Joe Wyatt
Published August 22, 2017

A highly acclaimed collection of short stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War will serve as the Common Reader this school year at Amarillo College.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien was a finalist in 1990 for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The book will be utilized in a variety of AC classes throughout the year, including all First Year Seminar classes.

The selection was inspired by a much-anticipated 10-part documentary film series soon to begin airing on public television, and it positions AC’s Common Reader Program to join a community-wide examination of the Vietnam War.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 18-hour documentary series, The Vietnam War, premieres Sept. 17 on PBS stations nationwide, including the PBS member station at Amarillo College. Panhandle PBS will expand on the film series through a number of regional initiatives to foster discourse about the Vietnam War.

“This incredible book fits perfectly with efforts already under way at our PBS television station,” said Courtney Milleson, chair of AC’s Common Reader Team. “Panhandle PBS is using the Burns-Novick documentary as a springboard to a deeper, grass-roots understanding of the war, and the Common Reader Program is pleased to join in such a forward-thinking enterprise.

“The Things They Carried, coupled with the documentary film and the linked efforts of Panhandle PBS, will give our students a substantial opportunity to learn about a significant event in history that’s largely misunderstood,” Milleson said.

Several events will be planned throughout the year at AC to complement the selection, including book-related essay contests, a visual arts challenge and a web-design competition.

The New York Times has described the book as “a marvel of storytelling,” and the Dallas Morning News offered this: “In a world filled too often with numbness, or shifting values, these stories shine in a strange and opposite direction, moving against the flow, illuminating life’s wonder, life’s tenuousness, life’s importance.”