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The Things They Carried | [Tim O'Brien]

The Things They Carried

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.
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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

4.1 (2122 )
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  •  
    arlene j Florida 10-20-13
    arlene j Florida 10-20-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Well Done"
    What did you love best about The Things They Carried?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Things They Carried?

    The story ON THE RAINY RIVER


    What about Bryan Cranston’s performance did you like?

    His clarity and enunciation and heartfelt presentation. I could tell he did this project because he loved the book.


    Who was the most memorable character of The Things They Carried and why?

    the narrator


    Any additional comments?

    It is a book I will listen to again and again...

    8 of 10 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.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James 06-11-15
    James 06-11-15
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    "American Classic"

    This book is rightfully considered to be one of the best novels in the last 25 years.While many people would consider this a great " Vietnam" war novel, it transcends the limitations of such a classification. Simply, it is Great Literature.
    Bryan Cranston eloquently reads and interrupts O'Brian's novel with a dynamic performance. Well Done!!

    1 of 1 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 . . .

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Pearson Idaho 08-14-14
    E. Pearson Idaho 08-14-14 Member Since 2008

    Occasional Thinker

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    "Masterful"

    I'd heard that this book was important and even life-changing, and it proved true. I'm struggling right now with whether I should get the older ladies in my book club to read it too; but they're a bit squeamish and the book is--well, very true to the late 60s and Vietnam years. That was their time, but I think they missed it overall. Hmmmm, maybe that's the best reason to get us all to read it and see it again, from the true side.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 08-03-14
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 08-03-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Not quite what I expected"

    I had heard so much about this book, but I have to say it wasn't what I expected. O'Brien is a great writer, but I found the book a bit disjointed. Parts of it were disturbing, and alot of the book is really quite sad, but it just wasn't what I was looking for. The narration, however, is spot on - great job by Cranston.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 07-05-14
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 07-05-14 Member Since 2015

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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    "VIETNAM VETERANS AND VICTIMS"

    Listening to “The Things They Carried” reminds baby boomers of Edwin Starr’s 1969 anti-Vietnam song, “War”. The reminder is in its refrain, “What is it good for?–“Absolutely nothing.”

    “The Things They Carried” reinforces history’s judgment of Vietnam. Vietnam was an un-winnable war; entered into by the United States with ignorance equal to benighted judgement in Iraq.

    One of my two half-brothers served in the 101st airborne in Vietnam. In truth, we rarely saw each other but he never talked about his Vietnam’ experience. He died at 62 years of age. He was a financially successful business man but now I wonder how much of his life was affected by senseless war—I hear Edwin Starr’s refrain. “The Things They Carried” makes one worry about all war veterans and victims; on both sides of senseless war.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 03-11-14
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 03-11-14 Member Since 2010

    Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

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    "Carried by Cranston"

    The huge positive about this title is Bryan Cranston. It is hard to conceive of a better reading than his. It captured the people, the place and the time. Of course, he had material to work with, but my gut feel was that he put a lot more on the paddock than the personell he had at his disposal. It is like a great coach raising an average team to another level. I felt this with sufficient conviction that I borrowed the paperback (telling that I didn't buy it, I think) and read it. I read it reasonably quickly, although I think I glossed some of it because it was familiar and just plain not as gripping as Cranston's performance. I think this is rare. I've read good books that are read well and it enhances the book, but it started out good. Sure it got better, but it didn't go from a 3 to a 4 star STORY; overall, maybe, but not the story.
    So, talking about the story; it was on the good side of ok. A safe 3. I found the "story is not true" part a bit hard to follow, but I'm guessing it was a literary device to convey the blurred line between fact and reality, fear and courage. If not, then I'm one of those people the author says "just don't get it".
    I also got the impression that some of the Chapters had been published before as short stories. Sometimes (rarely) the names didn't co-incide and it appeared to be that names had been changed to protect identities at one point in time. This was confirmed by the extra part read by the author.
    Turning to that extra part, I have to say that it was very disturbing. The apparently tenous and precarious line that he walks in his life was painful to listen to and in stark contrast to Cranston's assured voice (as the author's voice in the book, proper). In some ways this extra hour is the highlight of the title. In other ways I wish I'd never heard it.
    This is a hard title to review. Worth the listen for many reasons, most of them due to Cranston's narration or the contrast between it and the author's real one.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-30-13
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-30-13 Member Since 2015

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

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    "haunting"

    This book was first published in 1990 and was re-issued in 2013. In 1990 it won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Critics Circle Award, and the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger. The book is listed as fiction it is based on Tim O’Brien’s real life experience in the Vietnam War. O’Brian says writing as fiction gave him more leeway in character development and also in the story. The book’s opening with the title, “The things they carried” shifted from mundane to meaningful in telling what they carried for example: mosquito netting, machetes, pens, letter from a girl. By the end of the story you know the men, and have a good sense of what they are up against. The book also discusses O’Brien’s visit to Vietnam with his wife visiting the area he served in during the war. The book goes back and forth between the pass and the present time frame. Over all it is an interesting read. Bryan Cranston did a good job narrating the book. If you are interested in the Vietnam War you should read this book.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Corey Brookyln, NY, United States 10-22-13
    Corey Brookyln, NY, United States 10-22-13 Member Since 2009

    Hi, I'm an alumi of NYU and I'm also huge into MMA. I love books I read a lot and review the stand outs. I'll give you guys the goods.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Amazing"

    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.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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