This modern classic and New York Times best seller was a finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award and has become a staple of American classrooms. Hailed by The New York Times as "a marvel of storytelling", The Things They Carried’s portrayal of the boots-on-the-ground experience of soldiers in the Vietnam War is a landmark in war writing. Now, three-time Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston, star of the hit TV series Breaking Bad, delivers an electrifying performance that walks the book’s hallucinatory line between reality and fiction and highlights the emotional power of the spoken word.
The soldiers in this collection of stories carried M-16 rifles, M-60 machine guns, and M-79 grenade launchers. They carried plastic explosives, hand grenades, flak jackets, and landmines. But they also carried letters from home, illustrated Bibles, and pictures of their loved ones. Some of them carried extra food or comic books or drugs. Every man carried what he needed to survive, and those who did carried their shattering stories away from the jungle and back to a nation that would never understand.
This audiobook also includes an exclusive recording “The Vietnam in Me,” a recount of the author’s trip back to Vietnam in 1994, revisiting his experience there as a soldier 25 years before, read by Tim O’Brien himself.
The Things They Carried was produced by Audible Studios in partnership with Playtone, the celebrated film and television production company founded by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, and producer of the award-winning series Band of Brothers, John Adams, and The Pacific, as well as the HBO movie Game Change.
For more from Audible and Playtone, click here.
©1990 Tim O'Brien (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
"Over time, America's wars are written in shorthand: World War II is noble sacrifice; the Civil War, tragic fratricide; Vietnam, black humor and moral ambiguity. Which is partly what makes Bryan Cranston a more than suitable choice to narrate [this] new audiobook edition. Thanks to his role on Breaking Bad, Cranston may be the most charismatic embodiment of moral ambiguity we currently possess. There was always something comforting as well as menacing in Walter White's voice, and Cranston attacks O'Brien's sober, sinewy prose with slightly scary authority.... [I]f you were a binge-watcher of Breaking Bad it will be no big deal to spend six hours in his company here. His calm, gravelly diction, unmarked by any noticeable regional accent, carries a faint echo of Walter Cronkite, who delivered the news from 'Nam with a matter-of-factness inflected with moral concern. But Cranston is also a capable mimic, and he does the Army in different voices. Characters who on the page are names, fates and identifying attributes grow into a chorus of American regional and ethnic types - Native American, ¬African-American, Midwestern, Southern…. The novel's two best sections - the account of an aimless drive around an Iowa lake interspersed with flashbacks to a horrible night in a Vietnamese bog, and the chronicle of an abortive flight to Canada on O'Brien's part - take on new and gripping power." (A. O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review)
Say something about yourself!
Like voices from the grave, devastatingly profound, and haunting. A review would be inappropriate, but my experience with this book was probably similar to other readers that were very young teens during the height of the Viet Nam war. Though I wore one of those MIA bracelets, sent neighbors and friend's older brothers off, went to Country Joe and the Fish concerts and yelled out the FISH cheer, I was young, distant, and naïve, and could only marginally intellectualize the atrocities and the nightly tally of deaths. Listening to Cranston narrate these stories gives faces to the words; the soldiers become flesh and blood -- not just characters and chapters. Their candid stories and Cranston's seriously brilliant interpretations were so achingly real that I could not listen long without pausing, or just stopping my device for a breather. (It took me 2 weeks to get through this.) This would be a much easier read, but hardly better; Cranston is able to convey the emotion, every chuckle, every hope, every pain, every horror. It's not always the obvious that is difficult to hear; the slaughter of the water buffalo wasn't half as savage as the fundamental experience that nurtured the attack... it's listening to the innocence and promise in these young soldiers as it ebbs away. It's looking back through the all-seeing eyes of retrospection and time, and probably also adding *mother* to the list of sister, daughter, girlfriend, neighbor. A vivid reminder of the fragility of life and the true cost of war. Like others have mentioned, there are several books concerning wars that give you that *boots-on-the-ground* feel, but this one, especially as it is performed here, is the emotional experience--to the degree that it can be shared.
