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Extended Audio Sample Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel Audiobook, by George Saunders Click for printable size audiobook cover
2.67 out of 52.67 out of 52.67 out of 52.67 out of 52.67 out of 5 2.67 (2 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: George Saunders Narrator: George Saunders, David Sedaris, Nick Offerman, A Full Cast Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2017 ISBN: 9780553397581
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The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo
 is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

The 166-person full cast features award-winning actors and musicians, as well as a number of Saunders’ family, friends, and members of his publishing team, including, in order of their appearance:
Nick Offerman as HANS VOLLMAN
David Sedaris as ROGER BEVINS III
Carrie Brownstein as ISABELLE PERKINS
Lena Dunham as ELISE TRAYNOR
Ben Stiller as JACK MANDERS
Julianne Moore as JANE ELLIS
Susan Sarandon as MRS. ABIGAIL BLASS
Bradley Whitford as LT. CECIL STONE
Bill Hader as EDDIE BARON
Megan Mullally as BETSY BARON
Keegan-Michael Key as ELSON FARWELL
Don Cheadle as THOMAS HAVENS
Kirby Heyborne as WILLIE LINCOLN,
and Cassandra Campbell as Your Narrator

Praise for the audiobook

“Lincoln in the Bardo" sets a new standard for cast recordings in its structure, in its performances, and in its boldness. Now, let's see who answers the challenge.” – Chicago Tribune
“Like the novel, the audiobook breaks new ground in what can be accomplished through a story. It helps that there’s not a single bad note in the cast of a whopping 166 people. It’s also the rare phenomenon of an audiobook being a completely different experience compared to the novel. Even if you’ve read the novel, the audiobook is worth a listen (and vice versa). The whole project pushes the narrative form forward.” – A.V. Club
“The result is an auditory experience unlike any other, where the awareness of individual voices disappears while the carefully calibrated soundscape summons a metaphysical masterpiece. This is a tour de force of audiobook production, and a dazzling realization of Saunders’ unique authorial structure.”—Booklist 
“The finished audiobook’s tapestry of voices perfectly mirrors the novel.”—Entertainment Weekly

Praise for George Saunders
“No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time.”—Khaled Hosseini

“Few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”—Junot Díaz
“George Saunders is a complete original. There is no one better, no one more essential to our national sense of self and sanity.”—Dave Eggers
“Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny.”—Zadie Smith
“There is no one like him. He is an original—but everyone knows that.”—Lorrie Moore

“George Saunders makes the all-but-impossible look effortless. We’re lucky to have him.”—Jonathan Franzen
“An astoundingly tuned voice—graceful, dark, authentic, and funny—telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times.”—Thomas Pynchon Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • A luminous feat of generosity and humanism. Colson Whitehead, The New York Times Book Review
    “An extended national ghost story . . . As anyone who knows Saunders’s work would expect, his first novel is a strikingly original production.
  • Saunders’s beautifully realized portrait of Lincoln . . . attests to the author’s own fruitful transition from the short story to the long-distance form of the novel. Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
  • Devastatingly moving. People
  • Profound, funny and vital . . . the work of a great writer. Chicago Tribune
  • Heartbreaking and hilarious . . . For all its divine comedy, Lincoln in the Bardo is also deep and moving. USA Today
  • Along with the wonderfully bizarre, empathy abounds in Lincoln in the Bardo. Time
  • It’s unlike anything you’ve ever read, except that the grotesque humor, pathos, and, ultimately, human kindness at its core mark it as a work that could come only from Saunders. The National
  • There are moments that are almost transcendentally beautiful, that will come back to you on the edge of sleep. And it is told in beautifully realized voices, rolling out with precision or with stream-of-consciousness drawl. NPR
  • Lincoln in the Bardo is part historical novel, part carnivalesque phantasmagoria. It may well be the most strange and brilliant book you’ll read this year. Financial Times
  • A masterpiece. Zadie Smith
  • Ingenious . . . Saunders—well on his way toward becoming a twenty-first-century Twain—crafts an American patchwork of love and loss, giving shape to our foundational sorrows. Vogue
  • Saunders is the most humane American writer working today. Harper’s Magazine
  • The novel beats with a present-day urgency—a nation at war with itself, the unbearable grief of a father who has lost a child, and a howling congregation of ghosts, as divided in death as in life, unwilling to move on. Vanity Fair
  • A brilliant, Buddhist reimagining of an American story of great loss and great love . . . Saunders has written an unsentimental novel of Shakespearean proportions, gorgeously stuffed with tragic characters, bawdy humor, terrifying visions, throat-catching tenderness, and a galloping narrative, all twined around the luminous cord connecting a father and son and backlit by a nation engulfed in fire. Elle
  • Wildly imaginative. Marie Claire
  • Mesmerizing . . . Dantesque . . . A haunting American ballad. Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • Exhilarating . . . Ruthless and relentless in its evocation not only of Lincoln and his quandary, but also of the tenuous existential state shared by all of us. Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • “While it may take a few moments to acclimate to the quirks and syncopated rhythms of this unconventional novel, there’s an undeniable appeal in hearing this impressive cast of narrators…Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • “The audio presentation brings a chorus of voices to raucous, guilty, fearful, and complicated life.”

