Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Things They Carried” as Want to Read:
The Things They Carried
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Things They Carried

by
4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  146,957 Ratings  ·  9,025 Reviews
The Things They Carried is a masterful novel of the Vietnam War that has been called the greatest war novel ever written. The soldiers 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 ...more
Audio CD, 7 pages
Published November 1st 2003 by Recorded Books (first published 1990)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Things They Carried, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

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. ;-)
(less)
The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienWatership Down by Richard AdamsA Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonRabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
Long Journey on Foot
62nd out of 141 books — 77 voters
The Help by Kathryn StockettHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. RowlingBossypants by Tina FeyThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Best Audiobooks
337th out of 1,071 books — 752 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Emily
Mar 08, 2011 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
Amanda
May 20, 2013 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Cassy
May 02, 2011 Cassy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Emily May
Jul 02, 2013 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
Kemper
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
...more
Ted
… 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
...more
Dem
Mar 11, 2016 Dem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
booklady
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
Sandy
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
Terri
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
...more
Teresa
Apr 17, 2014 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Algernon
Nov 12, 2012 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Melki
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
...more
Madeline
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
El
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
Brian
Updated Review (11/24/15):

I wanted to read this again, as I’d previously posted I’d read this in my first attempt at college. I felt the same reading it, and now I have the mental content to match. This book goes deeper than action and war atrocities. You see the war through O’Brien’s eyes, but he would say the books hits closer to the truth. The short stories in this book happened in the places and times, but the author makes them up, or changes them. He does this to explain the feeling, the e
...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
...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
...more
Melanie
Nov 22, 2014 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Steve
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
...more
Beth
May 29, 2007 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Ivonne Rovira
Jul 08, 2015 Ivonne Rovira rated it it was amazing  ·  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
...more
Claire
You know a book is good when it makes you want to protest against a war that's already over.
AC
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.
Liz
Oct 31, 2013 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of good writing and true stories
Recommended to Liz by: Meg & Kate
Shelves: favorites, nonfiction, 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
...more
Lucy M
Aug 12, 2011 Lucy M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bill
May 21, 2015 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-reads
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!
Josh
Jun 12, 2015 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, fiction, high-five
"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
...more
Larry Bassett
Jun 11, 2010 Larry Bassett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
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
...more
Kristi S.
Jan 23, 2010 Kristi S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the World ...: Discussion for The Things They Carried 16 207 Apr 13, 2016 02:54AM  
Bound Together: Things They Carried Discussion 43 146 Apr 12, 2016 06:59PM  
Classics Without ...: Welcome to the Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien 14 88 Apr 02, 2016 08:54AM  
Nothing But Readi...: Opinions (No Spoilers) 2 32 Jan 07, 2016 01:04PM  
The Things They Carried 1-86 2 23 Dec 14, 2015 12:10PM  
  • Dispatches
  • Meditations in Green
  • Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam
  • A Rumor Of War
  • The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam
  • A Flag For Sunrise
  • Self-Help
  • They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967
  • War
  • The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories
  • The Stories of John Cheever
  • Chickenhawk
  • Persian Nights
  • Home Before Morning
  • Forty Stories (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)
  • Cathedral
  • One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
  • What It is Like to Go to War
2330
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
More about Tim O'Brien...

Share This Book



“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.” 886 likes
“A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” 561 likes
More quotes…