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The Things They Carried

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  171,921 Ratings  ·  10,329 Reviews
They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and ...more
Paperback, 246 pages
Published December 29th 1998 by Broadway (first published 1990)
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Paula My son read this book for school his junior year. I am reading it because this book seemed to renew his interest in reading. He said it was "actually…moreMy son read this book for school his junior year. I am reading it because this book seemed to renew his interest in reading. He said it was "actually good" which is a pretty high compliment from him at the moment. ;-)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 11, 2007 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first bought The Things They Carried at the Bruised Apple, a used bookstore and coffee shop in downtown Peekskill, New York, back in 1991 when I was fifteen years old. By the time I graduated from high school a few years later I'd read it so often that the pages, already brittle, were nearly worn through, entire sections underlined in pencil. Loaned out and lost to a college crush years ago, a dear friend bought me a replacement copy awhile back signed to me by Tim O'Brien himself. This new co ...more
Sep 18, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it
It was in the spring of 2006 and I was on patrol in Kirkuk Iraq with a unit in the 101st Airborne. I had my full “battle rattle” on: helmet, body armor, vest with extra magazines, M4. We were in the Kurdish part of the city and it was a beautiful day in the bazaar.

I came to love the Kurdish people, they were hardworking and resilient. Many people don’t know this but a percentage of Kurdish folks are red headed. No kidding, fair skin like me and RED hair. It was the kind of day where in the back
Jun 06, 2008 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to Amanda by: Dr. Calloway
Shelves: kick-ass, vietnam, blog, war
Awestruck may be the best way to describe how I felt upon reading this book the first time. So how did I feel upon reading it the second time? I just want to bow at Tim O'Brien's feet while muttering a Wayne's World style "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy."

Using non-linear narrative and stringing together seemingly unrelated stories into one ultimately cohesive work, O'Brien achieves something that traditional narrative never could: his work reflects the emotional truth of what it was like to be
Emily May
Aug 19, 2012 Emily May rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Things They Carried reads like a confession, which, I suppose, in many ways it is. War is a theme in so many books, be they historical fiction, memoirs, alternate histories... and I've certainly read my fair share of them. But stretching my mind back over the years right now, I struggle to recall one that has affected me quite so much. Perhaps I would put it on equal footing with Drakulic's "S" - a heartbreakng novel about the treatment of women in the female war camps during the Bosnian war ...more
Dec 31, 2013 Kemper rated it really liked it
It’d be a bad idea to challenge Tim O’Brien to a round of Truth-Or-Dare because he’d find a way to pick Truth, launch into a story, recant it, then make you think he really chose Dare, but in the end, you’ll be pretty sure he actually told you the Truth after all. Maybe…

That’s kind of the point about this account of his time Vietnam as an infantry soldier that warns us that war stories are tricky. The ones that sound true are probably lies and the ones that seem outlandish probably have a health
See But wait … way down below

… and sometimes I can see Timmy skating with Linda under the yellow floodlights. I’m young and happy. I’ll never die. I’m skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story.

That’s the last 71 words of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Timmy is Tim O'Brien (
Sep 18, 2009 Cassy rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cassy by: Creative Writing Professor R. Liddell
I took a short story writing class for kicks a while back. On the first day, the professor recommended two books: Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor and this book by Tim O’Brien. I promptly bought both. Then I just as promptly set them aside to read something flashy.

I am glad I waited until after the class to read this one. Otherwise, I would have quit the class immediately and never written so much as a grocery list ever again. This book is genius. The story about the girl with a necklac
J.L.   Sutton
Dec 15, 2016 J.L. Sutton rated it it was amazing
Admired Tim O’Brien’s writing since I first read Going after Cacciato several years ago; that book has long been one of my favorites. The Things They Carried is a different kind of book, but it shares with Going after Cacciato a powerful sense of how it feels for a soldier to be at war. O’Brien doesn’t debate the merits of the Vietnam War, but thoughtfully speaks about the burdens, hopes and fears the soldiers in Alpha Company bore (thus the title of the book). In many cases, these burdens didn’ ...more
Andrew Smith
Sep 12, 2016 Andrew Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrew by: Ɗắɳ 2.☠
I’ve read any number of books where the Vietnam War has featured large in the context of the central narrative. I’ve read a few fictional books that have been largely or wholly about the war itself, or the impacts of the war on the people caught up in it. I’ve even read one or two non-fiction books which have sought to explain why the war was fought. I do find this subject fascinating; partly, I think, because I can’t think of any military action the UK’s recent history that has caused such a ki ...more
Apr 18, 2013 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buddy-reads
The truth shall set you free.

