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Book Reviews of The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried
Author: Tim O'Brien
ISBN-13: 9780767902892
ISBN-10: 0767902890
Publication Date: 12/29/1998
Pages: 272
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.

3.9 stars, based on 483 ratings
Publisher: Broadway
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

64 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

skywriter319 avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 962 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 10
This is a beautiful book. It's a war book for those who don't like war books, poetry for those who don't read poetry, an inspirational tale for those who don't read self-help. It's amazing and powerful... a must-read.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
This is a book for those who missed the Vietnam war--not the sights and the sounds or the T.V. views but the blood,guts,horror,and the feel of looking down the barrel at a victim of circumstance whose never going to make it to their next moment--the low down on how to get it done-especially after seeing one of your friends bite the dust--I'm not kidding-don't read this book unless you're into getting the job done--it's not for those who want to sit in front of the fireplace for a nice calm read--with a pipefull compared to a Vince Flynn book--it's not so much glamour and bravado as the soldiers"let's get it done"
mrsb avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 78 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
WOW!! This book gave me a whole new respect for our men and women in uniform ... both past and present. It's a good and quick read, but also sometimes it is difficult to read and comprehend what the author is trying to get across. I think this is a book that you need to read once ... wait a bit and then reread it and you'll get different things out of it the second and third times.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 27 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This book, and Tim O'Brien's others, should be read by a lot of Americans, so that they will recall the experience of Vietnam. Iraq may overshadow their thoughts presently, but Vietnam should be remembered, and this first-hand account of American boys at war in a strange foreign land will help memory.
TakingTime avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 1073 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
very good book....set in the Viet Nam era...but pertenant to our current travesties also. One mans view of how he got thru his days of combat....seeing the ordeal from the inside of one soldiers head....not thru the media. East read book....worth your time ...especially if you have a loved one in the military.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 18 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Even though I don't normally read war memoirs or related books,I read "The Things They Carried" in one evening. I found it a very compelling read, if sometimes uncomfortable. I went to college with several returning Vietnam vets in the early 1970's, and while they all had their own experiences and tales, the commonality between their stories and O'Brien's rang very true.
Hard and poignant,this book should be required reading for all military academy freshmen and military recruits.
A companion book for Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and Coppola's movie "Apocalypse Now"
Highly recommend this book.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
The Things They Carried won France's prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and the Chicago Times Heartland Prize; it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award. 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 nightmarisih war that hisoty is only beginning to absorb. 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, ante the limits, of human heart and soul.
dulcimer42 avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 107 more book reviews
Wow! I've read stories about Viet Nam before. My brother was there and I wanted to learn about what they went through. But this book.... more than any other book... let me feel what they felt, suffer through the experiences that became a part of who they became, feel the burden of the physical and mental things they had to carry. I felt like I was there with him, as his buddy sunk into the stinking mud and he couldn't pull him out. If you want to come as close as possible to understanding those things which a soldier could never talk about, after he came home...... this is the book for you. All I can say is....wow!!!
getinmybellykelly avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on
This is a wonderful, well-written book that should be required reading for everyone. It truly takes the reader inside the Vietnam War and makes those of us who weren't alive during that time understand what the people involved went through- before, during and after the war. It was an atrocious tragedy but a reality of American history that needs to be remembered and understood. I imagine the things that happened in this book are still happening in wars/to our soldiers today which is just another reason that everyone should read it.

I took a writing class a few years back and the teacher read to us from this book and recommended that we all read it. Aside from being an important commentary on the history of our country, it's also a beautiful piece of writing from one of our very best contemporary American writers.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 5 more book reviews
my husband i a vietnam vet and i have read a lot of books on the subject and i must say this is the best book i have ever read....very graphic and real ....heartbreaking and stark jo p.
tiffanyak avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 215 more book reviews
I had to read this for my college class. On my own, I would likely never have picked it up, since it's very much not my type of book. It is essentially a set of fictional short stories revolving around the Vietnam War. If you enjoy war novels, you'll likely enjoy this one as well. Personally, I didn't care for it much, simply because I don't enjoy those types of books. I personally prefer for my reading to be an escape from real life. That being said, I can tell you that it is well-written and deserves its praise from fans of the genre.
lovescoffee avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 50 more book reviews
A book of short stories which combine to create a panoramic view of a hell many of us couldn't imagine. It gave me greater insight into the experiences of Vietnam vets and their aftermath. Left me wondering how anyone could cope with these memories. If these particular stories aren't all true for this author, they were true for someone.
reviewed The Things They Carried on
It's a good book, but not one I want to read over and over again. It is, of course, a bit of a downer.
uppitybookworm avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 5 more book reviews
I love war.. war novels, movies etc I spent a lot of time studying the Vietnam war and of course as all students in America do... WWII. This book although labeled fiction because names were changed to provide privacy to those this book covers- should be labeled non - fiction. This book brings home the fact that boys mostly not men fought in Vietnam. Most soldiers who left for Vietnam died within the first two weeks of active duty and the average age of a soldier is 19- still the same. This book put a face on a conflict so often forgotten by the media today and the American population- ironic considering it was the first war to be documented by non military media through the video camera. This book is in my humble opinion a must read.
thunderweasel avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 147 more book reviews
Somewhere in Vietnam, there is a naked, mask-wearing, painted soldier trick-or-treating in a sleepy, quiet village.

