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. 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 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, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free. It’s a price­less resource.

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  • Olga S. says:

    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.…

  • pman says:

    thanks for the input Olga! Break­ing Bad is tru­ly a work of art.

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