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Columbine, Dave Cullen

Page history last edited by Nora Rawlinson 13 years, 3 months ago

Columbine, Dave Cullen

Twelve/Grand Central (Hachette)

9780446546935  $26.99


Nora, here. I thought I'd start a page for this book, even though I haven't read it (but when has that ever stopped me?)


I found I had a tough time presenting this to the group when we did our jacket talks. I couldn't help but wonder how you could convince someone to read about the awful events at Columbine again, especially now that ten years have passed. I just quoted the library marketing rep. for Hachette told me she resisted reading it at first, but after she did, she became an evangelist for the book.


Now it seems like I'm seeing references to it wherever I turn; so much so that I did a blog post about it:

Who Wants to Read About Columbine? The headline sums up the problem I think the book faces in terms of appeal.


I'm looking forward to hearing what ARRT members who have read it think of it. And, particularly, I'd like to know, if you would recommend it, what would you tell someone to get them to read it?


Comments (6)

amortensen@skokielibrary.info said

at 2:53 pm on Mar 31, 2009

I couldn't stay for the Great Galley Challenge (sob!) but I'd already ordered this book for our library and there are currently four holds on it. Interestingly, two of those reserves were placed before reviews and articles started coming out in March. So perhaps there is already a ready-made audience for this book. It seems as though it endeavors to give some sense to the incomprehensible, which is an appeal factor in and of itself, I suppose. And as uncomfortable as I am to admit it, there's that "true crime" element to it as well ...
-Annabelle, Skokie PL

Nora Rawlinson said

at 6:28 pm on Mar 31, 2009

You're right -- in fact, some are comparing it to In Cold Blood.

I searched "Columbine" up on Twitter and discovered something interesting -- people who were in high school at the time of the killings are noting the anniversary. I look at the book through the eyes of someone who was an adult at the time of Columbine; for those who were in high school or junior high, Columbine marked a turning point. I'm sure they will be interested in the book.

Sarah said

at 1:49 pm on Apr 1, 2009

Actually, that is why I took the book at the Great Galley Challenge. I was in my Junior year of high school when Columbine happened. The first anniversary of the killings I stayed home from school because rumors and threats swirled around. I looked at my classmates and friends differently. I knew someone who had been childhood best friends with the Paducah killer. These events + the more recent college campus massacres have had an indelible effect on my life and I can see others my age or younger being interested in using this book to make some sense out of what has always seemed incomprehensible.

Stacey Cisneros said

at 2:53 pm on Apr 1, 2009

I just finished the book, which I found difficult to put down -- once I got started. I had a bit of an "ick" response at first (probably because I'm squeamish about books that aim to reveal the minds of killers), but the story and the writing pulled me in. One strong appeal factor to me was that I felt like I was hearing the untold details of the story, some of which had been covered up until recently. I think this book would appeal to readers who like to read exposes/investigative reporting stories. It also struck me that it could appeal to readers who are drawn to stories of unthinkable events, such as Krakauer's "Into the Wild" or "Into Thin Air" -- where you cannot understand at first glance how a person/people could follow the path they chose or how things fell apart the way they did. There's that big "Why?" question, and in "Columbine" I think Cullen does a good job of providing some clues.

Cathy Jo Yarmoski said

at 4:06 pm on Apr 1, 2009

This is narrative nonfiction at its best! Having lived in Denver, I was interested, but also didn’t anticipate not being able to put it down. It’s taken 10 years for the aftermath to play out, so Cullen’s meticulous research adds an incredible amount of detail and new information to the whole picture and the many voices (students, principal, teachers, parents, clergy, law enforcement personnel, etc.). The long gap also means many readers have forgotten a lot of what played in the media at the time, so even when the content covers things you remember, it seems fresh.

The author does a great job building suspense, even though you already know what happened (or think you do – he sets the record straight and dispels many of the misconceptions). What emerges is quite simply a fascinating and spell-binding story, and the fact that shootings like this are still in the news makes it relevant. And in addition to the “Why?” question there’s also the “What if?” one - as in how things might’ve been different if only this or that had happened.

I would definitely recommend this book to readers of all types of narrative nonfiction, certainly fans of true crime and psychology, but definitely not restricted to them. I was also going to say it reminded me of "In Cold Blood" or "Fatal Vision" by Joe McGinniss. The book should also appeal to suspense/thriller/mystery fans; readers of Jodi Picoult’s fictional "Nineteen Minutes" might enjoy being steered in the direction of a true account. I personally am not a big nonfiction reader, but this read like gripping fiction to me, and I had to keep reminding myself that sadly it was all true.

Book discussion? There’s plenty in the book to talk about, but know your audience and be aware that there are some very disturbing and graphic descriptions of the shootings and the immediate aftermath.

Cathy Jo, Chicago Public Library

Nora Rawlinson said

at 3:39 pm on Apr 6, 2009

Wow! Janet Maslin got pretty snippy about the book in today's NYT; check out my post about it --


Thanks for all your great comments; I quoted you in the post -- I didn't mention names, since I didn't ask your permission to to so.

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