depth which the author explores this event is very important in order to clear up all of the details and set the record straight. I think true crime fans will be enthralled with this book. The bigge This is a difficult review to write. Going in, you know the content will be extreme, controversial, and upsetting. While that was the case it was also quite eye opening. As the book gets into the details of the massacre (before, during, and after), it is going to be a difficult book for many. But, the depth which the author explores this event is very important in order to clear up all of the details and set the record straight. I think true crime fans will be enthralled with this book. The biggest thing I took from this is it is bad to jump to conclusions and you should not let fiction become fact. Going in, I thought I knew the basics surrounding the tragedy, but it turns out that a lot of what I thought I knew is wrong. Seeing how once the event began, the population was hungry for answers and the chain of information became like a giant game of telephone and what often ended up in print or on TV is far from the truth. In fact, the author did so good of a job making this point, I am wondering if I should be skeptical of him, too! He has me paranoid! This was the first time I have ever heard or read in depth the details following the event. The success stories, the additional tragedies, the rebuilding, and the healing we're all very facinating. One story in particular where the Evangelical Church tried to benefit of the tragedy was disappointing. While it sounds like they thought their heart was in the right place, they we're pushing too hard for martyrs and new followers and their hope to find the silver lining was lost in the static. So much about the "why?" and "what can we do?" is touched on in this book. You will be amazed at how much life in this suburban Colorado town sounds like any town and the kids (both victims and killers) are just like many teenagers you might know. But, it is also amazing to watch the dark side grow inside the mind of a killer while leaving things fairly normal (maybe a little rebellious) on the surface. What do you do? What can you do? How do you know? A very captivating book. Well written and informative. Proceed with caution if you are sensitive to violence and graphic details.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alisa Kester

