The Things They CarriedThe Things They Carried

A gripping series of Vietnam stories gathered in a format of O'Brien's devising. It is not a collection of short stories, but it is not one story with a beginning and an ending. It is perhaps closest to listening to a soldier storyteller over a long period of time. While you listen to his stories, you hear a bit of his personal life; he uses repetition of events and certain phrases to reinforce familiarity with the tales.

Closing the book you believe you know the narrator very well. The author is a Vietnam veteran. Attempting to further confuse fiction with non-fiction, Tim O'Brien gave his storyteller the name "Tim O'Brien."

This much honored novel is a favorite of city and school Big Read programs. Winner of France's Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

"It’s partly a story about what happens to men in a war, but more deeply it touches people to actually look at their own lives and childhoods. The reason that book ends not in the war, but with little Linda dying of brain cancer, is that that chapter is meant to move away from war to the lives of all of us." ~Tim O'Brien

Reading Group Guide

Congratulations Tim on the 20th Anniversary of publication!

Buy The Things They Carried from Amazon
United States United Kingdom Germany France

[paperback] [paperback] [paperback]

[A propos de courage]

"A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth."

The Things They Carried on the WorldWideWeb

Cover The Things They Carried "How to Tell a True War Story" (The Things They Carried)

"The Things They Carried" (The Things They Carried)

Reading Group Guide - 20th Anniversary Edition

Index - very useful for students & scholars

Very Detailed Student Website

Glossary - Do you fire a P-38 or use it to open a can?

  Video of O'Brien reading from the book (2010) No ballcap!


O'Brien on Cliff notes:
"It just seems that people should think for themselves, not let somebody else think for them. . . . The second thing is that those books are so analytical and abstract. A novel is more visceral—it's not just an analysis of character or plot and theme and all that. It's the sound to the book and the sound to the language. So I'm not too hot about them, but they do it whether you like it or not."

Essays - YOUR teacher read these too!
Snapshot Tim Vietnam 1969
What Did They Really Carry? - Matthew Smith of Mr. Kramer's AP English

Tim O'Brien and the Art of the True War Story: "Night March" and "Speaking of Courage" - Critical Essay

Metafiction and O'Brien's The Things They Carried by Michele Friedlander

The Things They Carried by Jason Voegele 

The Truth in Things: Personal Trauma As Historical Amnesia in The Things They Carried by Jim Neilson

Linda and the Lives of the Dead by Captain Pants

Imagining Vietnam: Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried’ by Subarno Chattarji

The Things They Carried: Sweet Heart of the Song Tra Bong Symbolism (three essays)


The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Study Guides
Student Study Guide addressing many of the stories (Masconomet Regional School District)

"Ambush" Study Guide

Wikipedia Tackles "TTTC"

Book Club Guide

Study Guide chapter by chapter

Lesson Plan from Chicago Humanities Festival (pdf)

Excellent NEA Big Read website with guides and other references


Just for Fun
Quiz Time! Do you know how many things they carried?

Book Covers

YouTube Video Not for fun, poignant

Featured on Selected Shorts and read by Dylan Barker

Vocabulary List

NY Times book review from 1990 - Did the reviewer get it right?

"Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" made for TV movie broadcast on Showtime. The ending is a mess.

Free (and semi-free) Literary Books for the Kindle (US & UK)Blogging on FREE Classic books for the Kindle

Amazon US

Dog Cat Blog

Updated October 28, 2011