What about half truths? Or a fictionalized version of the truth?

Tim O’Brien, as a Vietnam vet and writer, makes no bones about the veracity of a war story: “I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.”

This book is an exercise in not only exorcising demons and coping with guilt and grief, but in how to write a narrative that weaves in and out of what could pass for truth or fiction, like a greased snake
Ɗắɳ  2.✽
Aug 30, 2016 Ɗắɳ 2.✽ rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Ɗắɳ 2.✽ by: Becky
All the Stars

This book seemingly had three strikes against it, before I even cracked open the spine. First off, as I’ve stated numerous times before, I’m not a fan of war stories. And I especially don’t care to revisit Vietnam, so soon after wading through King’s Hearts in Atlantis. Secondly, nonfiction is not my thing . . . at all. That dry, voiceless prose or lengthy expository info dumps, which seem to populate many works, are dead boring. I’d much rather be whisked away into some page turnin
Mar 09, 2016 Dem rated it really liked it
The things they carried by Tim O Brien is a collection of twenty-two stories chronicling the author's recollections of his time as a soldier in the Vietnam War. About one third ways through the book I realised that this account was not entirely based on fact and that some of the stories were fiction and I did initially think that this was going to affect my ability to understand and gel with the characters and stories but I think the book was so well written that for me it seemed as if I was see ...more
Joe Valdez
Dec 09, 2016 Joe Valdez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Things They Carried is so full of microburst storytelling that its shortcomings as a fully formed narrative are overcome. Tim O'Brien first published many of these chapters as short stories: Speaking of Courage (1976) appeared in Massachusetts Review and won an O. Henry Award in 1978; The Ghost Soldiers (1981), The Things They Carried (1986), How To Tell a True War Story (1987), The Lives of the Dead (1987) and Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong (1989) appeared in Esquire; In the Field (1989) i ...more
Jul 07, 2008 booklady rated it did not like it
Technically speaking, The Things They Carried is extremely well-written. O'Brien is a good, tight writer who knows how to weave a story. But even while I admire his style and technique, I am put off by the emptiness and moral vacuum he leaves when his machine guns and grenades finish ripping open your insides. While I wasn't looking for Sunday school platitudes from a book about Vietnam, I was looking for some reason, some sense which he could bring to bear after twenty years of writing and refl ...more
Aug 17, 2016 Carmen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Carmen by: Non-Crunchy Pantless
A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue.

This is a great b
This is an extremely hard review for me to compile, because I am extremely conflicted on my impression of this book. And I think this reflects the very nature of the stories presented to us in The Things They Carried. They are conflicted, true, not true, true, not true. Happening truth, story truth. A maelstrom of fiction and non fiction that sometimes feels raw and poignant and sometimes feels exaggerated and fake.

I gave it 4 stars, and yet sometimes I think it was 3 stars, and then at other ti
Sep 21, 2012 Melki rated it it was amazing
War is hell, but that's not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead.

Here, encapsulated in about 20 interconnected short stories, is everything I have ever heard about war.

The hours of boredom and the seconds of sheer horror. The way a life can end faster than the blink of an eye. And j
Powerful writing about being a soldier in Vietnam. I, personally, had a friend once who was a marine there when he was 19. He lost both legs above the knees when he stepped on a land mine. "The guy next to me died" he told me. "I killed him". He couldn't see it any other way... He stepped on the mine, his buddy died. No matter that he nearly died himself, lost his legs, his testicle, his soul, his life as a functional human being, his sense of selfworth, his ability to feel he could live in 'the ...more
Will Byrnes
O’Brien is a gifted writer, and this is a powerful, beautifully written book. The structure is episodes, short stories. He begins with a piece about the objects each of the characters is carrying. Then the stories go into each character in detail. The tales are of war, and are compelling. He also writes about writing and his observations are interesting. – Highly recommended.

P 40
…sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for thos
Jul 06, 2012 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012

I could have easily have given this collection 5 stars. The narrative is powerful, evocative and highly emotional, especially in the earlier stories included here. The title piece is actually my favorite, and it is cunningly put as the opening gambit in this sequence of interconnected anecdotes about a group of American infantry soldiers in the Vietnam War. Tim O'Brien claims authority of the eyewitness, uses the confessional mode, puts the focus on the human element, and combines all these to m
J. Kent Messum
I must confess... my TBR pile has become more of a hill in recent years. Buried in that mound was ‘The Things They Carried’; a highly recommended book that always seemed to get sidetracked whenever I planned to pull it out and give it a read. Trust me, I’m kicking myself for not getting to this sooner. It was a rare treat, one where storytelling, substance, and craft come together in some very fine writing indeed.

