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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 Lesli Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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

  • “Half the anguish of Columbine is our mystification. How did those boys get so twisted, so murderous? Now, after nine years of great reporting, Dave Cullen has done the impossible: you will know these killers—and it will shake you up. This is a big-time work that will endure.”

    Richard Ben Cramer, New York Times bestselling author of Joe DiMaggio and What It Takes

  • “Dave Cullen is the Dante of this high school hell. I came away from it thinking of Jack Nicholson hollering ‘You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!’ Read this quietly powerful account of Columbine and find out if you can.”

    Ron Rosenbaum, New York Times bestselling author of Explaining Hitler

  • Columbine is an excellent work of media criticism, showing how legends become truths through continual citation; a sensitive guide to the patterns of public grief, foreshadowing many of the same reactions to September 11 (lawsuits, arguments about the memorial, voyeuristic bus tours); and, at the end of the day, a fine example of old-fashioned journalism…[Cullen’s] nuanced dissection of the differences between Harris and Klebold is first-rate.”

    New York Times

  • Columbine is an excellent work of media criticism, showing how legends become truths through continual citation…and, at the end of the day, a fine example of old fashioned journalism…moving things along with agility and grace.”

    New York Times Review of Books

  • “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

  • “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…Hopping back and forth in time, Cullen manages to tell this complicated story with remarkable clarity and coherence. As one of the first reporters on the scene in 1999, he has been studying this event firsthand for a decade, and his book exudes a sense of authority missing from much of the original media coverage…Cullen strikes just the right tone of tough-minded compassion.”

    Washington Post

  • “A remarkable book. It is painstakingly reported, well-organized and compellingly written…For any reader who wants to understand the complicated nature of evil, this book is a masterpiece.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Comprehensive…It’s a book that hits you like a crime scene photo, a reminder of what journalism at its best is all about. Cullen knows his material from the inside; he covered Columbine, for Salon and Slate primarily, ‘beginning around noon on the day of the attack.’ But if this gives him a certain purchase on the story, his perspective is what resonates.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Cullen’s book is a nerve-wracking, methodical, and panoramic account… Columbine has its terrifying sections, particularly during Cullen’s minute-by-minute rendering of the chaotic forty-nine-minute assault. He puts us inside and outside the building, and he captures the disbelief viewers experienced in ‘almost witnessing mass murder’ live on television.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • Columbine is a remarkable achievement. Cullen has brought illumination to a dark and difficult topic, and the result is an example of literary nonfiction at its finest: masterful, clear-eyed, bold—and unforgettable.”

    Charlotte Observer

  • “Comprehensively nightmarish…Columbine is a necessary book…The actual events of April 20, 1999, are exactly as appalling as you’d expect, and Cullen doesn’t spare us a second of them.”


  • “The definitive account [of the tragedy] 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.”


  • “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.”


  • “Dave Cullen’s meticulous research dispels the myths and hasty assumptions surrounding the 1999 Columbine High School shootings...Don Leslie’s nuanced reading of the disturbing material makes clear that the boys were not goths, gay, or bullied. Leslie is mesmerizing as he makes Cullen’s case that Harris was predisposed to psychopathy and Klebold was erratic, depressed, and suicidal…If this important book were fiction, it would be devastating. Knowing it really happened is heartbreaking.”


  • “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

  • A 2009 Los Angeles Times Favorite 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 for Current Interest
  • 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
  • A BuzzFeed Books Pick for 18 Creepily Fascinating True Crime Books You Really Need to Read

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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