    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 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 probably rate this book five stars. But if you've spent years studying Columbine and other school shootings, if you've read the 12,000+ documents available online (including the witness interviews and the the shooters' journals) you be able to understand how Cullen seems to be deliberately twisting the truth in order to present a neat little explanation that lets nearly everyone off the hook and lets us all feel good about our schools and our society. This entire book is filled with little but speculation, stated as fact, often with nothing whatever to back it up, or to explain why he comes to those conclusions. Some of the mistakes are minor, such as the tidbit that all the school shooters during the years 1997-1998 were 'white boys'. Most mistakes were a great deal less minor, such as Cullen's repeated assertion that Eric Harris "Got chicks. Lots and lots of chicks", he "had scored with a 23 year old when he was only seventeen" and he "outscored much of the football team". Yet, according to Cullen (and Eric's own journal) Eric died a virgin. Cullen goes on and on about those 'chicks', stamping in his own idea that Eric was hugely popular at Columbine, yet he never manages to explain why, if that was the case, Eric was completely unable to "get any". A better explanation, and one that fits the interviews with those who actually attended Columbine, was that Eric was *not* "ranked just under the football team" in popularity, but was actually near the bottom as far as the pecking order of High School. Another example is where Cullen claims that Eric didn't know that he had been rejected by the Marine recruiter (for being on the drug Luvox). Not only was Eric in the room, when the recruiter said that Luvox "would be a problem" and that Eric "would have to have been off the drug a year before he would join", but Eric also told several of his friends that he had been rejected. Cullen says Eric "had no interest in the Marines", but Eric's journal tells another story: "I would have been a great Marine, it would have given me a chance to be good". Cullen says "there's no evidence that bullying led to murder". He says that "Neither [Eric or Dylan:] complained about bullies picking on them". This is a completely false assertion. There are many, many eyewitness accounts of them being bullied, there is a video of Dylan being slammed into a locker, and there is this statement, straight from Eric's journal: "Everyone is always making fun of me because of how I look, how **ing weak I am and **, well I will get you all back: ultimate *%ing revenge here." During the shooting, they tell everyone wearing white hats to stand up. Cullen gives this quote, but never bothers to explain that it was the jocks who wore white hats at Columbine. He also leaves out the fact that both boys told victims during the shooting that "this was for all the &*#* you put us through". Cullen wants us to believe that Eric was simply a psychopath, and that Dylan was his unwilling dupe, despite the fact that IF Eric was (and that's a huge if, since there is too many arguments for him not being a psychopath to list here), it doesn't explain WHY he was a psychopath. He certainly didn't show signs of Juvenile Conduct Disorder growing up, as psychopaths nearly invariably do. By all accounts, Eric was a normal kid, in the beginning. He didn't torture animals or show any other warning signs of a sadistic temperament, according to his friends, teachers, and neighbors. And contrary to the movies, psychopaths are nearly always non-violent and not suicidal. Something happened to Eric and Dylan to make them the way they died. To act out in violent revenge, a person doesn't have to be "psyopathic", he only has to be made to feel as if he is completely worthless, and to have all hope taken away from him. Bullying does this. And at this point, a child will either turn the anger and despair in on himself and commit suicide (as the 11 year old boy did recently) or else, like Eric Harris, he will turn it outward. To say, as Cullen does, that Eric's behavior was a mere accident of birth is to deny everything that we could learn from Columbine. It makes us close our eyes to how we can help other children trapped in this downward spiral of bullying and prevent more violence. If Cullen intended to "bust the myths of Columbine" by ignoring everything that didn't fit his theory, he did an excellent job, and this book deserves a full five stars. I just feel sorry that for many people, this will be the "truth" they come away believing in. The thirteen who died in Littleton deserve a better memorial than this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    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 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 melding of mass murder and 24-hour cable news. Dave Cullen, who has written extensively for Salon (one of my favorite procrastination tools) has been following the Columbine massacre from the beginning to the present-day. While other journalists were chasing Trench Coat Mafia rabbits down Goth/Marilyn Manson rabbit holes, Cullen was actually seeking, you know, the truth. While every talking-head jabbered about bullies, jocks-as-targets, Cassie the Martyr, and violent video games, Cullen was steadily debunking each of these myths with a time honored journalistic tool called "actually discovering the facts." The result of Cullen's 10 years of research and writing is Columbine, an insightful, clear-eyed, at times graphic, at times infuriating book. Columbine has clear aspirations to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, complete with needless geographic descriptions and a halfhearted attempt to evoke the community of Littleton (and the surrounding area, since Columbine High wasn't technically located in Littleton). The book's structure is odd. It certainly shies away from a linear narrative, opting instead to jump forwards and backwards through times. Events are mentioned, then left unexplained, to be picked up later in the story. Clearly, Cullen was attempting to glean some power from fracturing the story line, reserving the telling of certain events for a time when they would have the most impact within the story. Sometimes it works, as in this portentous passage early in the book: School plays were big for Dylan. He would never want to face an audience, but backstage at the soundboard, that was great. Earlier in the year, he'd rescued Rachel Scott, the senior class sweetheart, when her tape jammed during the talent show. In a few days, Eric would kill her. Aspirations aside, Cullen is no Capote. What he lacks in novelistic flair and literary ability, however, he makes up for in journalistic integrity (which Capote sneered at). Cullen tracks down inaccuracies and myths like a bloodhound. If you thought you knew Columbine, you probably didn't; the story you've known for the last 10 years is wrong. Erick and Dylan weren't bullied - they were bullies. They were both extremely smart, were popular, had friends, dated girls, enjoyed sports, and had good parents. They weren't part of the Trench Coat Mafia. They weren't Goths. They didn't have lists. The genius of this book is it's reconsideration of Dylan and Eric. Cullen's voluminous research leads him to the conclusion that Dylan was depressive and suicidal, a tortured mind who filled journals with hearts and the word "love"; Eric was a clinical psychopath: a cold-blooded mastermind, with Mohammad Atta's single-mindedness and Ramzi Yousef's inability to make a bomb. Eric wanted to kill everyone - the whole world - but his high school would do. Dylan wanted to kill himself. Eric provided Dylan the means to an end; Dylan provided Eric with the spark to keep planning. We learn of the magnitude of the plot. Eric didn't want to kill a discrete number of people. He wanted to kill them all. His bombs were meant to slaughter 500 in the cafeteria; then, he and Dylan would wait outside, picking off the survivors as they came out. When the bomb fizzled, Eric the psychopath improvised, dragging a possibly bipolar Dylan Klebold along for the bloody ride. We learn of the failures and duplicity of the Jefferson County Sheriff's department. If you still believe in electing sheriffs after this book, you will be dissuaded. If the book serves an overarching purpose, it should be one of journalistic integrity. The media response to this story was, to paraphrase a famous line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, to print the legend. For instance, Cullen writes about witness unreliability: how, in a stressful situation, a person isn't able to see an entire picture; later, after the situation, the person will fill in the cognitive gaps with other memories, creating an entirely new memory that didn't happen. This is normal. Reporters, however, have to be aware of this. Failing to do so led to the myth of the jocks-as-targets. Cullen highlights this in the testimony of Bree Pasquale. Bree described the library horror in convincing detail. Radio and television stations replayed her testimony relentlessly: 'They were shooting anyone of color, wearing a white hat, or playing a sport,' she said. 'And they didn't care who it was and it was all at close range. Everyone around me got shot...' The point, of course, is that the first clause directly contradicts the second clause (that is, she first says they were shooting specific targets, then says they were shooting "everyone"). A good journalist - indeed, anyone with a grasp of English - should know this. The media, however, decided that the "target list" was a better story. Cullen also - and controversially - debunks the Cassie "She Said Yes" Bernall myth. The Cassie of legend was asked whether she believed in God; she said yes and died. The Cassie of reality was, according to two eyewitnesses, shot in the side of the head by Eric's shotgun. She was never asked a question; likely never saw her doom. If God was in the details, it's that she probably felt nothing. Some might ask: what's the point? isn't it comforting to have our fake story? I say no, vigorously. The story is insidious in the way it takes one student - out of 12 killed - and makes her a martyr, while the rest remain helpless victims. It lifts one, and pities the others. Such victim/hero stratification has, in the wake of 9/11, become a national pastime. There is no need for us - the royal, viewing us - to dilute a tragedy by attempting to construct a hierarchy among the dead. Cullen utterly fails at other points. He gives a blow by blow account of certain portions of the shooting. The death of Danny Rohrbrough; the suffering and death of Dave Sanders; the final moments of the killers ("Eric fired [his shotgun:] through the roof of his mouth, causing 'evacuation of the brain.' He collapsed against the books...with his arms curled forward, as if hugging an invisible pillow"). However, by jumping around in the retelling, I never got an idea, after nearly 400 pages, of what actually happened at Columbine on April 20. Then, to top it off, Cullen decides not to describe the massacre at the library at all. In the entire book, there isn't even a mention of Kyle Velasquez, the first student killed in the library. I can't figure out the reason for this elision. It's the central event of the Columbine tale, and it's excised from the telling. Then there is my issue with the citations and notes, or lack thereof. They are horrible. Imprecise and vague. I couldn't find the "expanded notes" on line, either. Come on, Dave, you did a lot of research: show me! I spent hours looking stuff up myself on the Columbine Police Report. I had to do dozens of Google searches to find the right pages. I paid you $26.99, the least you could do is give pinpoint cites to the exact materials you used. And would it have inconvenienced you to give some pictures, some maps? A simple diagram or two of the school would have greatly enhanced my understanding of the movements of the two shooters. And a picture or two of the people being described would have, if nothing else, aided the readers attempts towards empathy. These are serious problems, in my opinion. But the book, in the end, is worthwhile and memorable, and filled with images that linger: the slices of pizza floating in the flooded cafeteria; Dylan's journal, filled with his ruminations on love; the two lonely killers, wandering a mostly-empty school, hoping for "suicide by cop"; Dylan's casket filled with Beanie Babies; Patrick Ireland - the boy who climbed out the window - dancing at his wedding; Linda Sanders telling about her loss: "'It's like, top Dave Sanders,' she said. 'It's not fair to another man to be compared to the man I've built. He's so high on a pedestal he's in heaven.'" The summer before I went to college, I went to a pre-term summer session meant to familiarize freshmen with the campus. This was in July 1999. In my small group, there was a girl who mentioned she had graduated from Columbine. When she said this, we looked at her with a hush, as Dante might have looked upon Virgil. We asked no questions aloud, yet wondered, as one, what she had seen. We attributed to her a certain sacred, dark knowledge as to what lay at the edge of it all. Dave Cullen makes a great attempt to answer the questions we never asked. [UPDATE: On December 14, 2012, they finally came for our children. Since Columbine, the symblolic beginning of a bloody era, gunmen have killed college students on their campuses, Christmas shoppers in their stores, worshippers in their temples, movie-goers in their theaters, and constituents at a congressional meet-and-greet. But today, ten days before Christmas, the last line was finally crossed. This time it was the little ones they shot to death. There are 300 million guns in America. 100,000 Americans get shot every year. 30,000 die. 32 people are murdered by guns every day. That's seven Virginia Techs in a week. We argue and debate everything in this country, but not gun control. It's the third rail of American politics. We aren't allowed to politicize a tragedy. The NRA, typically classless following Columbine, has effectively squelched any discourse. It's been thirteen years since Colubmine, and three years since I've read Dave Cullen's book. I have a kid of my own now. And if anything gets my attention these days, it's a room full of dead kindergarteners. I think today might be the day when the 1st Amendment puts its foot down on the 2nd Amendment. And puts its foot down hard.]