The Things They Carried is like a diamond in the dirt - of all the war novels of its day, this one is tops because, at the heart of it, it's not a war novel. It's a novel about love and death. Those loving and dying just happen to be fighters in the Vietnam War.

The Pulitzer Prize finalist can be classified as "fictional non-fiction" with O'Brien placing himself in the book as a member of the Alpha Company platoon. His first-person narrative makes the events he details in Things more realistic than they already are. Each surprising death and its accompanying gruesomeness are elaborated on and sometimes reiterated throughout the book in reference to O'Brien's contemplations of life. His guilt behind the deaths of sparing civilians and team members Ted Lavender ("who was scared") and Kiowa (whose death lost him the Silver Star) are heart-breaking, but insightful into his and the team's view on death as a whole.

His ties to other experiences, like the death of his first love Linda, are genuine, deep, and pure genius. But even as O'Brien jumps around from the team's meeting with church monks to O'Brien's attempted escape to Canada to avoid draft, the meaning and purpose remain true and consistent. Though, "true" might not be the right word, for as O'Brien points out, "when you go to tell about [the story], there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed."

And there it is, boys. There it is.
vbittersweet avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 2 more book reviews
Chilling, heart-wrenching and brutal. O'Brien's writing style brings you closer to grasping the terror and brutality of Vietnam. "The Things They Carried" seamlessly integrates the physical burdens of the American soldier in Vietnam with the emotional and psychological burdens that follow every war veteran throughout the rest of their lives. A must-read for anyone trying to grasp the brutality of this war.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 7 more book reviews
This book is a vivid account of one man's experience in the Vietnam War. Like all war stories it is filled with violence, courage, fear, and the absurdity that war is. What sets this book apart is the immediacy and intimacy of the storyteller to the story itself. The book may make you laugh, may surprise you, but always goes to the heart of the matter and speaks to the horror that is war, yet touches you with the friendships that are built in the midst of pain. These men can laugh, make jokes, actually must make jokes in order to survive. A must read for anyone wanting to understand what war is like.
hardtack avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 1803 more book reviews
Please understand this is a NOVEL! I was in Viet Nam and a lot of stuff in this book makes no sense. I am surprised it is not a comic book. Especially the story about the female cheerleader from the States, who somehow gets "in country" and goes on missions with the Green Berets. As if taking a young, untrained girl on patrol isn't going to get them in trouble or killed.

Give Me A Break!

Check out the Amazon reviews from other vets who back me up on this.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 56 more book reviews
As Vietnam Vet I have read a lot of books on the war. This book has received a bunch of good reviews, I thought the book was very good in what the author had to say about time in war but his going back in time to his childhood was a bit difficult for me to follow and tie in to the context of the war maybe it is just meand other people will understand it differently.
wantonvolunteer avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 84 more book reviews
Tim O'Brien, a Vietnam vet, wrote a chilling set of recollections in 1990 - of wartime atrocities, his childhood, how he nearly became a draft dodger, how he survived the war and some of his comrades didn't, of the bonds and nightmares vets share. O'Brien bares all, he dwells on ugly episodes that caused him shame, divulges how war's atrocities affect family and other loved ones of vets. Reading this makes me want to find a vet to listen to - to share some burden, do some therapy, pay some tribute.
reviewed The Things They Carried on
The book was summer reading for my 16 year old grandson. He said it was very good.
reviewed The Things They Carried on
A heart-wrenching Vietnam remembrance told through fictional episodes.
Doughgirl avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 138 more book reviews
This novel - about the experiences of a group of soldiers before, during and after the Vietnam War - is a mass of contradictions.

It's very well written (won several awards and was nominated for a Pulitzer), and yet confusing. The stories are not told in a neat linear timeline. Some of the stories carry a dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish quality. And we all know that dreams don't always make sense!

It reads like a memoir told in the form of short stories. But it's really fiction. Or is it? O'Brien plays with the truth in this book. He WAS a soldier in Vietnam, but these aren't his memoirs. I'm sure that the stories contained in this book were inspired by his time in Vietnam, and perhaps by stories that he heard from other soldiers and vets.

