The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

January 9, 2011

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

One of my favorite types of books to read is the short story anthology, but it’s not always easy to find the literature I love in audio format. There’s just something about hearing a selection of short stories that satisfies my desire to experience life from a different point of view while allowing my limited attention span to enjoy some variety. Yes, I can make it through a novel, but given the choice, I’d pick short stories – so here is a review of an audio collection of brilliant pieces from Tim O’Brien that will call up memories, conjure the future, and keep your present thoughts engaged in a different world.

The Collection

You might be familiar with the short story by O’Brien with the same title as this collection, but that’s not all you get when you listen to The Things They Carried. You’ll hear 22 different stories that showcase the same marvelous talent displayed by O’Brien in the short story you’ve already read. Each story is another window with a different view of Vietnam that will show you the extremes of the human condition as they can’t otherwise be experienced. You might think that old war stories are outdated and depressing, but that’s not always the case. These masterful pieces are uplifting, enlightening, and empowering. Of course, that doesn’t come without hearing about some incredibly painful experiences, but learning something positive about humanity is worth any sadness that might be caused by these stories. Listening to the strong, valiant, and determined words and actions of men in deplorable situations can be empowering. As I listened to these stories and observed my own thoughts about them, I noticed that I felt more able to answer to life’s challenges. If these men could access the mental, physical, and emotional fortitude to survive, I could share their strength as a fellow human being. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that people are better than I had thought, and that’s something I think we’d all like to hear more often.

In this collection of stories, you’ll find a variety of formats and styles, which is yet another indicator of O’Brien’s brilliance. Hearing these stories is like getting the full experience from the men who were present for the events being described – each person with a different point of view, a unique set of impressions, and an individualized way of storytelling. Everything is strongly evocative and alien at the same time, reminding you of your own experiences and enabling you to understand some small fraction of what these men went through. Listening to O’Brien bridges the gap between drastically different lives and allows humanity to learn from itself in a valuable and enriching way.

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, where recently she’s been researching different social work degree programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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