Columbine (book)

Columbine (book)
Author(s) Dave Cullen
Cover artist Henry Sene Yee
Country United States
Language English
Subject(s) Columbine High School Massacre
Genre(s) History, Popular culture, True crime, Cultural Studies
Publisher Twelve
Publication date April 6, 2009
Media type Hardback, audiobook, Kindle
Pages 432
ISBN 978-0446546935
OCLC Number 236082459
Dewey Decimal 373.788/8 22
LC Classification LB3013.33.C6 C84 2009

Columbine is the award-winning non-fiction bestseller written by Dave Cullen and published by Twelve on April 6, 2009. It is a comprehensive examination of the Columbine High School massacre, perpetrated by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on April 20, 1999. The book covers two major storylines: the killers' evolution leading up to the attack, and the survivors' struggles with aftermath over the next seven years. Chapters alternate between the two stories. Graphic depictions of parts of the attack are also included, plus actual names of friends and family were used as well (the only exception was the pseudonym "Harriet" which was used for a girl whom Klebold was in love with and wrote obsessively about, as her real name has never been disclosed).

Cullen, a freelance reporter in Denver, spent ten years researching and writing the book. He previously contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times and The Guardian. He is best known for his work for Slate and His Slate story "The Depressive and the Psychopath" five years earlier, offered the first diagnosis of the killers by the team of psychologists and psychiatrists brought in to the case by the FBI.[1]

Publication was timed to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, which occurred on April 20. The book spent eight weeks on The New York Times bestseller list in the spring of 2009, peaking at #3.[2][3]

The book gained considerable media attention for discussing the so-called Columbine myths widely taken for granted. According to the book, the massacre had nothing to do with school bullying, jocks, the Gothic subculture, Marilyn Manson or the Trench Coat Mafia which has caused somewhat confusion since many witnesses reported hearing both shooters yelling at "jocks" to stand up. Cullen also writes it was not intended primarily as a school shooting, but as a bombing. Cullen reports that Harris and Klebold intended to perpetrate the worst terrorist attack in American history. The book garnered glowing reviews from Time, Newsweek, People, The New York Observer, and The New York Times Book Review. One of the few dissenting views came from Janet Maslin.

In addition to spending eight weeks on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list, Columbine won the Edgar Award,[4] Barnes & Noble's Discover Award,[5] and the Goodreads Choice Award.[6] It was a finalist for the LA Times Book Award[7] and the American Library Association's Alex Award.[8] The book is also nominated for the Audie Award, and the MPIBA Regional Book Award. Columbine was named to two dozen Best of 2009 lists, including the New York Times, LA Times, Publishers Weekly, iTunes and the American Library Association. It was declared Top Education Book of 2009 and one of the best of the decade by the American School Board Journal.



Columbine has two main stories, told in alternating chapters: the 'before' story of the killers' evolution toward murder, and the 'after' story of the survivors.

The 'before' story focuses primarily on the killers' high school years. According to the experts cited here, Eric Harris was a textbook psychopath, and Dylan Klebold was an angry depressive.

The 'after' chapters are composed of eight major substories, focused on individuals who played a key role in the aftermath, including Principal Frank DeAngelis, alleged Christian martyr Cassie Bernall (another myth, according to the book), "the boy in the window" Patrick Ireland, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Dwayne Fuselier, the families of victim Danny Rohrbough and heroic teacher Dave Sanders, who died saving students from the gunmen. The Evangelical Christian community's feverish response is also chronicled.

Columbine begins four days before the massacre, at a school assembly hosted by Principal DeAngelis just before Prom weekend. Scenes from the massacre are depicted graphically in the early chapters, and later through flashbacks.

The book is formally composed of five parts: "Part One: Female Down," "Part Two: After and Before," "Part Three: The Downward Spiral," "Part Four: Take Back the School," and "Part Five: Judgment Day." The book contains fifty-three chapters, a timeline, twenty-six pages of detailed endnotes and a fifteen-page bibliography organized into topics like, "Psychopathy," "Government Reports," "Lawsuits," "Christians," "Evidence," "Hostages and Terrorists," "Survivors," "Media Accounts," "Police Ethics and Response Protocols," etc.[9]


Published by Twelve on April 6, 2009,[10] Columbine debuted at number seven on the bestseller list for The New York Times in the United States."[11] It peaked at number three,[12] and spent eight weeks on the list.[13]

