The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

78%

32 Critic Reviews

And Tim O’Brien’s success at this, the toughest genre of all, is why his slender book still stands out as a classic of war fiction a half-century after the American troops carried their small things off to Vietnam.
-Blog Critics

Synopsis

A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling. 
 
The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three.
 
Taught everywhere—from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing—it has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing.

The Things They Carried won France's prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize; it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

 

About Tim O'Brien

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Tim O'Brien received the 1979 National Book Award in fiction for Going After Cacciato. His other works include the acclaimed novels The Things They Carried and July, July. Also, In the Lake of the Woods received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was named the best novel of 1994 by Time. Tim lives in Austin, Texas. Dan John Miller is an American actor and musician. In the Oscar-winning Walk the Line, he starred as Johnny Cash's guitarist and best friend, Luther Perkins, and has also appeared in George Clooney's Leatherheads and My One and Only, with Renee Zellweger. An award-winning audiobook narrator, Dan has garnered multiple Audie Award nominations, winning for The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman; has twice been named a Best Voice by AudioFile magazine; and has received several AudioFile Golden Earphones Awards and a Listen-Up Award from Publishers Weekly. He has narrated books by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Roth as well as by Pat Conroy, Andre Dubus III, John Green, Nora Roberts, and Dean Koontz. Dan lives in the Detroit, Michigan, area with his wife, Tracee Mae, and their daughter, Frances Rose.
 
Published October 13, 2009 by Mariner Books. 259 pages
Genres: History, War, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Things They Carried
All: 32 | Positive: 30 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Below average

They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

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Publishers Weekly

Good

`O'Brien's meditations--on war and memory, on darkness and light--suffuse the entire work with a kind of poetic form, making for a highly original, fully realized novel,'' said PW.

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Blog Critics

Good
on Mar 25 2010

And Tim O’Brien’s success at this, the toughest genre of all, is why his slender book still stands out as a classic of war fiction a half-century after the American troops carried their small things off to Vietnam.

Read Full Review of The Things They Carried | See more reviews from Blog Critics

Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Chad Orzel on Sep 24 2003

...this is an incredibly powerful book. O’Brien’s writing is wonderfully evocative, and the stories feel true. I’m not a big reader of Vietnam books, so I can’t say for sure that it’s the best ever written, but I have a hard time imagining a better, truer, war story than you’ll find here. This is a fantastic book.

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Examiner

Excellent
on Nov 11 2010

This novel is, of course, absolutely about war, but what makes this such a strong novel is that it is not content with that role...The Things They Carried is not just a profound and moving war novel, but a triumph of American literary fiction.

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Book Reporter

Good
on Jan 23 2011

Fact? Fiction? Both? O'Brien convinces us it could have happened, but almost in the same breath he hints that it is pure fable. It is one of the most fascinating stories in the book, all the more so because it is impossible to know the truth.

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Washington Times

Good
on Apr 02 2010

The book opens with the title story, “The Things They Carried,” which for me is one of the most powerful stories in the book, and maybe the most powerful...By its end, you know the men, and you have a pretty good sense of what they are up against.

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LA Times

Good
on Apr 01 1990

The most extraordinary piece in the collection is the first, which bears its title. "What They Carried" begins as nothing but a list, it seems. It is a list of everything that the members of a platoon carry, and the weight of each item.

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Suite 101

Good
on Apr 20 2010

Through the artistry of his language, he in fact does make his stories come alive...he knows how to reach in, figuratively, and speak to the souls of the people; whether it is telling stories about war, or giving his opinion on the current war.

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The Uncustomary Book Review

Above average
Reviewed by Kat Kiddles on Oct 31 2011

How much of this story is true? How much is fiction? I know it’s categorized as a work of fiction, but so much of it (the author’s name, his war history, and his published works) is grounded in reality. I wish I knew what was what. Then again…

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Nights and Weekends

Good
Reviewed by Tony Caldwell on Jun 30 2015

The author calls it a work of fiction, but it is the closest that any book has come to summing up the men who fought in Viet Nam...O’Brien weaves his stories so tightly that the reader is caught off-guard by how deeply involved they become in the soldiers’ lives.

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Booklist Online

Good

The prose ranges from staccato soldierly thoughts to raw depictions of violent death to intense personal ruminations by the author...Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the Vietnam experience . . . there’s plenty.

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Her Circle Magazine

Above average
on Sep 19 2012

In his male-centered stories about war, he shows that even women become affected by the slaughter of humanity’s innocence.

