Book Review: The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried

  • Title: The Things They Carried
  • Author: Tim O’Brien
  • Series: None
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, War Story
  • Publishing Date: March 28th, 1990
  • Publishing Co.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Length: 233 pages
  • Format: Kindle, Audiobook, MP3 CD, Paperback, Hardback
  • Acquired: Bought a used paperback at a Used Book Sale
  • Amazon Link: The Things They Carried

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. 

Final Judgment: 5 Stars out of 5

Throughout my academic career, I have read snippets of this book. A chapter here, a few paragraphs there. Normally, it was an activity set by one of my English or Writing classes in high school and college. And although I enjoyed O’Brien’s writing and could feel his pain tugging on my heartstrings, I have never had the opportunity–or courage–to read the entire book. I decided to change that this summer. I ended up reading this entire book in not only one day, but one sitting.

In our current world, we often forget how bad it can be. We are comfortable and lazy. We have all of the information that we could ever want at the tip of our fingers, ready to yield to us instantaneously. Our loved ones are a second away, even if their physical bodies span hundreds of thousands of miles from us. The biggest decision I have to make in a day is whether to re-watch Game of Thrones or Friends. I go to work in the morning, and I come home at night, safe and sound, ready to forget the trials of the day and relax with my family in my nice air-conditioned house. War is never on my mind. Blood and death do not haunt me.

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QOTD: What is one really strong and vibrant memory that you have? Good or bad. . . This question is a bit of a hard one. Reading this novel for the first time all the way through was difficult. O’Brien has an amazing and beautiful writing style, but the message and words behind it are dark and full of sorrow. It forced me to take a look at my own life and how I may one day tell it as a story. Now, I’ve never done anything *near* as devastating as fighting in a war, but it was interesting to look through my own life as a storyteller. . One memory that particularly stands out to me (good, because I need some lightness right now!) is when I was in my highschool orchestra. We had a rehearsal for one of our performances later that week, and idk. While we were all playing, the music just lined up flawlessly. I was moved. I realized that as I was playing, it was getting harder to read the notes because they were going blurry on the page. The music had literally left me with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart (as cliche as that sounds). I felt as if I were a part of something greater than myself, something beautiful. . Idk what is was that day, because I’ve never quite had that feeling again. Not during our official performance that week, not during any other performance after that. . . #sandandbooks2020 — Last 5 ⭐️ read #thebookishdreamers — minimalist cover . . #bookstagram #qotd #booksta #bibliophile #booklover #bookaddict #igread #igreads #reading #bookblogger #bookblog #readingcommunity #bookworm #bookaholic #bookaddict #thethingstheycarried #timobrien #classicnovels

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Reading this novel brought home the atrocities of war. They had always been so removed from my own life that I couldn’t even fathom them. Now, I can. I can better understand the effects that such actions have on human beings, and how our world suffers from them. O’Brien is sure not to sugarcoat his experiences, and this is where the beauty–and horror–of his writing comes from. We readers are forced to experience what he went through in the Vietnam war. We have to live through it, just as if we were knee deep in the shit field with him.

This novel encouraged me to gain a new perspective on not only my own, current life, but on war in general and the lives of those who have already served in war(s). I have grown because of this experience, and I urge anyone and everyone to do the same.

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