It's hard to read, and yet fascinating and ultimately unforgettable. By hard to read, I mean both somtimes difficult intellectually (because of the aforementioned confusing aspect of the stories), and also difficult emotionally. These men went through Hell on Earth, and when you read these stories you live that with them. But as you read these stories, you bond with the men, just as they bonded with each other. You listen not only to their nightmares, but also stories about their families, their sweethearts, their feelings and their dreams.

The Vietnam War was fought over 30 years ago. But if you read this book, you'll feel like it was yesterday and you were THERE.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 3 more book reviews
Just an absolute Man's Book. Whether or not a book or a collection fo short stories, it is a very well strung together piece of terrific writing. Makes you appreciate what you have and those who have gone before you, to places that you'll never have to go and to see things you will never have to see. O'brien goes through the things they carried, listing some by weight and factor awkwardness, but I couldn't help but think that they real thing they carried, these veterans and boys, could never be measured in pounds. That was the point for me, I suppose.
bobcat avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 10 more book reviews
Having read alot about Vietnam, and reading the reviews, I really expected to like this book. I didn't even finish it. I found it repetitive and frankly, boring. I guess if it's the only Vietnam book you read it might seem deep, but I consider "Matterhorn", or "The 13th Valley", "Nam" or "Dispatches" to be the best books about Vietnam. Sorry Tim, no disrespect for your service or experiences, but I wasn't impressed. Remember, this opinion is worth exactly what you paid for it. Happy reading...
perryfran avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 921 more book reviews
This was a rather mesmerizing account of experiences prior to, during, and after the Vietnam War. It is a group of interrelated stories which the author states is a work of fiction but who uses his own name as the teller of the stories. O'Brien was against the war but was sent to Vietnam and was with the division that was involved in the My Lai massacre in 1968. He served there from 1969-70 so even if the stories are fictional, he draws on the horrific experience that was Vietnam.

The novel starts out in Vietnam and tells in great detail about the things the soldiers carried on their persons ranging from the necessary military armament to personal items such as letters from a girlfriend. Then there is the horror of the death of some of your closest friends by a stray bullet, a mine, or being sucked into a shit field during a mortar attack. Other parts of the novel tell how the author almost dodged the draft and moved to Canada and how some dealt with returning after the war.

I graduated from high school in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam conflict. I went to college for two years but then when I dropped out, I was immediately sent my draft notice. One of the people I worked with had been to Vietnam and he recommended joining the Air Force because at least then I would be in a barracks instead of out on the front line. So I ended up doing just that and wound up as a Vietnamese linguist stationed in Taiwan and Okinawa monitoring radio communications. I always felt very lucky to have avoided some of the horrors of the war as detailed in this novel and others.

Overall, this "novel" touches on many things and how the soldiers were able to cope with the horrors and tragedies of war.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 29 more book reviews
If you've ever wondered about the real Viet Nam experience,I've heard that this book is it. It was compelling on several levels.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 7 more book reviews
I am an old hippie, anti-war, protester. This book enlightened me with the facts and engaged me with the characterizations. O'Brian brought to light the reasons I did not understand what they were doing is because "they" (those high-ups)did not have intelligence, therefore, the soldiers couldn't understand, fully, what the missions were.The writing is clear, and I would recommend it to most folks I know. I am not re-posting, as I am sending it to my son- an ex-Marine. Forest
sharyn avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 6 more book reviews
Beautifully written, haunting and memorable story, one of the best books I have ever read!
Yoni avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 315 more book reviews
Tim O'Brien writes beautifully. Gorgeous yet heartbreaking stories (interconnected) about Vietnam. You are almost there with him and get to know the soldiers. Very very well done. This one will haunt, but I loved it.
reviewed The Things They Carried on
Well writen, difficult to read at times. Although it speaks to the Vietnam vet experience it can give light to the expereince of the OIF/OEF veteran. Not for the faint of hear.
reviewed The Things They Carried on
A unique and incredible book!
loregess avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 175 more book reviews
"In June of 1968, after graduating from Macalester College, I was drafted to fight a war I hated. I was 21 years old. Young, yes, and politically naive, but even so, the American war in Vietnam seemed to me wrong. Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons..."

This story is a frank account about the author's experiences in the war and his observations on how it shaped the rest of the men of Alpha Company. He survives the war and years later he goes back to revisit and pays honor to those in Alpha who didn't. "It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do."