  12. 4 out of 5

    Greta G

    Godlike emotions Eric and Dylan were just kids. Something or someone must have led them astray. The parents, the Harrises and Klebolds, were the chief suspects. Virtually all the early news stories were infested with erroneous assumptions and comically wrong conclusions. All sorts of culprits contributing to the tragedy sprang to life incredibly fast: violent movies, video games, Goth culture, bullies, satan, a gay conspiracy, racism, Christians, Hitler’s birthday, Marilyn Manson. Stories were ci Godlike emotions Eric and Dylan were just kids. Something or someone must have led them astray. The parents, the Harrises and Klebolds, were the chief suspects. Virtually all the early news stories were infested with erroneous assumptions and comically wrong conclusions. All sorts of culprits contributing to the tragedy sprang to life incredibly fast: violent movies, video games, Goth culture, bullies, satan, a gay conspiracy, racism, Christians, Hitler’s birthday, Marilyn Manson. Stories were circulating that the killers had targeted Evangelicals as well as jocks and minorities. It grew more bizarre by the minute. Most of the public believes Columbine was an act of retribution for unspeakable jock-abuse and remembers the shooters as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Maffia snapping and tearing through the school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. The Trench Coat Maffia was mythologized because it was colorful, memorable and fit the existing myth of the school shooter as outcast loner. All the talk of bullying and alienation provided an easy motive; those were known threats. Most of those elements existed at Columbine, which is what gave them such currency. Media filtered every new development through that lens. They just had nothing to do with the murders. Few people knowledgeable about the case believe those myths anymore. Police detectives let go of the targeting theory immediately. Nearly all witnesses described the killing as random. For investigators, the big bombs changed everything : the scale, the method and the motive of the attack. Above all, it had been indiscriminate. Everyone was supposed to die. Primarily, it had been a bombing that failed. The shooters were already in the system. Eric and Dylan had been arrested junior year. They got caught breaking into a van to steal electronic equipment. They had entered a twelve-month Juvenile Diversion Program, performing community service and attending counselling. They had completed the program just three months before the massacre. Dylan had been caught scratching obscenities about “fags” into a freshman’s locker. Eric impersonated a special ed kid struggling to talk. They both had a penchant for picking on younger kids. Two years before the killing, Eric, Dylan and another friend would sneak out after midnight and vandalise houses of ‘the inferiors’ - targets chosen by Eric, kids he didn’t like or to retaliate for perceived insults. They hacked into the school computer and stole a list of locker combinations. They began breaking in. They had access to the computer closet and helped themselves to expensive equipment. Eric may even have started a credit card scam. More disturbing was a complaint filed thirteen months earlier by the Browns, the parents of the shooters’ friend Brooks Brown. Eric had made death threats toward Brooks. Twelve pages of murderous rants and hate spewing printed from his website had been compiled. Eric described going to some random downtown area in some big city and blowing up and shooting up everything he could. ”i don’t care if I live or die in the shootout, all I want to do is kill and injure as many of you pricks as I can!”, Eric wrote openly on his Website. The officers discovered substantial evidence that Eric was building pipe bombs. One investigator considered it serious enough to draft an affidavit for a search warrant against Eric’s home. But for some reason, the warrant was never taken before a judge. It was not acted upon in any way. In his journal, Eric would brag about topping McVeigh (the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing). Judgment Day, they called it. Eric and Dylan had been considering a killing spree for at least a year and a half. They had settled on the approximate time and location a year out: April, in the commons. A series of videos were specifically designed to explain the attack: the Basement Tapes. They were so disturbing that the sheriff’s department would choose to hide them from the public. Eric had documented everything. He’d wanted us to know. Dylan had wiped his hard drive clean. They both left handwritten journals behind. Mass murderers tend to work alone, but when they pair up, they rarely choose their mirror image. Eric and Dylan had remarkably different interior lives. Dylan always saw himself as unloved. The anger and the loathing traveled inward. When he got frustrated with himself, he would go crazy. It didn’t take much to trip his fragile ego. Some minor transgression would humiliate him and then the pain would boil over. Trip his anger and he erupted. When the Dean called him down, Dylan went ballistic. Dylan was pure emotion, logic was irrelevant. He was depressive and suicidal. ”My existence is shit”, he wrote in his journal. Eric was a psychopath. He could talk his way out with apologies, evasions, or claims of innocence, whatever the subject was susceptible to. He read people quickly and tailored his responses. ”I lie a lot. Almost constant. And to everybody.” he wrote. Eric was curiously unemotional. Extinction fantasies cropped up regularly and would obsess Eric in his final years. Happiness for Eric was eliminating the likes of us. “All you fuckers should die! DIE!” Eric ranted in his journal with the opening line ”I hate the fucking world”. Complete power over defenceless kids, that’s what Eric craved. “Zeus and I also get angry easily and punish people in unusual ways”, Eric wrote in a freshman paper titled “Similarities between Zeus and I”. And like Zeus, he was creative and had lots of ideas. Nuclear holocaust, biological warfare, imprisoning the species in a giant Ultimate Doom game. He always knew what he was up to. Dylan did not. Dylan took to referring to humans as zombies. Compared to humans, he was like God. ”I am GOD compared to some of these un-existable brainless zombies”, he wrote. Dylan was beginning to see it Eric’s way : ”the real people (gods) are slaves to the majority of zombies, but we know & love being superior...” That was a rare similarity to Eric; they both strongly believed in their own singularity and felt nothing but contempt for others. Both boys described their own uniqueness as self-awareness and enjoyed comparing themselves to God. “I feel like God. I am higher than almost anyone in the fucking world in terms of universal intelligence”, Eric wrote in his journal, which he dubbed “The Book of God”. ”We, the gods, will have so much fun w NBK(Natural Born Killers)!! My wrath will be godlike.” Dylan wrote in Eric’s yearbook. Eric offered hope for Dylan to get to godliness. In a short story written for a creative writing assignment, which was found in Dylan’s car, alongside the failed explosives, to be torn to bits in his final act, Dylan imagined how murder would feel. The story revolved around an angry man, gunning down a dozen kids. ”If I could face an emotion of god, it would have looked like the man. I not only saw in his face, but also feel eliminating from him power, complacence, closure, and godliness. The man smiled, and in an instant, thru no endeavor of my own, I understood his actions.” The story ended not with the murders, but with the godlike impact on the man behind them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    I had to constantly remind myself while reading Columbine that this was Not Fiction. I vaguely remember hearing about this massacre on the news back in the late 1990s but this has made me realise how little attention I pay to media reports as only while reading this book did I realise how devastating and shocking April 20th was for a whole community of people in Colorado. On 20th April 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold drove to their school, planted two bombs and took up stance outside the entra I had to constantly remind myself while reading Columbine that this was Not Fiction. I vaguely remember hearing about this massacre on the news back in the late 1990s but this has made me realise how little attention I pay to media reports as only while reading this book did I realise how devastating and shocking April 20th was for a whole community of people in Colorado. On 20th April 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold drove to their school, planted two bombs and took up stance outside the entrance door to the school in order to shoot fleeing students. The bombs failed but the massacre that these boys inflicted on their fellow students and their families and communities will never be forgotten. This book paints a very vivid account of before and after the shootings and the author Dave cullen was one of the Colorado journalists covering the story as it unfolded and he certainly seems to have done his research when putting this book together. At first I was disappointed the there was an absence of photos in the Book but the more I read the more I realized the book didn't need them, the only image is the photo on the cover of the actural school and I didn't even bother googling images of Harris or Klebold until I had finished the book. As a mother who does the school run every day, it is the last thing on my mind that something of this nature could every possibly occur in my sugar coated little world and this book really made me sit up and take notice. I was shocked at how these two boys could plan and bring about such devastation without their families or friends finding out about their plans. I felt so sorry for all the families involved and the whole community as how do you put the like of this behind you. I also felt for the families of Harris and Klebold as no parent brings up their kids to become monsters like these two. I am so aware while writing this review that so many of the students, teachers, families, and wider community will spend their lives trying to come to terms with what happened on April 20th and no amount of books will right the wrongs of that day or even begin to expalin to those involved why. This is a very detailed account of the massare at Comumbine and some readers may find it perhaps too detailed and difficult to read. Its an extremely well researched and well written book and while I found it difficult reading it is certainly informative and an eye opener. Not a book I am likely to forget in a hurry.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mariah Roze

    I have been wanting to read this book ever since it went through my newsfeed on Goodreads and boy, did this book not disappoint! This was a phenomenal story. It was well written and researched! This book was about explaining what happened on April 20, 1999; the start for the next two decades of school shooting. It was informative in telling that most of the information that we have been told about Columbine had been wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen- the a I have been wanting to read this book ever since it went through my newsfeed on Goodreads and boy, did this book not disappoint! This was a phenomenal story. It was well written and researched! This book was about explaining what happened on April 20, 1999; the start for the next two decades of school shooting. It was informative in telling that most of the information that we have been told about Columbine had been wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen- the author- was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years researching, interviewing, traveling for this book. He shares a ton of evidence: insight from the world's leading forensic psychologists, and the killers' own words and drawings. Cullen shares information about two polar opposite killers, while sharing information about their childhoods and the friends that they shared. Not only does he talk about the murders, but he sheds light on the students and staff that were killed. He talks about their lives before they were murder and their families' lives afterword. He shares about the survivors. Some of them being severely physically injured and others mentally and emotionally. He shared the difficulties and problems that the two families of the murders faced and still faced. This was an extremely good book that shed a lot of information about the school "bombing" (or at least that was the goal) on Columbine. I highly suggest this to everyone!

