Friday, April 24, 2009

Review of Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine is not a book I would have deliberately selected to read. I hesitantly picked it up from the employee damages shelf for something to read while I ate my lunch. I read a few pages of a lot of books at lunch and leave them here at the store, never returning to them. I took Columbine home out of curiosity, took it on a road trip to Arizona, and finished it in 3 days. I had been living in California when the Columbine shooting happened, remember seeing footage from the school cafeteria, and remember the slant offered by the media: Trench Coat Mafia, outcasts targeting jocks, blaming the parents. What I found inside the book was a very different story - a fascinating biography/psychological assessment of the two shooters, detailed accounts of the actual shooting plus the myriad of events leading up to it, and the objective presentation of the diverse impact of the event on parents, victims, survivors, and community members. As a teacher, I am mindful of the possibility of such events happening "anywhere". After reading this, I was "comforted" (and simultaneously a little disturbed) by the fact that this was not a sporadic event, but rather was planned a year ahead by these two boys; that they were not subtle in their jokes or hints; that one student was (unfortunately in retrospect) diagnosed as a psychopath and possessed an arsenal of weapons in his basement; that both had displayed criminal behavior prior to the attack. I am armed with accurate information about who commits these sort of crimes, their motivations, and how their plans might leak as part of assignments, art work, comments, etc. The Columbine shooting could have been prevented with improved communication between law enforcement agencies, with more persistent inspection of the warning signs, with more aggressive parenting. What I took away from this book was that we learn from mistakes and this was a big mistake.

I recommend this book for those who have always wanted to know more about the Columbine incident, are interested in true crime stories, or who were affected indirectly or directly by the shooting. It is also a good read for teachers and professionals to learn more about how to watch for warning signs in those prone to such acts. The writing style is straightforward and the exposition is well-organized and even a little suspenseful. You will find yourself propelled forward through the story, starting with the incident itself and then forward from the first seeds leading up to the incident.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review.Was thinking of getting this book now I am definitely going to.Thanks!!