by Dave Cullen


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Columbine by Dave Cullen

On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school, Oklahoma City-style, and to leave "a lasting impression on the world." Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence, irrevocable branding every subsequent shooting "another columbine."

When we think of Columbine, we think of the Trench Coat Mafia; we think of Cassie Bernall, the girl we thought professed her faith before she was shot; and we think of the boy pulling himself out of a school window, the whole world was watching him. Now, in a riveting piece of journalism nearly ten years in the making, comes the story none of us knew. In this revelatory book, Dave Cullen has delivered a profile of teenage killers that goes to the heart of psychopathology. He lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris and the quavering, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who went to the prom three days earlier and obsessed about love in his journal.

The result is an astonishing account of two good students with lots of friends, who were secretly stockpiling a basement cache of weapons, recording their raging hatred, and manipulating every adult who got in their way. They left signs everywhere, described by Cullen with a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boys' tapes and diaries, he gives the first complete account of the Columbine tragedy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446546928
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 03/03/2010
Pages: 443
Sales rank: 9,330
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Dave Cullen is a journalist and author who has contributed to Slate, Salon, and the New York Times. He is considered the nation's foremost authority on the Columbine killers, and has also written extensively on Evangelical Christians, gays in the military, politics, and pop culture. A graduate of the MFA program at the University of Boulder, Cullen has won several writing awards, including a GLAAD Media Award, Society of Professional Journalism awards, and several Best of Salon citations.

Read an Excerpt


By Dave Cullen

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2010 Dave Cullen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-54692-8

Chapter One

Mr. D

* * *

He told them he loved them. Each and every one of them. He spoke without notes but chose his words carefully. Frank DeAngelis waited out the pom-pom routines, the academic awards, and the student-made videos. After an hour of revelry, the short, middle-aged man strode across the gleaming basketball court to address his student body. He took his time. He smiled as he passed the marching band, the cheerleaders, and the Rebels logo painted beneath flowing banners proclaiming recent sports victories. He faced two thousand hyped-up high school students in the wooden bleachers and they gave him their full attention. Then he told them how much they meant to him. How his heart would break to lose just one of them.

It was a peculiar sentiment for an administrator to express to an assembly of teenagers. But Frank DeAngelis had been a coach longer than a principal, and he earnestly believed in motivation by candor. He had coached football and baseball for sixteen years, but he looked like a wrestler: compact body with the bearing of a Marine, but without the bluster. He tried to play down his coaching past, but he exuded it.

You could hear the fear in his voice. He didn't try to hide it, and he didn't try to fight back the tears that welled up in his eyes. And he got away with it. Those kids could sniff out a phony with one whiff and convey displeasure with snickers and fumbling and an audible current of unrest. But they adored Mr. D. He could say almost anything to his students, precisely because he did. He didn't hold back, he didn't sugarcoat it, and he didn't dumb it down. On Friday morning, April 16, 1999, Principal Frank DeAngelis was an utterly transparent man.

Every student in the gymnasium understood Mr. D's message. There were fewer than thirty-six hours until the junior-senior prom, meaning lots of drinking and lots of driving. Lecturing the kids would just provoke eye rolling, so instead he copped to three tragedies in his own life. His buddy from college had been killed in a motorcycle accident. "I can remember being in the waiting room, looking at his blood," he said. "So don't tell me it can't happen." He described holding his teenage daughter in his arms after her friend died in a flaming wreck. The hardest had been gathering the Columbine baseball team to tell them one of their buddies had lost control of his car. He choked up again. "I do not want to attend another memorial service."

"Look to your left," he told them. "Look to your right." He instructed them to study the smiling faces and then close their eyes and imagine one of them gone. He told them to repeat after him: "I am a valued member of Columbine High School. And I'm not in this alone." That's when he told them he loved them, as he always did.

"Open your eyes," he said. "I want to see each and every one of your bright, smiling faces again Monday morning."