  15. 5 out of 5

    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 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 winning book written in 2009 is widely considered the definitive study of the Columbine shooting and follows two distinct narrative tracks. First, it details the lives of the two shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, from several years before the shooting, through the planning of the attack and the eventual consummation of the murders on April 20, 1999. The second storyline follows a group of survivors and their families from right before the shooting through the aftermath over the next ten years. The book is structured so that the chapters alternate between the two story-lines which I thought was very effective. The survivors storyline would itself make an interesting book as it chronicles the significant and permanent changes wrought on a small town community in the wake of a major tragedy. These include discussions of the following: (1) the numerous lawsuits stemming from law enforcement’s handling of the shooting (including an alleged cover-up regarding destruction of evidence); (2) fundamentalist religious movements using the “myth” of one of the victims professing her love for God right before being killed as a “rallying cry” for their members (I say myth because the book details how the event was later discovered never to have happened); (3) the battle between local leaders and the National Rifle Association when the NRA was scheduled to have their annual conference in Columbine shortly after the massacre and would not cancel the event; and (4) the radically different path that the survivors and their families lives followed after the shooting (both inspiring and tragic). All of these stories were extremely well researched and very deftly handled by the author who left me with the feeling that he truly cared about the material about which he was writing. As interesting and important as the above narrative track was, the story of Eric and Dylan and their road to the massacre was what I found the most compelling (as well as deeply disturbing). Through the detailed journals and home made videos of the two boys, we are given an inside look into two very disturbed minds. This is especially true in the case of Eric Harris who, as I mention below, was an actual SOCIOPATH (yes like Dahmer, Gacy and Bundy). I found these sections to be ABSOLUTELY RIVETING. It is in telling the story of these two boys that the author explodes many of the “myths” surrounding the Columbine massacre that I think many people still believe (I know I did before I read this). MYTH #1: The Columbine Massacre was the result of the killers being bullied and was directed against the jocks and popular kids at the school. TRUTH: The massacre was orchestrated by Eric Harris (more on him below) who was smart, popular and of average looks. Neither of the two shooters were subjected to bullying or abuse as their journals (discovered after the shooting) make clear. MYTH #2: The Columbine Massacre was perpetrated by basically decent kids who were simply deeply “troubled” depressed and suicidal. TRUTH: Dylan Klebold fits this image and while he can not be considered a victim by any stretch of the imagination, he was “recruited” by Eric Harris to help him with the massacre. Eric Harris, on the other hand WAS A PSYCHOPATH PURE AND SIMPLE. He was a real life younger version of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho who wanted nothing more than to conduct the greatest mass murder in American History. Through Eric’s detailed and extraordinarily disturbing journals and home made videos, we see a person with all of the traits of a classic, sadistic sociopath including, (a) a calm, controlled exterior; (b)someone who is extremely manipulative and able to convince people of almost anything; (c) being totally without empathy or any strong emotional feelings; (d) a complete inability to feel any guilt or remorse and (e) believing himself superior to the entire world which (in his words) didn’t deserve to even live. MYTH #3: The Columbine killers had “target” lists of specific people they intended to kill. TRUTH: The Columbine massacre was not even intended to be a “shooting.” The killers intended to “blow up” the school and use the guns only to kill stragglers who survived the initial blast. They set up home-made pipe bombs that were planted around the school cafeteria and set to go off at a precise moment when the cafeteria would be the most crowded. One of their goals was to kill more people than the Oklahoma bombing of 1995 and they had no specific targets in mind. Fortunately, the bombs did not go off which is why this fact is not as well known. Overall, I found this to be a fascinating and book and a disturbing look inside the mind of a teenage killer. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

  16. 5 out of 5

    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 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 read this book mainly while visiting my parents in upstate New York. Where I went to high school from November of 10th grade till graduation. I switched from a high school of roughly 800 people in four grades to one comparably the population size of Columbine. I hated both schools for different reasons. I had my own fantasies of everyone in my high schools dying. I have a feeling I'm not alone in those feelings. 3. This book debunks myths. Eric and Dylan weren't goths. They weren't loners. If they were bullied it didn't cause much of an effect on them. They bullied other young kids. They also apparently didn't like Marilyn Manson. 4. About fourteen months before Columbine I wrote this song: "Kill your mom Kill your dad Kill your dog Kill your cat Kill your mom Kill your dad Kill your neighbors Kill your friends, nobody understands me Marilyn Manson does nobody gets me Marilyn Manson does" I performed it live once in a one off band. If Columbine had already happened I'm certain it would have affected the song, and not in a tasteful way. 5. This book, even though the author expressly states in the beginning that he wouldn't want the book to be read this way, feels like it's giving the final word on the topic. The summation is that Eric was 'evil' (or a psychopath), Dylan was depressed and that together they played off each other just right make a massacre happen. I think something is still missing, something that isn't there to be found out lurking in those two kid's immature and angry minds. I don't think the why can really be answered, if they had backed out at the last minute and went on to lead 'normal' lives I don't think they would be able to truthfully tell you why today. 6. The conspiracy people on the internet believe that the two, or at least Eric was raped by a cop January of their junior year. There is some interesting evidence, and there is some evidence that would only work in a novel, but not necessarily in real life. 7. School shootings I find fascinating. Somewhere in the mid-90's angry white kids stopped killing themselves in the 1980's heavy metal way and started to take others with them. This is the fact I find fascinating. Fortunately for me I grew up in the suicide teen generation. When parents and teachers flipped out kids might start killing themselves in droves and started to hand out tests to pin-point which of the students were sad bastards likely to be a threat to themselves, and a certain person set off all kinds of flags for his answers to those tests the worst he was subjected to was a letter home from the school shrink. If shootings had been in vogue it's possible the same person might have been visited by the fuzz. 8. Almost 7 years to the day before Columbine, when I was a senior in high school a kid who was almost as much of a loser outcast as myself shot himself in the head with a .22 rifle right in front of the flagpole in the parking lot of the Junior/Senior High Schools. He killed himself at night, his body wasn't discovered until kids started arriving at school, and his body was moved and left on a cafeteria table where Junior High kids could see it. Surprisingly this didn't get the school to close down. The 'freaks' in the two schools rallied around this kid and turned him into something of a hero. Five months earlier a car full of football players got shit faced out in the woods and then on their way back to down wrapped their car around a tree. The driver lived. Everyone else died. The kids who died were pretty much deified by the majority of the students and the faculty. Four months (or a month after the jocks) earlier another kid in the high school dropped dead in the mall from some kind medical defect. He went the way of total obscurity. 9. Why did Teddy choose to shot himself in front of the school? Five years later would he have been more likely to take some people with him? What was the point where kids decided to spectacularly kill and go out in a blaze of glory instead of just going for high profile (relatively) suicides? 10. This book is quite interesting. It's a sad book, not just because of the 14 people who got killed by Eric and Dylan and because it is a true story, but because of how many people involved in this whole mess were self interested assholes, how quickly people turned petty, how quickly the truth was pushed aside for feel-good (ok, feel-better) stories. 11. I'm really not sure how to review this book. Instead it was kind of like a therapy session for me, and what better way to handle all of this than to air all of the dredged up shit for anyone to read who wants to.