The book was very well received by critics, and by news media, which focused heavily on the dispelling of Columbine myths, and also the extensive portrayal of the minds of the two killers. In The New York Observer, Stephen Amidon called described Columbine as a “gripping study . . . To his credit, Mr. Cullen does not simply tear down Columbine’s legends. He also convincingly explains what really sparked the murderous rage . . . disquieting . . . beautifully written."[14]

Several critics compared the book to In Cold Blood, including former Publishers Weekly Editor In Chief Sara Nelson, who reviewed it for The Daily Beast and called it "a riveting read, on a par with the greatest crime analysis from In Cold Blood or The Stranger Beside Me."[15] A debate sprang up on the issue, with some critics concurring and others arguing that Cullen's artistry fell short of Capote's.

Jennifer Senior in The New York Times Book Review resisted the Capote comparison, but offered high praise. She observed that "Had Dave Cullen capitulated to cliché while writing “Columbine,” he would have started his tale 48 hours before Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s notorious killing spree, stopped the frame just before they fired their guns, and then spooled back to the very beginning, with the promise of trying to explain how the two boys got to this twisted pass. But he doesn't. As Cullen eventually writes, “there had been no trigger” — at least none that would be satisfying to horrified outsiders, grieving parents or anyone in between. Eric Harris was a psychopath, simple as that. Dylan Klebold was a suicidally depressed kid who yoked his fate to a sadist. Instead, what intrigues the author are perceptions and misperceptions: how difficult a shooting spree is to untangle; how readily mass tragedies lend themselves to misinformation and mythologizing; how psychopaths can excel at the big con. . . . Yet what’s amazing is how much of Cullen’s book still comes as a surprise. I expected a story about misfits exacting vengeance, because that was my memory of the media consensus — Columbine, right, wasn't there something going on there between Goths and jocks? In fact, Harris and Klebold were killing completely at random that day. Their victims weren't the intended targets at all; the entire school was."[16]

Janet Maslin published one of the book's few negative reviews in the daily issue of The New York Times. Maslin wrote: "And now that books as commercially ambitious as Columbine are marketed like movies, an online video advertisement for the book touts its “10 years in the making,” calling it “the definitive story of an American tragedy.” For the same YouTube trailer Mr. Cullen allowed himself to be filmed sitting at his desk amid potted houseplants, scrolling solemnly through a computer-screen copy of one of the killers’ hate-filled journals."[17]

Maslin also ridiculed Newsweek's review. Maslin wrote, "But Mr. Cullen has not written this book solely to dissect the events of Columbine. He also invites his readers to relive them. So he replays the planning and execution of the killings for maximum dramatic impact, trying to get right inside the killers’ heads. (“Act II: firing time. This was going to be fun.”) Newsweek’s credulous review of “Columbine” has already applauded this voyeurism . . . "

The Newsweek essay by Ramin Satoodeh stated: “In the decade since Columbine, there have been countless efforts to make sense of that day: memoirs, books, movies, even a play opening in Los Angeles in April. The definitive account, however, will likely be Dave Cullen’s COLUMBINE, a nonfiction book that has the pacing of an action movie and the complexity of a Shakespearean drama . . . Cullen has a gift, if that's the right word, for excruciating detail. At times the language is so vivid you can almost smell the gunpowder and the fear. . . . The Columbine killers were a strange and deeply disturbed pair, right out of a Truman Capote book. We've heard plenty of the details about Klebold and Harris—their fixation with the Nazis, their lust for violence, the homemade tapes in which they laid out their grand scheme for us to watch later—but Cullen, despite all odds, manages to humanize them. . . . Cullen also debunks some of the biggest fallacies.”[18]

Writing in the Wall Street Journal Vincent Carroll noted that Cullen referred to Harris as one of the most popular students at Columbine when it came to dating. This goes against all other evidence regarding Harris, and Cullen offers no proof for his assertion. Carroll took Cullen to task for that and other statements made without citing any evidence, and said the book Columbine: A True Crime Story (Ghost Road Press) by Jeff Kass is the more well-reported book. Carroll wrote:

"Perhaps the more relevant question is whether Harris and Klebold felt socially isolated, and here the books diverge dramatically. 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.' Harris complained about his social fecklessness in his journal, lamenting that 'I have practically no self-esteem, especially concerning girls and looks and such.' (It says something about our culture that even a murderous teenager discusses himself in terms of 'self-esteem.') Each killer did have friends, but each—especially Klebold—saw himself as isolated and different.

