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A book by Dave Cullen

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Informative and yet highly moving!

  • May 2, 2010
I still remember sitting in front of the TV on the morning of April 21st, 1999, as I did every morning before leaving for school. I was 15 and had just started my 10th grade in a school in Dubai. Columbine was on every news channel that day. It was scary. A crime, the kind of which I had not heard of. It made me realize that even schools weren't safe. I had not given it a thought before, but the news of that day acutely sharpened my antennae.
Columbine by Dave Cullen, was a remarkably informative book. I thought I knew enough about what happened that day and during the following weeks and months. I couldn't have been more wrong. As I was reading, I took two pages worth of notes. Half of them were indignant outbursts at some decisions taken. Thirteen lives were lost that day. Eric and Dylan expected to take 2000 lives with them.
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. Columbine was fundamentally different from the other school shootings. It had not really been intended as a shooting at all. Primarily, it had been a bombing that failed.

Dave Cullen gives an excellent insight into the minds of the killers, from almost two years prior to the "Judgment day". Eric Harris is revealed to be a classic textbook psychopath. His diligent methodical approach to anything astounded me. If he weren't a murderer, I would have been impressed with him. He was successful in fooling everyone - his parents, teachers, Diversion officers, friends, police officers. Apparently, there had been plenty of complaints previously registered against the two, that were not taken too seriously. The boys were making bombs, and quite a few people knew that.
Dylan Klebold, on the other hand, was depressed and suicidal. For two years, he pined for love obsessively. Murder was far from his mind. Columbine skillfully charts out Dylan's path from suicidal thoughts to homicidal. Dylan's family never saw it coming. He was his dad's "best friend", though I admit I couldn't see how his condition could not have been obvious. He was severely depressed with no motivation in life at all. I guess, no one expects their placid-appearing children to tote guns and kill others.
Eric's obsession with destroying the human race horrified me. He dreamed to stun the world. He wanted to be known as the perpetrator of the worst crime. By choosing Columbine High School, and planting plenty of bombs at strategic locations, he expected to reach his exorbitant target count.
Most terrorists target symbols of the system they abhor - generally, iconic government buildings. Eric followed the same logic. He understood that the cornerstone of his plan was the explosives. When all his bombs fizzled, everything about his attack was misread. He didn't just fail to top Timothy McVeigh's record - he wasn't even recognized for trying. He was never categorized with his peer group. We lumped him in with the pathetic loners who shot people.

Eric Harris was intelligent. I hate to say that, because I despised his character. But when you see the number of people he duped and got to make them believe exactly what he wanted them to, it was not hard for me to see his mental prowess.
Columbine also captures the community's response well. The parents' wait for their children teared me up. Especially those parents whose children would never come back. It exposed the various cover-ups that followed the tragedy. As with all tragedies, there were quite a few dirty name-calling and scapegoating that happened after this one too. I wish I could say that we as a community and as a government have learned a lot from this tragedy.
Overall, I strongly recommend this book. This book puts to rest most of the myths surrounding this tragedy, and believe me, there are too many. I wanted a look into the heads of Eric and Dylan. One a psychopath (which is apparently a trait that comes with birth) and the other a suicidally depressed kid (a curable and treatable condition). That doesn't excuse them, but they gave plenty of hints that no one paid attention to. The clues were everywhere, and some of them made me aghast, wondering why no one paid heed.

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May 04, 2010
Thanks, Athria.The paperback is out now with more material. And there's a lot more info and instructor guides for teachers/profs at my site: http://www.davecullen.com/columbine.htm I appreciate you all spreading the word.
May 05, 2010
You're welcome, Dave!
May 03, 2010
Great review. This books sounds quite interesting. I think it's unfortunate, but the media has certainly viewed our generation as that of school shootings, gangs, and youth violence. It's too bad, because it completely overlooks the political activity, philanthropic efforts, and the volunteerism that we have embraced. I too vividly recall how going to school suddenly changed around this time and how there were numerous incidents that occurred afterward which also got a lot of media attention.
May 02, 2010
Wonderful review, Athira. I remember exactly where I was, too, when this happened and it still brings me chills to think about. Sounds like a very interesting book. I'll have to check it out.
More Columbine reviews
review by . June 24, 2010
Why?      A simple question but one with no real answer. A question which many people asked in the aftermath of that day, April 20, 1999, when two students opened fire on their fellow classmates at Columbine High School, killing 13 and injuring 24. The answer to "why?" was very elusive; one which some people may have simply shrugged off. I believe that the answer has been provided in Dave Cullen's outstanding book, Columbine. Exhaustively researched over the course …
review by . September 02, 2009
Quickly…what do you know about the Columbine school shootings from 10 years ago?  Here’s what I knew: The shooters snapped one day and went on a rampage; they were picked on a lot by the school jocks and, therefore, targeted them, their family lives were horrendous and they chose April 20th because of Hitler’s birthday. Is that about the same as your list?  Well, if so…we were wrong, and this book proves it. I have now been reviewing non-fiction books here for …
review by . July 10, 2010
In many ways, the Columbine school shootings have the same milestone effect on society as do events like 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing. Columbine forever changed the way we look at school safety and the mental health of students. But unfortunately, much of what we "remember" about the event is inaccurate due to media hype and official stonewalling. Dave Cullen reveals the actual story behind the events with exhaustive research in his book Columbine. When I finished reading, I had to seriously …
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
The actual columbine pictures are quite historical. I recommend taking a look.
Quick Tip by . June 04, 2010
Answers the "Why" of Columbine.
Quick Tip by . May 25, 2010
Best Non-Fiction Book in a LONG Time!
Quick Tip by . May 19, 2010
Scary, yet objective study of the boys behind Columbine. Some weird typos & grammar errors, though.
review by . January 21, 2010
We all remember, or know of, what happened on April 20, 1999 at a high school in Littleton, Colorado named Columbine. Two teenagers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened gunfire on their classmates and teachers - killing 13 and injuring dozens of others.    Dave Cullen is a journalist who covered the massacre for over two years. In this book he sheds light on all the commonly held myths about what really occurred that day, and fits it all together for us in a timeline that unfolds …
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About this book


Starred Review. In this remarkable account of the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School shooting, journalist Cullen not only dispels several of the prevailing myths about the event but tackles the hardest question of all: why did it happen? Drawing on extensive interviews, police reports and his own reporting, Cullen meticulously pieces together what happened when 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold killed 13 people before turning their guns on themselves. The media spin was that specific students, namely jocks, were targeted and that Dylan and Eric were members of the Trench Coat Mafia. According to Cullen, they lived apparently normal lives, but under the surface lay an angry, erratic depressive (Klebold) and a sadistic psychopath (Harris), together forming a combustible pair. They planned the massacre for a year, outlining their intentions for massive carnage in extensive journals and video diaries. Cullen expertly balances the psychological analysis—enhanced by several of the nation's leading experts on psychopathology—with an examination of the shooting's effects on survivors, victims' families and the Columbine community. Readers will come away from Cullen's unflinching account with a deeper understanding of what drove these boys to kill, even if the answers aren't easy to stomach.(Apr. 6)
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ISBN-10: 0446546933
ISBN-13: 978-0446546935
Author: Dave Cullen
Genre: History, Nonfiction
Publisher: Twelve
Date Published: April 6, 2009
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