  17. 4 out of 5

    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 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 repeatedly creating actually stands for in the context of my lifetime. April 19th, April 19th, April 19th. Only once I arrived home and was halfway through my all-nighter read of the last 1/3rd of this book did the light-bulb illuminating reality decide to flicker back on, and I realized my disturbingly appropriate timing. I finished reading Dave Cullen's sobering journalistic piece on the Columbine Massacre in the early morning hours of the 14th anniversary of the Columbine Massacre. Not just that, but I had spent the entire previous evening typing in the 20 year anniversary date of the siege at Waco, and the 18th year after the Murrah bombing. And I grew up in Oklahoma City. The world is currently so chaotic that I completely blanked on all the other major tragedies I had grown up around, and even seen firsthand. Jaded, or simply overwhelmed by the flood of refuse we have recently been forced to swim through, I don't like the idea that so much misery could slip from memory so easily. However, I know am not alone in forgetting. As Cullen points out, not one change was made to gun laws in the wake of Columbine. People just...moved on to other things. Of course, leeway regarding my temporary amnesia is a given considering the events of the last week, nay, the last year or so. I did, however, realize beforehand that my eyes had stopped on and selected this title on my bookshelf due to the recent resurgence of futile debates centering on gun control in the United States. It felt like an appropriate time to revisit this many times since trumped tragedy, as it seems to be the point where the world really began to notice what was already an epidemic of glorification of and widespread access to semiautomatic weapons in this country. No, I do not wish to debate this matter. I don't want to take your gun away. I do, however, think popular opinion regarding things like background checks and the future sale of military-grade assault weapons to civilians has made its voice well known, and in a shout, at that. Regardless, it doesn't really matter what I think anyway. Apparently, it doesn't even matter one whit what most of us think. In the weeks before the shooting in Colorado, Eric Harris wrote in his journal to lament the existence of background checks in his state, then went on to examine the Brady Bill in detail, eventually celebrating all the loopholes present for gun shows. The semiautomatic rifle and two shotguns used by the killers would, as a result, come from gun shows. Interpret and respond to that information however you will. Again, it won't matter. There are a few distinct items that I would like to address about this book which form a sort of trinity of deception and misconception concerning the event, much of which is still popular, though indisputably refuted, belief regarding the hows and whys. When Cullen is at his most fierce, he is taking on the Media's misleading and exploitative coverage, the law enforcement cover-ups of their own ineptitude via literal document-shredding combined with the revealing information they "protected" us from for years after the massacre, and the Church's non-stop capitalizing on the inevitable shock and aftershock. Having been in high school during the shooting, it is not a faint memory. We all remember a few things about the tragedy: the boys who did this were social outcasts. The boys who did this targeted "jocks" and "popular kids." One girl pronounced her love of God just before being executed, thereby becoming a modern-day martyr. It was presented as a classic good vs. evil, wholesome vs. strange, God vs. The Devil dichotomy of humanity. Oh, and the media ate it up. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department allowed it to swell to a frenzy of widely-embraced misinformation, despite striking amounts of (classified, naturally) hard evidence to the contrary. The Church used it as a recruitment tool, at times callously reveling in their good fortune in the aftermath of the tragedy. A perfect storm of nonsense rained down. The facts? Cassie Bernall was not the girl who professed her Christianity, despite what the Church and publishers of her biography will have you believe even to this day. The real source of this pronouncement of faith did not die, and the last word Cassie Bernall heard before being shot in the head was not "God," but "peekaboo." The killers were not social outcasts, were not part of the high school "goth" clique known as "The Trench Coat Mafia," their targets were not specific and retribution-based, but rather: blind, indiscriminate. Their aim was maximum carnage, the highest possible body count. Both boys came from stable, supportive two-parent homes. They were not bullied, they didn't listen to Marilyn Manson or worship Satan, they were not isolated from or ridiculed by their peers any more than every other high schooler endures at one point or another. Dylan Klebold attended his prom two days before the shooting. Eric Harris had a belt on which were many notches, and his female schoolmates widely considered him desirable. These were not vengeful weirdos, but a certifiable psychopath and the suicidal depressive who clung to the former's shadow for sustenance. The emotionally void alpha and the over-emotioned and erratic submissive, each on his own quest for death: one to die in infamy, the other simply to die. Cullen's narrative, though presented in a nonlinear fashion, manages to lay out a timeline for the events, to examine the real, inevitably complex psychology behind the tragedy, and to debunk the entire, entirely false widespread memory that is the events of April 20th, 1999. Considering the facts, and by that I mean the real facts, can be terrifying. I understand why a lot of people would love to believe that simple things like anti-bullying programs or church camp could work to prevent another such shooting. Of course, those of us who have been paying attention know beyond a shadow of a doubt that things have only gotten worse since Klebold and Harris took their own lives. The simple fact is that two neurologically impaired juvenile felons were allowed ready access to high-powered weaponry designed for battlefields, making a warzone of their own high school, and because of, well, nothing really. The inanity alone is maddening. The true causes are no sources of comfort, but it is crucial that we as a society force ourselves to face them, and to take the appropriate precautionary steps, particularly regarding the availability of frighteningly effective means to spree kill. Especially now. Right now. Turn on your television and then tell me you don't at least see my point.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie *Extremely Stable Genius*