    Library Journal (starred audio review)

  • “Feels more like a movie than an audiobook.”

    Wired.com (audio review)

  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • A BookPage Top Pick for March 2017
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month
  • Washington Post Top 10 Book of Books That We Loved
  • Winner of the Man Booker Prize
  • Libro.fm Audio bestseller
  • Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
  • A Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2017
  • A Library Journal Best Audiobook of 2017
  • A 2018 Audie Award Finalist for Best Multi-Voiced Performance

Listener Opinions

  • 4.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 5 Keith | 2/8/2018

    " I probably should have read a review or two on this book before deciding to give it a listen but being a Civil War buff I figured I’d give it a try. If I had just looked up the definition for Bardo I might have had an inkling of what was to come but I didn’t do that either. Bardo is a Buddhist word referring to a place inhabited by (dare I say) souls between their existences on earth. This book is written as a screen play rather than a novel. To me, it seems a cross between something written by Lewis Carroll and Greek Mythology with furies bringing their terrors to hapless residents of this grim Purgatory. The story centers on Willie Lincoln, the son of President Abraham Lincoln. Willie dies at a very young age and finds himself in the bardo with little understanding of what has happened to him. His father, racked with anguish, visits him in the cemetery and holds his cold, diminished body in his arms. Neither son nor father know what to make of their new circumstances. Most of the spirits living in the bardo are also ignorant of their true circumstances. Most of them refusing to believe they are actually dead. The book is powerfully written. The listener hears the thoughts of the various characters and soon realizes each has his own story to tell. A story of great pain or hurt or bewilderment. The story of a former minister who runs from his fate after a debilitating experience at, what I will call, the Pearly Gates is particularly wrenching. Although most of the story is tragic, the author injects some light moments to keep it all under control. A wonderful read/listen. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 jmon | 12/8/2017

    " While the concept and story is creative, entertaining and poignant, I find the narrative near impossible to get drawn into. The reason: constant interruption of footnote references. If I ever regain interest in trying to pick up the story, I’ll try reading the book. That said, the cast of narrators is excellent and the book is a daring and genius telling of a lovely relationship between father and son. If the audio version could omit the spoken footnotes, it would earn my 5 star rating "

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About the Author

George Saunders is the acclaimed author of several collections of short stories, including Tenth of December, Pastoralia, and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, as well as a collection of essays and a book for children. Saunders is a MacArthur fellow and teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.

About the Narrators

David Sedaris is a playwright and a regular commentator for National Public Radio. He is also the author of the bestselling Barrel Fever, Naked, Holidays on Ice, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and Me Talk Pretty One Day. He travels extensively through Europe and the United States on lecture tours and lives in England.

Nick Offerman is an actor, humorist, woodworker, and AudioFile Earphones–Award-winning narrator.