Free Audio: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad Star, Reads First Chapter of The Things They Carried

cranston reads

If you’re going through Breaking Bad withdrawal, here’s a small way to fill the void. Audible.com has made available a recording of Bryan Cranston, the actor behind Walter White, reading the first chapter from The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s famous story collection that offers a chilling, boots-on-the-ground portrayal of soldiers’ experience during the Vietnam War. A finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, the book has sold over 2 million copies worldwide and is now a staple of college and high school English classes across America. Cranston’s reading runs over 47 minutes.

Cranston actually narrates the entire book, and if you’re interested in downloading it, there’s a way to do it for free. Just head over to Audible.com and register for a 30-day free trial. You can download any audio book for free, including The Things They Carried. Then, when the trial is over, you can continue your Audible subscription, or cancel it, and still keep the audio book. The choice is  yours. And, in full disclosure, let me tell you that we have a nice arrangement with Audible. Whenever someone signs up for their amazing service, it helps support Open Culture. Get more information on Audible’s free trial here.

Also don’t miss our collection of 550 Free Audio Books. It’s a priceless resource.


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  1. Olga S. says . . . | October 24, 2013 / 4:48 pm

    This first chapter of Tim O’Brien’s book, “The Things They Carried” is incredibly well read and performed by Bryan Cranston here! I have only heard about the show Breaking Bad – only that Anthony Hopkins has given Cranston the very best praise for his TV performance and the performance of the entire cast. Just yesterday I came across Tim O’Brien, because an author friend made me aware of one of O’Brien’s quotes: “As a rule of thumb… you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.” Following up on bits of knowledge here and there is so rewarding! I guess today was the day to find out a little more about both, O’Brien and Cranston! I love the author’s way of narration, how he gives away little secrets nobody would know about these soldiers unless a person has been there and witnessed it all; how O’Brien talks about the individual soldier’s little possessions they lug – or as O’Brien calls it “hump,” to emphasize the tediousness of it all, to sustain their lives, their hopes for something better (even if that bit of hope just lies in the next moment in the form of a piece of gum), to preserve hopes tied to letters or a pebble, their former realities in the U.S. or just lies the truth of which they don’t really want to grow aware off because their present reality is as disorienting as demanding. The soldiers are burdened down by “the things they carried,” by the tremendous weight of their possessions, their war time equipment as well as their senseless task during the Vietnam War. The soldiers need something to hold on to, something to believe in, while engaging in automatic movements, in routines of combat in an alienated, ever-same environment before the next bullet hits. The objects dear to the soldiers are at the edge of love and hate, at the edge of still being alive and simply dropping – like a dead weight. Now I need to find the rest of O’Brien’s book and/or audiotapes, preferrably read by Cranston and to take a look at Breaking Bad….

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