    (02-15-18) I originally wrote this review in 2013 and I thought this would be a good day to bump it up into the feed. When I re-read this, I squelched the urge to rewrite any of it (Which I will do...after I cringe at what I had written.) because I did want to preserve what I was feeling at the time. In fact, I totally forgot I even wrote this. If you have the time, read the comments...that’s where the most interesting stuff happens. It’s unbelievable what has happened to this country in the pas (02-15-18) I originally wrote this review in 2013 and I thought this would be a good day to bump it up into the feed. When I re-read this, I squelched the urge to rewrite any of it (Which I will do...after I cringe at what I had written.) because I did want to preserve what I was feeling at the time. In fact, I totally forgot I even wrote this. If you have the time, read the comments...that’s where the most interesting stuff happens. It’s unbelievable what has happened to this country in the past five years. Also, I want to put an article that I read today that I find fascinating and completely depressing.....Cheers! https://eand.co/why-were-underestimat... Original review..... 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 bipolar individual. Eric planned the day extensively for a couple of years and they both documented everything with journals and videos. These were used by the author who did a fantastic bit of journalism with this book. There was so much more to what happened than we were told. This wasn't supposed to be a shooting, or at least not just a shooting, Eric had a vision of total destruction. The two had planted bombs in the school inside duffle bags as well as in their cars. The bombs were designed to kill 500 people. Eric wanted to kill everyone and thankfully he failed to figure out how to detonate his bombs. So Eric and Dylan were forced to use their guns instead, guns they could only get at a gun show. David Cullen a reporter on the scene April 20th 1999 made it his mission to learn everything there was to learn about this tragedy. He spent the next ten years doing just that with this book being the result. Columbine not only takes us into the minds of the killers but into police cover-ups on prior incidents with Eric and Dylan and how glaringly obvious it was that they were going to do very bad things. It follows up on the families of the victims and what has become of them over the years. A bit of a personal rant here. I am not a gun fan. If I had my way I'd melt every last one of them down. I know this isn't a terribly popular opinion in this country but it is how I feel. I don't understand the love affair many people in the United States have with these things designed for nothing but destruction. I know that melting down all the guns won't happen (yet), but I do believe we have to start coming up with some strong regulations to stop future Eric-s and Dylan-s, James-s and Adam-s. Because no matter their mental state, their killings would not have been possible if they didn't have access to an arsenal. After reading Columbine I came to another conclusion. Every parent needs to go through their kids personal stuff. Screw privacy. I can't figure out how these two guys could have amassed the fire power and bomb makings, video taped themselves and wrote the whole plan out in journals in their parents houses and their parents didn't know! They were basically screaming "I am going to kill as many people as I can!!" I would be one nosy, annoying mom if I had any children.....boy would they hate me and I wouldn't care.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    There are few books on the tragedy of Columbine that tell it properly - what I mean is, it's rare to find a book (or documentary or film for that matter) which doesn't sensationalize it, dryly recite it, romanticize it or use it to push a political agenda. The truth? The real truth? It's in the eyes and the words and the photos left behind of the people who lived it, and this book is as best of an account as I've ever read, written by someone who was one of the first on the scene back when it ha There are few books on the tragedy of Columbine that tell it properly - what I mean is, it's rare to find a book (or documentary or film for that matter) which doesn't sensationalize it, dryly recite it, romanticize it or use it to push a political agenda. The truth? The real truth? It's in the eyes and the words and the photos left behind of the people who lived it, and this book is as best of an account as I've ever read, written by someone who was one of the first on the scene back when it happened. School shootings are an undeniably disturbing topic, but Columbine handles it with sensitivity and respect, looking into the lives of the two perpetrators beyond the gossip, the stereotypes and the horror stories. While some sources blamed music like Marilyn Manson and others blamed violent video games, Dave Cullen doesn't explore it that way, nor does he try to lay the blame on any one thing. There's no dramatic Breakfast Clubesque monologues about the cruelty of jocks and cheerleaders, no tales of abusive foster homes or alcoholic parents - instead Cullen gives the simplest and best answer grounded in psychology that anybody could give, and in that blunt truth there's both the power to provoke a sense of either closure or rage depending on the reader. Every generation has its horror story. For my generation it was 9/11. For my parents' generation, it was the Cambodian Genocide and Jonestown. For my little brother's generation, it's the 2011 Norway Attacks. With these come our subconscious fears. I was taught (unintentionally, I should add) to be wary of terrorists in school. Perhaps in the 1970's, some kids were warned by their parents to avoid hippie cults as the horrors of Jonestown unfolded on television for the first time. In the 1990's, it was Columbine, and this book captures exactly why it may be so difficult to let it go.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Absolutely mesmerizing from start to finish. Columbine is a spell-binding true crime that is the very embodiment of "page-turner." Cullen is a brilliant researcher and writer who has written the last word on the Columbine High School massacre of April 20, 1999. Note: If you have not yet seen the short supplementary video on Cullen's blog, I urge you to check it out; it's very interesting (right-hand side, under "Columbine Book Trailer"): http://www.davecullenblog.com/ Update: October 2, 2013. Col Absolutely mesmerizing from start to finish. Columbine is a spell-binding true crime that is the very embodiment of "page-turner." Cullen is a brilliant researcher and writer who has written the last word on the Columbine High School massacre of April 20, 1999. Note: If you have not yet seen the short supplementary video on Cullen's blog, I urge you to check it out; it's very interesting (right-hand side, under "Columbine Book Trailer"): http://www.davecullenblog.com/ Update: October 2, 2013. Columbine made Charles Graeber's Top 10 True Crime Books: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013... Update: August 15, 2014. Readers wanting to explore the subject of psychopathy (which Cullen discusses) further ought to read Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, a book Cullen references in Columbine. Update: February 13, 2016. On February 12, 2016, Dylan Klebold's mother, Sue Klebold, was interviewed for the first time on television by Diane Sawyer on "20/20." This is Dave Cullen's reaction to that: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/0... Update: June 7, 2019. "Columbine shooting: District suggests tearing down school" https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-can...

  21. 5 out of 5

    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 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 lack of photos, but I think it does give the book seriousness and keeps it from supermarket sensationalism. A map of the school would have helped, though. It was hard to follow some of the crime scene descriptions without one. Cullen has done an absolutely masterful job with a painful subject here. The writing makes the book as easy to read as a novel. He did his best to include everyone's point of view and to be as fair as possible and as kind as possible to everyone. This is one of the best true crime novels I've ever read, and it's one of the best disaster novels I've ever read. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were both criminals and a disaster waiting to happen. Once you read this book, you'll be grateful that the damage they did was limited. It could have been much, much worse. And isn't that a crazy thing to say?

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I read this book shortly after - reading “A Mother’s Reckoning”.. Living in the Aftermath of a Tragedy ...by Sue Klebold I owned this book years before reading it - it had been passed to me by a neighbor- but by the time I did read it .... I found it more complete - and easier to take in - than in than Sue Klebold’s book. It was almost anti-climatic by the time I read it ... But what stood out was how much I admired the author!!! How much more I learned .... So many of emotions were stirred - in Su I read this book shortly after - reading “A Mother’s Reckoning”.. Living in the Aftermath of a Tragedy ...by Sue Klebold I owned this book years before reading it - it had been passed to me by a neighbor- but by the time I did read it .... I found it more complete - and easier to take in - than in than Sue Klebold’s book. It was almost anti-climatic by the time I read it ... But what stood out was how much I admired the author!!! How much more I learned .... So many of emotions were stirred - in Sue’s book - (I wasn’t thrilled with it and admit to be judgmental)... still not a fan of her book -but read it all — so it was as if I needed to complete my Columbine reading cycle with DAVE CULLEN. I never felt the need to write another ‘Columbine’ review when there were already so many by the time I read it - but it’s excellent!!! I’m only writing this now to share WHY I’m reading “Parkland”, by Dave Cullen. His writing - research - professionalism - is top notch!!! I’m ‘listening’ to Dave Cullen read “Parkland”, this time around - rather than read his words as I did in Columbine. It’s giving me an added experience - ( again)... Dave Cullen being the ‘man’/ writer I trust and admire profoundly. Anything written by Dave Cullen is worth reading!!!!!