He paused. "When you're thinking about doing something that could get you in trouble, remember, I care about you," he said. "I love you, but remember, I want us all together. We are one large family, we are-"

He left the phrase dangling. That was the students' signal. They leapt to their feet and yelled: "COL-um-BINE!"

Ivory Moore, a dynamo of a teacher and a crowd rouser, ran out and yelled, "We are COL-um-BINE."


It was louder now, and their fists were pumping in the air.




"COL-um-BINE!" Louder, faster, harder, faster-he whipped them into a frenzy. Then he let them go.

They spilled into the hallways to wrap up one last day of classes. Just a few hours until the big weekend.

* * *

All two thousand students would return safely on Monday morning, after the prom. But the following afternoon, Tuesday, April 20, 1999, twenty-four of Mr. D's kids and faculty members would be loaded into ambulances and rushed to hospitals. Thirteen bodies would remain in the building and two more on the grounds. It would be the worst school shooting in American history-a characterization that would have appalled the boys just then finalizing their plans.


Excerpted from Columbine by Dave Cullen Copyright © 2010 by Dave Cullen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Columbine 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 490 reviews.
acoftenreads More than 1 year ago
I thought this book would be an interesting read, but I had no expectation that I would be unable to put it down. In a horrifyingly detailed retelling of the events leading up to, during, and following this tragedy, Mr. Cullen exposes the true human weaknesses and darknesses that should terrify anyone who thinks they know the true nature of another person. The boys who committed these acts, and the people around them who could have prevented them from occurring, demonstrate the fragility of the mind and the depths to which a soul can descend. Truly frightening for anyone who has ever been in a position of being, knowing, or observing an adolescent with a secret.
dmoitzh More than 1 year ago
ONe of the BEST nonfiction books I've ever read. I'm not a nonfiction reader but I was captivated throughout this book. It really gives you an inside view of what actually happened. A lot of media reports were wrong and this clarified these points with hard evidence.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a behemoth of a book and I couldn't put it down. I'm only too grateful to have the Nook version instead of a hardback; I can't imagine having to hoist it up in bed to read or feeling the weight of such a thing slam against my face (because I frequently fall asleep reading). Anyway, any book that keeps me riveted the way this one did gets my five star rating. Exhaustive account, not only of the perpetrators but of the families and victims. I honestly do not understand the naysayers. I felt this was pretty unbiased reporting. A compelling read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cleared up misconceptions. I thought the boys were bullied. They were not. One was a sociopath & the other was so depressed. They were very intelligent & not friendless. Excellent research. How hard it id to spot such smart and deceptive people, but we need to find similar people i the future.
AppalledMO More than 1 year ago
Lots of background info on the tragedy I hadn't been exposed to. There is always more to the story than we get in the media. Such is the case here. I highly recommend the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book twice. Once straight through as I could not put it down and once aloud to my mother. We both were interested in the hard topic and the way Cullen presented it with thoughtfulness and hard research. I grew up near Columbine high school (my brother spent summers teaching tennis at columbine country club) and was in elementary school when the shooting occured and all school were put on high awareness lock down. The community that Cullen describes is true to what the after shock felt like for those near by. Anyway just read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very informative and interesting read! This book shines a whole new light on the tragedy that happened at Columbine HS and is completely different from the story we got from the media. Read it and draw your own conclusions!
Guardian105 More than 1 year ago
This book is NOT for the faint of heart. It is about one of the most terrible domestic attacks on innocent children in the history of the United States. However, unlike what the media would like you to believe (they were bullied, they were part of the Tranchcoat Mafia, etc. etc. etc.), Dave Cullen treats this tragedy with a journalistic respect, dignity, and integrity that is severely lacking in this day and age. He also sets the record straight. If you want to learn the REAL story of what "pushed" these two kids to commit such an atrocity, you will want to read this book. Highly recommended for Sociology/Criminology majors and True Crime aficionados.
The_hibernators More than 1 year ago
