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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 (3420 )
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4.5 (3161 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Kelli REDDING, CA, United States 01-21-14
    Kelli REDDING, CA, United States 01-21-14 Member Since 2015

    spa wench

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Narrator is the strongest component of this title"

    Brian Cranston is superb. The book is a much better listen for his narration.

    The story itself is good, a heart-felt attempt by the author to reconcile the effect of the war on the rest of his life. I feel petty giving it anything less than a stellar review, because it was a horrible war, and horrible circumstances, and the author participated in it and lived to come home and try to move past it's effects. BUt 3 is the best I can do. To me it has the feel of several long newspaper or magazine articles bundled together to form a book. Also, the author has a habit of repeating dialog, verbatim, several times. At first I thought it was a plot device, and it was effective. But hen he used it in the next chapter, and again... it became a distraction. Plus, becasue it was repeated verbatim, 4 or 5 times i will forever remember "his jaw was in his throat. his upper lip and teeth were gone. his one eye was shut, his other eye was a star shaped hole ..." for the rest of MY life. Excellent descriptive abilities.

    Worth the listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gregory 01-02-14
    Gregory 01-02-14 Member Since 2013

    A day without sunshine is like, well, night.

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    "Repetitive and preachy"

    War is ugly, full of fear and confusion. Soldiers in combat are not thinking about political agendas but fighting for the man next to them. I found many of the stories contained in this novel over the top with anti-war sentiment. After I finished the book, I went back to re-read some of the reviews to try and figure out why I ordered it. I was surprised to find how many students have been required to read this book as part of a college history curriculum. Makes me question what version of history some of our universities are trying to teach. The book was "ok" but certainly not the work of literary genius reflecting the true Vietnam that many reviewers make it out to be.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna United States 12-30-13
    Donna United States 12-30-13 Member Since 2012

    JustMe

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    "Warning: Do not purchase"
    Would you try another book from Tim O'Brien and/or Bryan Cranston?

    Bryan Cranston would be yes. For Tim O'Brien, no.


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

    Yes


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

    N/A


    Any additional comments?

    The book includes a stray puppy being tied to a grenade and blown-up, and a baby water buffalo shot more than ten times not to kill it but to see it hurt. I wish someone would have warned me what I'd find in this book. Save your money, unless you enjoy reading about items like this. I stopped listening, and deleted immediately.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aaron L 12-06-13
    Aaron L 12-06-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Repetition begets tedium"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    The chapters not directly about the author were well written.


    What could Tim O'Brien have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    O'Brien should have hired an editor with the discipline to cut the repetitive material and improve the pacing of the book.


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

    Cranston's performance was excellent.


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

    The conceptual material is solid but it would need to be wholly rewritten.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Ingram 11-02-13
    Mike Ingram 11-02-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A visit to Guilt Land"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    If the author didn't characterize Americans as being murderers and fools.


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

    No.


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

    Clear, concise reading of the story.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Sadness and disappointment.


    Any additional comments?

    The author makes it very clear that he believes America's part in the Vietnam war was immoral, evil and just plain wrong. He interleaves real events he witnessed with his recalled dreams of guilt and shame. The book is a pessimistic condemnation of the U.S. Military in Vietnam.

    In the author's comments at the end of this book the My Lai massacre is presented (in the author's own voice) as being representative of America, not the horrible crime of a few. It's a common technique for anti-war authors to elaborate on My Lai and exonerate our enemies crimes, while avoiding giving America credit for doing anything right. He does not mention the horrors resulting from the Communist victory, the reeducation camps, the refuges who fled our enemy. He is only sad that he fought them.

    This book is a heartfelt, tightly guarded emotional diatribe against America in Vietnam.

    Depressing!

    10 of 16 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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Aptos, CA, United States 11-06-13
    Mark Aptos, CA, United States 11-06-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This is more than a book about Vietnam...."
    Where does The Things They Carried rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Tim O'Brian: both the fictional one and the real one.


    Have you listened to any of Bryan Cranston’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    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.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Everything. The end was so perfect. I didn't see it coming as the end, but it hit home.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    2 of 3 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.

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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 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ronald F. Romancik 12-04-13

    Ronaldo

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    "Worst Vietnam book I ever read"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Nothing.


    What didn’t you like about Bryan Cranston’s performance?

    Terrible


    Any additional comments?

    I am a Vietnam veteran and server with the 5th Special Forces in 1967-68. I also suffer from PTSD. I have read many book about Vietnam and I am in a couple of them.. This is by far the worse book I have listen to about Vietnam. It has no story, no point no beginning, no end.Tim O'brien rambles on through out the book over whelmed in self pity and endless depression. He keeps going over the same stories with wordy phrases that make no sense. The book is depressing from the beginning to the end. If you want to feel depress read it.

    11 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dusty S. Human 10-20-13 Member Since 2016
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    "An Important Literary Achievement"
    What did you love best about The Things They Carried?

    Every ten years or so, I encounter a book that makes my short list of important literary finds. Now I listen to audible.com books and seldom snuggle up with paper and ink text especially when I knit or wait for the sandman to come late at night. If you want to behold an impressive artistic achievement, check out _The Things They Carried_ by Tim O'Brien.


    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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