  23. 5 out of 5

    jv poore

    Relevant upon release, this book is imperative right now.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Britany

    The moment the shooting at Columbine happened would be a moment that I would never forget. It would alter the way I experienced school and it would break the safe bubble of invincibility I always thought that I had. I was in 8th grade on April 20, 1999 getting ready to graduate from middle school and walk across the shared campus to high school. I was young and impressionable and the circumstances and media reporting on this event was absorbed differently than it was for future school shooting e The moment the shooting at Columbine happened would be a moment that I would never forget. It would alter the way I experienced school and it would break the safe bubble of invincibility I always thought that I had. I was in 8th grade on April 20, 1999 getting ready to graduate from middle school and walk across the shared campus to high school. I was young and impressionable and the circumstances and media reporting on this event was absorbed differently than it was for future school shooting events. Honestly, I had my own storyline of events for this shooting and was hazy on the specific details. The one thing that always stood out on my mind was who the shooters were-- Dylan Klebold & Eric Harris-- and for that, I'm forever disappointed that I couldn't name a single victim (and there were 13!) but without even pausing I could tell you who the shooters were. I had this book on my radar for a long time and finally cracked it open for a book club pick. I was finally ready to find out what really happened, what I thought I knew-- turns out was QUITE different. Misconceptions about this event were rampant (and this was prior to the 24 hour news cycle) mostly these were perpetrated by the media. The first 100 pages torn me apart- shred by shred; page by page. My heart broke open a thousand times reading the accounts of these victims and the sadness that enveloped the school so quickly. I wasn't sure I would be able to get through the whole book and in what condition. That quickly dissipated once I moved onto the part 2. Dave Cullen removed himself as a journalist throughout the narrative (I enjoyed seeing when he inserted himself through the notes). He effortlessly tells the story of Eric & Dylan- their downward spiral and the elaborate plans that they created. He weaves their stories with the harrowing last minutes of the victims. Dave Sanders for me was the one that stole my whole heart. I was horrified to read how long he held on only to bleed out 3-1/2 hours later because the police were more concerned about securing the perimeter. Meanwhile, Patrick Ireland was jumping out of the window-- anxiously trying to escape. For me, these two particular story lines took this book to another level for me. The only downside to this book was that not all the victims were represented-- they all didn't get space in Mr. Cullen's book and I am not sure why some of these stories were left out. Also, for whatever reason- I never got back to the emotional level of those first crucial hundred pages. Thank you for setting my personal record of this event straight, Mr Cullen. I was wrong on so many levels and wasn't aware of the rest of the many issues stemming from this event. For me, Columbine will never be forgotten.

  25. 5 out of 5

    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 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… Quite a freakin’ sight actually. Then there was the gypsy woman who would light candles on stage and sit in lotus position and recite poems for the dead. Then there were the lumberjack brothers. (Stay with me, I’ll get to the point) They showed up each Monday, ordered whatever was on tap, and sit back to watch the show. These guys weren’t what you’d imagine coming to Stone Soup, but they were cool. They’d talk to Maurice and were encouraging. They always had their t-shirts and flannel tucked into their jeans… yeah, our own little family. Well, one night the brothers got on stage and delivered this song-poem… I wish I had it…One brother would be the human beat box, the other chanted the words… I can only remember the chorus…. Rubber neck….(ticticticpssssticticticboombaheeeeeeeeeh)rubberneck…. rubberneck….yeah. Rubberneck…. (ticticticpssssticticticboombaheeeeeeeeeh) So, yeah… that’s what I found myself repeating while I read this book. (See? Point.) I barely registered the Columbine Shooting. I did see Elephant and Bowling for Columbine so, there’s that… I remember the CNN footage of kids streaming out of the building with their hands on their heads, the boy that pushed himself out the window. Those images are branded and pretty much sum it up for me. This book, well, I can’t express… no, I probably can… I think I just want to stop analyzing my emotions throughout this book. Cullen’s writing is to the point, graphic when necessary, journalistic most of the time. Makes sense….Yet, he can draw out the story and plant the pictures in your head with amazing grace. You get it. You get that you’ll never ever get it. The Hare Psychopathy Checklist: Factor1: Personality "Aggressive narcissism" Glibness/superficial charm Grandiose sense of self-worth Pathological lying Cunning/manipulative Lack of remorse or guilt Shallow affect Callous/lack of empathy Failure to accept responsibility for own actions Factor2: Case history "Socially deviant lifestyle". Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom Parasitic lifestyle Poor behavioral control Promiscuous sexual behavior Lack of realistic long-term goals Impulsivity Irresponsibility Juvenile delinquency Early behavior problems Revocation of conditional release Traits not correlated with either factor Many short-term marital relationships Criminal versatility Jesus-freaking-Christ. The list is frightening. As a mom, even more so… I can’t even imagine. Should I?? I don’t know, but I know that my heart breaks for those families. One of them quoted Shakespeare in one of the Basement Tapes (oh yeah, I googled the shit out of Columbine after reading this--rubberneck…..) “Good wombs have borne bad sons”--I can’t…. even go there. So, I take the analytical approach. I’m uncomfortable around all the religious fervor brought on by this. I’m not saying it’s wrong or right or anything. I’m just saying that the images and words surrounding ‘God’s will’ made me squirm. Especially this line, spoken by a pastor: He shared a vision his youth pastor had received while ministering to the Bernalls: “I saw Cassie, and I saw Jesus, hand in hand. Andy they had just gotten married. They had just celebrated their marriage ceremony. And Cassie kind of winked over at me, like, “I’d like to talk, but I’m so much in love.” Her greatest prayer was to find the right guy. Don’t you think she did? Okay. I’m not sure that would be of comfort to me. And I’m saying that this is a subjective example of the religion kickback, this is all me---being kind of weirded out by that paragraph. Cullen does this well… plays on this. He can be snarky and he can deliver the facts...letting your own momentum carry you away. It’s creepy. Some statistics: 83% blame the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (still) 100% of school shooters have been male (at the time the study was completed) 93% planned their attack 98% had suffered a lost or failure they perceived as serious 81% of the shooters had confided their intentions. More than half told at least two people. I can’t recall ever being afraid of a school shooting. We didn’t have metal detectors and there were loudly announced death threats almost daily.. This just wasn’t on my radar. But, to study these two kids and the psychopath checklist and realize that so many of what was released by the media about these guys (they were loners, they were Goths, they were targeting the jocks, they had a trench coat mafia) was false… I could probably name at least two people that would qualify. Again, creepy. In his journal, one of the guys said “ I want to leave a lasting impression on this world.” Done. But, I’m not sure in what way. I guess perplexed is another emotion that I can add to the list.

  26. 5 out of 5

    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 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 was a psychopath who had actually planned a massive school bombing -- not just a shooting -- and his ultimate fantasy was to kill all mankind. None of his big bombs at the school worked (thank god) but he and Dylan Klebold continued with the mass shootings. The author thinks Dylan was depressed and just wanted to commit suicide, but he had been conscripted into Eric's plan. Dave Cullen researched and reported on Columbine for nine years. The book starts a few days before the shootings, but chapters also cover the years leading up to the massacre, so you see how the boys gradually arrived at their plan for murder. This book was especially meaningful to me because I was working as a video editor at a TV station on April 20, 1999. I remember one of the producers saying, "Uh, something's going on in Colorado. The AP wire is going nuts." I spent the rest of my day watching the incoming video footage, and then I had to edit it for the evening newscasts. For several months after Columbine, I couldn't watch movies with any violence in them -- I had become nauseated from the real thing. I didn't realize how haunting those images were until the 10-year anniversary of the shootings, and all that footage was replayed. Watching Patrick Ireland fall out of the library window again and again and again was like a god-awful movie on cable that just kept being rerun. At least now, I better understand why it all happened. And to anyone who instantly blames the parents of the kids, I would say that you should read this book before you start judging. Eric's father was very strict and tried to discipline him. The problem is that psychopaths may be beyond help or redemption. I felt sympathy for the parents after reading this book, and empathized with the guilt and grief and anger that they must have gone through. I highly recommend the book to anyone who loves good narrative nonfiction or who has an interest in the psychopathy of criminals. Those interested in law enforcement would also appreciate the book, because this was the case that drastically changed the way officers handled mass shooters.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jonetta

