NEA Big Read 2017

They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

September – November, The Libraries of Greater Kansas City present

About NEA BIG READ Get Involved

What is The Big Read?

The NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.

Showcasing a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery. Learn more at

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts
in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Additional program funding provided through a partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council.

National Endowment for the arts
Kansas City Public Television Official Media Sponsor
About the Book

About The Book

Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried 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 one another, and fall silent when faced with making sense of it all—both in the moment and twenty years later.

The Things They Carried is not just a tale of war, and the book's themes are no less relevant today than they were decades ago. This award-winning work is a brutal, sometimes funny, often profound narrative about the human heart -- how it fares under pressure and what it can endure.


About The Author

Tim O'Brien was born on October 1, 1946. He was raised in Worthington, Minnesota, a small prairie town in the southern part of the state. After graduating from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1968 with a B.A. in political science, O'Brien got his draft notice. He spent his tour of duty in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1970 as a foot soldier with the 46th Infantry in Quang Ngai province. For some of that time he was stationed in My Lai—just one year after the infamous My Lai Massacre. He was sent home with a Purple Heart when he was hit with shrapnel in a grenade attack.

O’Brien’s first writing about his war experiences came in the form of a memoir called If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, published in 1973 during his graduate studies in government at Harvard University. He published The Things They Carried in 1990. His many accolades include a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Book Award, an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. O’Brien currently teaches creative writing at Texas State University. Read the full author bio on the NEA Big Read Website.

How Do I Get Involved?

Read The Things They Carried

In addition to versions of the book available for checkout by each library, select libraries may have a limited supply of complimentary copies available beginning in September. Please see individual library websites for more details.

Join a Discussion Group

Community conversations about The Things They Carried and other related books will take place during Big Read KC at various libraries or other community sites. Contact your local library to find a discussion group near you.

Attend a Program

From award-winning author visits to hands-on activities and captivating film screenings, the Kansas City-area libraries look forward to offering readers the ultimate Big Read experience!

Featured Events

Get Social

Share your Big Read experience with others online using #bigreadkc!

Or follow the latest updates on the Big Read KC Facebook Group

Watch "The Vietnam War" on KCPT


In an immersive, multi-faceted narrative, acclaimed filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. The Vietnam War features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.


More info >>

Connect with your local library today to be a part of Big Read 2017!

At My Library

At My Library

Big Read KC 2017 is presented by the Libraries of Greater Kansas City.

Check with your local library to see how you can get involved!

Johnson County Public Library Kansas City, Kansas Public Library Kansas City Public Library Mid-Continent Public Library North Kansas City Public Library Olathe Public Library

NEA Recommended Resources

Books about the Vietnam War

Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides.

By Christian G. Appy

Vietnam: A History.

By Stanley Karnow

Our Vietnam/Nuoc Viet Ta: The War, 1954-1975.

By A. J. Langguth

Titles and availability may vary, please check with your library.

National Endowment for the arts

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