Tuesday, September 21, 2010


colum I have been wanting to read the book Columbine by Dave Cullen for months now.  I’ve had it on my PBS wish list, but the numbers have never gone down substantially.  This past week, I started taking Leah to Mother Goose story hour at our local library and while we were wandering around afterwards, I spotted the book in the lobby and snagged it.  After finishing Moloka’i, I knew I would have to find something similarly gripping, and I hoped Columbine would be it.

I was not disappointed.  Before I sat down, I tried to recall the things I thought I knew about Columbine.  When it happened, my husband and I were on our first vacation as a couple together.  We had gotten a condo down in Myrtle Beach SC (with my mom! haha)  and were spending a lot of time as beach bums, but that morning, Mom had gotten a call or something that there was something going on and to put on CNN.  We spent the entire day watching the events unfold.  I remember watching “The Boy in the Window” being rescued and the kids streaming out of the building to safety.  I remembered Cassie Bernall’s story of martyrdom, I remembered the Trench Coat Mafia, and the names of the killers, Eric and Dylan.  I remembered one teacher had been killed.  Other than that, I didn’t remember a whole lot. 

The book reads like a novel.  It is so interesting.  Cullen is considered one of the foremost journalism experts on what happened at Columbine and he used his considerable research to write a book that covers Eric Harris’s detailed planning and psychopathy, as well as Dylan Klebold’s suicidal depression and dependence on Eric.  Cullen read through the boys’ journals and watched their tapes, interviewed witnesses and family members of the victims, and meticulously detailed everything to write a book so gripping and compelling that I was reading it straight through for several days in whatever bits and pieces I could.  If I could read a paragraph, I literally would take the opportunity to do so.

Most of what I thought I knew about Columbine turned out to be false.  Harris and Klebold weren’t a couple of losers who hatched a hare-brained scheme to get back at the jocks at school.  They weren’t members of a goth gang of kids.  Cassie Bernall was never asked if she believed in God by the killers nor did she profess her faith before she was shot.  I was so happy to read about The Boy in the Window (Patrick Ireland) and other survivors and hear about their recoveries and what happened to many of them.  It was interesting to hear about how families of those killed dealt with their grief in constructive and destructive ways.

Additionally, what went on after the massacre took place may shock you as much as what went on before and during.  This was a great book and Michael and I talked a lot about it while I was reading.  Oddly enough, he and I were married on the anniversary of the Columbine attack, 3 years later.  Neither of us remembered that it had occurred that day when we were planning our wedding and were reminded after setting the planning wheels in motion. 

5 Stars on GoodReads.com  Highly recommended!  This also counts towards my “What’s In a Name?” Challenge total, as a title with a plant name in it.  Columbine is Colorado’s state flower, and as you can see, it is a beautiful plant.


7 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Melissa said...

I was wondering what book #2 was, but I didn't ask figuring you'd blogged about it and I was right.

This is one that I will not read. WAY too close to home! 19 Minutes was almost more than I could handle!

Dave Cullen said...

Thanks for that kind and thoughtful review of my book, Kate/Susan. You really captured it well--and got what I was going for.

Melissa: I'm sorry it's too close to home for you. That's understandable.

For anyone unsure, this short video summarizes the Columbine shooting and the killers’ motives in three minutes. And there's more info at my Columbine site.

gm said...

Cullen , who first reported on the story for the online magazine Salon, acknowledges in the book's source notes that thoughts he attributes to Klebold and Harris are conjecture gleaned from the record the pair left behind.

Jeff Kass takes a more straightforward approach in "Columbine: A True Crime Story," working backward from the events of the fateful day.
The Denver Post

Mr. Cullen insists that the killers enjoyed "far more friends than the average adolescent," with Harris in particular being a regular Casanova who "on the ultimate high school scorecard . . . outscored much of the football team." The author's footnotes do not reveal how he knows this; when I asked him about it while preparing this review, Mr. Cullen said he did not necessarily mean to imply that Harris was sexually active. But what else would such words mean?

"Eric and Dylan never had any girlfriends," the more sober Mr. Kass writes, and were "probably virgins upon death."
Wall Street Journal

EllenAC6 said...

Read Columbine....as a teacher, I found it useful and it sparked a summer of research on the topic.

Dave Cullen said...

Thanks very much, Ellen. I love hearing that, especially from a teacher.

We created an instructor guide for teachers to use the book in school, and some videos for classes:


(And BTW, gm is the Denver businessman who published the book he's promoting there. He keeps forgetting to mention that.)

Sara said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sara said...

Have you read "The Hour I First Believed". It was fiction, but focused on the events at Columbine and their effects on these characters. I really like it.