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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 (4180 )
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  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-30-13
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-30-13 Member Since 2016

    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.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Ingram 11-02-13
    Mike Ingram 11-02-13
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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!

    18 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christian Crawford North Carolina 10-14-15
    Christian Crawford North Carolina 10-14-15 Member Since 2015
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    ""A lot like yesterday, a lot like never.""
    What did you love best about The Things They Carried?

    The thing I loved the most about The Things They Carried was how real Tim O'Brien made it. Of course a lot of it was real and true.. some of it was made up to add more of a story feel, but most was real events. He goes on to explain this exceptionally well in the book. There was more than once where I sat listening and I wasn't in my car driving anymore, I was sitting in the boat with him and the old man, I was stuck scared sinking in the muck of a field of shit, I was seeing the horrors of what the Vietnam war was. I believe that was what O'Brien wanted. He said that he wanted the reader to feel what happened. For me, I felt it the best I could without actually experiencing it. This book was amazing and it definitely provokes emotions and feelings.


    What did you like best about this story?

    How it felt like I was part of Alpha company. It made me care about the soldiers and feel the hardships they went through. It also does a good job of showing the other side.. The Vietnam War was a very complicated event in our worlds history.


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

    This is the only one I've listened to. I've seen him on shows of course, but never listened to him narrate a book. He did an amazing job.


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

    Yes and no. Yes because the story is engaging and it makes you feel. It's good and you want to know what happens. No because it makes you feel. I mean some of the stories were heart wrenching. I had to take a break just so I could collect my thoughts and process what I was hearing. This is a story that you'll want to sit on for a bit, to really think about what you're hearing.


    Any additional comments?

    This was my first book by Tim O'Brien. It was a great book and I'd recommend it to anyone. Definitely give it a try. I got it on sale and it was a steal. It's worth every penny.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Russell 09-22-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Not very good and Not recommended!"

    Disingenuous and over dramatized, there are many more better written books on Vietnam than this one. Do not waste your money!

    2 of 3 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
  •  
    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Timothy Dee Spellman Rogers, Ar United States 12-08-13
    Timothy Dee Spellman Rogers, Ar United States 12-08-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Very Disappointing"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    If you are looking for the stereotype of the Vietnam soldier who gets high, usurps authority and kills water buffalo this is the book for you. I would have just wished that by now someone would have written a novel instead of a list of "things that happened" while they were there. Struggled through it on every page.


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

    Probable not.


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

    regurgitation of the same Nam storied I have heard for decades.


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Abraham Boston, MA 10-19-13
    James Abraham Boston, MA 10-19-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A Good as Matterhorn -- But Which is Accurate?"

    I have noticed that O'Brien's soldiers do many things that, in Matterhorn, would get them killed. They put light colored objects in their helmet-bands, which the young Matterhorn lieutenant is warned against doing on his first night in the bush; they smoke cigarettes and weed in the bush on operations, which in Matterhorn "an enemy could smell for miles"; they wear machine gun ammo on bandoliers across their chests, while a Matterhorn sergeant warns troops leaving the base "to keep the ammo in the cans, so it won't fail when you need it."

    These seem like differences which can get you killed, so who is right? Both O'Brien and served in the bush in Vietnam, but it would seem that one of them was making a lot of mistakes.

    Great books, both, though. Great literature, not merely war literature.

    8 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    terry 11-28-13
    terry 11-28-13
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    "Too Dark and sinister"
    Would you try another book from Tim O'Brien and/or Bryan Cranston?

    No


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

    No


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Bryan Cranston?

    okay


    What character would you cut from The Things They Carried?

    Everyone


    Any additional comments?

    I'm a Viet Nam vet and was offended by it. It makes us all look like we were young idiots with no moral fiber whatsoever. Some of those things happened but they were not typical of all of us. I served for 30 years, retired a Col. and do not think this book is good literature.

    16 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Voorhees SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO, US 11-03-13
    Scott Voorhees SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO, US 11-03-13 Member Since 2009
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    "Skip this one"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    This book is billed as being stories about soldiers in Viet Nam and it did have some stories about soldiers In Viet Nam. But, there was far too much preaching and repeating that war is bad. One story was about someone telling a story. At one point the story teller is told to stop his personal commentary and just tell the story. Had the author taken his own advice it might have been a good book. Instead it is repetitive and boring and one of the most irritating books I have listened to. I could not finish listening to it.


    10 of 17 people found this review helpful

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