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  • The Things They Carried

  • By: Tim O'Brien
  • Narrated by: Bryan Cranston
  • Length: 7 hrs and 47 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (476 ratings)

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The Things They Carried cover art

The Things They Carried

By: Tim O'Brien
Narrated by: Bryan Cranston
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Editor reviews

"Over time, America's wars are written in shorthand: World War II is noble sacrifice; the Civil War, tragic fratricide; Vietnam, black humor and moral ambiguity. Which is partly what makes Bryan Cranston a more than suitable choice to narrate [this] new audiobook edition. Thanks to his role on Breaking Bad, 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. His calm, gravelly diction, unmarked by any noticeable regional accent, carries a faint echo of Walter Cronkite, who delivered the news from 'Nam with a matter-of-factness inflected with moral concern. But Cranston is also a capable mimic, and he does the Army in different voices. Characters who on the page are names, fates and identifying attributes grow into a chorus of American regional and ethnic types - Native American, ¬African-American, Midwestern, Southern…. The novel's two best sections - the account of an aimless drive around an Iowa lake interspersed with flashbacks to a horrible night in a Vietnamese bog, and the chronicle of an abortive flight to Canada on O'Brien's part - take on new and gripping power." (A. O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review)

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.

©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 listeners say about The Things They Carried

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    5 out of 5 stars
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What is a true war story?

What is a true war story? Can there ever be such a thing?

Tim O'Brien ponders this and explains that there cannot, at least not really. It is not short stories or non-fiction or a novel, but some of all these things and these tales and memories and anecdotes of Vietnam all coalesce into a book with great gravit, punch and poetry. Here the war is so intense that it overrules all else and there is an authentic and truthful power in the layers of the narrative that can't be described, at least by me.

Bryan Cranston's reading is wonderful.

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5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Just not for me

So far I've just literally heard lists of things the soldiers carried with them. This may be a powerful meditation (and Bryan Cranston is a good reader) but I was hoping for more information. There isn't a narrative. I'm already convinced by the ^war is hell^ story and don't need to be immersed in any more horror, so I will return this.

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4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Brilliant

Cranston does a excellent job of reading this brutally honest portrait of the Vietnam experience from a grunts perspective without all the false glory seeking crap you find in some books about Vietnam. Tim o brien works wonders with descriptions and how it actually is.

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2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Unforgiving and Unforgotten

I've always wanted to read a book about the Viet Nam experience. Not the war as such. More what it was actually like to be 20, in 1968, in a foreign country fighting an enemy who were almost part of the landscape. To be utterly alien to the location, the culture and the people. This book was that great first book. Narrated perfectly by Cranston and fully deserving of its near cult status. Hard to tell story from fact, biography from autobiography, a blur of the picture but occasionally freeze framing you on an image so clear it's hard to focus on the next sentences. Yes, it's got the gore, yes it's got the violence, yes it's got the insane anecdotes of war woven throughout but these are almost superfluous. The book is about love, life, death and the undead. If you're looking for Rambo or Chuck Norris or Flight of the Valkyries, rent a movie. If you want 'Nam, seen, heard and felt through the boots and soul of a 21 yr old boy soldier and the effect the place had on him and all he served with, read this book.

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1 person found this helpful

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excellent

Having read the book myself a few years ago, it had quite an impact in its total honesty. A very different account of this pointless war and a pitch black chapter in american history. Bryan Cranstons narration fits beautifully and the bonus from Tim at the end is superb. Thankyou

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Visceral and unflinching

Am amazing account of what war does to people.
It’s too brutal for me in places and some aspects of it will take some forgetting.

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1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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One man's story, the tales of many.

This book was hard to put down. It takes you on a roller coaster of emotions as you listen to the experiences. Trying to decide which are fiction you which are the authors experiences.
This isn't a book about guts and glory, it's about the human mind and the many corridors it wanders to keep surviving.

Narrated perfectly by Brian Cranston.

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Raw, gritty, devastating, moving, unforgettable

I am not usually into war stories but we studied a small section of this at uni for creative writing and I became hooked. I started listening to this a very long time ago and a bit over halfway a particular passage was so visceral it shocked me into fewling quite sick and it took me a long time to revisit it. I'm glad I did. It's an insightful and moving tale made up of many tales in the Vietnam War, not necessarily true, but each told to convey the emotions and thoughts of a soldier who was too cowardly (his words) not to fight. Gripping, funny, grotesque, moving. Unforgettable. A great bonus feature at the end too. Thank you.

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Excellent writing style

The book was beautifully written, giving insight into the author’s mind surrounding his experiences of the Vietnam war. I get the impression I would have different political leanings to the author (though not necessarily on this particular war), which I think added to my enjoyment. It’s nice to see different perspectives than our own, and it was written at a time when left leaning authors still largely had opinions I can respect.

The narration was perfect, absolutely superb

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Harrowing

Harrowing to think of 19 yr olds pushed out to kill others and witness the torture their pals suffered and live with what they did without any great support . Unforgettable !

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