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The Things They Carried

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  154,737 Ratings  ·  9,442 Reviews
In 1979, Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato - a novel about the Vietnam War - won the National Book Award. In this, his second work of fiction about Vietnam, O'Brien's unique artistic vision is again clearly demonstrated. Neither a novel nor a short story collection, it is an arc of fictional episodes, taking place in the childhoods of its characters, in the jungles of Vie ...more
Paperback, 233 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Mariner Books (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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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
Ted
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 (
...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
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
Jeff
Aug 18, 2016 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...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
Carmen
Aug 17, 2016 Carmen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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I feel like I did read this in college, but for
...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
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
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
Camie
May 21, 2016 Camie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The line between fact and fiction is very blurred here in Tim O'Brien's award winning book of interrelated stories / thoughts about a group of young men who served in Vietnam. I love the title, The Things They Carried, literally it was love letters, scraps of photos, dope, mine detectors, ammunition etc. but figuratively they carried fear, doubt, confusion, along with scars on both their bodies and their souls. "They shared the weight of memory. They took up what others could no longer bear. Oft ...more
Darwin8u
May 09, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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

description

These are just the intangibles that O'Brien packs into 'The Things They Carried'. There is something about Tim O'Brien
...more
Steve
Jul 01, 2010 Steve rated it it was amazing
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
Trish
This book/memoir is everything you want in a collection of war stories. It touches upon all the sentiments and realities that I have always been curious about, but too embarrassed to ask. Tim O'Brien is a brilliant writer, there's no doubt about that. There's a wistfulness in his writing that reminds me of conversations with my Grandpa over hot tea on bright summer mornings. I'm just a child listening to the stories of a world, of a time I can't imagine, that I'm privileged enough to never have ...more
Claire
You know a book is good when it makes you want to protest against a war that's already over.
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
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
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
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Around the Year i...: The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien 3 12 Aug 14, 2016 03:14AM  
  • 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
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
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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.” 895 likes
“A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” 578 likes
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