"The dispute over their social skills throws into relief a flaw in Mr. Cullen's style. Although his book includes a wide range of fascinating detail about those affected by the shootings, he often resorts to breathless overstatement and speculation." [19]

Carroll, a columnist at The Denver Post, also wrote a column about the Kass and Cullen books for that paper. Carroll noted, in part, Cullen's reliance on questionable statements by a woman named Brenda Parker in cementing his profile of Harris:

"As for 'Brenda,' the 23-year-old who said she had 'more than a friendship' with Harris, she seems to have indulged in pathetic fantasies. Although [Cullen's] book neglects to tell us, Brenda had to be advised by authorities five months after the murders to stop claiming prior knowledge of the plot in Internet postings. 'She admitted she has no life,' an agent for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation wrote in his report.

"Cullen's treatment of Klebold is equally curious at times. The author claims the failure of the bombs to go off in the cafeteria while the criminals were waiting in separate locations outside the school 'appears to have rattled' Klebold. Yet no one could possibly know this — and the best Cullen could offer when I queried him was to insist that such a reaction was 'extremely likely.' His book goes on to contend Klebold lost his nerve during a solo foray to the cafeteria once the attack was under way — again, pure speculation — while emphasizing how few shots Klebold took compared to Harris (which is irrelevant to those he murdered at point-blank range)."[20]


Columbine has won the following awards.

  • Edgar Award [21]
  • Barnes and Noble Discover Award [22]
  • Goodreads Choice Award [23]
  • American School Boards Association Best Education Book of 2009 [24]

Columbine was a finalist for the following awards.

  • The Audie Award [25]
  • The Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association Award [26]

Columbine was named to many Best of 2009 lists, including these.

  • New York Times Book Review: 100 Notable Books of 2009 [27]
  • Los Angeles Times: 25 Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2009 [28]
  • LA Times Editor David Ulin's Top Six Nonfiction [29]
  • Entertainment Weekly: Best Books of 2009: #4 in Nonfiction [30]
  • American School Board Journal: #1 Education Book for 2009 [31]
  • Publishers Weekly Best 100 Books for 2009 [32]
  • iTunes: #1 Best Nonfiction Audiobook of 2009 [33]
  • 5 Best Nonfiction Books of 2009 [34]
  • GoodReads Choice Awards: Winner Best Nonfiction of 2009 [35]
  • Chicago Tribune: Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2009 [36]
  • Miami Herald: 12 Reviewers' Choices for Most Intriguing Books of 2009 [37]
  • Borders: 10 Best of 2009: Nonfiction [38]
  • Amazon Editors' Picks: 5 Best Current Events Books of 2009 [39]
  • Amazon Top 100 Customer Favorites of 2009 [40]
  • Bookmarks: Best Books of 2009 [41]
  • Mother Jones: Top Books of 2009 [42]
  • National Post (Canada): Best Books of the Year [43]
  • Washington Post Express: 2009 Express Staff Picks [44]
  • New Haven Register: 10 recommended nonfiction for 2009 [45]
  • New London Connecticut's The Day: Best of '09 [46]
  • New West: Best Books in the West 2009 [47]

