Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine by Dave Cullen
Published by Twelve

On April 20, 1999, two high school boys walked onto their school campus and began executing their fellow students and teachers.  Their goal was to blow up the entire school, but when that plan didn’t work, they just began killing anyone and everyone they could.  There are a lot of myths circulating about this horrific tragedy, but reporter Dave Cullen goes beyond the stories and guesses and delivers a shockingly honest portrayal of the killers.  The truth about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold has finally been revealed in Columbine – this is the story America has been waiting to hear.

I had been hearing good things about Columbine ever since its release, but I was in no way prepared for how fantastic this book is.  Here is a piece of seriously awesome investigative journalism, featuring a story that Americans think they understand, but in reality most people have no idea what really happened with Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold that fateful day.  Dave Cullen’s Columbine is THE book to read if you are at all interested in hearing the truth about the tragedy in Colorado.

There were a few things that stood out to me about this book.  The first is, absolutely, the writing.  Cullen so masterfully told the story of the Columbine tragedy that it could have just as easily been a novel as a true story.  It reminded me quite a bit of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood – it really was that good.  This is nonfiction for people who normally shy away from  nonfiction – nonfiction that reads so much like fiction, you can easily forget you’re reading about true events.

Another thing that I marveled at throughout reading the book was how many myths about the Columbine tragedy I had believed.  The “story” the media gave the world about that day is shockingly far from the truth, and for that reason alone Columbine is a really important book – it sets the story straight, gives people the truth about the killers and the people, places, and things that shaped their worlds.  I was surprised to learn of how many obvious clues they left for years before the shooting, how “normal” they presented as to family and friends, and how scarily thorough their plan was for the day of the massacre.  I learned SO much from reading this book, I couldn’t even really begin to share it all.

I took in Columbine in audiobook format, and I have to tell you, it was the perfect way to read the book.  The narrator was Don Leslie and he was absolutely brilliant – he had the most haunting voice that somehow had the perfect mix of emotion and clear delivering of the facts.  He was just perfect for this particular book.

So I would definitely, very highly recommend Columbine.  Just read the darn thing.

25 thoughts on “Columbine by Dave Cullen”

  1. I have had this on my list ever since James (Ready When You Are, CB) reviewed it quite some time ago. I just know that it is going to deliver every bit as much as I anticipate.

  2. i bought it when it first came out …it is exactly as you many myths dispelled….another heartbreaking part were the interview’s with the killer’s parents…so so sad!!!! great review

  3. Just fyi, you’re nine years off on date. I love your blog and the review, but I just thought I would let you know.

  4. I read Columbine this summer. i agree with everything you said, but you said it so much more eloquently than I could have. So gals, if you have not read it , it is a must read. Right up there with Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.

  5. Hi Heather, I’ve been urging anyone who has read Cullen’s “Columbine” to please not stop at that one book. I also thought it was great, when I first read it. But thankfully I didn’t stop with Cullen’s book and searched for others on the same subject. After I read three other books about the Columbine attack I realized that the book “Columbine” was not as wonderful as I thought it was. Nor as accurate either. I accepted point blank everything that Cullen wrote because as far as I knew at that time it was all that had been written on the subject. But as I mentioned there are other books on the subject that give a much different viewpoint than Cullen’s on the subject of the attack and the two people who perpetrated it. The books are “Comprehending Columbine” by Ralph Larkin, “Columbine: A True Crime Story” by Jeff Kass and “No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death At Columbine” by Brooks Brown.

    Again I would urge anyone, if you can, to please read the other books I mentioned. Also worth checking out are a couple of reviews of Cullen’s “Columbine” at Amazon. One is written by Randy Brown, father of Columbine student (and author) Brooks Brown. Randy Brown has probably spent even more time than Dave Cullen researching the Columbine attack and he has a very interesting review on the book “Columbine”. Here’s the link to his review:

    And another review of “Columbine” from someone who had no connection to the tragedy:

    If you don’t feel like you can read all three of the books I mentioned above then please just read at least one, to give you a different perspective on the subject.

  6. When I saw the title of this post, I was all, Whatever, I will never have any interest in reading this book; and then at the end of reading your review, I added it to my list. You persuasive devil, you!

    1. Do you do audio? That’s how I read the book – it was absolutely perfect. If not, it’s still worth it to read it even though it’s long. An excellent book.

  7. Heather, thank you for your kind words about my narration of Columbine. It is an astounding book, certainly the best non-fiction I have ever narrated. Endless kudos to the wonderfully talented Dave Cullen!

    Don Leslie

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