    I recently read Sue Klebold's A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, which is outstanding, so I thought it best to listen to a definitive account of not only what happened at Columbine but also objective analyses of the two shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. Sue made some assertions about Eric Harris and her son that made me wonder if these were her perceptions or those widely shared. Thankfully, this story supports so much of what she shared in her story so my opinion o I recently read Sue Klebold's A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, which is outstanding, so I thought it best to listen to a definitive account of not only what happened at Columbine but also objective analyses of the two shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. Sue made some assertions about Eric Harris and her son that made me wonder if these were her perceptions or those widely shared. Thankfully, this story supports so much of what she shared in her story so my opinion of that book remains unchanged. Now, on to this book. I remember being really confused about the details of the Columbine shooting and the two students responsible months after the time it occurred. Much of what I read in the media just didn't make sense or kept changing. There's a good reason for my dilemma based on what I learned here. As if the murder and mayhem wasn't bad enough, the behavior of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, who was in charge of the response and the ensuing investigation, added additional layers of grief and stress. Add to that a rabid media desperate for details and you end up with a horrible brew that has poorly impacted the community and beyond. I listened to this book and it was a very good production. I'm particularly glad that I listened to the author's foreword as he provided valuable insight about his resources and exclusions. I highly recommend this book in any format as it will best inform you about one of the most important events in our US history. There's lots to learn in hindsight.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    Columbine: Two heavily armed students go on a killing spree because they were bullied and ostracized, so they set out to take revenge against the jocks and all the other popular kids. Except that's not what actually happened. Dave Cullen's investigative book shines when he dissects how the tragedy was portrayed by different sides and why: The police tried to cover up that they had gotten hints regarding Eric Harris, one of the perptetrators, for over a year; the media has the duty to inform and Columbine: Two heavily armed students go on a killing spree because they were bullied and ostracized, so they set out to take revenge against the jocks and all the other popular kids. Except that's not what actually happened. Dave Cullen's investigative book shines when he dissects how the tragedy was portrayed by different sides and why: The police tried to cover up that they had gotten hints regarding Eric Harris, one of the perptetrators, for over a year; the media has the duty to inform and the public wants to know, but depending on how they report, this means helping the aims of the shooters (and what kind of coverage is better for the ratings?); the media, the church and some Evangelicals turned one of the victims into a martyr based on a false story; and then there's the NRA, politicians, parents of dead and surviving students, the parents of the killers, the school administration and of course: The surviving students themselves, many struggling with PTSD and survivor's guilt, who suddenly found themsleves attending a school that has became an international symbol for human malice. Cullen does a great job disentangling this web of perspectives and piecing the whole picture back together. He states the facts and dives into the psychologies of the killers and those they affected, which leads to a haunting and fascinating portrayal of how the survivors dealt with grief and anger. The most upsetting part though is that the shooting at Columbine did not lead to a serious reform of American gun laws. In Parkland: Birth of a Movement, Cullen then discusses how the survivors themselves, meaning some high school kids, have taken matters into their own hands, because they were sick and tired of legislators sending them "thoughts and prayers" instead of doing their job. All in all, this is a very insightful book and there's lots to learn from it. Unfortunately, the first part is by far the weakest, so just keep at it, you will be rewarded.

  29. 5 out of 5

    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.

  30. 4 out of 5

    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 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. Cullen shows that this portrait is mostly a product of journalists and authorities grasping at easy explanations and (in the authorities' case) rationalizing breathtaking incompetence. The facts are that the boys were relatively popular, smart kids, with loving parents. They could be odd, capable of over-the-top behavior (but what teenager isn't). Everyone assumed that they would be going to college in the next year. They both attended prom. In a lot of ways, they didn't seem too different from other troubled kids who somehow manage to lurch their way through adolesence. But there were differences. Psychologists would determine that Harris was a psychopath, largely incapable of feeling empathy or compassion. Like all psychopaths, he had a huge sense of superiority over others, seeing people as having no value. Generally, he kept control of his emotions, but he could quickly become angry when things didn't go exactly his way. Like all psychopaths, he was extremely manipulative, charming people to get his way. Klebold, a kid with an incredibly negative sense of self was a follower who was ready to be manipulated. Where Harris was calculating, Klebold was overly emotional. He was obsessed with love but was convinced that he would never be loved in turn. Friends and friends' parents liked Klebold. Still, it was obvious that he had his problems. He was an extreme depressive with a great deal of inwardly-directed rage and an obsession with suicide. Sometimes, that rage would be directed outward, and that's what Harris worked on. Cullen pulls no punches when it comes to describing the ways both boys came to commit mass murder. He describes their troubled (and troubling) inner lives without using this as an excuse for their actions. In all, the author is very even-handed. He doesn't try to make a moral tale out of his story, but he doesn't shy away from placing blame. Aside from the perpetrators, Cullen directs a lot of that blame at the police for their actions, both before and after the incident. (A police acquaintance of mine at the time said that authorities in Columbine had pretty much done everything wrong.) The sheriff's department, which had primary jurisdiction, treated the incident as a hostage situation; however, the shooters had no intention of taking hostages, as was fairly evident from their conduct at the time. This mischaracterization led police to handle the situation in the wrong way. Even though a police liason officer was present near the start of the killings, he chose to take cover and call for back-up, then stayed behind his car. The shooters were allowed to have the run of the school for almost 30 minutes before SWAT teams were allowed to move in. The sheriff's department began its cover-up even as SWAT teams were still searching the school. The sheriff shifted blame onto the killers' parents, onto the school administration, onto secular American culture. What the sheriff didn't say was that his department already knew of Harris's potential for violence. He had been involved in increasingly serious crimes and several public complaints had been filed against him. Police were aware that he had been making his own bombs and that he had made death threats. The full extent of the killers' twisted inner lives would be revealed in the aftermath of the massacre, when authorities would have access to the extensive journals, videos, and online postings Harris and Klebold had produced, setting forth their world views. In their respective journals, Klebold was obsessed with his own personal extinction, Harris with the extinction of all humanity. A lot of this was known to the sheriff's department, which chose to ignore it. Ultimately, it would take repeated judicial orders to make this information public. News media also shares a lot of blame for the long-held misunderstanding of what went on. The 24-hour news cycle's drve for immediate and constant information led reporters to settle for rumors and snap judgements, rather than digging for hard facts. (Not for the first or last time.) TV journalism's propensity to seek easy explanations led to the characterization of the killers as goths, victims of bullies, video game obsessives, neo-Nazis, etc. A lot of misinformation grew out of early coverage and took hold as "reliable" information. Some of it was at least partly true, but much of it was false. Cullen has procuced a remarkable work of reportage. The story is absolutely gripping. Often, books about crime go for shock, dwelling on the lurid aspects, playing up blood and gore and death of innocents for emotional impact. Cullen does not stoop to this. He is very matter-of-fact about the events he describes, allowing the story to tell itself. He does an excellent job of recounting events in the school during the massacre, as well as describing the minds of the perpetrators, but he goes well beyond this. Cullen writes about the anguish of the Klebolds as they came to terms with what their son had done. (The Harrises have refused to give interviews.) He also explores the different ways survivors and loved ones dealt with the aftermath, how some people came to forgiveness and others cultivated and channeled their anger. After Columbine, schools got serious about being proactive and averting this potential nightmare. Almost every school in the country has an emergency plan based on what people think are the "lessons of Columbine." As Cullen points out, however, many of these are false lessons. (Anyone who has paid attention to accounts of schools expelling students for nail-clipper possession or overreacting to a violent fictional story turned in by a creative writing student will realize the results of these false lessons.) Hopefully, my fellow educators will read this book and think about it.

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