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The Things They Carried (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

The Things They Carried (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

4.2 652
by Tim O'Brien

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On the twentieth anniversary of its publication, The Things They Carried returns to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in paperback, with over two million copies in print.

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,


On the twentieth anniversary of its publication, The Things They Carried returns to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in paperback, with over two million copies in print.

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.

Editorial Reviews

Christopher Tuplin
This is a collection of stories about American soldiers in Vietnam by the author of Going After Cacciato. All of the stories "deal with a single platoon, one of whose members is a character named Tim O'Brien. Some stories are about [their] wartime experiences....Others are about a 43-year-old writer—again, the fictional character Tim O'Brien—remembering his platoon's experiences and writing war stories (and remembering writing stories) about them. —The New York Times Book Review
New York Times Books of the Century
...[B]elongs high on the list of best fiction about any war....crystallizes the Vietnam experience for everyone [and] exposes the nature of all war stories.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Winner of a National Book Award in 1979 for Going After Cacciato, O'Brien again shows his literary stuff with this brilliant collection of short stories, many of which have won literary recognition (several appeared in O. Henry Awards' collections and Best American Short Stories). Each of the 22 tales relates the exploits and personalities of a fictional platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam. An acutely painful reading experience, this collection should be read as a book and not a mere selection of stories reprinted from magazines. Not since Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five has the American soldier been portrayed with such poignance and sincerity.-- Mark Annichiarico,
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
A series of stories about the Vietnam experience, based on the author's recollections. O'Brien begins by sharing the talismans and treasures his select small band of young soldiers carry into battle. The tales, ranging from a paragraph to 20 or so pages, reveal one truth after another. Sometimes the author tells the same story from different points of view, revealing the lingering, sometimes consuming, effect war leaves on the soul. In the end, readers are left with a mental and emotional sphere of mirrors, each reflecting a speck of truth about the things men carry into and out of war. -- Barbara Hawkins, West Potomac High, Fairfax County, Virginia

Product Details

Turtleback Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

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. 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. O’Brien lives in Austin, Texas.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
October 1, 1946
Place of Birth:
Austin, Minnesota
B.A., Macalester College, 1968; Graduate study at Harvard University

