Lincoln in the Bardo|George Saunders
Lincoln in the Bardo
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The "devastatingly moving" (People) 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

Named One of Paste's Best Novels of the Decade - Named One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The Washington Post, USA Today, and Maureen Corrigan, NPR - One of Time's Ten Best Novels of the Year - A New York Times Notable Book - One of O: The Oprah Magazine's Best Books of the Year

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?

"A luminous feat of generosity and humanism."--Colson Whitehead, The New York Times Book Review

"A masterpiece."--Zadie Smith


  • ISBN-13: 9780812995343
  • ISBN-10: 0812995341
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Publish Date: February 2017
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.35 pounds
  • Page Count: 368

Best Books of 2017

After much discussion and determined lobbying for our personal favorites, the editors of BookPage have reached a consensus on the year’s best books. These are the books we can’t forget—and can’t stop sharing with readers wherever we go.

#1 Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere

In the privileged community of Shaker Heights, wealth and comfort crumble in the firelight of Ng’s brilliant storytelling.

#2 George Saunders
Lincoln in the Bardo

The incomparable winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize is a heartbreaking, funny, strange reflection on grief after loss.

#3 Elif Batuman
The Idiot

This hilarious debut pulls no punches in depicting the absurdity of campus life and the particularly awkward magic of early adulthood.

#4 Mohsin Hamid
Exit West
Spiced with unexpected magic, this imaginative love story follows a young couple who join a wave of migrants as their city collapses.

#5 Stephanie Powell Watts
No One Is Coming to Save Us

In a riveting riff on The Great Gatsby, Watts’ first novel focuses on the residents of a down-on-its-luck North Carolina town.

#6 Min Jin Lee

Addicting and powerful, this superb novel follows four generations of a Korean family carving out a life in Japan despite racism and war.

#7 Jennifer Egan
Manhattan Beach

During World War II, one woman becomes the first female diver at the Brooklyn docks. Hold your breath and sink in deep.

#8 Walter Isaacson
Leonardo da Vinci

Isaacson delves into Leonardo’s life and pulls back the curtain of genius on one of the most brilliant men who ever lived.

#9 Ron Chernow

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author offers a richly detailed, uncommonly compelling biography of Ulysses S. Grant.

#10 Hala Alyan
Salt Houses

At the heart of Alyan’s debut are enormous themes of time and family, grounded by piercing insight and striking, poetic language.

#11 Jesmyn Ward
Sing, Unburied, Sing

This intricately layered story with supernatural elements offers a brutal view of racial tensions in the modern-day American South.

#12 David Sedaris
Theft by Finding

Beloved humorist Sedaris shares 20 years of observations in this collection of diary entries that toe the line between hilarious and weird.

#13 Nina Riggs
The Bright Hour

With levity and bittersweetness amid the worst moments, Riggs’ account of living with cancer is feisty, uplifting reading.

#14 Dennis Lehane
Since We Fell

Already optioned for film, this bewitching thriller follows an intrepid journalist as she uncovers her family’s darkest secrets.

#15 Scott Kelly

After spending a year in space, veteran astronaut Kelly has returned to Earth to tell us what life is like among the stars.

#16 Sherman Alexie
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

Don’t trust just anyone to break your heart, but do trust Alexie and this unconventional memoir of his relationship with his mother.

#17 Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Refugees

Nine superb, understated stories from the Pulitzer Prize winner find characters stretched between cultures, countries and desires.

#18 Timothy B. Tyson
The Blood of Emmett Till

The most notorious hate crime in American history receives the insightful, fearless inquiry it deserves.

#19 Suzy Hansen
Notes on a Foreign Country

Hansen’s investigation into U.S. involvement abroad is a compelling look at the consequences of interventionist foreign policy.

#20 Richard Ford
Between Them

Ford’s memoir is a gentle testament to the powerful love his parents had for each other and for their son.

#21 Patricia Lockwood

This unforgettable memoir offers a heartbreakingly funny look at an award-winning poet’s unconventional Catholic upbringing.

#22 Kamila Shamsie
Home Fire

Shamsie’s confident, dreamy reimagining of Antigone grasps a throbbing heart of love and loyalty.

#23 Kayla Rae Whitaker
The Animators

Two best friends and successful cartoonists navigate the creative process in this heartfelt debut.

#24 Sarah Perry
After the Eclipse

A daughter attempts to come to terms with her mother’s murder in this emotional true-crime memoir.

#25 Inara Verzemnieks
Among the Living and the Dead

The granddaughter of Latvian refugees pieces together her history.


This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.