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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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  •  
    Henry Grunberg Hollywood, USA 01-11-15
    Henry Grunberg Hollywood, USA 01-11-15 Member Since 2015

    Henrrun

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    "Great book"

    Great book. Learned a lot about the Vietnam war. 100 % recommended.
    Stories that we all need to know.
    Stories we all need to share

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    geejay95 Georgia 01-08-15
    geejay95 Georgia 01-08-15 Member Since 2015

    Sometimes even after a long drive, I want to keep listening! Haven't picked a bad listen yet.

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    "Good listen I couldn't turn off"
    Where does The Things They Carried rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It would be on my short list of favorites. Definitely worth the time.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Things They Carried?

    One memorable story was when he spent time at the lodge in Canada with the old man while he was struggling with possibly dodging he draft. He learned about being a man and facing his responsibilities.


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

    Bryan Cranston's voice was very appealing and fit the story well. I was a Cranston fan before and now I have learned more of his talents.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a book of interesting stories written in a way that you can almost see yourself sitting there as part of the story. I am glad I don't carry some of the things they have to carry in their minds forever.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Holly Abery-Wetstone West Hartford, CT USA 01-04-15
    Holly Abery-Wetstone West Hartford, CT USA 01-04-15 Member Since 2005
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    "The war in Viet Nam unveiled"

    The horrors of the Viet Nam war retold by a soldier who was there. Moving tale of an unjust war and slaughter of many young lives.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jlit5 12-22-14
    jlit5 12-22-14

    Love to read and love to listen to books!

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    "Cranston Makes a Great Book Even Better"
    What made the experience of listening to The Things They Carried the most enjoyable?

    Cranston's performance


    What did you like best about this story?

    The believable narrator


    What about Bryan Cranston’s performance did you like?

    His emotion and dramatic reading was spot on and insightful.


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

    The Rainy River is captivating, best writing and reading I have come across in a long time. Cranston not only lends a face to the story, but a compassionate vulnerability that oozes the feelings of this young man who is faced with a life changing dilemma, no matter what choice he makes.


    Any additional comments?

    I would rewind and listen to specific parts again and again. The words, narration, point of view, mood, tone, all spot on. Beautifully painful book, thank you Tim O'Brein for allowing me the priveledge of hearing your story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M.S. Valdez FORT COLLINS, CO, United States 11-01-14
    M.S. Valdez FORT COLLINS, CO, United States 11-01-14 Member Since 2012

    Avid reader all of my life! Favorite author is Stephen King! Favorite book is Hyperion-read/listen to it!

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    "Brutal, Honest, and and Uncompromising"

    We tend to glorify war. Tim O'Brien tells us how it really is. A must-hear account of a man's time in the hell of the Vietnam War. Bryan Cranston does an excellent job of narration, though I wonder how Tim O'Brien might have done as the narrator as he does provide a personal reading at the end of the book. This book kept me in rapt attention!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    jon Meridian, ID, United States 10-23-14
    jon Meridian, ID, United States 10-23-14 Member Since 2011

    History enthusiast with military and legal background.

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    "Loved it, but it jumps around a bit"
    What made the experience of listening to The Things They Carried the most enjoyable?

    I really enjoyed it, but the part that annoyed me was that it jumped between the "real" story and the "fantasy" story. I get that it was the author's intentional ploy, but it was a bit distracting.

    I did enjoy it, and it was a great look into the psyche of a combat soldier.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 10-18-14
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 10-18-14 Member Since 2007

    The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history

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    "Powerful"

    Simply one of the most powerful books I have ever read. So heart-wrenching, so true, it is difficult to find my own true words to describe the experience that is this author’s journey into himself, and into every soldier, and into all of us. By allowing the reader into his memories, Tim O’Brien uses story to save himself now, to save himself in Vietnam, to save himself as a young boy. So this book is not only about a specific war, not only about war in general, but it is about life and the power of words.

    I must add that I listened to this as an audio book read by Bryan Cranston, who was devastatingly perfect. Also, the audio book has a bonus track that is well worth listening to, featuring Tim O’Brien reading his essay “The Vietnam in Me.”

    I must end this review with transcripts of some of my favorite passages from the book, because I never want to forget them.

    All of us, I suppose, like to believe that in a moral emergency we will behave like the heroes of our youth, bravely and forthrightly, without thought of personal loss or discredit. Certainly that was my conviction back in the summer of 1968. Tim O'Brien: a secret hero. The Lone Ranger. If the stakes ever became high enough—if the evil were evil enough, if the good were good enough—I would simply tap a secret reservoir of courage that had been accumulating inside me over the years. Courage, I seemed to think, comes to us in finite quantities, like an inheritance, and by being frugal and stashing it away and letting it earn interest, we steadily increase our moral capital in preparation for that day when the account must be drawn down. It was a comforting theory. It dispensed with all those bothersome little acts of daily courage; it offered hope and grace to the repetitive coward; it justified the past while amortizing the future.

    A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.

    I'm skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy's life with a story.

    And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That's what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.

    [from “The Vietnam in Me”] … Vietnam was more than terror. For me at least, Vietnam was partly love. With each step, each light year of a second, a foot soldier is always almost dead, or so it feels, In such circumstances, you can’t help but love. You love your mom and dad, the Vikings, hamburgers on the grill, your pulse, your future, everything that might be lost, or never come to be. Intimacy with death carries with it a corresponding new intimacy with life. Jokes are funnier, green is greener, you love the musky morning air. You love the miracle of your own enduring capacity for love.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Howard Asheville NC 10-10-14
    Howard Asheville NC 10-10-14
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    "Painfully Beautiful"

    Tim's writing style reminds me of Cormac McCarthy, one of my favorite authors. For me, Tom Stechschulte is the voice of Cormac McCarthy, and now, for me, Bryan Cranston is the voice of Tim O'Brien. The narration is perfect. I both want to listen to other books by Tim O'Brien, and I don't because Bryan is so good here. I may have to read Tim's other books instead.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa_Minneapolis 09-23-14 Member Since 2014
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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.


    0 of 0 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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • john
    Bentham
    12/24/14
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    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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