#27 The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien


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 a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.

Copy for review provided by Audible

I’ll admit that the reason I checked out this book is because it is narrated by Bryan Cranston (a.ka. Walter White from the phenomenal Breaking Bad). I was really impressed by his work as an actor, and was curious to see how well he held up as a narrator. Well, he does do a pretty good job of this. Trouble is, the book itself wasn’t for me.

The Things They Carried is a collection of war stories from the author’s time in the Vietnam War, and you are never entirely sure whether what you’re reading is fiction or memoir. And so how much you like the book comes down to how much you like these stories.

Well, I didn’t. While some of them are good – for example, the titular The Things They Carried, which paints a picture of a life in the war through the soldiers’ gear and the contents of their backpacks. But in the end, I found myself just bored.

Yes, war is terrible and tragic, we know. And the Vietnam War was even more so, we know. The author just kept hitting me over the head with this, over and over and over. Just more and more gore and senseless violence and army slang. The book just keeps going in circles, treading the same track.

Now, there was a time when I’d have stuck with a book that I found boring, but not anymore. There’s just too many books out there to waste my time with one that I’m not even liking! Abandoned.

So try it out if you want for the good narration and the occasional story that’s worth it, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

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