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Editorial 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.

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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Story

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Very Very Very Good Listen!!

The stories presented are disjointed and shouldn't be looked at as unorganized. I believe there is a reason these stories are presented in the way they are. Each story gives what the author intended for its reader, to understand the feel of being in Vietnam from a lower enlisted soldiers perspective. It helps understand the confusion, uncertainty, hopelessness, surrealness of being involves in the Vietnam War. As well, Bryan Cranston gives a top notch read of this book, evoking the proper emotion this book strives to portray.

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Repetive and maudlin

Would you try another book from Tim O'Brien and/or Bryan Cranston?

Not from O'Brien. From Cranston, yes.

Would you recommend The Things They Carried to your friends? Why or why not?

Seemed to make the same few points over and over. Became increasingly depressing towards the end. The last chapter, read by the author was disturbing from a clinical standpoint. The guy needs treatment, professional help.

What three words best describe Bryan Cranston’s performance?

Excellent. Adaptable. Clear.

Was The Things They Carried worth the listening time?

Just barely. I kept thinking it might get better, but it didn't.

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Bryan Cranston transforms a classic.

The vocal performance by Bryan Cranston brings incredible life to an already vivid work. This book is a powerfully accurate description of the horrors of war. Bryan Cranston's emotion and skill come through in the characters and magnify the effects of this impactful story.

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Start it but don't finish

Very interesting until the 'typical America is evil' conclusion.
Get thru the first 80%, then move on to another book.

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Stellar Narration

Bryan Cranston the Breaking Bad star's voice matches up perfectly for the story and the tone is matched amazingly.

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Contrived...

Mid way through started to feel more than a little made up and more than a little melodramatic. I do recommend Duiker's Ho Chi Minh bio, Karnows Vietnam a History, Caputo's A Rumor of War and Herr's Dispatches if you're into Vietnam. I also ejoyed Matterhorn...but knew it was made up when I started reading it.

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Stories I could relate to

brought back memories and stories that I could relate to, some hood some bad, like the author.

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Hard to find the truth in all the crap

Sorry, but a lot of the stories in this book sounded made up. At one point, the author even references what "truth" is to a soldier in the stories he tells and I think this was his way of giving himself a pass on what he told the truth about and what he made up. I know every war is different and every soldier's experience is different. I am the wife of a soldier that has served the last 16 years and has fought wars in 2 different theaters, and I am sorry but there is just no possibility in my mind that what is told here is 100% true. I have know too many men who served in Vietnam. Men who are kind and gentle and were drafted into a war they never wanted to fight any more than the author. Men who were just boys. If you are going to tell your story, then tell it, but don't lie about it. It does a disservice to every man who fought beside you, those that lost their lives and those that didn't

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Not worth your time.

I have listened to alot of historical, factual and first hand books on war. This is the worst I have listened to. Disjointed and sloppy.

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  • Dona
  • Hamilton, Australia
  • 07-15-17

Remembering

I chose this book because it was on a reading list for high school where I was the librarian. Listening to it brought back memories of my brother and other young men of my generation who fought in the Vietnam War.
I kept thinking,"Was this what my brother went through?" He never really talked about the three tours he had in Vietnam in the Special Forces unit. I wonder if this book, written by a Vietnam vet, would be a good book for him or other vets to read or would it bring up many terrifying memories because Tim O'Brien's writing is very graphic.
At the end of the book Audible had a special addition with O'Brien speaking and telling even more personal recollections of his time during and after the war.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good insight into the Vietnam War or who thinks war is the glamorous and exciting adventure shown in many movies.