Columbine by Dave Cullen

5632446As an avid reader of fantasy fiction (and someone who is no longer a student), I have a policy: for 20 minutes every day, I must read non-fiction. I try not to impose any rules beside that—as long as it’s non-fiction and I’m learning something, it fits the criteria.

Six months ago, I chose Columbine by Dave Cullen at the recommendation of my coworker, who, as an ex-newsman, has a passion for well-written, well-researched nonfiction.
It usually takes me less than a few days to start and finish a book, so spending six months on this one was an odd venture for me. Every day at lunch I would tuck it under my arm, take my chicken and broccoli downstairs, and read a chapter or two. It wasn’t a difficult read—at least, not in the sense of my reading ability.

It was the most emotional read I’ve ever had, which made it so difficult to get through. I felt so dark and down on the world when I would read it. On April 20, 1999, two boys marched into the doors of Columbine High School and carried out the biggest school massacre of their time. They looked into the eyes of their peers and murdered them ruthlessly. The media portrayed it as a shooting by two boys who had been picked on in school—-the story was much, much different.

Columbine took Cullen ten years to write and research. It is extremely well-written, and offers an all-around look at the suspects, victims, survivors, families of those involved, the community, the media, and law enforcement. He pulls information from the journals, video diaries and websites of the suspects, Dylan and Eric. He pulls information from interviews with the families of the deceased and from the survivors. Media interviews, media stories, leaked photos, police reports, police interviews, witness accounts…it is an amazing read that paints—in vivid detail—what happened in the years leading up to April 20, 1999, and the aftermath.

It is a chilling look into the mind of a psychopath. Both suspects display multiple characteristics of psychopathy, which are laid out in detail through their journal entries and criminal past. One trait of a psychopath is the ability to feign emotion and regret—to his parents and peers, Eric was a normal teenage boy who made mistakes and had run-ins with the law and alcohol. He feigned remorse, expressed a desire to be a better human. In his journal entries, he talks about his lies, and how badly he wanted to kill masses of people.

I cannot sum up the emotions and horror I felt while reading this book. In a society where we toss around words like ‘psycho’ and ‘psychopath’ in jest, most people have no idea how complex and chilling the true meaning is. As an empathetic person, I had a very difficult time wrapping my head around how someone could view the world in such a way.

I rated Columbine a 5/5 on Goodreads, and would highly recommend to anyone who is interested in the field of psychology or law enforcement. I’m definitely planning on picking a lighter book for my next non-fiction choice—this one was a little rough!

lauren copy 3

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Top Ten Tuesday: 9/30

Top Ten Books That Were Hard For Me To Read

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Columbine

1. Columbine by Dave Cullen is by far the most difficult book I’ve ever read. In fact, I haven’t even finished it yet. It isn’t difficult because it’s written poorly or it’s boring—it’s difficult because when I’m reading non-fiction, I have a tendency to put myself in the shoes of the people involved. This book covers the brutal Columbine massacre in 1999. It covers the suspects. The victims. The law enforcement agencies involved. The families and friends of victims. The incident completely shocked and stunned everyone, and reading about how devastated parents, siblings, girlfriends, boyfriends, friends, teachers, etc. were…it’s rough.

2. Working off of the same “putting myself in other people’s shoes” deal, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden stands out in my mind. Nitta is 9-years-old when she is sold into slavery at a geisha house—essentially a whorehouse. They say that being a geisha is not the same as being a prostitute—but no matter how you sugarcoat it, sex for money is prostitution in my book. She is taught the ways of the geisha; dancing, wearing a kimono, how to appeal to men. Her virginity is auctioned off and she’s required to sleep with an older man who she doesn’t know. It’s awful. But the book is amazing. Way better than the movie.

3. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer is terrible. I’ve read all of the Twilight books. I enjoyed the first one. The second one was slow, but I still read it. The third was a little worse. The fourth was because I was invested and felt that I had to. It was hard to finish—the only reason I did was because I couldn’t burn the $20 I’d just spent on it. Parasite baby birth? Come on.

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Friendship

4. Review to be posted this week, but Friendship by Emily Gould was incredibly difficult for me to read, primarily because I was so incredibly irritated with the main characters. It’s about two thirty-something women who are best friends—they’re supposed to learn that growing up and growing apart is okay, but holy hell. They were selfish and immature and extremely obnoxious and unlikeable.

5. The Fifty Shades trilogy was difficult for me to get through, especially after learning that it was essentially thinly veiled Twilight erotica fanfiction.

6. My Story by Elizabeth Smart was emotional, terrifying, and eye-opening. I struggled reading about the rape and abuse of the thirteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart. I remember when she went missing—I was the same age. My mom was so upset because she could identity with Smart’s mother. I remember when she was found. I was outside, and my mom shouted out the door that she had been found. Everyone was surprised. In turn, everyone became judgmental. Why didn’t she run? Why didn’t she try to get away? Her book covers that, and what she went through during her captivity. It was riveting and well-written, but extremely difficult to process and read.

Lauren11

The Heroin Diaries

The Heroin Diaries

7. The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx was probably, hands down, the hardest book for me to read since I’ve started reading (aside from text books). It’s a very detailed, in depth description of Motley Crue co-founder Nikki Sixx’s drug addiction, specifically heroin, and how he got to rock bottom. There for awhile I was very intrigued by drug addiction and the journey there and back. I read book after book on the subject, anything I could get my hands on really, and I learned a lot. But this book? This book was just too much for me. It’s filled with drugs, sex and alcohol and was very, very depressing. I read it about 5 years ago so it might be better now, but I have no desire to attempt it.

8. Anything after book 11 (Eleven on Top) in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich basically made me want to rip my hair out, but  I read through to book 18 (Explosive Eighteen). I LOVED the entire series up to about book 10, and then I started noticing that every single book was exactly the same with a few different people, and then it started getting out of control. I’m sure it happened well before that, but I honestly didn’t mind up until then. My dad got me hooked on her books and I wanted to badly to finish the entire series but I just couldn’t. I don’t think it helped that I read all of those books within about 4 weeks though… oops.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief

9. I feel a little bad putting this book on the list, but The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak was absolutely terrible for me. It gets such good reviews and it covers a topic that I’m very interested in, but I just could not get into it. It was very boring to me, and did not capture my attention at all. I pushed through as far as I could but honestly? I couldn’t finish it. I’ve tried 3 or 4 times to get into it, but it’s just not going to happen.

10. Melissa Explains It All by Melissa Joan Hart – it was advertised and marketed as being this really awesome tell-all, how she really was sort of a wild child while filming Sabrina but was smart enough to hide it, etc. But the entire thing felt like she was trying way too hard. Talking about trying drugs and smoking and being crazy just to make her sound cool, when really it made her sound old and annoying. I feel like the book was just a desperate attempt for publicity with a show that isn’t doing so hot and a need for money since she hasn’t been in the public eye since Sabrina went off air probably. If she had just been honest, even if her life was boring, it would have been better. Fail for Sabrina.

Kiesha

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