I chose Columbine, an incredibly detailed and powerful book by Dave Cullen about the 1999 school shootings at Columbine High School. The book is very well written. I was surprised by not only the amount of detail in Columbine, but by Cullen’s overall presentation of those details. Cullen obviously investigated the Columbine shooting inside and out, and he provides the intricate details in a way that isn’t overwhelming or confusing. It never feels like facts and statistics are being thrown at you for no reason.
The structure is also to be commended. Cullen doesn’t stick to a linear re-telling of the events from start to finish. Chapters jump back and forth - some before the shooting, some after - but they all connect to one another. In addition, you’re never confused about the time frame. It all flows seamlessly.
Of course, the topic of Columbine is very heavy. It’s a difficult book to read at times. I actually had to put Columbine down a few times because many of the descriptions are so raw and vivid… Maybe that’s the reason I stick to fiction, instead - at least I know fiction never actually happened to a real person.
But if you can stomach the harsh reality of the book, Columbine has a lot to offer. It’s classified as a social science book at Barnes & Noble, and I agree with that category. Columbine speaks volumes about human beings and the ways in which we deal with pain and suffering. The tragedy of Columbine continued long after the shooting was over. I imagine there will never be “closure” for so many families.
All in all, Columbine is an amazing work of journalism. Cullen’s ability to collect such an immense amount of data and present it all in such a readable format is astounding. The tragedy of Columbine will never be forgotten, and Cullen’s work dispels many of the rumors and conspiracy theories that may have tainted the truth over the years. The book gives a fairly unbiased view of the tragedy with many sources to back up the claims.
In the end, Columbine is an important work that doesn’t try to explain away a tragedy. Instead, it provides a great amount of detail into what actually happened, and teaches us something about the aftermath of such a traumatic event. While I got a lot out of Columbine, I’m still going to stick to fiction in the future. But if you’re into non-fiction (or sociology in particular), you don’t want to pass this book up.