Cullen provides an in-depth look at the events leading up to and following the tragic school shooting at Columbine. He fleshes out the personalities of the people involved, especially focusing on the two shooters. He debunks the myths that confounded the Columbine story for years. This is an amazing work of journalism, as well as a moving narrative. Tears came to my eyes several times while reading. My only qualm about this book is that at the very end Cullen provided some gory details that weren’t necessary. I’m not squeamish, but I think providing those details wasn’t necessary to emphasize how tragic the events were, and gore is much more disturbing when you’re thinking about the real people involved. However, this was only a very short section of the book…and I guess journalists will be journalists.
diana45 More than 1 year ago
I have always been deeply interested in the case at Columbine. I have read several books on this case, and so far, this is the best one. Of course, every book has it's flaws, and although I didn't agree with everything the author said, it was overall a great book. It did have some factual errors, but mostly they were minor. I think the writing is great and I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Columbine.
OpenWindows More than 1 year ago
This is a clear and thoughtful analysis of the events of the Columbine shooting. Dissenters say that the author brushes past several contributing factors to the event, but I think he addresses all of the so-called factors and explains very well why he feels they were not actually factors in the shooters' motivations. He outlines clearly why he feels the shooters suffered from psychopathy and depression (seperately), and whether you choose to agree or not in the end, what the author presents is an incredibly interesting picture of what was a horrific event in American history. This is a great read.
MNGirl78 More than 1 year ago
This book gave me so much insight to the day of this terrible tragedy as well as what the people most affected by this heinous act went through after the rest of the country moved on to the next big story. I could barely put this book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
More than ten years after one of the most devastating events in recent American history, Dave Cullen tells the REAL account of Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. We are all familiar with the story, and everyone remembers hearing the news; shooters running ramped inside of a typical, suburban Colorado high school. Terror lined the hallways and smeared the doorways as two boys murdered innocent students, eventually taking their own lives. As you read this novel, you'll find goose bumps raise on your arms and shivers crawl down your spine. Two young students set out to kill an entire school; a mass murder. Fortunately, they did not ultimately succeed. 13 victims lost their lives and a community was permanently scarred. The media skewed this story every way possible, from 4 killers being held responsible to the murder of a real life martyr. However, the more detailed the accounts become, the farther your own imagination will stray. What if this was my school? As a student at a similar Colorado high school in the same community, I feel a connection to those students, but it is still impossible to understand the tragedy they experienced. What if I was hiding underneath a table and a man with a loaded gun stared down at me and muttered a single word: "Peekaboo"? Would you confess your love for God as some claimed Cassie Bernall did, or would you beg for a chance at survival like Bree Pasquale? If you are looking for truth within a decade of rumors and confusion, then Columbine is the novel for you. If you crave a glimpse into the mind of a psychopath, Eric Harris's journals and tapes will give you that and more. Eric's best friend and partner in the Columbine massacre Dylan Klebold was far from a psychopath, he was an outcast yearning for love and acceptance. Eric gave Dylan confidence and companionship, something he struggled to find elsewhere. You will feel compassion for the parents of the murders, who, just like any other parents, tried their best to steer their sons toward successful futures. Dave Cullen is an extremely talented journalist, and one of the most knowledgeable persons to have studied Columbine High School and the events that lead up to April 20, 1999. His other literary pieces involve Christianity, pop culture, politics, and much more. I would give this book and overall rating of five out of five stars. It is one of the first accurate records of Columbine and it allows you to see every point of view possible; from a student at gunpoint to a principle in panic to a parent praying for their child's safety. This is by no means a "light read", but it will give you an overwhelming glance into Columbine High School and what really took place on that tragic spring day.
K-Frog More than 1 year ago
This book was the one I have waited for concerning Columbine. Being a teacher and having a gun pulled on me during my carrer, I wanted to read the true story. Mr. Cullen not only told the story but he also went behind the scenes to get reactions from the people involved. His detailed story of the day it happened were eye-opening. He also talked to students and the parents of both shooters. My son noticed me reading the book and he is now readingit. He is in college and his professor wants to read the book next. What a great book!
Jenn-at-GirlsJustReading More than 1 year ago
