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  • Writer's pictureSean

The Things They Carried

Have you read any good war stories looks or books on war lately? I don't mean just a history book; I mean the kind of book that keeps you on your toes and buries itself deep inside of you.

Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is that book. It's the book you may not have heard about but contains some of the most brilliant writing of any book I've encountered, let alone a book on war. It's hard to even describe this book. What seems like one man's story on the Vietnam War becomes more. It becomes a meditation on what war actually means to the individuals fighting while also containing storytelling components that knocked me off my seat.

This is an easy candidate for the Top 10 books I've read this year and likely in the top half, if I'm honest. Once you've read this book, you can see what so many after have tried to capture in their own war stories. To capture their own stories while stripping away the fluff and leaving you having to decide on your own what to think. You will grimace in disgust, feel anger at times, and the next page might be despair and sadness.

After picking this one off the stack to read on a Friday night, I found myself finished that same night. It didn't even make the #currentlyreading list. It was just over.

One of my favourite quotes from this one (note the tabs because I didn't even have time to set up a proper note page in my notes app!) was this:

"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. ... You can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil."

That quotes sums up the book quite well. Don't expect to feel good about this one or that morality wins. In fact, don't even expect to relate to the characters because you will soon find that most struggled to relate to what they were doing as well. It's a book about real people going off to fight a war with no sense of what war is or why they are fighting. I think Tim O'Brien captures that essence brilliantly in this one and it deserves a read.

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