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The Things They Carried Audiobook
The Things They Carried
Written by: 
Tim O'Brien
Narrated by: 
Bryan Cranston
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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 (3462 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Scott 03-15-15
    Scott 03-15-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Not What I expected"
    Would you try another book from Tim O'Brien and/or Bryan Cranston?

    Probably not


    What was most disappointing about Tim O'Brien’s story?

    A little to self absorbed


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I preferred the operational aspects


    Could you see The Things They Carried being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Maybe too many drugs consumed by the writer during the experiences

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul S. 03-13-15
    Paul S. 03-13-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Not what I thought..."

    The book began as a moving narrative about a platoon, but quickly turned into an outlet for the author.

    It was interesting, but much more than a war story. It was not what I was expecting.

    Brian Cranston could not have been a better choice for reader. His voice added a lot.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark T Ryan Sydney 01-31-15
    Mark T Ryan Sydney 01-31-15 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Meandering"

    While the explicit imagery sows the savagery and fear that I could only dream of, his memoirs seem desperate and shallow.

    I guess there are precious lessons that only experience can teach, but this left me a little depressed

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa_Minneapolis 09-23-14 Member Since 2016
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    "Gratuitous violence"
    What did you like best about The Things They Carried? What did you like least?

    Bryan Cranston is brilliant as the narrator of this book. It certainly seems to be a very detailed account of the daily life of infantrymen in Vietnam, however, I was greatly disturbed by portions of the book which seemed unnecessarily violent. In particular, there is a scene describing the horrendous torturing of a juvenile water buffalo at the hands of a frustrated American soldier. I was sickened by this part of the narrative and question why the author thought that such a passage was appropriate. It may be that events like this did occur; however, I hardly see the need to include endless details about such repugnant behavior when it adds nothing to the story.


    Would you recommend The Things They Carried to your friends? Why or why not?

    I would not. I think that there are many well-written novels, plays, etc. about the horrors of the Vietnam War which have considerably more literary value.


    Could you see The Things They Carried being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    A film based upon this book would not add anything to the existing body of fictional work about the Vietnam War. The films "Platoon" and "Apocalypse Now" have more than adequately depicted the horrors of the Vietnam War.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    augustine 09-17-14
    augustine 09-17-14
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    "Curiously dishonest"

    I did not finish this book.

    I felt an overall dishonesty throughout the book, which the author himself points out. It reminded me of a comedian who laughs at his own jokes in an effort to get the audience to laugh with him. The difference is that Tim O'Brien wants you to cry with him.

    It simply did not work for me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angie D Vallejo, CA 08-27-14
    Angie D Vallejo, CA 08-27-14 Member Since 2013

    Angela

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    "Leave the political narrative at the door"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Possibly, although with explanation that my political leanings don't necessarily align with the author's.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I would love to learn more about this era and the things we put our boys through. I would have bought this book for at least three people I know had it not been for some of the political interjections that I know they may take offense to on some levels. I powered through those sections and found the overall book highly fascinating and engaging.


    What about Bryan Cranston’s performance did you like?

    Yes, the vignette's were dreamlike and nightmarish. I enjoyed meeting the different characters and understanding their motivations behind their actions, even the most grotesque of their actions.


    If you could take any character from The Things They Carried out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Sometimes it was a little too Bryan Cranston... I enjoyed hearing the author's own voice at the end and then thinking back on some of the stories with the author's voice in mind. Hearing the author's voice gave the stories more credibility and emotional fragility than Cranston applied at times.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rosemarie Sparks, NV, United States 04-22-14
    Rosemarie Sparks, NV, United States 04-22-14

    Retired educator, long-time reader

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    "Author is too repetitive--but narration excellent"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes--it gives so much insight into the lives and deaths of war.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The narration really appealed. Cranston's voice is so well-modulated that it almost seemed conversational.


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

    Verbal phrases and the time frame with which I was familiar


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No--I needed to think about what I had just heard. However, because of the repetition, I sometimes thought I had mistakenly gone back in the book.


    Any additional comments?

    Interesting read

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lois 03-26-14
    Lois 03-26-14
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    "Written for a specific audience."
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    The book may have meaning for those men who served in Viet Nam and I am sure they can relate to the heart and intent of the story. For me there was way too much profanity (I should have known by the outline on the site) and way too much death. Not a book for me but I appreciate the men it discusses.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The performance was wonderful


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carlotta Bellinjgham, WA, United States 02-15-14
    Carlotta Bellinjgham, WA, United States 02-15-14 Member Since 2016

    Retired police detective; oenophile; golf and exercise addict; and quilter.

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    "Just a snippet of what I expected"
    What did you like best about The Things They Carried? What did you like least?

    It's a very important story - but it was too minimal. There was too much jumping around from one person to the next.


    What did you like best about this story?

    What they carried symbolizes important things that were left behind, undone, or to be looked forward to...


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 01-21-14
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 01-21-14 Member Since 2011

    I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.

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    "a modern classic"

    It's been all over Audible for some time now: a great war story and narrated by Bryan Cranston! Let's get the obvious over with first: Cranston is incredible and you could buy this book on his involvement alone. That said, let's talk about the book, it's mostly good points and its few downsides.

    The Things They Carried is small stories, not very interconnected, from Vietnam. They are not in order and they do not connect at the end to tell some larger story. But they paint a wonderful mosaic of how soldiers come back from war traumatized and we can understand the mental plight of soldiers who were witness to horror. We'll look at stories of men drowning, firefights, trying to dodge the draft, and coming home from war and not being able to integrate into society again. These are nearly perfect moments in time and told with such precision and care that you'll be astounded. My favorite story was of a soldier coming home and driving around a lake, wondering if there is anyone he could tell his story to, the story of how he almost won the Medal of Valor.

    But the author doesn't know how to end the book and it slows down and then just stops. I wish there was more there, that there was a more impactful story to end on, but for me the least interesting moments of the book are at the end. Afterward is a short story separate from the book, read by the author. He is not the narrator that Cranston is, but do listen to this story, it is exceptional. If only it had been the end of the book...

    Do buy this book, it's not only good, I dare to say it's important.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • 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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