By chance and via Twitter, I came across a fellow book-blogger reading Columbine by Dave Cullen. I remarked that I wanted to read it and the publisher, TWELVE, saw my request and sent the book my way. Even if they hadn't, I would have gone out of my way to seek out a copy of this book, because Columbine made an impact on me. I was in my second and final assignment as a student teacher, working in a high school with a sprawling campus not unlike Columbine's. The teachers I was working with had the television on in the classroom all day and we watched as the story unfolded in the media. I don't think I ever looked at a classroom full of students the same way again. The details in this book are well researched and organized, but also astounding. Cullen takes us through the events leading up to the tragedy, the aftermath, the investigation, and the cover ups. For the most part, Cullen's narrative follows the forensic pysch investigation of Dr. Dwayne Fuselier an FBI agent and clinical psychologist, as well as a terrorism and hostage negotiating expert. As Fuselier begins to investigate and make discoveries, time continues to move forward for the victims families, the survivors, and community. Thus, the narrative jumps around chronologically, but it's certainly not a problem to keep things straight. Whereas a linear approach might have been nice, it may also have been a difficult and distressing read, so I appreciate his choice. There are lots of names to keep track of but Cullen also kindly provides an index for point of reference. There were many false stories surrounding the event and Cullen does his best to dispel them. The boys were smart, average popularity guys that acted alone. They weren't bullied, if anything they were bullies. They weren't Goths or "Trench Coat Mafia", just a psychopath and a severely suicidal teen. The media and the witnesses weren't purposefully trying to mislead the public, they were confused. The Jeffco police were another matter entirely. It is incredible that so many warning signs went unheeded, that no one put all the puzzle pieces together until it was too late. Not that I think anyone could ever have imagined the heinous acts as those of April 20, 1999, but the police and judicial system had enough evidence to know that something bad might happen. If only they had communicated or followed through on paperwork. The one good thing to come from Columbine was the change in attitudes and response by educators, administrators, and law enforcement. Since 1999, more than 80 school shootings have occurred, but none as devastating as what took place at Columbine, save for the Virginia Tech massacre where once again, communication broke down. I think this book is a must read for both teachers and parents. Cullen does a magnificent job of fitting the truths together. It may change the way you look at the world. I know the shooting changed the teacher I became...
Anonymous 8 days ago
Dave Cullen provides a holistic picture of the events leading up to, including and the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy. His due diligence and fact checking countered much of the media reported or failed to report. It is amazing how people had warning signs of the Eric Harris's psychopathy and failed to act upon them whether it was the parents, the school, friends of the boys or law enforcement. The book also describes all the coverups that the law enforcement officials did since they dropped the ball on the warning signs. If you are old enough to recall the events and how the media reported it you should definitely read this book to gain the true understanding of what prompted the events to occur and the aftermath. There really isn't one party to blame here. Many people were involved and failed to act upon some truly psychotic behavior.
Anonymous 8 days ago
Dave Cullen provides a holistic picture of the events leading up to, including and the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy. His due diligence and fact checking countered much of the media reported or failed to report. It is amazing how people had warning signs of the Eric Harris's psychopathy and failed to act upon them whether it was the parents, the school, friends of the boys or law enforcement. The book also describes all the coverups that the law enforcement officials did since they dropped the ball on the warning signs. If you are old enough to recall the events and how the media reported it you should definitely read this book to gain the true understanding of what prompted the events to occur and the aftermath. There really isn't one party to blame here. Many people were involved and failed to act upon some truly psychotic behavior.
JuliW More than 1 year ago
I remember watching the news back in April, 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 more at Columbine High School in Colorado. I was a single parent of an 8-year old at the time, and the incident terrified me. With the issue of school shootings and gun control becoming more heated over the years, I decided it was time to do some reading and learn more information about the incidents, perpetrators and victims as I try become more informed. Columbine recounts not only the shootings but the years leading up to the incident and its aftermath. Dave Cullen spent more than 10 years going over police records, journals and other writings left by the two shooters, survivors and family accounts and media reports. In the years following the shooting, it has been revealed that many media reports were exaggerated or completely false. Cullen points out several