The Big Read: The Things They Carried

cover_thingstheycarriedKHC’s The Big Read community reading project focuses on Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, a set of connected short stories that follow the men of Alpha company before, during, and after the Vietnam War. Six Kansas communities are participating in The Big Read as part of Standing Together, an initiative to spark community conversations about the homecoming experiences of combat veterans.

Participating Libraries

The Big Read: The Things They Carried community book discussions and events are taking place in:

About The Things They Carried

From “Introduction to the Book” on

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (1990) is considered one of the finest books about the Vietnam War. Far from a combat story of pride and glory, it is a compassionate tale of the American soldier, brimming with raw honesty and thoughtful reflection.

The book’s narrator follows a platoon of infantrymen through the jungles of Vietnam. We see them trudge through the muck of a constant downpour, get hit by sniper fire, pull body parts out of a tree, laugh while they tell their stories to each other, and fall silent when faced with making sense of it all—both in the moment and twenty years later. [Read more]

Listen to author Tim O’Brien discuss The Things They Carried on a 2010 episode of NPR’s Talk of the Nation.

TBR-Logo-PartnersThe Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to revitalize the role of reading in American culture by exposing citizens to great works of literature and encouraging them to read for pleasure and enrichment. The Big Read is managed by Arts Midwest.


Standing Together is a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities.