August 19, 2011

Review - Columbine by Dave Cullen


Award-winning journalist Dave Cullen has followed the story of Columbine for the past 10 years, and this book is a result of his exhaustive research on the horrifying event, its devastating effect on the town, and the chilling backstory of the killers responsible for the tragedy. 

This was a disturbing yet riveting read. It made me sick to my stomach to read some of the details from the killers' journals, websites, and videotapes as they planned their attack. The massacre was described in vivid detail as well, which was difficult to read. At times it was so intense that I had to take a break from reading, but I returned to the book because it was so well-written and researched, and I needed to read on to see if there was any way to make sense of this unspeakable tragedy. 

Much of what I thought I knew about the Columbine massacre was actually not true. Cullen dispels many of the myths created by the media about the killers' motives and the events of that terrible day. He details the mistakes and coverups that plagued the police investigation in the years following the massacre as well as the struggles faced by survivors and the families of those who died. 

The information in this book is not presented in chronological order. Different narratives from before, during, and after the event are pieced together seamlessly. Cullen presented everything with tremendous compassion for the community and everyone affected. 

Columbine is a thought-provoking read which provides a complete picture of the tragedy from multiple perspectives. 


Annette said...

I keep picking this one up, then putting it down. It seems I can't decide to read it, even thought I want to and I know I should. Maybe your thoughts will get me to tackle this one. Great review.

gm said...
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Super Librarian said...

Deleted a spam comment.

thelibrarianreads said...

This sounds like an interesting read. I think it might go over well in my HS library. What do you think, one librarian to another...

Super Librarian said...

It is pretty disturbing but mature HS students could handle it. It really is fascinating and well-written.

On the author's website I found a few links you might want to look at:


Student Guide:

Instructor Guide:

jenemoore said...

I read this book last hear and really loved it. It's a tough read, definitely, but I think it's an important one, too.

Kara said...

I just read this a few weeks ago and I thought it was so well written. It really gave an in depth look into the tragedy and personalized all the victims.

Dave Cullen said...

Thanks so much for this great review. I'm especially happy to see librarians and teachers discover the book. I have toured a lot of high schools since the book came out in 2009, and been amazed at the impact that school librarians still have. Thanks for that.

Reader said...

Super Librarian, have you read any other books on the same subject matter? Because there are a few other books that, in my opinion and that of many others, give a more accurate account of what happened at Columbine High School that day and why. They are "Columbine: A True Crime Story" by Jeff Kass, "Comprehending Columbine" by Ralph Larkin and "No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine" by Brooks Brown. I've read all of them, including the one you have reviewed here, and I still don't believe that I have all the answers.

That's what bothers me most about reviews such as this, that people will have read this one book and think that all the myths have been dispelled and all the answers have been provided. Such isn't the case.

Janet Maslin,in her review of "Columbine" in the New York Times, describes Mr. Cullen as one who believes he is 'the' authority on the Columbine massacre. Ms. Maslin accurately points out that neither Mr. Cullen nor another Columbine author, Mr. Kass (who Ms. Maslin says raises issues and information that Mr. Cullen did not) 'owns' this story. And that a definitive book on the subject has yet to be published.

Super Librarian said...

Thanks for your comment and the book suggestions, Reader. I don't believe anyone will ever have ALL the answers. I will still be recommending this book to everyone! :)

Dave Cullen said...

Thanks, Super. I appreciate that.

I can clear up the issue raised above on whether I think I own the tragedy, or am "the" authority. I don't. (Huh. That was pretty easy. :-) )

I encourage people to read as much as they have time and interest for, and recommend whatever works they admire.

Thanks for recommending mine.

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