things reported as fact that didn't happen, exploitation of the event by media and various organizations, and the community and victims' wishes to just be able to heal and get on with their lives. Media hounded the community and opened old wounds constantly for years following the shootings. I found the facts interesting and incredibly disturbing. Most of what I thought about the Columbine murders was based on bad information. I wanted someone to blame. Surely the fault couldn't lie with two teenaged boys. But, in the end, the blame belongs to the two boys who pulled the trigger. They killed 13 people and wounded 20+ more because THEY WANTED TO DO IT. Their plan was much bigger....blow up the school, kill a majority of the students and faculty, and escape and continue killing until they themselves were killed or committed suicide. And they lied, conned and tricked their way through life -- fooling everyone around them -- while writing about their secrets and beliefs in journals. They were two deeply disturbed individuals. I'm not sure how this might effect my opinions about gun control or prevention of mass shootings at schools. I have to do more reading and take time to think before I reform any opinions or stand firm. But I do know that I am learning that the blame I placed on the parents, faculty and law enforcement was at least partially unfair. The majority of the blame for these murders belongs to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Given the subject matter, this is NOT an easy book to read and not appropriate for children. The journal excerpts from the two shooters contains graphic and oftentimes vulgar language. There are graphic details about the shootings and actions of the shooters. If you are at all triggered by descriptions of fear, violence, murder, etc -- then this is not the book for you. It's heavy stuff. Be forewarned. But, it is informative and never disrespectful. The information is presented without bias. The Harris and Klebold families are not vilified, and the shooters are not demonized. But the truth is not sugar-coated either.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought I knew a lot about Columbine before I read this book but I did not. I could not put this book down. Fascinating, thoroughly researched, written like we were part of the experience. I was enthralled and recommend it highly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book “Columbine” written by David Cullen tells the story of the tragic event that occurred at Columbine High School in Colorado. On April 20th, 1990 two boys, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, had one goal: to blow up their school. Their bombs failed, but the shooting that unfolded that day defined a new era of school violence- branding every subsequent shooting “another Columbine”.  This book contains an immense amount of detail and was most definitely eye opening to read. The author does a great job talking about more than just the day of tragedy, he talks about the lives of those in the community, the students, and teachers. However, this was a tougher read because of the emotional aspects. Reading about the Columbine shooting in that much detail can be hard. With that being said though, I would still recommend this book to anh and everyone (who is at a reasonable age). Not only does the reader learn about the tragedy, they can learn warning signs and what to do in that situation that hundreds of high schools students and faculty were stuck in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author put so much detail into this book and I couldn't put it down. It was hard to read at times but it is all the evidence laid in front of you to see for yourself what happened. It was a great book about one of the most heartbreaking, angering, and sickening massacres we have ever seen.
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Aubrie Faville More than 1 year ago
I personally thought this book was absolutely phenomenal. Not only was the story so tragically grasping, but the way Cullen unfolded the events and provided gruesome detail made the story that more intriguing. It was amazing to me how much work was obviously put into this project and how much evidence was provided to support every claim. This book was extremely gripping and struck me to my core. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book for young or immature audiences. There are several spots within the book where the details become pretty vivid such as the journal entries in the back of the book, those brought me to tears. The overall writing style and voice Cullen uses makes the story very easy to follow almost as if it were a fictional story. Although, the pain and emotion he uses grips you to remind the reader that it is absolutely nonfiction. The most outstanding part of the book for me had to be how all the victims were described in such detail and stories of their lives and who they were. They weren't just victims of an unforgivable massacre; they were people, teenagers with goals and aspirations. As for the shooters I also believe they were done justice with how they were portrayed throughout the book. Cullen didn't downplay the horror of the massacre, but he did remind us all that they were teenagers as well. Needless to say the book was one if the best reads I've had in a while. I would definitely recommend it to anyone willing to read.