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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

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  •  
    N. Hawryluk 08-15-16
    N. Hawryluk 08-15-16 Member Since 2016

    SpikeDelight

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Incredible Stories, Wonderful Dedication to Subjectivity"

    Incredible stories, most of which are not only unbelievable, but are actually encouraged not to be believed. I love the author's dedication to absolute subjectivity, even to the point of recognizing the validity of fabrication in order to tell a 'truer' war story. Similarly, the out-of-order timeline creates an eerie tone, where people who were brutally killed in one chapter come back in the next to crack jokes and divulge secrets- it certainly feels like reliving someone's traumatic memories rather than being there, and this works very well for the overall piece. Cranston is excellent as narrator, as one would expect. Love his accents. [AUDIBLE]

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tom Tex 08-13-16
    Tom Tex 08-13-16

    Tom

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    "Not Enjoyable"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Those suffering from Vietnam based ptsd


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

    Yes, seemed like a great amount of potential and parts were very well written. It just seemed like the disjointed recollections of a bitter Vietnam vet.


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

    Sadness.


    Any additional comments?

    I did not serve in Nam, but many of my friends did. I think there a lot of vets out there that can identify with this book, but as entertainment it fell flat.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arnold toronto, ON, Canada 08-13-16
    Arnold toronto, ON, Canada 08-13-16
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    "Deleted this halfway through"

    I really like stories about the Vietnam war and I love Cranston as narrator but this sucked. The only material I heard seemed off point and designed to shock. Eg, animal torture (twice!) and Mary Anne, a 17 year old high school girl turned green beret (sounds silly, it was). Can't you write about the experience of battle? Apparently no.

    The author's writing style was also trying: too much somberness, as if it was all a holy experience, and way too many run on sentences posing as detail. The Viet Cong hadn't even shown up by the time I quit! This was a nominee for a National Book Award? Please.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marsha Tierra Verde, FL, United States 08-10-16
    Marsha Tierra Verde, FL, United States 08-10-16 Member Since 2010
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    "Misleading title, good story"

    I suppose the author used their backpacks as a jumping off point. But that was not really carried throughout the book. This is a thoughtful, well-written, crushing perspective of the Vietnam war by one of the men who was drafted into it for the United States.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 08-10-16
    David 08-10-16 Member Since 2012

    Indiscriminate Reader

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    "For all vets and those too young"

    The Things They Carried is technically a novel, but it's really more of a fictionalized memoir, in which author Tim O'Brien creates a fictitious Alpha Company very much like the Alpha Company he served in, and a fictitious author named Tim O'Brien, who twenty years later is a writer writing about Viet Nam.

    Now considered one of the "definitive" Viet Nam war novels, this book did not have the effect on me that it might on someone of O'Brien's generation. I was a child when the Viet Nam war ended, barely old enough to register that a war over there was anything of significance. I lost no family members in Viet Nam; I have no close friends who served there. By the time I came of age, Viet Nam preoccupied the media on which I grew up, but it was a foreign place and a foreign experience.

    Tim O'Brien's semi-autobiographical novel is full of anecdotes, small stories, and harrowing episodes, but it's war on a small scale. Some of his buddies die, and others go nuts, but most just try to struggle their way through their tour and survive. They see action but not a lot of epic battles, just the constant threat of being shot at in jungles and drawing lots to see who will crawl into a Viet Cong tunnel with a flashlight in one hand and a combat knife in their teeth.

    There is not much humor, but you wouldn't expect a Viet Nam novel to be funny, would you? (M*A*S*H*, famously, was really "about" Viet Nam but since it was still too recent and raw, they had to set it back in the Korean War instead.)

    It gives some insight into what Viet Nam was like on the ground, but now, going on five decades later, Viet Nam has been explored and trodden and, if not exorcised from our national psyche, made bearable and confrontable again. And the Vietnamese, desperate to get in on the global market and its bounty of modern technology and foreign currency, no longer hold a grudge against us. They run tours through villages and war memorials. They greet American vets coming back to confront the place they once shed blood in almost like returning alumni.

    As a wargamer, I have an academic interest in war. My particular area of interest is World War II, a war so long ago now that there are an ever-dwindling number of men and women who remember it first-hand, and which has faded into the fog of history and national mythology. Viet Nam, I think, is getting there. You can find Viet Nam wargames now, a thing that might upset living Nam vets but which would probably have been unthinkable in the years immediately after the war ended. Listening to Tim O'Brien talk about his ("his") war experiences did not sound very different to me than similar books narrated by World War II vets - equally horrible but equally distant, even though technically Viet Nam is within my living memory.

    I appreciated this book, but I'm in that middle generation, too young to have had the real Viet Nam leave a mark on me, too old to find much here I haven't heard before.

    The afterword by the author was a bonus in the audiobook, but probably what I found most profound of any of his stories was his meditation on why he went to Viet Nam. When his draft number came up, like many men of that era he contemplated the way he might get out of going, and even set out on that fabled trek to Canada. The story of his abortive flight, and his decision to return home and shoulder his responsibilities - literally - may ring more true for many of his generation than the ones who did end up dodging the draft, or who volunteered, or who were traumatized or killed. He went to Viet Nam because he couldn't stand the thought of letting down his family, his nation, of being seen as a coward. So ironically, as he puts it, he went to Viet Nam because he was a coward.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Josh 08-09-16
    Josh 08-09-16 Member Since 2015
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    "wow"

    great read from bryan cranston. difficult to hear what young men went through in the war and what they live with on a daily basis. also horrible about the massacre in march 1968.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jon 08-08-16
    jon 08-08-16 Member Since 2015
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    "preach on"

    the main narrator stands on his soap box and preaches on the Vietnam war but every so often throws in a partially real story. Overall it's good but kinda pushes his belief on you

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon United States 08-08-16
    Sharon United States 08-08-16 Member Since 2012
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    "Not the easiest to listen to, but very informative"

    Eye-opening account of one platoon's experience in Vietnam. Heartbreaking story of what so many endured.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    charles watkins 08-07-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Unrealistic"

    I spent 1970 in Vietnam in an infantry platoon, mostly in the jungle. We were among the first American troops to enter Cambodia when Nixon invaded that country. I'm finding it very frustrating listening to The Things They Carried. Most of the stories are not believable and certainly are not consistent with my experience. An infantry grunt somehow manages to have his 17 year old girlfriend from Cleveland Heights come to Nam and spend weeks with him on a firebase? Really!? That could never happen in anything that I experienced in the Army or in Vietnam. And, then she, in about 10 days, becomes this ghostly apparition going out on night patrols with Green Berets and shortly thereafter decides to go off and live alone in the jungles of Vietnam? I saw and experienced some horrifying things in Nam, but most of what I'm reading in this book just has very little resemblance to the realty of what the Vietnam war was for me. Maybe that is only a problem for me and not other listeners, but I cannot recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jon Boise, Idaho, United States 08-06-16
    Jon Boise, Idaho, United States 08-06-16 Member Since 2014

    PatchDog

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    "Tragedy"

    What a waste of humanity, hard to listen to a story that leaves you so unproductive of the US.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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