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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

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (5109 )
5 star
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4.5 (4723 )
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Kelli REDDING, CA, United States 01-21-14
    Kelli REDDING, CA, United States 01-21-14 Member Since 2015

    spa wench

    HELPFUL VOTES
    50
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    45
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    3
    9
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    Story
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-30-13
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-30-13 Member Since 2017

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "haunting"

    This book was first published in 1990 and was re-issued in 2013. In 1990 it won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Critics Circle Award, and the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger. The book is listed as fiction it is based on Tim O’Brien’s real life experience in the Vietnam War. O’Brian says writing as fiction gave him more leeway in character development and also in the story. The book’s opening with the title, “The things they carried” shifted from mundane to meaningful in telling what they carried for example: mosquito netting, machetes, pens, letter from a girl. By the end of the story you know the men, and have a good sense of what they are up against. The book also discusses O’Brien’s visit to Vietnam with his wife visiting the area he served in during the war. The book goes back and forth between the pass and the present time frame. Over all it is an interesting read. Bryan Cranston did a good job narrating the book. If you are interested in the Vietnam War you should read this book.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aaron L 12-06-13
    Aaron L 12-06-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Repetition begets tedium"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    The chapters not directly about the author were well written.


    What could Tim O'Brien have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    O'Brien should have hired an editor with the discipline to cut the repetitive material and improve the pacing of the book.


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

    Cranston's performance was excellent.


    Could you see The Things They Carried being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    The conceptual material is solid but it would need to be wholly rewritten.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean Houston, Texas, United States 11-26-13
    Sean Houston, Texas, United States 11-26-13 Member Since 2009

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "Worm's eye view"

    A worm's eye view of a selected few vignettes of the author's life before and during his service in VietNam.

    The author is long-winded, repeats himself, tells stories out-of-order, says the same things over and over again, and weaves several threads of narrative in and around one another in a manner reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut. Some people may like that.

    But not me.

    11 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christian Espinosa St Louis, MO 10-27-13
    Christian Espinosa St Louis, MO 10-27-13

    Life participant. I value experience over possessions. I love adventure and challenge. My next challenge is to climb the Seven Summits.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sad Ended - Left Wondering if Anything Can Compare"
    Any additional comments?

    The whole thing is simply awesome. I've never watched Breaking Bad, but I'm now a fan of Bryan Cranston. His delivery is great. I love the way he finds an individual voice for the characters. The ending, read by Tim O'Brien himself, was very moving. I found myself wishing it wasn't over. I sort of feel like "now what"? I hope to find something as great as this on audible.com....I'm hopeful, yet skeptic.

    9 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy France 09-22-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Yay for Cranston. Boo for book"

    Terrible story to me. Wish the author wouldn't have told us all of it could be fabricated

    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Joplin, Missouri 03-08-16
    Andy Joplin, Missouri 03-08-16 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Marvel of storytelling? I do not see it."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    More organized storytelling.


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

    No.


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

    I did not have a favorite.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Yes, Brian Cranston.


    Any additional comments?

    Listening to this story felt like I was listening to my crazy, senile uncles war stories. This was mostly represented in the repetition and poor organization.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gr 01-02-14
    Gr 01-02-14 Member Since 2013

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zsolt 10-02-15
    Zsolt 10-02-15 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointed"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    People who can endure a fictional (sometimes fantastical) story in a historically valid setting.


    Has The Things They Carried turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No, because in a way "Killer Angels" is fiction as well, but did a fantastic job.


    What about Bryan Cranston’s performance did you like?

    Great voice, good smooth reading.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Things They Carried?

    The scene of the girl who visits the remote medical base.


    Any additional comments?

    It was just not for me. It's possible I need my stories to be closer to non-fiction.

    4 of 6 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.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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