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4.00004929994084 out of 54.00004929994084 out of 54.00004929994084 out of 54.00004929994084 out of 54.00004929994084 out of 5 4.00 (20,284 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Dave Cullen Narrator: Don Leslie Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2009 ISBN: 9781455194711
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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—irrevocably 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—with the whole world watching him. In this riveting piece of journalism nearly ten years in the making comes the story none of us knew. This revelatory book offers a profile of teenage killers that goes to the heart of psychopathology. Dave Cullen, the acclaimed journalist who followed the massacre from day one, lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris and the quavering, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who went to 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 came to stockpile a basement cache of weapons, to record their raging hatred, and to manipulate 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.

In the tradition of Helter Skelter and In Cold Blood, Columbine is destined to be a classic. A close-up portrait of hatred, a community rendered helpless, and the police blunders and cover-ups, it is a compelling and utterly human portrait of two killers—an unforgettable cautionary tale for our times.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Don Leslie’s nuanced reading…is mesmerizing as he makes Cullen’s case that Harris was predisposed to psychopathy and Klebold was erratic, depressed, and suicidal. Once they got together, the dyad became deadly.”


  • “Cullen has done the impossible: you will know these killers—and it will shake you up.”

    Richard Ben Cramer, New York Times bestselling author

  • “Comprehensively nightmarish.”


  • “The definitive account…that has the pacing of an action movie and the complexity of a Shakespearean drama.”


  • Columbine is an excellent work of media criticism…a fine example of old-fashioned journalism…[Cullen’s] nuanced dissection of the differences between Harris and Klebold is first-rate.”

    New York Times

  • “Exhaustive and supremely level-headed…The ways in which the Columbine story became distorted in the retelling make for one of the most fascinating aspects of Cullen’s book.”

    Washington Post

  • “A book that hits you like a crime scene photo, a reminder of what journalism at its best is all about.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “An example of literary nonfiction at its finest: masterful, clear-eyed, bold—and unforgettable.”

    Charlotte Observer

  • “Painstakingly reported, well-organized, and compellingly written.”

    Seattle Times

  • “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.”

    New York Observer

  • “[A] nerve-wracking, methodical, and panoramic account…Cullen’s minute-by-minute rendering of the chaotic forty-nine-minute assault…puts us inside and outside the building.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “While the details of the day are indeed gruesome, Cullen neither embellishes nor sensationalizes. His unadorned prose and staccato sections offer welcome relief from the grisly minutiae…Cullen’s honor and reporting skills propel this book beyond tabloid and into true literature.”


  • “From the very first page, I could not put Columbine, Dave Cullen’s searing narrative, down…Reads like the grisliest of fiction. Would that it were not true. Grade: A.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Cullen creates more than a nuanced portrait of school shooters as young men. He writes a human story—a compassionate narrative of teenagers with guns (and bombs, too) and the havoc they wreak on a school, a community, and America.”


  • “A chilling page-turner, a striking accomplishment given that Cullen’s likely readers almost certainly know how the tragic story ends…I knew Cullen was a dogged reporter and a terrific writer, but even I was blown away by the pacing and storytelling he mastered in Columbine, a disturbing, inspiring work of art.”


  • “[A] remarkable account…Cullen not only dispels several of the prevailing myths about the event but tackles the hardest question of all: why did it happen? 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.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Relying on more than ten years of research, award-winning journalist Cullen here pieces together a stunning, authoritative, full-scope view of the Columbine tragedy, reaching powerful and controversial conclusions and revealing several facts previously unknown to the public. Don Leslie reads with both sensation and objectivity, escalating emotion during the often graphic diary passages and helping the story to flow.”

    Library Journal

  • “A penetrating look at the motivation and intent of the shooters…Graphic and emotionally vivid; spectacularly researched and analyzed.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “[Cullen’s] writing has the immediacy and starkness of a documentary…A deeply unsettling book because it confirms our worst fear: that evil can arise without apparent cause and strike without provocation.”


  • “Cullen has assembled a first rate piece of nonfiction history. It illustrates exactly why a public reaction to the daily news so often leads to dangerously false beliefs…Don Leslie, the narrator, is given the grim task of reading the words of Klebold and Harris. It isn’t an enviable job, but he is up to the task…Leslie does his best to make each quote as clear as he can.”


  • “Comprehensive, myth-busting examination…Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community…Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy…Carefully researched and chilling.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Winner of the 2009 AudioFile Best Audiobook of the Year for Nonfiction and Culture
  • A 2009 iTunes Top Seller for Nonfiction
  • A 2009 Amazon Top 100 Book
  • A 2009 Publishers Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction
  • Winner of the 2010 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Fact Crime
  • A New York Times bestseller
  • Finalist for the 2012 Abraham Lincoln Award
  • New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction, 2009
  • A 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee
  • A BuzzFeed Books Pick of Creepily Fascinating True Crime Books

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 sean2e | 9/5/2016

    " This is hands down the most comprehensive book on this subject. If you have any interest do not hesitate. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Omar Leal | 2/20/2014

