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The Things They Carried

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  282,161 ratings  ·  16,370 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 Vietnam ...more
Paperback, 246 pages
Published December 29th 1998 by Broadway Books (first published March 28th 1990)
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Thomas Trevenen The Things They Carried is appropriate for tenth grade students. You may have trouble with parents because many parents perceive their children as a y…moreThe Things They Carried is appropriate for tenth grade students. You may have trouble with parents because many parents perceive their children as a year or two behind where the student actually is. Students in tenth grade are mere months away from being Marines if they choose and it is better for them to read about the world before they are thrust into it.
Thematically the novel is multi-layered and will interest all levels of readers. While it is an interesting exploration of the inner conflicts of going to war, it is also a complex exposition on the nature of fiction and how a story that never happened can present greater truth than a newspaper.
I found the novel transformational.(less)
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Ricky McConnell Yes , it was disturbing, but I think the author was trying to convey the difficulty the men were having with losing their friends in combat. Parts of …moreYes , it was disturbing, but I think the author was trying to convey the difficulty the men were having with losing their friends in combat. Parts of this book are fiction, and I am not sure this actually happened. (less)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  282,161 ratings  ·  16,370 reviews

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Sep 18, 2016 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
Oct 11, 2007 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
Jim Fonseca
[Edited for typos and spoilers 2/7/22]

About 20 connected short stories from an author who has become the main literary spokesperson for the story of Americans in the Vietnam War. The book is highly rated on GR (4.1 with almost a quarter-million ratings). How often do you see the front pages with 40 blurbs praising the work from every recognized source you can think of: from the NT Times (which listed it as a Book of the Century) and The Wall Street Journal to Booklist and Publishers Weekly.


The a
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
These connected stories are about young men in their late teens and early twenties doing their best to carry the weight of a brutal war on their shoulders, along with dozens of pounds of field kit and weaponry. They carry so much weight it is hard to even imagine how they could walk the miles they did, crossing rivers, muddy streams, up hills and down into valleys, somehow placing one foot in front of the other while their eyes and ears scan for danger.

The equipment is not all they carry. Some c
Emily May
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, historical
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
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“It’s time to be blunt. I’m forty-three years old, true, and I’m a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier. Almost everything else is invented…I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening truth.”
- Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried has sat on my bookshelf for years. Maybe since high school, meaning that it has sat on various shelves, in various rooms, in
Jun 06, 2008 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
J.L.   Sutton
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head."

A critical look at The Things They Carried - The Johns Hopkins News-Letter

I've 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’Br
Dec 31, 2013 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 (
Diane S ☔
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've read reviews of this seen this book pass me by at the library, but for some reason was always reluctant to read. Why? Maybe just hits a little to close to home, knew many of my friends brothers who served, some lived, some of course did not. My own husband was in the Air Force at this time, not sent to Vietnam, and not yet my husband, still just a friend. He did though unload the bodies of returning soldiers who did not make it through their service. It was thankfully near the end of the w ...more
Sep 18, 2009 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
I had a friend who went to war. Part of him did not come home. His shoulder and much of his upper body was metal plate, but that is not the part I am talking about. The part that was left there was a piece of his soul, an innocence and lightness that could never be recaptured. He talked about the war when he was in his cups, which he was too often. His best buddy in the war was killed in front of his eyes, and Sam was convinced (be it true or not) that the bullet he took was meant for Sam. He fe ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was 1962. I was living in Vacaville, CA working at the A&W as a carhop when a young soldier from Travis Air Force Base got out of his car and began walking. He was carrying a bundle of letters which he placed in the garbage can behind the building. I found them when I took out the garbage that night and picked them up. I carried them into the building and hid them in my purse and then took them home. They were Dear John letters, but all I remember were these words: “I am going to join a conve ...more
Julie G (time traveling for a week)
When I was a junior in college, our English Dept opened up a new class: Literature of the Vietnam War. I needed an elective credit, and I knew next to nothing about the war, so I signed up for the class, which was held once a week, at night.