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The Things They Carried 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 653 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author, Tim O'Brien who is also the protagonist, begins his novel by describing an event that occurred in the middle of his war experience in Vietnam. In "The Things They Carried" Tim O'Brien describes what his fellow soldiers in the Alpha Company took with them on their missions both mentally and physically. Many things they brought with them are intangible, while others are physical objects, including matches, morphine, M-16 rifles, and M&M's which he seems to focus on the amounts of each of them. Throughout the novel, he mentions many characters multiple times in various stories which are often partially true and meta-fiction. The first member of the Alpha Company to die is Ted Lavender,a low-ranking soldier who they refer to as a "Grunt." Lavender is a man who has found tranquilizers and marijuana the only way to relieve his anxiety and fix his problems. He is shot in the head on his way back from going to the bathroom, and when his leader, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, finds out of his death he blames himself for Lavender's unnecessary and tragic death. When Lavender is shot, Cross is deep in his thoughts of his college crush, Martha. O'Brien writes about how Cross's "love" for Martha was the cause of Lavender's death and he still holds his guilt years after the war has ended. O'Brien continues on describing the events he was involved in, and then goes into each of them describing how his fellow comrades and sometimes himself reacts, and attempts to overcome them. He uses somewhat real stories to describe how tough it is for a man to be in a situation like what he was in, meta-fiction suggesting that no real story can describe what it was like. These problems that were presented to O'Brien and his fellow soldiers in the Vietnam War changed all of their lives. The war changed them to such a point that every day, every moment of their lives yet to come will never be like before the war. O'Brien tells of others and how they have attempted to overcome their problems which are the same or similar to his. He seems to attempt to use their methods in hopes that they will fix his problems and he will be able to return to his life before he was given no choice but to head to war. O'Brien was led into a room with no way out, he is stuck carrying what he was carrying at the end of his experience in Vietnam and he is striving to find a way to get it off of his shoulders and find a better mental state. This novel could be thought of as a way that Tim O'Brien used to share his thoughts and feelings of the war and his post traumatic stress disorder. Overall, this is an excellent novel. It is a great "thinker" book and is not a typical easy read for a High School student like myself. It is very fun to read, but it is also very difficult to read which would be one, if not my only dislike of this book. This book would be great to read because it gives you an excellent point of view from a veterans perspective; this novel shows a true veteran and what it is like to be one. An overall rating of five stars, a great book that brings satisfaction and difficulty at the same time.
mulligan More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for an Americna Literature Class during my undergraduate studies, and I loved it. Tim O'Brien kept me wanting to come back for more. The detail he uses describing the settings and events as they unfold will captivate you. The litteral and figural things they carry are so well explained by O'Brien. Deffinetly a must read for any Veteran or history lover.
ChiliHead1987 More than 1 year ago
I read this book only because O'Brien was coming to my school to speak. I cannot be happier that this occurred! This book was nothing short of AMAZING, a truly remarkable read. The novel is essentially a series of interconnected short stories about a group of soldiers in Vietnam. My uncle was a Vietnam veteran, and he told me the book was about as good as they got when dealing with the subject matter (perhaps given to the fact O'Brien himself is a Vietnam veteran). I have encountered few books required by school that have made their way into my top-faves list. This one, I must say, is in at least spot three if not two. I cannot wait to read more by O'Brien and I hope he never stops writing!
MickOscuro More than 1 year ago
After discovering The Perks of Being a Walflower by Steven Chbosky, I went straight to Arthur Nersesian's The F*ck Up, which were both incredible novels and were quintessentially the kinds of books that I loved to read. The Things They Carried, though a completely different sort of work, evoked the same kind of "voice" as The F*ck Up and 'Perks. I loved O'Brien's piece when it was a short story, which would ultimately become the first chapter of the novel; then to find out that it had been expanded into a full novel, I practically ran to my bookstore to get it. O'Brien's writing is so evocative and poignant, it's incredible sometimes that it doesn't collapse under its own weight. It just shows the reader his skill. I'm currently searching through some of his other works to see which one I'd like to start next, but this is something any fan of literature would want to sit down with. It just a pleasure reading.
npilarski More than 1 year ago
This book has a lot to offer for war veterans who seek to find literature which captures the experience of war. However I myself am not a war veteran I am a 20 year old female college student and I fell in love with this book because of how it can capture the truth with fiction. This book is worth reading if you are a person who loves literature and reading about human experiences.
passi0nate_1 More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book as a summer assignment for english class. At first i thought it was another depressing war story, but upon further study and better understanding of the book i have come to appreaciate all the little details that make this a wonderful book. This book has also made me come to realize the little things that matter most in life, especially in such an extreme situation as war.
valeta More than 1 year ago
i think the things they carried was a good book. it told you about how people felt in the war and how it changes people. it also tells you how people can just seem okay but really people got a lot on there plate. the things they carried also tell you things that everybody carried to seem close to home still.
Dazia123 More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for my English class. It was a very interesting book to read. There were some parts I liked and others i disliked. I disliked how Mary Anne Bell just disappeared without any sign of anything like she was a ghost. It didn't make sense too me. I liked how Tim O'Brien at the end of the book reveled how this book was all because of his one friend who had cancer when he was younger. It brings everything together and makes it more understandable.   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Things They Carried is an amazing book. The book is not only full of different twist and plot changes, it also has a great range of meaning in each chapter you read. The book makes you think beyond its chapters. All though The Things They Carried is a fictional war story full of metaphors, juxtapositions, subliminal messages, and hidden riddles; the different views of O'brien and all the other characters will make you feel like the it is so much more than that. I loved the fact that the book interested not only my high school class but also my family members bot young and old. Overall the book is a great read and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a  good read.
