The things they carried was a great book. I read it back in high school but remember none of it. I think I would have liked it back then too, but I simply can't remember feeling one way or another about it. Maybe it was even a book others read while I read For Whom the Bell Tolls or some other war novel.
I read by listening to the audio book. It's narrated by Brian Cranston, which is the real reason I picked this book up. He did an fantastic job narrating it. That man can tell a story, and his gritty voice was perfect for this book. He did a fine job with the different characters too.
At first I thought this book was pure fiction and so I didn't like it because it just kept listing off "The Things They Carried." Then I saw that it was a bit of a memoir or autobiography, and a bit fictional stories drawn heavily from real things that the author or one of his friends went through.
This book is valuable to America as it shows a slice of what it was like for some soldiers to go to war in Vietnam. There is startling imagery in this book. Many times you see it through the eyes of the soldiers who sometimes make light of things like corpses just so they can get by.
There were great descriptions of what the soldiers went through and though the book is comprised of many short stories, it's kind of tied together with on long narrative of Tim's time at war as well. It also cuts to him going back as a Father with his daughter and visiting Vietnam to the sites where he saw atrocities.
If you want to know what it was like for many soldiers in Vietnam I highly recommend this book. It was a great read and one that I'm not ashamed high schoolers have to read because they'll learn history and I think enjoy it.
The last thing I'll comment on is the writing itself. Yes these stories are important and should be read - but besides that Tim O'Brien is a great writer. He knows his way around words and pushes them into place in a way that really makes the stories shine. You can see, hear, sometimes even smell the experiences he's describing - and his prose is really a joy to read. Great book.