The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . .
New York Times Bestseller
Goodreads Choice Award
24 Major Year-End Best Lists
That's how I began the new epilogue to this expanded edition, grappling with why this scourge of spectacle murders continues. After 17 years on the case that ignited this ghastly phenom, it's now clear what is going on.
Columbine took me ten years, and I thought I was done. Naive. I step back now to address how Columbine created a new template for these frustrated kids — and how we can prevent them. Columbine is so misunderstood that these copycats are following a false script. The Columbine myths were seized upon by a generation of new killers, looking to Eric and Dylan as heroic champions of the downtrodden. Ridiculous.
In the wake of Newtown, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and so many others, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this blight grows more urgent every passing year. Only by understanding this tragedy can we stop them.
So we created this expanded edition, with over 30 pages of new material (50 since hardcover). We added the epilogue and new scans from the killers' journals. Now you can see Eric's detailed attack sketches, with Napalm on the tank for his back. Read Dylan's entire chilling "emotion of God" story, presaging the murders in English class. Read Eric's apology letter to the van owner, beside his vicious journal passage eviscerating the same man, at the same time. (Discovering the letter was a key moment of insight for Agent Fuselier in the book — now read both sides of Eric's most psychopathic lie.) See Eric's budget and To Do list for the attack. Most shockingly, see five pages of giant hearts in Dylan's alternately angry/loving journal.
We also added a reading group guide, crime-scene diagram, and excerpt from the free Columbine Teacher's Guide.
"This superb work of investigation looks to be a definitive account."
— Columbia Journalism Review
More Relevant Than Ever
When attacks take place, like Ohio State on Monday, remember that most info in the early hours will be wrong. I wrote A Skeptic's Guide to Media Coverage of School Shootings for The New Republic. It's a quick read.
Columbine Book Trailer
3-minute intro video
This tight video by South Park filmmaker Andrew Kemler summarizes the complex Columbine story in 3 minutes. See clips of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold from "Hitmen For Hire" videos and cafeteria surveillance video. We got rare permission to film inside Columbine High School. I stand in the cafeteria to show you the exact spots they placed the propane bombs. You can see the kids' perspective when the shooting unfolded outside the windows. That's available nowhere else.
"This book is a masterpiece."
— Seattle Times
I spent ten years writing and researching the original edition, arriving at Columbine while hundreds were still trapped inside. I was driven by two questions: why did they do it, and what became of the survivors?
My big surprise was that most of what we "know" about Columbine was wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths or the Trench Coat Mafia. Eric and Dylan didn't even see themselves as school shooters. They ridiculed those guys. Their primary vision was a bombing, to dwarf Oklahoma City. They planned to mow down survivors as they fled the burning rubble.
The key to comprehending Columbine is letting go of our concept of "the killers." Spend a few pages with Dylan and Eric, and you'll discover two starkly different boys. Their personalities and motives were poles apart. Eric Harris was monstrous; Dylan Klebold was loving but fiercely angry inside, a tender boy torn apart. For me, Dylan was truly a revelation.
The survivors proved equally illuminating. Their stories are surprisingly uplifting — what a refreshing contrast to Dylan and Eric. Thousands of kids and parents faced the unthinkable; most overcame it, many in extraordinary ways. I was amazed by their spirit and stunning moments of redemption. (Getting to know Patrick Ireland and witnessing his resilience was what got me through ten dark years creating this book. Readers often tell me Patrick played a similar role for them reading it.)
I was stunned to discover just how different the tragedy was for people going through what appeared identical from the outside. Each survivor's recovery is unique, and the greatest lesson other communities can learn is: Don't rush their healing!
"Tackles the hardest question of all: why? Come away from Cullen's unflinching account with a deeper understanding of what drove these boys to kill."
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
New Epilogue (2016)
"The pacing of an action movie and the complexity of a Shakespearean drama."
New Journal Scans
Added to new edition, 2016
I carefully culled back through the thousand pages of journal entries and other released material by Eric and Dylan for this new edition. I wanted to show you the bits that would be most revealing, that illustrate the most crucial points, and show as many possible sides.