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
These are just the intangibles that O'Brien packs into 'The Things They Carried'. There is something about Tim O'Brien's second (after 'Going After Cacciato') war masterpiece that just gets me. It is one of my favorite [I know, I know favorite isn't the right word and if I had more time, I'd figure out a better term] war novels ever. I love how O'Briend both masters and subverts the form. I love how he bends the reader through time and space. How O'Brien messes with the idea of what a true war story really is. This novel, along with 'Dispatches' by Kerr and 'Matterhorn' by Marlantes, infuses the Vietnam War with its own mass, a specific gravity and real tangible gravity. These fictional stories seem almost to be as true as any nonfiction books written about the War.
While I haven't been to war, both my brothers and a brother-in-law that have come back from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and the burdens they all returned with seem to reflect in this novel.
Finally, I'm not sure how they hooked Bryan Cranston for this narration, but it might just be my favorite narration EVER. Sir Anthony Hopkins nailed it when he wrote a note to Cranston about 'Breaking Bad':
That kind of work/artistry is rare, and when, once in a while, it occurs, as in this epic work, it restores confidence.
You and all the cast are the best actors I’ve ever seen.
That may sound like a good lung full of smoke blowing. But it is not. It’s almost midnight out here in Malibu, and I felt compelled to write this email.
Congratulations and my deepest respect. You are truly a great, great actor
Let me just add to and mimic the great Sir Anthony Hopkins. You Bryan are the best narrator I've ever HEARD.
I first read this book long ago. When the audio version was released, I decided to revisit it. My initial reading made me feel this was an extraordinary collection of stories written with a kind of driven brilliance, an awful, playful bitter precision. Tim O'Brien is a master of descriptive writing. A reader would have to have serious cognitive deficits not to get pulled in and inundated in the stories. It wasn't until I listened to the audio version, narrated flawlessly by Bryan Cranston, that I noticed the voluptuous poetry of his language.
The book is an anthology of stories about the Vietnam War. Bound together by the theme of what is carried, it opens with the very literal list of what the men in his platoon carried and broadens out into the emotional scars, the guilt, the sense of loss, fear, unrequited love, of brotherhood and of the deadly numbness that is carried on the soul.
I was immensely grateful to encounter this book again.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
Before I can say anything about this book, I have to comment on the narration. It is so perfect that it becomes one with the book. It was startling at the end to actually hear the real Tim O'Brien. Cranston became him in the book.
O'Brien's writing can be raw. It's apparent how deeply personal the Viet Nam war was for him - and I'm sure many others. Though perhaps not physically wounded, the emotional wounds are deep. I can't imagine how painful it's been for O'Brien to write about this time again and again. I admire his ability to be so honest about the emotional damage, the fear, and the heartbreak.
It's probably because of that approach that I can even listen to this. When other books approach war from the events and atrocities, it's just too much. The way O'Brien writes, the horrid things that happen are described in a way that it helps me understand the emotional toll paid by a generation of young men.
This is, without a question, one of the most important books about the Viet Nam war and its personal impact. Don't miss it.
Tim O'Brien does more then tell a story here. He is able to give you the feeling of being there in both the descriptive nature of his words and the emotions it conjurers within. I got the sense of how heavy and traumatic some of situations were. I do have to warn you, if you are looking for a romanticized version of war this is not the book for you. All of the questionable/disturbing actions of some of the soldiers to acts of heroism are on full display. At times the graphic nature can be disturbing. O'Brien begins this journey when he receives his draft notice, continues on thru the war and concludes his story a few decades after the war.
Bryan Cranston brings these characters to life. He truly does justice to Tim O'Brien's work with his ability to fully emerge you into this world. You will feel all the burdens, decisions, losses, and triumphs. Cranston’s performance is everything you would expect from an actor of his caliber.
In many ways, The Things They Carried is a cathartic exercise in exorcising the demons created by Mr. O’Brien’s experiences in Vietnam. He lays the ghosts of his fellow soldiers to rest by sharing their stories; he knits together the wounds made by their losses and his inexplicable participation in a war to which he was opposed. The stories are powerful, made more so by the simple fact that so many people forget about the battles fought and the death toll inflicted on both sides during the conflict. Mr. O’Brien does not attempt to soften the images or extrapolate his experiences to the greater conflict. They are his own personal stories, and he holds no one accountable for them but himself.