    " I would consider this book to be the definitive account of what happened at columbine, made all the more poignant considering recent events. However, the one problem with this is, the author believes his to be the case as well and takes every opportunity to continually remind you how he is right and other accounts were so very, very wrong. The opening is a bit confusing, as it walks through the day of the massacre. What is confusing and annoying is that the author continually mentions there is more to the story while recounting the timeline. In hindsight, this does make an effective opening but during the initial reading it was more annoying than gripping, more like the author was trying to add suspense to a story we already knew the outcome to. The best part of the book is the background stories of Dylan and Eric and how they came to that end. Especially interesting is post mortem diagnosis of Eric as a sociopath and Dylan more a depressed/suicidal follower than psycho. Their attempts at bravado, both in their writings and videos is more sad than chilling or frightening. All in all though the book is well worth the read to both remember a significant event in American history and as small glimpse in the mentality than can see this as a viable goal to be obtained. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shetal | 2/15/2014

    " Listened via Audible. Excellent read if you are like me and harbored a morbid curiosity about the school shooters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dylan | 2/9/2014

    " This was a very informative book that was able to form a nonfiction event in a compelling way. However, given that this book was not of my own selection I found some of the subject matter to be very disturbing. I would not read this book of my own accord. It was written proficiently, though personally I perfer a bit more eloquence in the writing I read ( of course, that's me being a fantasy buff). Overall, this nonfiction-novel served its purpose as informing the populace on the truth of The Columbine Tragedy. However, there were times where the author seemed to interject some of his opinion with the characters/ quotes. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michael | 2/8/2014

    " Decent book that gives you a pretty in-depth look at what happened and why. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christine Hampton | 2/3/2014

    " Excellent account of the tragedy. Plenty of background evidence. Hard to understand what drove the two teenagers to do it. More info to be released in 2017. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 1/26/2014

    " Really interesting, in-depth description of the Columbine shooting and its "before and afters." I appreciate how much emphasis Cullen put on trying to gain insight into the personalities and lives of the two shooters. It is a heart-breaking, thorough, and captivating read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cathy | 1/15/2014

    " Such an amazing read that I just wasn't able to tackle until much after the incident that was so close to my home and heart. Working in the district and having children in high school at the time brought some real heart rending knowledge to this book. I gained some very interesting information as well. A great read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jennie | 1/12/2014

    " Must read, one of my favourites. If you think you know the ins and outs of this terrible tragedy, pick this up. Could not put it down. Amongst it's dark theme there are moments of heroism that the media left out. Part of my permanent collection. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Courtney Milford | 1/9/2014

    " I enjoyed this book very much, even though I had lived through the news of the story and was pretty familiar with it. Obviously, it is a very sad book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Martyna | 12/31/2013

    " Meticulously researched and overall brilliant, kept me hooked until the last page. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Beckydham | 11/27/2013

    " Amazingly researched and thoughtful. At first I didn't like the back-n-forth organization, but it paid off at the end. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Audrey | 10/27/2013

    " If you haven't read this book-you likely don't know what happened at Columbine...thought I knew and was floored. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Scott Greenwald | 9/25/2013

    " Good insight despite the authors liberties with creating hypothetical interactions "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Liz | 12/15/2012

    " in his writing reminiscent of krakauer, cullen does a great job jumping from story to story to weave together a just about 360-degree view of what happened before, during, and after columbine. would recommend to anyone who likes a good investigative journalism story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kerry Frabizio | 1/29/2012

    " Re-read after having a conversation about it with some colleagues. It was almost more disturbing the second time through. Essential reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tom | 9/4/2011

    " Interesting, very interesting. I liked the writing style, but I didn't like he incessantly cutting away and focusing on trivial items. All in all a very fascinating portrait of two boys. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Augusto | 7/24/2011

    " It was actually a really amazing book and it drove me to have legitimate emotions at some points, but the fact that it was so long just puts me off a little. All in all, still a great book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Matthew | 6/27/2011

    " An insightful look at the lives of the Columbine shooters and a number of the people they affected. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Robert | 6/26/2011

    " It is impossible to get through this book without tears, especially if you have ever lost someone to violence. An even-handed look at everyone, even the killers themselves, which brings a cathartic release of grief for the horror that happened in this community. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ann | 6/25/2011

    " Excellent book. Didn't expect it to be as good. Really got into the families. Amazing.

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joe | 6/23/2011

    " Fascinating yet disturbing account of the Columbine massacre – and how it could have been prevented. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sasha | 6/22/2011

    " outstanding journalism. a tremendous amount of information, reporting, research, went into this book, and Cullen explains the terrible event, what led up to it, and what happened subsequently, really, really well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dale | 6/13/2011

    " An incredible, compelling, insightful piece of nonfiction. More than journalism, it's the very definition of 'creative nonfiction.'

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marian | 6/13/2011

    " A tough read, but well worth it. Everything I thought I knew about Columbine was not true. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Suz | 6/13/2011

    " An extraordinary and fascinating account of the tragedy, the players, the politics and the aftermath of Columbine ten years later. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jennie | 6/12/2011

    " Detailed..... Very disturbing that humans can be so destructive!!! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jennifer | 6/10/2011

    " A shocking, informative, poignant and sorrowful piece of nonfiction. Extremely well told. I felt like I learned quite a bit about Columbine, and the journalist seemed to put quite a bit of thought into it. True, he fixed things up in ten years' time, but the writing still deserves accolades. "

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About the Author
Author Dave Cullen

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, Colorado, he has won several writing awards.

About the Narrator

Don Leslie has appeared on Broadway, off Broadway, and in regional theaters throughout the country. He has been heard in thousands of commercials, promos for all the broadcast networks and most cable stations, political campaigns, movie trailers, and over fifty audiobooks.