Before I Blogged I Read: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things. Check out PAST “Before I Blogged I Read” posts.



The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: October 2008

1. I was MEANT to read this book. So gather around, friends, for a little story. I was assigned to read this book in high school, looked at the cover, said GAG and managed to write an A+ report without reading it. So years pass between 2003 and I never think of that book again until my last semester in college in 2008 when I’m assigned this novel to do a HUUUUGE paper on. I had to laugh. Like, world, you must REALLY want me to read this book. So I did. And I EFFING LOVED IT. I am so glad this book wormed its way into my life because it was one of the best books I’ve ever read on so many levels. And I’m not going to lie, I wrote one of the best papers of my academic LIFE because of this book. I had so many thoughts and feelings. I had never been so excited about discussing the themes of book before. EVER.

2. This book was not at ALL what I judged it to be. I thought this was going to be JUST as war story or something. NOPE. I can’t even pin down what this book is. True, it involves war stories but it is SO MUCH MORE. It’s amazing, honestly. Thought-provoking, wonderfully written and has left this lasting impression on me the way it captures just the humanness of war and the intricacies of what it is to be human.  It was the type of book that I dog-eared the crap out of because there were just so many awesomely profound things. I hugged it, I laughed, I shouted at it and I cried. I actually want to do a re-read of it.

3. If you love truly amazing writing, you have to read this one. Seriously. The way this story was told. MAN. Makes me feel like the way I write is the equivalent of a 3 year old. It’s not just the particular way he strings together a sentence that is remarkable but it’s the way he makes you FEEL like you are there in the trenches or the emotion that exudes from the pages that grips you entirely and makes you want to weep for these men. It’s also the WAY he tells the story. The story truths and the happening truths and the always wondering what is real and not real. How it all is interconnected. It’s genius.

4. It is fiction but is also very based on the author’s own experience. Sometimes I forgot this book was fiction to be honest. I felt like I was reading someone’s very vivid and compelling accounts of the war and it really ties into his theme of truths and how sometimes story-truth is truer than happening truth. Through these interrelated stories from different angles of the war, we get glimpses of the happening truth and we feel that so devastatingly so, like sitting down with an old vet, but we get the story truth that helps us feel emotionally connected to it and to ache and feel raw alongside them.

Favorite Quotes:

A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”


“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”


 “I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.”


“He wished he could’ve explained some of this. How he had been braver than he ever thought possible, but how he had not been so brave as he wanted to be. The distinction was important.”



Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Tell me what you thought! Was this required reading for anyone else??

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I have only read pieces of this book, but what I read was amazing. I once took a writing class and the instructor used it to illustrate examples of THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD WRITE. I couldn’t agree more! I think I might even have a copy on my shelves, now I want to look for it:)

  2. Have you ever read any of his other books? Going After Cacciato is one of my favorite books of all time–it’s like Things They Carried but trippier.

  3. Yes!! One of my favorites! I need to read it again.

  4. I totally forgot that I read this book, but I did and I LOVED it. Unfortunately, I can’t remember much about it now. *sigh*

  5. Oh, I’ve always wanted to read this. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. I LOVE THIS BOOK. It’s on my all-time favourites list. I also had to read it for high school, but my story is that my brother is one year older than me, and he was reading it the year before I was…and I stole his copy and read bits of it and loved it. Then I read all of it the next year and loved it even more. What’s interesting is that my English/History teachers never let us read the book in order – we always skipped around because they thought it worked better that way. So I’ve never read it from front to back.

    I can’t explain the feels that I get when I read it…it’s a combination of awe, breathy aching for the characters, and poignancy for the human race. I’m getting achy just thinking of it.

    What was your favourite story? I don’t think I can pick, but the ones that stayed with me the most are “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong”, “The Things They Carried” and “How to Tell A True War Story”

  7. So, SO good. I loved it too.

  8. I had to read this book for class in college and I am totally with you. I was blown away at how good it was. The writing was incredible and it really captured the tone of what the soldiers were facing at the time. I loved it. A great book and a great review.

  9. I had to read this for school as well and LOVED IT! I think that I picked it off a summer reading list and couldn’t believe the writing and characterization. Thank you for reminding me how much I enjoyed this book, maybe there is a reread somewhere in my future 🙂

  10. This was definitely on my required reading list in high school and I had to read it again in my Intro to the Novel class at junior college. It was so worth it! Definitely one of my all time favorites!

  11. The titular story is one of my favorites. The list of all the things the soldiers carried – physically and emotionally – is so poignant. I’ve tried to read the entire book and got halfway through but had to stop because its so gruesome. I just couldn’t stomach anymore. I plan to return to it though because it is such an important story. I love how you described it as a “happening truth.” Such an elegant and true evaluation!

  12. I nominated you for the Liebster Award! 🙂 Check it out here!

  13. I love that this book was one that you weren’t expecting to fall in love with! Honestly, those can be the best books sometimes. Even though I’m not inclined to read this one myself, I’m still happy that you ended up having a memorable and moving experience with this book.

  14. What a great book. I took a class in my undergrad called Fiction and Film that was based on topics. The topic for the class I took was combat narratives. We read this book in that class, and I really loved it. Since taking the course, I’ve had an appreciation for war and combat books that I never thought I would have.

  15. We read this with my 10 Accelerated class and we sometimes have parents object. Your review is a great way to address some of those issues. Thanks for concisely saying what I always think about this great book but can never quite express. I love teaching this book to students, it is one of the few books I feel they really like and it sticks with them.

  16. I remember reading this in AP English junior year. We made my friend Randy wear a dress when we acted out a skit based on the one guy’s picture or girlfriend. Whatever. It’s been awhile.

    Love love The Things They Carried.

    Fab post.