What makes The Things They Carried different from other Vietnam War memoirs is the dream-like quality with which Mr. O’Brien infuses all of his stories. They happened, and they remain painful memories. They are not pleasant stories to hear – gruesome in their details and the callousness they show. Yet, they have a hallucinogenic quality to them that makes it easy to see why no one talks about the Vietnam War in the same way World War II still gets mentioned. Mr. O’Brien, with his political and philosophical opposition to the war, represents all of the soldiers fighting at that point in time. He is not proud to be fighting for his country; he does not understand the political aim of the fighting. It is as if his lack of convictions towards the political machinations of the conflict prevents him from seeing his past as little more than vivid, trauma-inducing dreams.
There is a bitterness to his stories that is difficult for readers to overcome. His feelings of futility while trekking throughout the Vietnam countryside, the senseless deaths of his friends and comrades, the guilt at surviving as well as the guilt for wanting to go back out into the bush combine with his feelings of disgust with the government for putting kids in harms’ way like that and allowing them to commit murder in the name of democracy to create a poisonous stew that is difficult to swallow. It is particularly prevalent in Mr. O’Brien’s self-narrated essay “The Vietnam in Me”, although the same tone persists throughout The Things They Carried as well.
Bryan Cranston proves himself to be just as good a narrator as an actor as he lends his voice to Mr. O’Brien’s heartfelt and gut-wrenching words. Mr. Cranston’s voice is the perfect blend of gruffness and earnestness, and it is easy to get lost in his performance. The pictures Mr. O’Brien paints of his war experiences are at times tough to experience, but Mr. Cranston’s performance is soothing and yet extremely effective in showcasing the frustration, confusion, impotence, anger, loneliness, loss, macabre humor, and fright every soldier experienced in and after the Vietnam War.
The Things They Carried is a collection of vignettes of the Vietnam War as experienced by a grunt and told as a method of seeking atonement for being one of the lucky few to walk away from the experience with a few physical scars and much-deeper psychological ones. It is not flashy; it does not seek to justify one’s actions. It is a humble story in that the author seeks not glory but closure. His desire to lay down his burdens shouldered during and after the war as a survivor is palpable, making a bleak collection of stories that much more powerful and poignant. The Things They Carried is a profound indictment against the futility of the war and a tremendous testament to those who disagreed with the reasons for fighting but went ahead and fought anyway.
Life participant. I value experience over possessions. I love adventure and challenge. My next challenge is to climb the Seven Summits.
The whole thing is simply awesome. I've never watched Breaking Bad, but I'm now a fan of Bryan Cranston. His delivery is great. I love the way he finds an individual voice for the characters. The ending, read by Tim O'Brien himself, was very moving. I found myself wishing it wasn't over. I sort of feel like "now what"? I hope to find something as great as this on audible.com....I'm hopeful, yet skeptic.
I was not looking for a war story about Vietnam when I purchased this audio book. Been there done that. I was looking for more Bryan Cranston after binge watching Breaking Bad and Malcolm In The Middle. I was not disappointed. The stories told in THE THINGS THEY CARRIED are wonderful. It is the most beautifully written book about the Vietnam era that I have ever experienced...it tells the story like I remember it. Well done Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Cranston.
The story ON THE RAINY RIVER
His clarity and enunciation and heartfelt presentation. I could tell he did this project because he loved the book.
It is a book I will listen to again and again...
Hi, I'm a student at NYU and I'm also huge into MMA. I love books I read a lot and review the stand outs. I tend to read mostly fiction , but I from time to time I read more serious literature as well. Follow me and I'll make sure to give you the goods.
It starts out slow and almost uninteresting, but it really picks up. This is an extremely beautifully written novel. The insight into the inner turmoil of the Officers and soldiers is very deep. I would recommend this novel to anyone. Bryan Cranston is an amazing narrator I mean he could be a title contender for the best in the biz if he keeps it up.
This is in the top ten. The stories circle back and are retold with new details, new perspectives, new perspectives that reflect on life, death, friends, relations, and memory. It is not just a Vietnam/war book. It is a book on life.
Tim O'Brian: both the fictional one and the real one.
Bryan Cranston has the perfect world weary voice that reflects the humanity of the primary character as well as being adaptive to perfectly bring the other characters to life. He is a great actor. I do hope he narrates more books. Wow. I would give him more than five stars if possible.
Everything. The end was so perfect. I didn't see it coming as the end, but it hit home.
The final hour is the author speaking. This is the most honest and raw reflection on life that only makes the novel more powerful and real. Everything reflected in the book about truth and story are manifested in Tim's brutal truth and reflection. I am going to listen to this book again.
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