Sunday, September 13, 2009

Columbine by Dave Cullen

I probably chose the worst time of year to read this book: right before school started. And I equally chose terrible times to listen to it: often at night right before bed. Because I listened to this book and the narrator's haunting voice before drifting off to sleep, I often found myself having nightmares about being one of the teachers caught in the crossfire.

Not only does Cullen set the story straight regarding how the media got it wrong and blew the false information out of proportion, but his writing is so vivid that you FEEL like you were one of the students or teachers fighting for their lives on April 20, 1999. As Cullen describes the scenes where students are hiding under tables and come to be face to face with the killers, I found myself transported to that terrifying place and I felt like I, too, was fighting for my life.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were NOT outcasts like the media declared over and over again. They chose to run with that story by interviewing a few students who knew nothing about the boys and who just made assumptions and over-generalizations. Because the media took the word of a few hysterical students, the story was spun as two kids getting revenge for being bullied and treated like outcasts. As you continue to read the book, you realize how incredibly inaccurate the media spin really was.

This book is absolutely gripping and even though the subject matter is horrifying, it's one that sucks you in and makes you want to keep reading.


  1. Thanks very much for that kind review of my book, Beth.

    I'm not sure I'd recommend it as bedtime reading, though. I also had to stop and do something else for at least an hour before bed after writing it.

  2. I really enjoy your book reviews, Beth. It makes me want to go out and read them.

  3. Beth, thanks for the review. I'm going to pick this one up and read it... not at bedtime.

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

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

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

    GM Davis