"Accomplishes an astonishing number of things in compelling, articulate prose . . . Most remarkable is Cullen's ability to present an onslaught of facts while recreating such anguish and fear. Columbine is a valuable historic resource, but it roils the heart, too."
— Miami Herald
I try to sign copies at McNally Jackson Books, The Strand, and Barnes & Noble Union Square periodically. All ship worldwide. I signed copies at all three around Oct 18, and at Union Square Nov 12. Order info. (I also signed at B&N Schaumburg and Old Orchard while visiting my mom in the hospital Nov 13.)
AUTOGRAPHED (ships worldwide)
Free Columbine Teacher's Guide
Excerpt in the new edition
We created this 50-page modular Columbine Teacher's Guide with input from generous high school and college instructors. We're giving it away free. Thanks to all the teachers who helped create and then refine it.
I organized my research into this tool for readers: Columbine Online. It includes photos, diagrams, scans of the Eric and Dylan's journals, links to all the reports and police files, instructions on how to get your own copies, etc. Information on Dave speaking about Columbine at your school.
Read chapter 1 on Oprah.com, and passages on Eric and Dylan at Slate. Excerpts.
Two million teens clinically depressed — time to act
The great unlearned lesson of Columbine is teen depression. Six percent of U.S. adolescents suffer clinical depression. So I created the Teen Depression unit in my Columbine Teacher's Guide for instructors and Teen Depression 101 for everyone else. They include warning signs, resources, discussion-starters, etc. Please discuss candidly with kids. See a kid in danger? Get help; save a life.
See the new epilogue for a deep discussion, and practical steps to address it.
Critics on Columbine
"Excellent . . . What's amazing is how much of Cullen's book still comes as a surprise . . . [His] nuanced dissection of the differences between Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold is first-rate."
— New York Times Book Review
"Like Capote's In Cold Blood, this tour de force gets below the who and what of a horrifying incident to lay bare the devastating why."
"Read this book for its unflinching honesty . . . You may want to leave the horror behind you — that may be why you haven't yet picked up Columbine, journalist Dave Cullen's spectacularly gripping account. But Cullen's chilling narrative is too vital to miss."
— O: The Oprah Magazine
"Graphic and emotionally vivid; spectacularly researched and analyzed."
— Booklist (starred review)
"An astonishingly comprehensive look at the incident and the decade of struggle."
— Chicago Tribune
"Cullen makes it work because he insists on framing the killers in human terms . . . That's tricky ground for a writer to navigate, to ask, if not for understanding, for compassion for two boys regarded as monsters."
— Los Angeles Times
"It opens with a proclamation of love and concludes with an image of redemption, and what unfolds in the pages between them is extraordinary."
— Charlotte Observer
"Cullen's Klebold is a lonely depressive, and all too easily manipulated. Harris is a genuine psychopath, a natural-born killer.
And yet, both boys emerge as three-dimensional human beings. Throughout, Cullen refuses to sensationalize."
— Very Short List
"Definitive . . . a staggering feat of reporting that completes and corrects the record in equal measure."
"In this remarkable account of the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School shooting, journalist 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."
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
All Columbine reviews,
with longer passages and links to full text.
Stop Granting Killers Notoriety
I lay out the case for diminishing the killers in my new epilogue. I'm not suggesting we eliminate all names and images, but that we drastically diminish them, in a way that makes sense. Read my early proposal in Buzzfeed. Watch me discuss it on Anderson Cooper 360 and debate it with Jeff Greenfield on CNN's Reliable Sources. I got into it deeper with a guest host on AC360 in Aug 2015 here: How the media should cover murderers.
Pulse Orlando tragedy
This tragedy hit home, as I discovered how it feels to feel personally attacked. I wrote about that for Vanity Fair: Mass Murder at the gay bar: my worlds collide. And my drastically-different Vanity Fair follow-up on a potential motive: The Orlando shooter may have been gay? The gay community isn't surprised. I discussed both in a Vanity Fair Live interview.