See also


  1. ^ "The Depressive and the Psychopath". Slate. 2004-04-20. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  2. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Best Sellers, Week of April 26, 2009". The New York Times. 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  3. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Best Sellers, Week of June 7, 2009". The New York Times. 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  4. ^ "2010 Edgar Nominees". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  5. ^ "Discover Awards". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  6. ^ "The 2009 Goodreads Choice Awards". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  7. ^ "Favorite nonfiction of 2009 from the L.A. Times". The Los Angeles Times. 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  8. ^ "2010 Alex Award Nominations List". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  9. ^ Cullen, Dave (2009). Columbine. Twelve. ISBN 978-0446546935. 
  10. ^ "Columbine (Hardcover)". Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  11. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Best Sellers, Week of April 26, 2009". The New York Times. 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  12. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Best Sellers, Week of May 10, 2009". The New York Times. 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  13. ^ "Hardcover Nonfiction Best Sellers, Week of June 7, 2009". The New York Times. 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2009-05-30. 
  14. ^ "Return to Columbine". The New York Observer. 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  15. ^ "The Secrets of Columbine". The Daily Beast. 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  16. ^ Senior, Jennifer (2008-04-16). "The End of the Trench Coat Mafia". The New York Times Book Review. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  17. ^ Maslin, Janet (2008-04-05). "School Day When Hell Came Knocking". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  18. ^ "The Columbine Generation". Newsweek. 2009-03-28. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  19. ^ Carroll, Vincent (2009-04-18). "A Nightmare Re-Examined". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2010-06-20. 
  20. ^ Carroll, Vincent (2009-04-11). "Carroll: A decade later, reading into Columbine". Denver Post. 
  21. ^ "2010 Edgar Nominees". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  22. ^ "Discover Awards". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  23. ^ "The 2009 Goodreads Choice Awards". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  24. ^ "Top Education Books for 2009". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  26. ^ "Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Regional Book Awards 2010 ‐ Bookseller Ballot". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  27. ^ "100 Notable Books of 2009". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  28. ^ "Favorite nonfiction of 2009 from the L.A. Times". The Los Angeles Times. 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  29. ^ "Books of '09". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  30. ^ "The Best Nonfiction Books of 2009".,,20331796,00.html. Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  31. ^ "Best Books for 2009". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  32. ^ "Top Education Books for 2009". Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  33. ^ "iTunes Rewind 2009 looks back at the best media of the year". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  34. ^ "The best nonfiction books of 2009". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  35. ^ "Goodreads Choice Award". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  36. ^ "Our favorite nonfiction of 2009". Chicago Tribune. 2009-04-12. Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  37. ^ "Reviewers' choices for most intriguing". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  38. ^ "The Best of 2009: Nonfiction". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  39. ^ "Best Books of 2009: Top 10 Books: Current Events". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  40. ^ "Best Books of 2009: Customers' Bestsellers: Top 100 Books". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  41. ^ "Bookmarks Best Books 2009". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  42. ^ "MoJo's Top Books of 2009". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  43. ^ "The Afterword's Best Books of the Year". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  44. ^ "009 Express Staff Picks: Books". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  45. ^ "Book lovers have a vast and eclectic book crop to reap this year for gifts". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  46. ^ "Reads you need: Best of '09". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 
  47. ^ "New West Best Books in the West 2009, Part 1". Retrieved 2010-05-16. 


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Columbine — may refer to: Contents 1 Places and events 2 Art and entertainment 3 Vehicles 4 Other Places and events …   Wikipedia

  • Columbine High School massacre — Staff and students evacuat …   Wikipedia

  • Columbine (Redwall) — Columbine is an anthropomorphic mouse from the book Mossflower of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.Columbine is originally from an abbey called Loamhedge, and comes to Mossflower with Abbess Germaine and other mice who were forced to leave… …   Wikipedia

  • Columbine High School massacre in modern culture — The following is a list of cultural references to the Columbine High School massacre. Contents 1 Music 2 Sports 3 Screen 3.1 Television 3 …   Wikipedia

  • Columbine High School — For the 1999 high school shooting, see Columbine High School massacre. Columbine High School Established 1973 Type Public …   Wikipedia

  • Columbine Mine massacre — For the 1999 high school shooting, see Columbine High School massacre. The first Columbine Massacre, sometimes called the Columbine Mine massacre to distinguish it from the Columbine High School massacre, occurred in 1927, in the town of Serene,… …   Wikipedia

  • Super Columbine Massacre RPG! — The title card of Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, featuring security camera footage of Harris and Klebold in the Columbine school cafeteria shortly before they committed suicide.[1] …   Wikipedia

  • Nobody Left to Hate: Teaching Compassion after Columbine — is a book by social psychologist Elliot Aronson that explores the implications of the attacks at Columbine.[1][2] Editions ISBN 0 7167 4132 6 References ^ …   Wikipedia

  • Holy Wood (book) — infobox Book | name = Holy Wood image caption = The supposed cover art; posted on the internet by Manson in 2000. author = Marilyn Manson illustrator = country = United States language = English series = genre = Novel, Satire publisher =… …   Wikipedia

  • Zero Day (film) — Infobox Film name = Zero Day caption = Zero Day film poster director = Ben Coccio writer = Ben Coccio Christopher Coccio starring = Andre Keuck Cal Robertson producer = Ben Coccio distributor= Avatar Films budget = $20 000 (estimated) released= 3 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”