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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.

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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

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  •  
    Todd R Fredricks 05-03-15 Member Since 2014
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    "One long slog into darkness"

    First of all Brian Cranstons narration is terrific. The story is poetic but it is the epitome of the most depressed narrative that one can imagine coming from a Vietnam Vet. There is nothing re demon here, no happy ending, just emotional pain of a man who stopped living at age 23 and remained mired in the thick muck of a rice paddy in Vietnam.

    Sadly his deceased buddy Kiowa, a devout Christian, should have been his guide. Kiowa dies in combat but lived fully while he was here. OBrien missed the message of hope that Kiowa lived and in the end gives the reader a sad tale of what happens to a greatly gifted wordsmith who chooses the path of bleak and purposeless nihilism over the road that leads from the harsh rocks of life to a bright and sunny shore.

    A great book to read if you want the psychology of those who never allowed themselves to leave Vietnam.

    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 03-11-14
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 03-11-14 Member Since 2010

    Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

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    "Carried by Cranston"

    The huge positive about this title is Bryan Cranston. It is hard to conceive of a better reading than his. It captured the people, the place and the time. Of course, he had material to work with, but my gut feel was that he put a lot more on the paddock than the personell he had at his disposal. It is like a great coach raising an average team to another level. I felt this with sufficient conviction that I borrowed the paperback (telling that I didn't buy it, I think) and read it. I read it reasonably quickly, although I think I glossed some of it because it was familiar and just plain not as gripping as Cranston's performance. I think this is rare. I've read good books that are read well and it enhances the book, but it started out good. Sure it got better, but it didn't go from a 3 to a 4 star STORY; overall, maybe, but not the story.
    So, talking about the story; it was on the good side of ok. A safe 3. I found the "story is not true" part a bit hard to follow, but I'm guessing it was a literary device to convey the blurred line between fact and reality, fear and courage. If not, then I'm one of those people the author says "just don't get it".
    I also got the impression that some of the Chapters had been published before as short stories. Sometimes (rarely) the names didn't co-incide and it appeared to be that names had been changed to protect identities at one point in time. This was confirmed by the extra part read by the author.
    Turning to that extra part, I have to say that it was very disturbing. The apparently tenous and precarious line that he walks in his life was painful to listen to and in stark contrast to Cranston's assured voice (as the author's voice in the book, proper). In some ways this extra hour is the highlight of the title. In other ways I wish I'd never heard it.
    This is a hard title to review. Worth the listen for many reasons, most of them due to Cranston's narration or the contrast between it and the author's real one.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    arlene j Florida 10-20-13
    arlene j Florida 10-20-13 Member Since 2017
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    "Well Done"
    What did you love best about The Things They Carried?

    I was not looking for a war story about Vietnam when I purchased this audio book. Been there done that. I was looking for more Bryan Cranston after binge watching Breaking Bad and Malcolm In The Middle. I was not disappointed. The stories told in THE THINGS THEY CARRIED are wonderful. It is the most beautifully written book about the Vietnam era that I have ever experienced...it tells the story like I remember it. Well done Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Cranston.


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

    The story ON THE RAINY RIVER


    What about Bryan Cranston’s performance did you like?

    His clarity and enunciation and heartfelt presentation. I could tell he did this project because he loved the book.


    Who was the most memorable character of The Things They Carried and why?

    the narrator


    Any additional comments?

    It is a book I will listen to again and again...

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Staci Morgan 12-22-16
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    "Too good to even say"
    What made the experience of listening to The Things They Carried the most enjoyable?

    The way Tim O'Brien wrote this story keeps you pulled in the entire time. Even if you want to stop this book and start another you can't, it will not leave your mind.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Every aspect of this story was enjoyable. The characters kept me entertained, the amazing stories, and especially the way the stories are told. I love how the book does not only tell a simple story, but gives a real in-depth feel for raw war and the reality of it.


    Any additional comments?

    I almost did not write a review on this book because I know that any words I write will not do this book justice. It is a book that must be read yourself.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angela M. Dokos Georgia 12-22-16
    Angela M. Dokos Georgia 12-22-16 Member Since 2013

    angie

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    "Devastating."

    This story will stick in your mind for a while after reading. It hurts my heart to know the burdens put on soldiers. I can't imagine going through anything like they have to endure.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carl 12-21-16
    Carl 12-21-16

    redwinecarl

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    "Wonderful retelling of a terrible time"

    I did not go to the war in Vietnam, having been rejected for health reasons, but I feel the pain of those who did. The way the soldiers returning were spat upon and otherwise mistreated, and the terrible way our government ignored their broken minds and bodies, was despicable.
    This author was there and tells a story from a very caring and introspective mind.
    Perfectly narrated, these moving stories are not easily forgotten. Listen and learn about the war and its history, told by those who lived it. Excellent all around for every American to learn more about your history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    THRIFTY LAWYER 12-01-16
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    "Hard to know what to think"

    I read this book 15 years ago and was excited to see it as a Daily Deal, since I remembered finding it to be very powerful but I didn't remember the details. Here's what I took away from it this time around:

    *Bryan Cranston is a fantastic actor and narrator, and I think that he imparts a sincerity and bitterness that can make the experience of listening to this book even more compelling than it might otherwise be. Nevertheless, I wanted someone a little different for this book. Cranston comes off as experienced and sardonic, especially if one has seen him in Breaking Bad. However, much of the book details Tim O'Brien's experiences as a young, insecure recruit being exposed to the horrors of war for the first time, and I felt that someone who could have conveyed a little more innocence would have been more suitable

    *This book is moving, troubling and compelling. The stories stick with you

    *I found Tim O'Brien's Postscript about his trip to Vietnam with his much-younger girlfriend to be both interesting and aggravating. On the one hand, the way he talks about My Lai and how he personalizes the victims and their families is heartbreaking and really made me think deeply about war and the norms that we are taught about America and its role overseas. On the other hand,

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Milwaukee, WI, United States 10-25-16
    Richard Milwaukee, WI, United States 10-25-16 Member Since 2012
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    "Of its time..."

    I cannot imagine my daughter being nearly as affected as I was since it was not her generation with the direct experience of Vietnam. Yet as my grandchildren continue to grow and thrive, I hope they will one day read the book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    H. Huang 09-20-16
    H. Huang 09-20-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Excellent"

    Well written war stories, brought me back to the 60's and 70's, wrong time, wrong place and with wrong people, now US just normalized relationships with Vietnam. How about those who had been gone, perished in the jungles,

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William 09-11-16
    William 09-11-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Moving"

    I started working hard to get into university late in high school. I was pretty scattered and always had trouble sitting still long enough to study and wasn't sure I could handle college. But, I started hearing more about Vietnam. I didn't understand why we were there. The music of my generation was very much anti-war and I started hearing from two cousins who were serving in Vietnam. As they passed through on leave, I heard some talk, but was even more chilled by the silence at times. I decided that I had to go to university so I could at least get a deferment. When I turned 18, I got my draft number and it was low. In my first year of university, the draft was abolished. This book brought back those memories of whispered stories and added more. I am not anti - war, but war is a step that requires serious consideration not only about when to enter, but how to end it. This book underscores that. It shows the human side of war, as well as the inhuman side. It is thoughtful, open, and moving. I recommend it highly.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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