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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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  •  
    reball01 09-12-14
    reball01 09-12-14

    I listen while driving. When I review, I'm much more apt to discuss the performance than the content. Sometimes, a bit of both.

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    "Cranston's Performance a Real Treat! Thanks!"

    Tough subject matter. What I would call an "important read". You can get tons of better critiques online elsewhere. Mr. Cranston's performance was spot on. A grave voice for grave material!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Angie D Vallejo, CA 08-27-14
    Angie D Vallejo, CA 08-27-14 Member Since 2013

    Angela

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    "Leave the political narrative at the door"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Possibly, although with explanation that my political leanings don't necessarily align with the author's.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I would love to learn more about this era and the things we put our boys through. I would have bought this book for at least three people I know had it not been for some of the political interjections that I know they may take offense to on some levels. I powered through those sections and found the overall book highly fascinating and engaging.


    What about Bryan Cranston’s performance did you like?

    Yes, the vignette's were dreamlike and nightmarish. I enjoyed meeting the different characters and understanding their motivations behind their actions, even the most grotesque of their actions.


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

    Sometimes it was a little too Bryan Cranston... I enjoyed hearing the author's own voice at the end and then thinking back on some of the stories with the author's voice in mind. Hearing the author's voice gave the stories more credibility and emotional fragility than Cranston applied at times.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Nepean, Ontario, Canada 08-26-14
    Ryan Nepean, Ontario, Canada 08-26-14 Member Since 2013

    University administrator. Commuter cyclist. Dad, husband. Loves books of course. Aspiring Jedi Knight and Warder.

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    "Not sure what to make of it"

    I'm not sure what I was expecting with this novel. It's been labelled a modern classic by many and to be sure it is a very good novel of a war veteran who tells a careful story of his experience in Vietnam and those of his friends. I guess I've read and heard so much about various experiences about this war - both before, during and after - that I felt this didn't offer me any deeper insight into what it was like to fight in this futile conflict.

    I suspect when he wrote this in 1990 perhaps there weren't as many well articulated reflections on this experience and this stood above the rest in terms of its honesty and literary rawness. Or perhaps I'm just blind to the impact of Mr. O'Brien's novel. Or, it could be a generational thing or that I'm not American. Again, I'm not sure.

    So in the end, it didn't resonate with me as much as I thought it would.

    All that being said, the novel does have many powerful and almost unbelievable moments and Bryan Cranston does a superb job of narrating. He was in complete command of this story. He gave it more depth and heft in my opinion and definitely made a worthwhile listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. 08-24-14
    W. 08-24-14 Member Since 2015
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    "The Vietnam in Me"
    If you could sum up The Things They Carried in three words, what would they be?

    Tragic, Terrific, True


    What did you like best about this story?

    Honesty of the writer. Brought the war to life for me. Helped me better understand the chaos, the horror, the absurdity, the aimlessness, and the madness of our involvement in Vietnam


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

    His voice sounded like the story was meant to be told -- the sadness, the humor, the despair, the necessary detachment at time, the pain of dealing with the war without regard for morality or rationality.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Both


    Any additional comments?

    Vietnam is a painful chapter in our nation's history, filled with guilt, shame, divisiveness, anger, and hurt.. My best defense was to blot it out of my memory. It has taken me more than 40 years to find the courage to read any of the great books that have been written about this war. This was my first attempt to reopen that wound. Time and Tim O'Bien's wonderfully written, honest, and sensitively handled narrative made it possible for me to deal with the painful experiences of that era.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    iowaismine 08-19-14
    iowaismine 08-19-14
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    "Strong, gritty novel and performance"
    Would you listen to The Things They Carried again? Why?

    I would listen to this book again. Bryan Cranston's performance is very strong and brings the text to life well.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erik Sooke, British Columbia, Canada 08-16-14
    Erik Sooke, British Columbia, Canada 08-16-14 Member Since 2011
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    "A powerful and dark message"

    This work should be consulted by everyone before considering war as a means to an end. On completion, there should be self reflection and that important question "is this what we want to subject our citizens to".

