The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.
Tim O’Brien’s "The Things They Carried" (1990) is considered one of the finest books written about the Vietnam War. Merging memoir and fiction in interrelated stories, O’Brien examines the war from a variety of perspectives to make sense of his platoon’s experience. a narrator named “Tim O’Brien” recounts the plight of an isolated unit as they dodge sniper fire and their own misgivings, all while lugging memories of home through the jungles. O’Brien then undercuts the stories by claiming they never happened—challenging the book’s powerful sense of autobiographical authority. O’Brien’s unique storytelling style gets at the truth of war by mapping the emotional landscape of a battlefield without a front. The resulting book is brutal, sometimes funny, and always profound, presenting a new way of writing about war.