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2024 edition

with new Preface

50 Best Nonfiction Books of the quarter century. 

— Slate

"More important now than ever."

— Esquire


10 Years in the Making

I arrived at Columbine the first hour of the shooting, and spent ten years on this book. I was driven by two questions: why did they do it, and how did this shattered community recovery?

My surprise was that most of what we "know" about Columbine was wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths or the Trench Coat Mafia. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold didn't even envision a school shooting. They ridiculed school shooters as losers. Eric built his bombs to dwarf Oklahoma City. They planned to mow down survivors fleeing the the burning rubble for "fun." And it would end with more bombs.

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 disparate boys. Their motives and personalities were poles apart. Eric Harris was monstrous; Dylan Klebold was loving but bitterly angry inside — a tender boy torn apart. Dylan was truly a revelation. 

The survivors proved equally illuminating. Their stories are surprisingly uplifting — such a refreshing contrast to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Thousands of students and parents faced the unthinkable; most overcame it, many in extraordinary ways. I was amazed by their spirit and by stunning moments of redemption. Hopefully, those shine through in Columbine. Each survivor's recovery is unique, but they consistently tell me the greatest lesson other communities can learn is: Don't rush the healing!

Read Chapter 1

Expanded Edition
Eric Harris journal, Columbine, Kill Mankind, Napalm sketch

Dave has written for New York Times, Vanity Fair, BuzzFeed, Politico, Guardian, New Republic, Newsweek, Times of London, Washington Post, Daily Beast, Slate, Salon, The Millions, Lapham's Quarterly, NPR's On The Media, and 5280. Full Bio

"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."
— People

New York Times Bestseller


Edgar Award
Best True Crime 2009


Goodreads Choice Award
Best Nonfiction 2009


Barnes & Noble Discover Award
Best Nonfiction 2009

Top Education Book 2009
Top 10 of the Decade

American School Board Journal


The Truth About the Fact Award
Best Nonfiction 2009 

Los Angeles Times Book Prize

American Library Association Alex Award

Audie Award

Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award

Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award


New York Times

Los Angeles Times
Publishers Weekly
American Library Association

American School Board Journal
Chicago Tribune

Entertainment Weekly

Miami Herald

Bookmarks Magazine



Mother Jones




Washington Post Express

Oakland East Bay Express

National Post (Canada)

New Haven Register

New London's The Day

New West

Asia Literary Review


Columbia Journalism Review


Times of London


USA Today


Book Riot

Philadelphia Inquirer


MetroFocus (PBS NYC)

Daily Beast

New York Post

Huffington Post

Rachel Maddow

Anderson Cooper

Chris Hayes

Brian Stelter, CNN's "Reliable Sources"


True Crime Best Lists

Publishers Weekly





USA Today

Huffington Post

Reader's Digest

B&N Reads


The Lineup

All Columbine Reviews

Expanded Edition

New epilogue

Killers' journal scans


Book club guide

Over 50 new pages

More Relevant Than Ever

"The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . ."  That's how I began the epilogue to this expanded edition, grappling with this scourge of spectacle murders. After 18 years covering the tragedy that ignited this ghastly phenom, it's now clear why they continue.

The first edition of Columbine took me ten years, and I thought I was done. That was naive. I step back now to address how Columbine created a new template for these frustrated kids — and how we can prevent school shootings. 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 Harris and Dylan Klebold as heroic champions of the downtrodden.

Nonsense. Eric cared only about self-aggrandizement, and Dylan was focused on ending his own despair. 

In the wake of Newtown, Las Vegas, the Pulse nightclub and so many horrors whose names are sadly forgotten, the imperative to understand the attack that initiated this blight grows more urgent. Only by understanding this tragedy can we prevent more.

Epilogue excerpt

over 750,000 views

"This book is a masterpiece."

— Seattle Times

"This superb work of investigation looks to be a definitive account."

Columbia Journalism Review

Intro Video
Teacher's Guide


Teacher's Guide

We created units for a variety of high school or college courses in this modular 50-page Columbine Teacher's Guide. It emphasizes analysis and critical thinking. Thanks to all the teachers and professors who helped create and refine it. It's free. (New streamlined look, 2017.)

Popular modules

Columbine Teacher's Guide, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold

"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



Anderson Cooper, Dave Cullen, Columbine, school shooting, AC360 TV

Dave has been a frequent TV/radio analyst on NBC Nightly News, PBS Newshour, CBS Sunday Morning, Lawrence O'Donnell, Nightline, Today, Morning Edition, The Nineties, Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper 360, All In With Chris Hayes, CBS This Morning, CBSN, The Nineties, Hannity, Lawrence O'Donnell, All Things Considered, Deadline: Whitehouse, New Day, Katie, Talk of the Nation, The Takeaway, and documentaries on CNN,  Showtime, Spike, NatGeo, etc.

Links (Including Parkland)

Showtime's new Columbine documentary (With me)

  "I urge you to read it. I've read it two or three times. It's just an incredible read. 

  It changed my whole perspective on this."  

          — Anderson Cooper          

Resources / Research

Columbine Resources

Run, Hide, Fight; Columbine, school shooting, mass murder, school shooting


Columbine Excerpts

Book Club

Columbine Student Guide

Columbine Teacher's Guide

Teen Depression

Columbine FAQ


"A page-turning, complex, disturbingly-readable book of incredible ambition and scope."

— Publishers Weekly

"A virtuoso feat of reporting."

— Vanity Fair



When Columbine was published in 2009, I did more than a hundred interviews. These were the most interesting. And I added a recent one. Goggle for more.

Reporting Columbine

Through ten years working on Columbine, I published more than thirty pieces on the tragedy in Slate, Salon, New York Times, etc. Since book publication, I’ve continued writing about school shootings, "spectacle murders" and now Parkland / #NeverAgain for New York Times, Vanity Fair, BuzzFeed, New Republic, Politico Magazine, Guardian, Times of London, etc. Highlights:

Sue Klebold Columbine mother of Dylan Klebold Vanity Fair

Columbine mom

Sue Klebold

All My Columbine / Shooting Stories


"I could not put Cullen's searing narrative down."

— Entertainment Weekly

Buy / Autographed


​Columbia Journalism Review
Times of London
USA Today
Book Riot
Daily Beast
Philadelphia Inquirer
Huffington Post
New York Post
Anderson Cooper
Rachel Maddow
Chris Hayes
Brian Stelter, CNN's "Reliable Sources"

"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

Indiebound Indie local bookstore
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Amazon logo
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Columbine Japanese translation | Dave Cullen, Japan, school shootings book


Columbine Korean translation, Dave Cullen book, Korea school shooting Eric Harris Sue Klebold


Russian and Portuguese just published!

September 2019

Publishers Weekly 10 Best True Crime books, Columbine Dave Cullen


What's amazing is how much of Cullen's book still comes as a surprise."

— New York Times Book Review

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