No single book has had more of an impact on how I interact with fiction than Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Still, it is difficult to articulate just how monumental this novel is. I could tell you that this is the one book assigned in high school with a place of honor on my bookshelf. I could examine failings of US history classes and how O’Brien’s “war story” — his “love story” — was my first entry point to the Vietnam war. You could ask my college dormmates, who patiently sat while I read passages aloud telling them: “You have to hear this.” But nothing I say can measure up to the text itself, to the sunlight that killed Curt Lemon, that water buffalo, the Canadian border, the suffocating weight of the things they carried. I reread the first chapter any time I need to be reminded what it means to craft a powerful sentence. This is a book that will challenge your perceptions of truth, change the way you engage with history, and transform the way you read. Recommended By Sarah R., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
“O'Brien has written a vital, important book — a book that matters not only to the reader interested in Vietnam, but to anyone interested in the craft of writing as well.” — Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
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 groundbreaking 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 43.
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.
“The integrity of a novel and the immediacy of an autobiography....O’Brien’s absorbing narrative moves in circles; events are recalled and retold again and again, giving us a deep sense of the fluidity of truth and the dance of memory.” The New Yorker
“Belongs high on the list of best fiction about any war...crystallizes the Vietnam experience for everyone [and] exposes the nature of all war stories.” New York Times, “Books of the Century”
“The best of these stories...are memory and prophecy. These tell us not where we were but where we are, and perhaps where we will be....It is an ultimate, indelible image of war in our time, and in time to come.” Los Angeles Times
About the Author
Tim O'Brien received the 1979 National Book Award for Going After Cacciato. Among his other books are The Things They Carried, Pulitzer Finalist and a New York Times Book of the Century, and In the Lake of the Woods, winner of the James Fenimore Cooper Prize. He was awarded the Pritzker Literature Award for lifetime achievement in military writing in 2013.