Review: Columbine

Review: Columbine, by Dave Cullen

A Reader's Respite is lately addicted to our Ipod. Actually, we have an entire laundry-list of neuroses and addictions, but that's not important right now. The one we are talking about here is our newest obsession with listening to non-fiction on audiobook.

To be completely honest, A Reader's Respite doesn't really have any music on our Ipod anymore. We have audiobooks instead. And the newest neurosis to manifest itself around here is that we simply cannot fall asleep at night without a good non-fiction audiobook. That's not to say that non-fiction is so boring as to put us to sleep. Rather, it has become a ritual as comfortable as a favorite blanket.

Audiobooks have a lot of pressure on them: not only does the writing have to be good, but the narration does as well. There's been more than one excellent book out there that has been ruined by perfectly horrid narration. But when you find a good book told by a good narrator, well that, my friends, is priceless.

So it is to the non-fiction review blog Letters on Pages that A Reader's Respite owes our heartfelt thanks for recommending Dave Cullen's new book, Columbine, fabulously narrated by Don Leslie. (If you haven't checked out Adam's non-fiction reviews, you're missing out!)

For those who need a quick refresher: in 1999, Colorado teens Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire in Columbine High School, killing 13 students and faculty before turning the guns on themselves. The tragedy dominated the national news for months and the public was fed an enormous amount of mis-information, thanks to a botched investigation, gag-orders and grossly eroneous media reports.

Harris and Klebold, the little shits

Ten years later, Dave Cullen finally gives us the definitive story of the Columbine massacre, brilliantly written and illuminating. It was gratifying to finally learn the real story behind the tragedy: the victims, the motives, the history that led up to this horrific event. Don Leslie's narration is so compelling as to be almost will not want to stop listening to his voice!

The unabridged version (and we'll just tell you right now, if A Reader's Respite ever catches you listening to anything abridged, we'll break your kneecap) runs a glorious 43 hours and 34 minutes. It is available on CD, but we highly recommend downloading it from if you have an MP3 player ($15 a month gets you one free audiobook download each month...a steal!).

This is a highly recommended book in whatever format you it.


  1. I have a book on the columbine Tragedy which I need to read but I cannot make myself do it. I've read good reviews on this one. Glad you enjoyed it.

    I generally don't prefer audio books because they don't hold my attention for long even if the narration is good. May be I should try them while driving or something.

  2. I started listening to audiobooks only about 4 months ago, and, like you, they vie for space against the music on my iPod.

    Yes, unabridged is the way to go, IMHO, anything else is like Cliff Notes or Reader's Digest Condensed Books.

    Josh Bazell's BEAT THE REAPER is incredible on audio (must use a headset or make sure there are no "little ears" around!)

  3. I often forget that I even own an MP3 player since I never listen to it, so I think I'll try audio books. However, maybe something a little lighter!

  4. First, you know I am a total audiobook freak.I have three MP3 players (no iPods) and they are all filled with books.

    And lucky you, between the Seattle Public Library and King Co. Library, you should pretty much never have to buy another audiobook the rest of your life. But I also recommend (I've been a member for years).

    Great review! Try Wicked Lovely on audio. An almost perfect audiobook.

    Why are abridged audios even made? I don't get it.

  5. I share your obsession. I hoard audios on my iPod. God forbid I run out! This book has been on my list for awhile. I'd read that it was a very tactful, factual account of the tragedy. Boy is it long! Well, as you know, this does not scare me, as I have listened to well over a hundred discs with Outlander!

  6. I don't have music on my iPod either - it's strictly for audio books. Since my son was at Virginia Tech when they had the shootings, I just don't think I could bear to listen to or read this book.

  7. My daughter has been going through Diana Galbadon's books on audio. She says she's hooked, too.

  8. Your iPod sounds like mine, and now I get far more use out of it than I ever did when it held music. There's very little music on it now, and I also like listening at bedtime. My problem is, sometimes I fall asleep, which is a bit of a hassle because it's hard to find where I was!

  9. Belle, you made me laugh. I do the same thing. I sit in bed listening to an audio, swearing that I WILL NOT FALL ASLEEP. And I do. Every time. I wake up and I'm at the end of the disc. Something about it just lulls me right off.

  10. I love audiobooks! I actually download them for free from my library and transfer them to my MP3. And I listen every night before I fall asleep. And many times I am asleep and still listening when I wake up. DH used to complain about the light on when he was trying to fall asleep and the noisy page turning ( huh?) so this has solved what could have been a deal breaker! And yes - never never abridged!

  11. " has become a ritual as comfortable as a favorite blanket." Looks like I'm going to have to add some audios to my listening pleasure before bed.

    As for the book, I just can't go to that place @ the moment.

    Happy Reading! Happy Listening!

  12. Hello there! How are you?! Remember me and my poor deleted blog [ Giving Reading a Chance :)]

    Generally I don't listen to audio books, I don't know, my attention soan is very less :)

    I have not read anything on this, and I would love to read about it :)

    Hope al's well :) and great review as usual :)

  13. It's interesting that you mentioned the iPod. I have been listening to podcasts and audio books this past week as I got burnt out from all the music I had been listening to.

    Right now I have The Shack on audio (unabridged as I do not want my knee caps broken). It's not doing it for me though. The narrator sounds slightly over-the-top for me which is an immediate turn-off.

    I haven't tried yet. Maybe I will.

  14. I can't stand abridged audiobooks. Personally, I like to follow along in the book that way if the narrator pronounces something I don't understand I can read it at the same time. Plus, my mind doesn't wander and start thinking of a subject that the book brings up.

  15. Fourty-three hours! That would take me at least six months to listen to at the rate I'm at. I agree that abridged books are just wrong! Our library collection of audiobooks contains about half that are abridged and I refuse to listen to them. I don't want to miss anything.

    I will add this one to my list although I don't know if I will be listening to it. :) I think it would be easier to read.

  16. It's funny, I just left a comment on another blog about the danger of being recorded for some books. Not all of them are fit for that. But I also have no music on my iPod only audibooks and eBooks. I actually like my iPod as an eReader because it's enough and I don't crave for Kindle.

  17. Thanks for the nice write-up on my book, and also for leading me to the Letters On Pages review, which I had missed. (I was on book tour when that came out, barely breathing).

    I'm glad to hear lots of people are listening to it on audio. I have not actually had time to hear the audio version yet. I don't even know what the narrator sounds like, but looking forward to hearing it.

    It may be jarring at first, since I kind of hear it in my head in my own voice. I think it's pretty cool that someone recorded the whole thing, though. I certainly would have been awful at it. My publisher had me read just a few pages for a website podcast and man did I feel sorry for the engineer. I kept stumbling over my words and taking each sentence again and again. I was not born for radio, I guess. I'm glad some people were.

  18. Glad to hear this audiobook was great! I imagine that once you find a audio book reader you like, it should be easy to see what other books they read and pick up some of those too. :)

    Great review for a tragic story!

    ~ Wendi

  19. I really want to read (or listen) to this one. As a CO native I can remember exactly where I was when news of the shooting broke.

    And I totally agree, no unabridged audios!

  20. My daughter knew both Harris and Kleebold. It's still hard to believe, isn't it?

  21. Having just read Wally Lamb's "The Hour I First Believed," which tangentially deals with Columbine, my interest is piqued by this book and your review -- though I can't imagine falling asleep while listening to a topic on school shootings. I think I will check this book out.

    And I'm thinking that audio books might be a good exercise thing for me ... won't be bored walking or "ellipticalling" so thanks for the Audible info!


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