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The Things They Carried Audiobook

The Things They Carried

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Audible Editor Reviews

Editors Select, October - Bryan Cranston is turning in one of the great television performances as Walter White on the Emmy Award-winning Breaking Bad, so needless to say, I was thrilled to hear that he'd be narrating Tim O'Brien's classic The Things They Carried. I first experienced the book in high school, and to revisit it now with such a gifted performer is an absolute treat. Cranston fully inhabits O'Brien's collection of semi-autobiographical stories about the Vietnam War and brings to it a sense of experience and remembrance as though he were actually there. I've only heard a sample so far, but I'd already consider this one of the top audiobook performances of the year. —Chris, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

"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." (The New York Times Book Review)

"Structurally the novel gestures to William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, while Ryan's sensitive observations on Irish life seem responsive to the work of his compatriot Patrick McCabe. That Ryan does not look out of place in such literary company is a measure of his achievement." (The Financial Times)

"The best of these stories--and none is written with less than the sharp edge of honed vision--are memory and prophecy. These tell us not where we were but where we are, and perhaps where we will be. . . . It is an ultimate, indelible image of war in our time, and in time to come." (Los Angeles Times)

"O'Brien's haunting collection of connected stories about the Vietnam War is more alive than ever in this narration. Bryan Cranston's resonant, sometimes formal, performance often leaves the listener reeling. Cranston's voice is deep and patient, laying back to let the characters' collective pain take the fore. Memorable scenes include a man's receipt of his draft notice in "On the Rainy River," battle scenes in "The Man I Killed," and aspects of the war's aftermath in "Speaking of Courage." In all the works, Cranston offers a measured, compassionate voice. O'Brien's stories emphasize the importance of telling the truth of war stories, and Cranston's respect for his intent is clear and comforting. At times, his sonorous tone is hypnotic, but this is more an asset than a liability. All the better to make the listener feel." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (3918 )
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  •  
    Michelle Middletown, WI, United States 11-12-13
    Michelle Middletown, WI, United States 11-12-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Stark and poignant!"

    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.

    16 of 21 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zsolt 10-02-15
    Zsolt 10-02-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Disappointed"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    People who can endure a fictional (sometimes fantastical) story in a historically valid setting.


    Has The Things They Carried turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No, because in a way "Killer Angels" is fiction as well, but did a fantastic job.


    What about Bryan Cranston’s performance did you like?

    Great voice, good smooth reading.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Things They Carried?

    The scene of the girl who visits the remote medical base.


    Any additional comments?

    It was just not for me. It's possible I need my stories to be closer to non-fiction.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 12-04-14
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 12-04-14 Member Since 2013

    Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.

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    "Raw, Haunting, Ruthlessly Open Account"

    Vietnam described in ways you never expect . . . my husband (a retired SGM) and I listened to this on a road trip recently . . . at times we laughed, totally familiar with the military terms, at other times we were totally silent . . . no words . . . absolutely NO words to describe what we were feeling . . . this is not the patriotic, hero stories of comrades at war . . . it's the down in the crap (literally), sinking into despair, wondering what the hell you are there for, tale of soldiers trying to make it one day at a time in a war that nobody wanted to fight . . . it's truthful and hard to swallow . . . it's honest beyond anything I've ever heard on Vietnam . . . no matter what your politics, you need to hear it . . .

    9 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean Houston, Texas, United States 11-26-13
    Sean Houston, Texas, United States 11-26-13 Member Since 2009

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Worm's eye view"

    A worm's eye view of a selected few vignettes of the author's life before and during his service in VietNam.

    The author is long-winded, repeats himself, tells stories out-of-order, says the same things over and over again, and weaves several threads of narrative in and around one another in a manner reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut. Some people may like that.

    But not me.

    11 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis Sever 05-16-16
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    "whiney"

    This book sounded like the author's catharsis. As a Vietnam veteran grunt myself, I'm unimpressed.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
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    Andy Joplin, Missouri 03-08-16
    Andy Joplin, Missouri 03-08-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Marvel of storytelling? I do not see it."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    More organized storytelling.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Tim O'Brien again?

    No.


    Which character – as performed by Bryan Cranston – was your favorite?

    I did not have a favorite.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Yes, Brian Cranston.


    Any additional comments?

    Listening to this story felt like I was listening to my crazy, senile uncles war stories. This was mostly represented in the repetition and poor organization.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Denise Sieb 07-11-16
    Denise Sieb 07-11-16 Member Since 2013
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    "Just not a good"
    Would you ever listen to anything by Tim O'Brien again?

    Most likely not


    What does Bryan Cranston bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Bryan is the only reason to finish this book.


    Any additional comments?

    I could have lived with the book, barely, but the "special" author written and read ending was just to much self serving whining.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexis C. Martinez 04-03-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Disappointed"

    The first part of the book was about the things they carried then it seemed like the author got off track into stateside stories & personal & past stories that weren't about Vietnam. It seemed like most of the book was about his thoughts in Vietnam & past stories why he thought that way. I give it 2 stars for some of the great stories & experiences in Vietnam but they were few. This book is more about his & other's stories here at home & small hits about his thoughts or other people there in the war. This book isn't much about anything the guys carried. The narrator was great.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kw 01-20-16
    kw 01-20-16
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    "Too Much"

    Thank you for your sacrifice. You carried way too much as a young man and you carry too much weight as a human being.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Roth Pacific Northwest 01-13-16
    K. Roth Pacific Northwest 01-13-16 Member Since 2015

    ladyroth

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    "fantastic book"

    This is a fantastic book that has great meaning.
    So much relevance, besides the simple items themselves, but the servicemen who used them.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • john
    Bentham
    12/24/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "What is a true war story?"

    What is a true war story? Can there be such a thing? Tim O'Brien ponders this and explains that there is not, at least not really. These tales and memories and anecdotes of his time in Vietnam all coalesce into a book with great gravity and poetry. War is awful and beautiful, boring and terrifying, and so intense that it overrules all else for the dead and the living alike. There a is an authentic and truthful power in the rumours and stories told, that was so strong it can't be described by me. And Bryan Cranston's reading is wonderful.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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