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The Things They Carried

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  134,492 ratings  ·  8,330 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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Melissa I read this book first in the 10th grade, and I didn't get most of it. Actually we didn't read the whole book, our teacher just picked out which…moreI read this book first in the 10th grade, and I didn't get most of it. Actually we didn't read the whole book, our teacher just picked out which stories we should read. But I just re-read it now after just graduating high school, and I found it much more enriching. I'd recommend juniors or seniors to read this book. But 9th or 10th- you've gotta be picky about.(less)
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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
May 20, 2013 Amanda rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
May 02, 2011 Cassy rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Emily May
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
… 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 (or maybe "Tim O'Brien", or ma
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
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
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
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

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
I just finished reading this book with my 10th grade English students. It is always the class favorite, so I save it for the end of the year. I'm glad I have the occasion to reread it periodically--immersing myself in the details of a soldier's life seems like the least I can do these days.

But the real reason I love this book is because it is, at its heart, about storytelling, about why we tell stories and, in O'Brien's words, how "stories can save us." Parts of this book could be my English te
3.5 stars. A good, very heartfelt collection of connected stories about Tim O'Brien's experiences in Vietnam. The writing at times is very moving. My favorite story of all was a barely two page vignette titled "Style". At times it was repetitive. But this is all easy for me to say as I spent those years, though young, in the comfort and security of the States. As such, while reading this, I feel somewhat unqualified *morally* to comment.
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
Typically, I would never read a “war story”. Definitely out of my wheelhouse.

This is not a war story. It is an emotionally charged character study of the human spirit told thru the combining of several short vignettes.

Funny at times, tragic and disturbing in others, Tim O’Brien nails this one with his strong voice and elegant writing.

5 Stars and Highly Recommended!
Lucy M
Honestly what can you say about a book that is not only so enticing that you miss your stop not once but five times (yeah that's right I sat on the bus and went round in loops) , but also so moving that you need to pull away just to gather yourself. After finishing this book, I feel that the author didn't want me to feel sorry for him or for any soldiers he talked about in the book. The soldiers that fought in Vietnam (on both sides) need to be remembered. The TRUTH about what they went through ...more
Oct 31, 2013 Liz rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of good writing and true stories
Recommended to Liz by: Meg & Kate
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites, own
Update: Just read Richard Rohr's definition of Myth in the introduction of his book "Falling Upward" and I think it accurately describes the stories in this book as truly mythical:

"Our myths are stories or images that are not always true in particular but entirely true in general. They are usually not historical fact, but invariably they are spiritual genius. They hold life and death, the explainable and the unexplainable together as one; they hold together the paradoxes that the rational mind
Larry Bassett
I have read other comments about the writing tools that are used in this book. One of them is repetition -- some like it, some don't. One person observed that the author had intended to write a 250 book but he only got to 150 and then added the repetitions. Sounded a little cruel. I have a problem with short term memory. So sometimes I can't remember what I read 10 pages ago. Some repetitions just make deja vu for me. 'This seems so familiar,' I say. And I continue to slog through the fog.

I have
Ivonne Rovira
Jul 08, 2015 Ivonne Rovira rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone aged 16 and up
Shelves: favorites
I had been meaning to read Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried literally for years. I finally tackled this book — part novel, part memoir — after my Advanced Placement English Literature class voted to include it as one of our reads this year.

The book's just as fabulous as everyone has always said — a true classic. As O'Brien himself notes, The Things They Carried isn't mainly about war — although the hubris, carnage and waste that was the Vietnam War looms large, of course. Rather, the book d
Oh dear. Another victim of war book. It's time we stop this nonsense; War sucks. No kidding. I read some other readers' comments on this book. "What a marvel, what a great writer." Sorry; many of these folks obviously have never had a bad day in their lives, and are living for the vicarious thrill of what they perceive war to be (and what it is about): something this guy has messianic qualities over. I have to borrow a quote from my troops: YGBSM.
Ok, I'll play. This was an "interesting" book. E
"I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.

Here is the happening-truth. I was once a soldier. There were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look. And now, twenty years later, I'm left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief.

Here is the story-truth. He was a slim, dead, almost dainty young man of about twenty. He lay in the center of a red clay trail near the village of My Khe
Kristi S.
If you are looking for a book that’s real, then this is the one. The Things They Carried is an emotional memoir that really captivates the reader from the very first page. The sequence of interrelated short stories allows the reader to view the Vietnam War from different angles and through different voices. I found this approach in writing a book highly original, but also successful since each chapter reflects Tim’s passion and the haunting memories of the war. Although this book is a work of fi ...more
I simply cannot write a review worthy of this book. The writing is so right, so perfect that I have had more than one lively discussion on its fiction classification. "But this writing is totally non-fiction, everything happened the way he said that it did, and it happened to him and his buddies!" they whine. And that is when I cave and say that it did, sure. And it didn't. But it doesn't matter anyway. There is truth in it. Sure, he was there, and you were there, and I was there- in the readin ...more
My 11-year-old has gone from the Lightning Thief series, to Hunger Games, to this. I am so proud.
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  • Dispatches
  • A Rumor Of War
  • Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam
  • You Are Not a Stranger Here
  • Novel Without a Name
  • A Flag For Sunrise
  • The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam
  • Mean Spirit
  • The Pugilist at Rest
  • Selected Stories, 1968-1994
  • In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War
  • Matterhorn
  • The Coast of Chicago: Stories
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
  • Generation Kill
  • The Stories of John Cheever
  • Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam
  • Among the Missing
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...
In the Lake of the Woods Going After Cacciato If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home Tomcat In Love July, July

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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.” 869 likes
“A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” 533 likes
More quotes…