Fortunately, I never fought in a war. My brothers and other loved ones haven't either. With that said, I want to thank those who have - the ones mandated by the government, and the ones who have out of a sense of duty. Thank you. It is because of you that I've lived a happy and fulfilling life and I hope that you do too. You, above anyone else, deserves it most of all. And for those who weren't as fortunate to make it back home, let us not forget them. Let's keep them alive by sharing their stories, their dreams and aspirations. Their quirks and vulnerabilities. Their smiles. Their joy for life. For as the author points out: "...in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world."
fog avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 113 more book reviews
One of the all time great books about a grunt in 'Nam. There are a few books that are must reads about the Vietnam war, "Dear America, Letters From Nam"," We Were Soldiers", and this one.
Amyaloha avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 31 more book reviews
Reads like poetry at times. O'Brien is sentimental but the subject is not. All the trauma of war and going off to war. My son had to read for school and he recommended it, not usually what he does when he is forced to highlight and re-read and dissect a book. Quite wonderful, an excellent writer with a fascinating way if telling about his life.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 6 more book reviews
My favorite book ever. Just read it and you'll most likely see how a person could me such a large claim as I have just made.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 107 more book reviews
Read this for my American History class and absolutely loved it! It's so moving and powerful. It's hard to part with - but it's worth sharing.
IntrepidOne avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on + 157 more book reviews
It's so hard to tell which parts of this book are factual and which are fiction. Parts of it read like poetry. Some parts of it lagged for me and I skimmed a little, but the story lines were usually repeated in another chapter. I found this book to be very moving and real.
reviewed The Things They Carried on
A serious thinking book
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 300 more book reviews
A compelling inside look at what went on in the lives (and minds) of our servicemen in VietNam. For those of us who were growing up during that time it all too well brings back a lot of memories for both those who served and those of us who were left behind.

Friend of mine, a VietName vet, read it and just shook his head. He said, "That guy must have been walking around in my head!"
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 9 more book reviews
Fantastic! Although I believe that I heard some rumor at some point that O'Brien was never actually in Vietnam, I don't care (maybe someone who was would). I thought it was a really deep head-trip through the mind of a "solider" in service (and out). I assigned this book to my 10th grade honors students over the last two years (although not without many disclaimers as the book is very graphic in all areas - gore, violence, language, and sex) and it always got good reviews from them - especially from the guys, of course. But even the girls enjoyed the emotional roller coaster. I truly enjoyed this one and would definately recommend it!
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 39 more book reviews
Very well written good story
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 21 more book reviews
Older teenage sons really enjoyed this book.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 21 more book reviews
An excellent metafictional look at Vietnam, storytelling, catharsis, and memory. Of interest both to literary types and anyone interested in war stories, although it is not "Saving Private Ryan" propaganda.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 7 more book reviews
Fictional, yet realistic account of the Vietnam war through the eyes of the soldiers. Excellent book!
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 8 more book reviews
This is book is a wonderful book that expresses all the emotions carried by an American soldier in Vietnam. I read this in college.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 3 more book reviews
One of my best reads
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 186 more book reviews
This is a look at the war in Vietnam with a variety of characters and voices. It is beautifully written.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 6 more book reviews
Really good look at war and its psychological effects.
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Classic -- my book group got into a very heated discussion over the nature of "truth."
reviewed The Things They Carried on
Compared to other books of the Vietnam era I found this to be average at best. It stirred memories and raised emotions but failed to :take me back" as others have done.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 31 more book reviews
"You've got to read this book....In a world filled too often with numbness, or shifting values, these stories shine in a strange and opposite direction, moving against the flow, illuminating life's wonder." I had to read this book for school, and I liked it so much you should read it, too.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 75 more book reviews
I was expecting far more out of this book. I wanted to read about the war but it seemed more like it was a story about telling a story than a story about Vietnam.
Rebemdee avatar reviewed The Things They Carried on
I can't really say I enjoyed this book. The writing is proficient, but was void of emotional valence. It was flat and dull. Maybe this is to represent the numbing seen after combat, but it left the book a writing exercise instead of a meaningful group of short stories.
reviewed The Things They Carried on
I think "On the Rainy River" is my favorite.
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 11 more book reviews
Lots of things tied up in a very simple package with this book. It was honest, frightening, sometimes funny, mostly it was real. A magnificent read! It's a book you don't want to give up but you feel you must share. Enjoy!
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 3 more book reviews
Awesome book.
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This book is a fantastic book,,,realistic fiction ...about vietnam...I loved it!
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 33 more book reviews
Powerful and historic, post - Vietnam novel .
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 49 more book reviews
True confessions this book was too difficult to read (topic is very heavy!)
reviewed The Things They Carried on + 12 more book reviews
The story of a soldier in Vietnam who had to carry everything he needed to survive or so he thought, a bible,acouple of love letters,malaria pills,weapons, and not so military thing dope.Stories of everyday life of a soldier in the jungle and swamps of Vietnam.
reviewed The Things They Carried on
This book provided an interesting account of the Vietnam War.
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I had to read this for school. It's about the Vietnam War.
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