This book is a collection of short stories about the unpopular Vietnam War, loosel
Dec 08, 2015 Edward rated it really liked it
These are not war stories of the type that glorify war or make heroes of men. Nor are they anti-war polemics. They are stories about people, and the means they find to endure the conditions they must face. They are stories of fear, faith and love, of weakness and shame, of regret, of seeking and of coming to terms with. They are stories of death, and loss and enduring humanity. They are stories of the cowardice of heroism and the exceptional courage of the mundane. They are stories about stories ...more
Apr 13, 2014 Teresa rated it it was amazing
It's about sisters who never write back and people who never listen. (from "How to Tell a True War Story")

Because I'd previously read the title story in The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: Fifty North American American Stories Since 1970 and later in The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Writing, I was under the impression this book would be a collection of short stories about the Vietnam War. It is, I guess, but it also isn't.

Some of the stories can't stand alone and the o
Jul 01, 2010 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this amazing little book and the first thing you’ll think is, “Whoa, so that’s what it was like.” The “it” was the Vietnam War, from a mud-level view. We learn about the things a humping GI carries both literally and figuratively. The storytelling is remarkable, without a single word wasted, written in a deft, deceptively simple style by a guy who was there. O’Brien is clearly smarter than the average bear, but he’s also the voice of the everyman: empathetic, observant, and linked in.

He pu
Feb 16, 2011 Madeline rated it it was amazing
Let's start out with some context: I know very little about the Vietnam War, having been born in the 80's, and most of my information on the conflict comes from painstakingly-researched movies such as Good Morning Vietnam and Tropic Thunder and, to a lesser extent, whatever my high school teachers tried to make me remember from history class (thanks to my long-standing obsession with all things Tudor, I have a bad habit of just not giving a damn when it comes to American history). I do not parti ...more
Apr 01, 2017 Carol. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants a moving and powerful audio
This is quite the book, and Cranston is quite the reader. Well suited with gravely voice, solemn tones, perfect diction and flow that draws me in. I'm left with a few thoughts:

Part One, carrying a burden

The first chapter, 'The Things They Carried' was one of the longer chapters, at 47 minutes. As read by Cranston, it is a moving and primitive ballad, the grown-up version of a repetitive narrative structure (think 'The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly,' or more likely Gilgamesh or one of those tales
Mar 06, 2011 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
“They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing--these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice.... Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to.”
― Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried


These are just the intangibles that O'Brien packs into 'The Things They Carried'. There is something about Tim O'Brien
May 14, 2012 Melanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
More than a dozen glowing reviews are provided with the novel, none of them do the work justice, so hell if I’m going to achieve eloquence. Everything I want to say is changeable: the work is about the war, but really it’s a love story, the work is about the work - the art of storytelling, how to tell it, what to guess at, what to embellish so that the readers bleed with you, really get it.
The storytelling is, by the Authors own admission, fiction that will better explain truth than the actual
My father was in Vietnam. Not that one would know it necessarily. I probably wouldn't have known if my mother hadn't told me. He doesn't talk about it. If you ask him a question about it he might shrug his shoulders and grunt like it was no big deal. But you would know better than to believe that. That's just my dad. That's how he is. I remember there were some slides that he shared with us once or twice, though with the crazy swiss-cheese memory that is the inside of my head, it's just as likel ...more
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
The significant other/man of the house/Mr Hufflepuff Cat/aka Doc now has a shelf all for himself (technically he has two, because I keep track of the books upstairs that are actually his), but he now has the docs-seal-of-approval shelf, to keep track of books he has read and enjoyed. This being the most recent addition to the shelf, I figured I'd make mention of it. He keeps pestering me to read TTTC and Gregg Allman's book in particular.
I feel like I did read this in college, but for
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  • A Rumor Of War
  • Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1959-1975
  • Jesus' Son
  • A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories
  • Home Before Morning
  • The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: Fifty North American American Stories Since 1970
  • Dispatches
  • The Coast of Chicago: Stories
  • The Oxford Book of American Short Stories
  • Enormous Changes at the Last Minute
  • In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War
  • The Good Soldiers
  • Persian Nights
  • Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow
  • Meditations in Green
  • Cathedral
  • Airships
Tim O'Brien matriculated at Macalester College. Graduation in 1968 found him with a BA in political science and a draft notice.

O'Brien was against the war but reported for service and was sent to Vietnam with what has been called the "unlucky" Americal division due to its involvement in the My Lai massacre in 1968, an event which figures prominently in In the Lake of the Woods. He was assigned to
More about Tim O'Brien...

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“They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.” 920 likes
“A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” 615 likes
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