Friday, March 27, 2020

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

I listened to the unabridged audio version of The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien and narrated by actor, Bryan Cranston. Listening time for The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is 7 hours, 47 minutes.

The Things They Carried is a work of fiction written in essays that reads more like a memoir to me. The essays are about serving in the Vietnam war and how it effects the lives of those who served in the military.

The following essays are the ones I enjoyed reading the most:

1. The Things They Carried
2. On The Rainy River
3. Stockings
4. The Man I Killed
5. Ambush
6. Good Form

Tim O'Brien's writing is really well done. I never thought I would enjoy reading a book about the Vietnam war as much as a I did. I usually tend to stay away from books about the harrowing effects of war.

Young men of my parents generation were drafted into the Vietnam war. My parents married in 1968 right out of high school and I was born 11 months later. Marriage and a baby were my father's way out from having to serve during Vietnam. Others were not so lucky. One of my father's close high school friends was drafted into the Vietnam war and as expected, he came back changed from the experience. I can't imagine having to fight in a war, especially one that seemed as unpopular as the Vietnam war was. 

It's also very sad to think that at 18 years of age the US Government drafted young men to fight and possibly die in combat, but these same young men were not old enough to vote until the age of 21. How was it possible that these young men were thought responsible (dispensable?) enough to fight for our country in combat, yet not allowed to vote for government officials and laws that effected the society they lived in? It wasn't until March 23, 1971, that the 26th Amendment was passed lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. 

I thought Bryan Cranston did an excellent job of narrating The Things They CarriedI also enjoyed the added bonus track at the end of The Things They Carried where Tim O'Brien reads his essay 'The Vietnam in Me', which is not part of the written version of The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. 'The Vietnam in Me' recounts "the author's trip back to Vietnam in 1994, revisiting his experience there as a soldier 25 years before."

Below is the plot summary for The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien from Amazon:
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.
Below is an author interview with Tim O'Brien talking about his book, The Things They Carried which I found to be good.

I am giving The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!


  1. Bryan Cranston is terrific. I can imagine that he would be an excellent narrator for these kinds of essays.

  2. Well done on getting through the book. Tim O'Brien released another memoir last year called Dad's Maybe Book. I heard him talk about that and more from his life on the Otherppl podcast. I will read The Things They Carried soon. I could not quite face reading it for a long time, but now that I have read The Green Berets I feel I can.

    1. I am familiar a few of Tim O'Brien's other book titles, but haven't looked into Dad's Maybe Book. Glad you made it through The Green Berets book you read. That one sounds like a tough one to read. Reading about warfare and its effects on those lives that are devastated by it are tough ones to take on.