The class was half-full, and I was one of three females taking the course. I sat regularly next to a man who had actually served in Vietnam, and when he talked about his experiences, I felt puny, as though I didn't belong. I stared frequently at the top of my
Andrew Smith
Sep 12, 2016 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
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried (1990) is a collection of linked short stories by American novelist Tim O'Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers fighting on the ground in the Vietnam War.

His third book about the war, it is based upon his experiences as a soldier in the 23rd Infantry Division.

The Things They Carried
On the Rainy River
Enemies and Friends
How to Tell a True War Story
The Dentist
Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong
The Man I Killed
Elyse  Walters
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of things they carried”.

“He wanted her to be a virgin and not a virgin, all at once. He wanted to know her. Intimate secrets. Why poetry? Why so sad? Why that grayness in her eyes? Why so alone? Not lonely—just alone—riding her bike across campus or sitting by herself in the cafeteria—even dancing, she danced alone—and it was the aloneness that filled him with love”.

Lieutenant Cross was just a kid,
Whitney Atkinson
This is one of the most important books I've read not only this year, but of all time. Absolutely captivating filled with quotes on EVERY page that make me stop and think. This isn't just a book about war, it's a book about writing about tragedy and coming to terms with loss and PTSD and losing friends and every single story was meaningful and symbolic and just shocked me with the sheer amount of truth and power. I know most people who say they've read this read it for a class, but if you haven' ...more
May 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Often in a true war story there is not even a point, or else the point doesn't hit you until twenty years later, in your sleep, and you wake up and shake your wife and start telling the story to her, except when you get to the end you've forgotten the point again. And then for a long time you lie there watching the story in your head."

I don't know how much of this book is true. The title page says "The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction by Tim O'Brien." I'm willing to bet more is true than
Jul 07, 2008 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
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, war
What makes a good war story? How much needs to be true for it to feel real?

Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" is a powerful, heartbreaking and gut-wrenching book about the Vietnam war. I had previously read the title story, which is excellent on its own, but I can thank the Ken Burns & Lynn Novick documentary for pushing me to read the entire book. O'Brien was interviewed in their TV series, and his wartime experiences fueled his writing.

"The Things They Carried" isn't really a novel or m
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have read many descriptions of war - WWI. WWII, the Spanish Revolution, Viet Nam. No writer has ever taken me into the head of a soldier the way Tim O'Brien did. His writing is poignant, hauntingly powerful, and poetic. It is brilliant as only a gifted writer can convey. ...more
Joe Valdez
Dec 09, 2016 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
Audiobook narrated by Bryan Cranston ( 7h 47m)

All of us, I suppose, like to believe that in a moral emergency we will behave like the heroes of our youth, bravely and forthrightly, without thought of personal loss or discredit. Certainly that was my conviction back in the summer of 1968. Tim O'Brien: a secret hero. The Lone Ranger. If the stakes ever became high enough—if the evil were evil enough, if the good were good enough—I would simply tap a secret reservoir of courage that had been acc
this is one of those books that every semi-young male high school english teacher that everyone has a crush on, not because he's hot particularly but just because it's a desperate times / desperate measures scenario, is invariably obsessed with.

but in this case, that aging 6 with slightly too long hair is correct. because this book is so good.

i have been assigned this book in either 2 or 3 classes and definitely read it at least 1.5 of those times, which is saying a lot, since i ascribe to the b
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
Apr 18, 2013 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
Ɗẳɳ  2.☊
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Ɗẳɳ 2.☊ by: Becky
All the Stars

This book seemingly had three strikes against it before I even cracked open the spine. First of all, as I’ve stated numerous times before, I’m not a fan of war stories, and I especially didn’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 those lengthy expository info dumps that populate so many works are dead boring—I’d rather be whisked away into a page-turning adventu
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war
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
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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

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