ikea32 More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book that I had to read for my English class. I enjoyed it so much, and I don't believe that there is a book that I would more recommend than this. The people that like non-fiction books about war heroes, war veterans and more, this would be the perfect book for you. There is so much detail in this book, it makes you feel like you are actually in it. One thing in this book that really stood out to me that made me like this book so much more, is the imagery. For example, when Tim O'Brien was talking about Mary Anne Bell and how her eyes were going through all of the darkness all around her.
DmoneyBaby More than 1 year ago
I think that the book was very interesting, I liked the book and found the book very interesting. I would recommend the book to anyone who loves books that involve action and someone that likes book that have a mysterious twist too the plot of the story. 
AlexandriaM More than 1 year ago
I wouldnt recommend this book to others because many people might not want to read a book about the war. They might of had a family member. one exsampile was when mary Ann bell went crazy after she joined the war. she thought that she can glow in the dark. I didnt like when some of the soldiers started killing their self because they couldnt take what was going on any more.     
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am currently reading this in my English 3 class and I have to say I'm finding it interesting. The book is raw and I like how Tim O'Brien doesn't sugercoat things. He tells it how it is. Like when the young man is killed he says, "His jaw was in his throat, one eye closed, the other a star-shaped hole." He dosen't just say the man dies, he tells what happened, what the young man looked like. I feel that when the war in Iraq was still going on we never got any details, we never knew what exactly happened. We were just told how many died and where they died. And to those of you who think this book has no plot or don't like how it's broken up or doesn't have a story line, stop and think for a moment. These are the author's memories, these are what happened. It doesn't matter if they're in order or not, what matters is that it's being told. These are war stories, they aren't going to be in order, in perfect succession. Do you think the Vietnam war was like that? In perfect order and succession? No, there were events that were unexpected and unplanned for, like someone getting killed. Yeah, you knew it was going to happen, but you didn't know when or to whom it would. So think about it before you say it had no story line or didn't make sense or it didn't have a plot. War stories don't have plots, they don't have story lines, and maybe, sometimes, they don't make sense. I mean, war really doesn't make sense, does it? And war stories are never true, to quote Tim O'Brien. These stories are supposed to make you think. It doesn't matter if they're true or not, just as long as they make you think. I would definitely recommend this book to someone because it lets us readers see some of the things the soldiers in Vietnam went through. I nevr really understood how bad the Vietnam war and knew exactly what the soldiers went through was until I read this book so I'm grateful and glad I am reading it so I can finally understand.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is about his experience and the experiences of Alpha Company. Tim tells the stories of all the trials and tribulations of Alpha company and all the hardships they endure. Tim does a fantastic job describing the events of Vietnam and with his ability to perfectly articulate the feeling of war, makes the reader feel the pain of the soldiers and the agony of war. Having said this, Tim throughout the book when he explains stories, jumps around and does not really give strong details. He begins stories while explaining another story, and then continues the original story a paragraph later. This makes its difficult to follow the story as itself and then you have to follow and keep track of the other stories themselves. Tim uses it as a way to connect with the characters but in reality makes it even more difficult to accomplish this. If you are into the Vietnam War and the real experiences of the war, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, is worth picking up.
Toshua19 More than 1 year ago
“The Things They Carried,” was a phenomenal book written about a certain period of time in Tim O’Brien’s life and the experiences he encountered. The majority of the book described his experience during the middle of the Vietnam War. Throughout the book he catalogs the variety of things his companions brought on their missions. Several of these things were intangible, such as emotions, while others were physical objects, including M-16, morphine and different types of candy. Not only did he signify what was brought on the missions he also touched on the things he and his fellow soldiers got out of the war and the affects they had on ever day life. Like all books “The Things They Carried,” portrayed a specific theme: physical and emotional burdens of war. While all the soldiers in the book carried a heavy physical load there was also an emotional load that all of them carried. These emotional burdens usually composed of grief, terror, love and even longing. To explain, Jimmy Cross, a superior officer of O’Brien’s, had an uncontrollable love for a girl by the name of Martha. So out of control that he often got distracted from the tasks at hand and blamed Lavenders death on account of his remembrance of Martha. This then led to an emotional burden of grief and sorrow for Jimmy Cross, one he felt he could never get rid of. Not only did these psychological burdens affect them throughout Vietnam, they continued to define them even after the war was over. Understanding this concept was one of O’Brien’s main focuses in telling his stories and in the end asked us to help carry the burden of the Vietnam War as part of our collective past. There were many aspects of this book that I took a liking to. For example, I felt he did an amazing job on describing the situation of him and his fellow soldiers throughout the war. I also found it interesting how he described all the things the men would carry and from that I, being the reader, could characterize and determine what kind of men they were and how they fit into the story. With that being said I wasn’t overly fond of how he bounced around in the book. One point it would be the middle of a crucial part in the war, then he would be at his home in Massachusetts reminiscing about his life making it very difficult to follow at