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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

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Performance
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  •  
    Bryan EAGLE MOUNTAIN, UT, United States 01-30-14
    Bryan EAGLE MOUNTAIN, UT, United States 01-30-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Bryan Cranston brings the war to you"
    If you could sum up The Things They Carried in three words, what would they be?

    If you want to know what it was like to be a grunt here is your chance.


    What about Bryan Cranston’s performance did you like?

    He was very stern and serious. It felt as if he was the one who the book was about.


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

    Bryan Cranston


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erin CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, United States 01-29-14
    Erin CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, United States 01-29-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Cranston brilliantly voices a classic"

    Bryan Cranston's reading is the best part of this audiobook - it's the reason I initially bought it. I'm not much for Vietnam history...but the format of this book is interesting. It's told through grippingly honest vignettes and personal reflections. Definitely made me look at war in a different way for sure.

    It's a short listen and definitely worth it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Holly Otsego, MN, United States 01-28-14
    Holly Otsego, MN, United States 01-28-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Very detailed, very good!!"
    Any additional comments?

    I really liked this book. It was incredibly detailed both in graphic, sad descriptions of events, but also in happy personal retelling of memories and thoughts. It's those little nuances that can only be described by someone who has actually lived through a time and place. Its funny what the mind chooses to remember, but it's those little things that the author was able to convey to the reader so well. I will most likely read this book again!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lawrence San Francisco, USA 01-23-14
    Lawrence San Francisco, USA 01-23-14 Member Since 2012

    master-chef

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    "Vietnam is incidental to O'Brien's insights"

    Engagingly written - and read. This is about so much more than war.

    Truth in fiction is a hobbyhorse of mine. O'Brien's insights into truth vs authenticity and the relationship between identity and memory have altered my understanding.

    I recommend it to anyone who wants to "get" war without having gone to war and prescribe it for anyone thinking of writing their own fiction.

    0 of 0 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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelli REDDING, CA, United States 01-21-14
    Kelli REDDING, CA, United States 01-21-14 Member Since 2011

    spa wench

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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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gregory MD 01-02-14
    Gregory MD 01-02-14 Member Since 2008
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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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Derek Dalton, GA, United States 01-02-14
    Derek Dalton, GA, United States 01-02-14
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    "Bryan Cranston is Perfect! Great Story!"
    Where does The Things They Carried rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top 3


    Any additional comments?

    This book is great on its own, but when I saw Bryan Cranston was narrating it, I had to hear this. I am not disappointed. He is brilliant as usual! The story itself is worth the listen, but Cranston gives you one hell of a bonus!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn Asheville, NC, United States 01-01-14
    Carolyn Asheville, NC, United States 01-01-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Vietnam War memento: War is evil"

    I remember the Vietnam war years well, feared the draft for all men and knew the US involvement was wrong. President Carter once said that War is a necessary Evil...but it is evil. This war was an unnecessary evil.

    I bought this book to hear Bryan Cranston. His narration was expert and when it ended, I stopped listening to the remainder of the book. What Johnson, Nixon, McNamara and the Military Complex did to the generation who fought this war was continues to plague my generation and our nation. I wish all Vietnam veterans could be miraculously healed and made whole again, but retelling the sins of war isn't the path.

    0 of 0 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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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