Sunday, February 21

Book Review: The Things They Carried

Title: The Things They Carried

Author: Tim O'Brien

Pages: 273

Summary: In 1979, Tim O'Brien's Going After Cacciato--a novel about the Vietnam War--won the National Book Award. In this, his second work of fiction about Vietnam, O'Brien's unique artistic vision is again clearly demonstrated. Neither a novel nor a short story collection, it is an arc of fictional episodes, taking place in the childhoods of its characters, in the jungles of Vietnam and back home in America two decades later. 

Stories included in the collection:
  • The Things They Carried
  • Love
  • Spin
  • On the Rainy River
  • Enemies
  • Friends
  • How to Tell a True War Story
  • The Dentist
  • Sweetheart of the Tra Bong
  • Stockings
  • Church
  • The Man I Killed
  • Ambush
  • Style
  • Speaking of Courage
  • Notes
  • In the Field
  • Good Form
  • Field Trip
  • The Ghost Soldiers
  • Night Life
  • The Lives of the Dead

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Not only was this a well written book, but a great choice to use for the War Through the Generations: Vietnam Reading Challenge, I’m participating in. This book was exactly what I was looking for in a war story. Similar to The Wars by Timothy Findley, this book portrays a very realistic look to the lives of the soldiers fighting in the war, as well as their mindsets and feelings on the matter. The first short story, which shares its title with the title of the collection, was one of my favourites, as it depicts both the physical and mental burdens the men carried with them while fighting in the war.

One interesting thing about this collection was although it was a book of short stories, the same characters kept re-surfacing through out the book. I really liked this aspect of the book, because it allowed the reader to be able to see a wider range of events, over a large span of time, but still have the same familiar characters and be able to watch them develop, or see how they react to the different situations they were faced with. It gave the reader a more intimate feeling, because you were already used to a set of characters, and didn’t have to be re-introduced to a new set with each short story you read.

Another aspect of the book I liked, were the haunting images O’Brien was able to paint for the reader. Whether it was the reactions of the characters to their own actions, like in “The Man I Killed”, or just the harsh realties of war, O’Brien does a fantastic job at bringing to life, the images of the war to the reader.

What I didn’t like, nothing big really stands out, I didn’t enjoy some short stories, one or two were a little boring, but over all most of them I enjoyed. I also found some scenes that were written in the book were a little gruesome but there wasn’t really any one big thing that I can think of that made me dislike the book, just very small things here and there.

Overall a fantastic book, and a great “introduction” to Tim O’Brien (originally I was going to use this for New Author (to me) challenge, but then I realized, “The Man I Killed” was in a collection of short stories book I used in a college English Class. Darn!) Definitely worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes I would. 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.

What to read next: The Wars - Timothy Findley, All Quite on the Western Front, And anything else by Tim O'Brien 

Challenges: Read 'n' Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge,
Support Your Library Challenge, War Through the Generations: Vietnam


  1. Jules...I've been lurking for months, and wanted to end lurking and be more open so I'm stopping by to say how much I enjoy your thoughtful reviews, selection of books, and particularly your suggestions for what to read next. I have this one on my Vietnam reading list for this year, but had not seen the Findley book. Thanks so much for your helpful hints.

  2. I think I should try this book. I don't read a lot of war stories because the violence disturbs me, and I don't usually enjoy short story collections much. But one that focuses on the individuals, and has them reappearing throughout the different stories in the book, sounds more appealing to me.

  3. Wonderful review! I saw the link on the Reading A-Z challenge.

  4. I read this one a couple of months back and enjoyed it too. It really didn't feel like a bunch of short stories. I'm interested to read his other books he's written about the war.

  5. I really enjoy fiction about the Vietnam War and really liked your review on this book. I am going to take your advice and grab a copy, it sounds like an outstanding read. Thanks!

  6. I have this one on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I'm glad to read that you liked it, and hopefully I'll get to it soon!

  7. Tina - I'm glad you've been enjoying my reviews and what to read next. Thanks for coming by. This was a good choice to read. The Wars was a fantastic book, but sadly it's a WWI Book, so its a worthwhile read, just not for the Vietnam challenge. Again thanks for stopping by. Even if you lurk (I admit, I'm a big time lurker on many peoples blogs. I'm so bad for that. So every one, I read your blogs, I visit, I just forget to comment.!)

    Jeane - Violence in books, at least very gory kind disturbs me, but in movies it doesn't as much. It's weird, that way. This does have violence, but it's not as bad as some out there, and is worth a try. This was a very different short story collection, I really enjoyed the way it was laid out.

    Just Mom - Thanks or stopping by, glad you enjoyed the view. The A - Z Challenge is one of my favourites. You never know what you'll read, or find from others reviews.

    Holly - I'm also very interested to read his other books. It's all I can do to run to the library to find more by him, but I'm going to make my self wait a couple of months, so I don't overdue myself with the same author.

    Zibilee - Yah! I hope you enjoy the book, let me know when you read and review it (when/if you do)

    Shelly - I hope you enjoy it when you get to it. It was a good book.

  8. Hi, Jules! We posted a clip of your review here on War Through the Generations.

    I love Tim O'Brien's writing! I will be reading this for the challenge, too. I've also read If I Die in a Combat Zone and In the Lake of the Woods, both of which are really good.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  9. Thanks for letting me know Anna, and thank you for telling about the titles. I've been having trouble finding some books for the challenge, that fit my reading tastes.

  10. Serena's also made a list of Vietnam books here on War Through the Generations, which she's adding to all the time. Hope that helps.

    Diary of an Eccentric