times and often confusing. Every book has its negatives but I wouldn’t let the negatives, which I found in reading this, deter you from reading this exquisite and exceptionally moving novel by Tim O’Brien. I believe everyone that has the chance should read “The Things They Carried.” It gives this world a better understanding of what life is like as a soldier in a war. Many are unaware of the physical and emotional tolls a soldier goes through and I think this book does an accurate job of explaining what they actually go through and the longing affects too. After reading this book I would also recommend “If I Die in a Combat Zone,” and “Going After Cacciato,” both by Tim O’Brien. But overall “The Things They Carried,” was in my mind an award winning book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book from the perspective of an infantry soldier who spent 12 months in the jungle in 1967 and 1968 in Vietnam. O'Brien is a skilled writer, but his technique of mixing fact and fiction and never clarifying which is which is troubling. Did a soldier actually shoot a young water buffalo over and over, torturing it? If so, where was his platoon leader lieutenant to allow such a thing? What about noise discipline? What was a water buffalo doing up on a mountain? They're creatures of the valleys and marshes. And why didn't O'Brien put a stop to it? I understand that he was a sergeant. I served as a sergeant in an infantry company and would have never allowed such an insane thing to continue. I'm dubious of his motives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien indicates the abhorrent events during the Vietnam War in the 19th century. Tim O’Brien illustrates the experiences of the young soldiers were forced to fight in the war. In the beginning of the novel, O’Brien portrays the significance of what the soldiers carried demonstrating their personal emotions towards the war. O’Brien met many soldiers who they eventually later became important people to his life; Ted Lavender, Kiowa, Mitchell Sanders, Jimmy Cross, Lieutent Cross, Henry Dobbins and Rat Kiley. Throughout the novel, O’Brien utilizes vivid details, abhorrent imagery and distinct tone in order to convey an approach towards the fear of death and desire of survival in the soldiers’ viewpoint. As O’Brien and his fellow comrades stranded in a menace country, the fellow soldiers experience their first appalling death in Song Tra Bong. In addition, O’Brien and the boys get timid because their enemies attacked them and did not know what to do. However, in the end, O’Brien gets furious with Bobby because he made him get a stroke for his bullet wound. In conclusion, Tim lived his life in war, by witnessing repulsive deaths and experiencing physical emotions, which changed his whole life forever. What I think is most important about this story is how O’Brien illustrates the difference between telling moral stories and immoral stories. I recommend this book to everybody who enjoys reading war stories and obnoxious images of death because in this novel illustrates everything you can image about war in the 19th century.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not find this book a good read. I like for a book to grab me and keep me turning the pages, this one did not. As a Viet Nam vet, I know where he and the guys in the book are coming from, but find some of the things they do a bit hard to believe. I know a lot of people like Mr.. O'Brians books but, well I guess I am different.
Bibliophile79 More than 1 year ago
This book is offers a complex, poignant look at the life of a soldier, both in the war and after. The main character is named Tim (not the author of the book). Tim tells the story of his troop, the adventures they experience, and the personalities of all the men. Each story represents a chapter, making it easy to read. The point of view varies with each story. Although it is technically a work of fiction, I found this book gave me a lot of food for thought regarding the inner struggles of soldiers in Vietnam, not only during the war itself, but also the demons they faced before and after. If this time in American History fascinates you, or you simply enjoy Historical Fiction, do give this one a try.
TawnyLynne More than 1 year ago
When this book was assigned in high school, I was unaware of the amazing treat which I was going to receive. This is a well written series of short stories revolving around a group of soldiers in the Vietnam war. Though the author admits that the stories are based on truth, he always makes the reader question whether the truths of humanity are based in fact or fiction. The characters are believable, and the story flows smoothly despite it's fragmented nature. While many focus on the setting of Vietnam and think of the story being about war, the story is more focused on the men and what makes them who they are. This book is often required reading, but is an enjoyable and life-changing experience.
reading_rainbows More than 1 year ago
'The Things They Carried' is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I just fell in love with Tim O'Brien style of writing. Each chapter was a different story. I had never read anything about wars and I really went into this book knowing nothing about Vietnam. It taught me so much about the war even though it was not about the war perse. I realized how young the men were that were drafted and how frightened they were when they were drafted. It really opened my eyes to how families were affected by this war before and after. I absoluteley loved the story about the soldier shipping his girlriend over to Vietnam. 'The Things They Carried' finds a good balance of comedic wit from the soldiers yet is extremely powerful and dramatic.
weez19 More than 1 year ago
I have read many war novels. This book tops all of them. It is so well written and the stories hold you to each page. A tough book to put down. The stories are realistic with no hero complex added to it to make it sound great and patriotic. It is real and humbles you making you realize the torture soldiers go through on a daily basis. i would like to thank Tim O'Brien for bringing this in the open in his book. I would recommend it to anyone
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one the most accurate portrals of what it feels like to be in a war. Obriens telling of what men carry in that world is fabulous.u
Mike14Wa More than 1 year ago
I have owned several copies over the years. I am on my second hard back copy (which I almost never touch) and I have purchased several paperback copies. Some I gave away as gifts. The language is harsh, real and appropriate for the situation. The writing is prose. It is poetry without the rhyming. It reads well out-loud. The weaving of stories within stories and the harsh honesty of some of those stories is just plain compelling. Often the same story is approached from different perspectives, but you are always reminded about "truth". What it is, and what it isn't. Great stuff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read this book so many times and it always brings tears to my eyes. You feel an odd sense of not being there when you read it. You can hear things and smell things. You feel it all... And it hurts your heart.