    An interesting collection of stories, I was never really certain if all of them were real or not, bu,t as the author points out, they are all real on some level. The net effect is an stunning and dark portrayal of conflict post WWII.

    This book takes it's place among other great stories, such as All Quiet on the Western Front, and, on reflection, it's interesting to note how war has changed over the past 100 years. If the brutality described in this book is true, then I would have to say that modern war has taken a turn for the worse, if that is even possible. Having recently read "Generation Kill", it certainly seems that this trend of brutality continues.

    Read this book. Struggle through it if you must. As a citizen of a democracy, whether British, American, Canadian, etc., it is your responsibility to be educated as to the impact of war before routinely accepting the political and media hype surrounding key issues of conflict. If only for that, this is a must read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    MaudeBernard Québec 06-23-14
    MaudeBernard Québec 06-23-14
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    "Well written story, extraordinary soldiers."
    If you could sum up The Things They Carried in three words, what would they be?

    War, love and faith.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I'll go with Bob ''Rat'' Kiley (the medic) because I really liked the way he interracted with people, and how he cared for his men. He literally have given everything he had and I find this very touching.


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

    All the females characters. He made them feel very smooth with a high soft voice. Even Mary Anne seemed calm and sweet when she was leaving the camp.


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

    I would say Kiowa because he was very thoughtful all along the story. I feel like we would have many and many things to discuss about, and that it would be always very entertaining and philosophical.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonathan Brooks 06-07-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Vietnam in Present Day"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I wouldn't reccomend this book to anyone, just to those who I know have a heavy heart for artwork and the passion of writing. Tim O'brien brings Vietnam right in my doorstep as I imagined his words as a dream, as he said in his writing. It's like I'm with him every step of the way as he described the experiences he had in the wartorn country of Vietnam. In an essence it's like I fought the war, but through his eyes. This book is a masterpiece and the very definition of Artwork. Probably an experience i'll remember for a lifetime.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I really loved how each story was interwoven with the next. I really got a full understanding of the war in Vietnam through Tim's eyes.


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

    the Italian guy, I think, Mitchell Sanders


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    The book didn't make me laugh or cry, but it gave me a profound sense of War, and the mind of a young kid experiencing the very essence of hell. As a 21 year old myself, I could relate.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzy 06-03-14
    Suzy 06-03-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Transporting - took me to another space and time"
    If you could sum up The Things They Carried in three words, what would they be?

    I was so stunned by this book, I've had a hard time formulating what to say. O'Brien starts the book by telling us, in detail, the material things that soldiers carried in the Vietnam War. Quickly he moves into telling us about the profound things that soldiers carried during and after the war. Things = Stories. The stories men tell to each other, the stories men tell to themselves and the stories they carry with them for the rest of their lives. They are constantly telling stories, and there seems to be an obsession about sorting out what's true and what's an embellishment or a downright lie. War heightens all senses, and I imagine it is almost impossible to stay clear on what's real and what isn't in the stories they tell over and over and as the actual experience of it recedes into the past. Their stories and the telling of them are both a balm and a curse.

    As I read The Things They Carried, I kept questioning if this was a fictional account of O'Brien's experiences before, during and after the war or if it was a series of related non-fiction essays. That question was answered when after the book ended, there was an hour left which was devoted to O'Brien reading an essay he did for the NY Times about his return to Vietnam in 1994. It was clear then that the book was fiction.

    I thought O'Brien's writing was outstanding. Equally outstanding was how Bryan Cranston brought his writing to life. I listened to most of this on a long car trip and felt transported by his storytelling to another dimension. While most of the book takes place in Vietnam, he also tells of his life before and after the war, which creates context and understanding. I often complain that authors don't know how to end their book - not so here. The ending was exquisite and poignant.

    I'm not sure this book is for everyone. Parts were hard to listen to and brought tears to my eyes. This was especially true when listening to the author read his essay of his return to Vietnam. But I thank you, Tim O'Brien, for telling your story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States 05-30-14
    Matt OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States 05-30-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Loved it!"

    A well told biography about Viet Nam, the experience, the real people and how they felt before, during and after the war. Many first hand accounts are documented by the author and those that he served with. Cranston's narration was superb.... one of the best I've heard.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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