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UTexas

Good
Reviewed by Chris Logan on Jun 30 2015

Tim O'Brien's experiences in the Vietnam War serves as inspiration for the short stories in his memoir...This is an excellent book, and one of its main advantages is that a teacher can pick and choose which stories to introduce to the class. Also, she can teach the book as a novel.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by VivaciouslyVintage on Jul 03 2015

In Tim O’ Brien’s The Things They Carried, fear is an emotion that lives through the lives of the soldiers. This emotional phenomenon evokes a theme blurred between truth and fiction.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by Esad O on Jul 02 2015

In the book, The Things They Carried, Tim’s experiences in the war give him a lot of guilt. Tim was very vulnerable to guilt throughout the book.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by jacpan on Jul 02 2015

The load of these things as portrayed by the author show the adversities of the men. By learning and still being able to carry the weight of responsibility, memory, and shame, the men are able to morally become stronger and more ready for the other hardships of war.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Morning S on Jun 08 2015

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brian is an inspiring piece of literature, a new look into the lives of soldiers fighting a war...This book, no matter how gruesome or shocking, could not be put down for it truly is a genre of it's own...I would recommend this book for anyone and everyone mature enough to handle gore and certain words.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by MindOfEllie on Jun 08 2015

In The Things They Carried, Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien recalled his own wartime encounters, called them fiction, and created one of the most emotionally potent books ever written...Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone seeking for a good book about the real emotions of humanity during a time of disorder.

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Teen Ink

Excellent
Reviewed by Moises M on Jun 08 2015

Not only is this novel well written, it consists of vivid ­imagery that compels the reader to continue reading. Every word draws you in and it takes time to get unhooked...if you value good literature, I highly recommend O'Brien's work.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by Rkumar on Jun 08 2015

When I started reading The Things They Carried, I was hooked almost instantly...I normally don't think too deeply about how my life compares to a book, but this one made me think about the choices I will have to make in the very near future.

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http://www.bookdrum.com

Good
Reviewed by Tommy Buteau on Jun 11 2012

In this semi-fictional account, Tim O’Brien reveals his descent into a burning desire for revenge, and then shows how he escaped the regret and despair that plagued other characters...The unique voice and format allow readers to feel what the soldiers felt, and to understand how frustrating it is to hump gear through hostile territory...

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Rhapsody in Books

Good
Reviewed by rhapsodyinbooks on Aug 13 2011

While it definitely does not qualify as a fun or light read, it’s an excellent book, nonetheless... The author inserts himself into the book as a character, and indeed, much of the material is of the memoir variety. But much isn’t...Powerfully awful, but powerfully good.

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Jules' Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Jules on Feb 21 2010

Even if you're not a big fan of war-related books, I think this is a worthwhile book to read. It concentrates less on fighting, blowing things up, and more on the soldiers them selves (although those other elements are there). It also is a book that does not glorify the war, which I always like. The writing style is also well done.

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Lit and Life

Good
Reviewed by Lisa on Nov 17 2010

The Things They Carried is a work of fiction. One that does not read or feel like a work of fiction. Having been written by someone who was there, the reader cannot help but feel that much of what O'Brien writes is based on someone's reality...There is no other way to end this post other than to say to you "read this book."

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Guys Lit Wire

Above average
on May 20 2009

O'Brien and his characters struggle to explain things they don't have words for, the sort of massive truths that facts alone can't describe.

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The Mookse and the Gripes

Good
Reviewed by Trevor Berrett on Sep 11 2008

The book itself is a compilation of 22 short stories...The Things They Carried is a single work that should be approached as a whole. Indeed, it is the way the stories work with each other that makes them so effective...O’Brien’s work here is definitely a masterpiece, something that uplifts even as it shows the ugliness and absurdity of war.

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Small World Reads Blog

Good
Reviewed by Sarah Small on Feb 26 2012

I was hooked from the very first line, and I was reluctant to put it down each night to sleep...What words can I use to describe the book? Haunting. Terrifying. Heartbreaking. Beautiful. Brilliant. It's a war story, a love story, a study of lives stopped and started again but never the same. Please, please read it.

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scott william foley

Excellent
Reviewed by Scott William Foley on Nov 12 2008

O’Brien wrote simply, but effectively. He tapped into real emotion and conveyed those emotions skillfully. With each and every short that made up a larger story with The Things They Carried, I could picture myself clear as day in those very same situations...I strongly recommend you read The Things They Carried.

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Book Jones Review

Good
Reviewed by Mike Jones on Apr 11 2011

From story to story, O'Brien masterfully lays bare the ravages of war, its direct and collateral victims; not just the physical, but more importantly the psychological wounds; open wounds that are stubborn to heal.

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http://georgedanderson.blogspot.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Bold Monkey on Dec 27 2012

This is an outstanding collection of short stories, partly-biographical accounts & notes which meta-fictionally capture O’Brien’s process of writing about the Vietnam War...In part, O’Brien is strikingly pointing out to the reader the inadequacy of words to capture the emotional impact of what he experienced.

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Second Childhood

Above average
Reviewed by Heather Godbout on Jul 20 2011

Neither entirely fact nor entirely fiction, O'Brien uses a series of short stories and vignettes to tell the tale of Alpha Company...what O'Brien's work has done is illustrate for those of us that weren't there that nothing is as simple and straightforward in war as those of us sitting at home watching it on our televisions thinks it is.

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Reader Rating for The Things They Carried
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George rife 30 Jan 2015

Rated the book as 3 out of 5

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