Lincoln in the Bardo

By Kay Gardiner
May 21, 2017

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  • Scribd is another way to go for audible books. I got an 8 week free trial. I think they are associated with the NYT. I have one week left, checking out Lincoln in the Bardo. Thank you for the enticing description.

  • I use my public library for my audiobooks and Kindle books, right now I’m #28 and they have 12 copies to loan. This book sounds intriguing!

  • I read the book first, then listened to the 166-member cast read it. What a great experience. I hope you will dive into Saunders’s short stories at some point. They are so deeply humane.

    • I loved it so much and will definitely now read more Saunders. I’m feeling kind of slow because until I read that New Yorker piece I made no connection between the novel and Our Town, despite how often I think of Our Town.

  • Now that you’ve given in to the simple fact that audiobooks are perfect knitting accompaniment, may I recommend a favorite? The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, read by the one and only Meryl Streep. The writing is brilliant, and Streep’s delivery is simply luminous. Enjoy!

    • Thank you! I love him and I haven’t read that one.

  • Audible books take a while to get used to but it is a great opportunity to “read” and knit simultaneously. Try Louise Penny – amazing Canadian author of Inspector Gamache books. You will LOVE her narrator. Sometimes I would finish listening to a book and just wait to listen to anything else because the narrator’s words just were rolling in a lovely way around my head!

    • I second this recommendation! Great narrator. My go to for knitting and listening.

    • Never really enjoyed listening to audiobooks, I much preferred podcasts. However once I listened to the Louise Penny books I was in love! I highly recommend these! This narrator, to me, became Inspector Gamache!

    • I enjoy the books, but the narrator drives me crazy. Since he refuses to read the book before recording, there is very little differentiation between the characters’ voices. There are times when it’s not obvious when a scene has shifted or a new chapter begins because he didn’t pause. A character will sound perfectly okay until the words “she said sadly”, when suddenly the voice would sound sad. I have to focus so much on figuring out who is talking and what is happening, that I can’t enjoy the story. I agree he has a good voice for Gamache, (he does mispronounce some French words, but mispronunciations happen in lots of otherwise well-acted audio books), but other than that it seems like he’s just being paid to do a cold reading that contributes little to the enjoyment or understanding of the book. I am a big listener of audio books, but I have given up listening to Penney’s. And I realize this is a minority position.

      • I’m intrigued by this controversy. I once tried to listen to The Kite Runner, read by the author, and his voice and accent was identical to my first boyfriend (for whom I have only nice feelings) so I couldn’t listen to it; it was too distracting!

        • The voice and style of the narrator are really important to me. Even if it’s a great book, if I don’t like the reader, I don’t make it through. I can more easily listen to a great reader reading a ‘meh’ book. Authors as readers can be great, and when they are it’s amazing because you know you’re getting all the right nuances and shadings (and words pronounced correctly…). Two big exceptions that I know of are Tony Hillerman reading his Navajo mysteries and Bill Bryson, who writes the funniest travel books known to man. I tried once to listen to his book about Australia, “In a Sunburned Country”. After 20 minutes I was thinking ‘this book isn’t funny at all”, and then “well it could be funny except the reader is stepping all over the funny lines”, and of course the reader turned out to be Bryson himself. I later read the actual book and it was hilarious.

      • See, now I love to listen to Bill Bryson … it’s a good thing we have lots of different choices.

        • Bill Bryson is someone I love to read, but dislike listening to. David Sedaris, interestingly, is just the opposite. I could listen to him all day, and his wry voice is part of the work’s charm and humor. But I find his books much less interesting to read.

          A big recommendation, and perfect reader-main character match: the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. (I could listen to him read the phone book.) It’s hard to describe, but sort of a police procedural meets Harry Potter meets Dr. Who. In the books’ world, the London police have a special magical unit, and the main character is a young cop who’s apprenticed there. Funny magical mysteries, with lots of neat tidbits about London.

  • I’ll check out the book, and maybe at some point the audio…but I’m not a big audio book fan….I also struggle with podcasts, but I keep trying…not sure why…but I just do not like being read to…..

  • Thank you! Just put myself on the library waitlist for both ebook and audiobook.

  • (Runs to Orders book.) Thanks for the recommendation!

  • I’ve just started to read the book myself and it is so far a puzzling joyous mystery of a book. I think it’s how I will spend this very hot Sunday.

  • I tried the audio first and realized the folly of my ways. Had to buy that book and go old school

  • I listened to Lincoln in the Bardo but at one point, early on, I had to do an image search to see if the pages in my mind were accurate — and they were! I am looking forward to reading the book, and then listening to it again!! It was the most amazing book. A movie?? Wow.

    I’d had a hard time with audio books until a friend suggested that I listen to books read by familiar voices. There were several memoirs on my list that were read by the author, so my first three audio books were memoirs by Rosanne Cash, Anthony Bourdain, and Alan Cumming. I was hooked! I ended up listening to around a dozen books last year. Another favorite, also a memoir, was Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.

  • Hi Kay,

    I am so glad you liked it! I love the book and the audible version is magical on a whole different level. I also highly recommend Saunders’ short stories. One that you will never, ever forget, is “The Tenth of December”, which is also the title of the short story collection in which it is contained. And Saunders in person is delightful.

    One more thing … in our discussion, I mentioned that I thought the book was very Buddhist in it’s approach to life and death etc., and someone said that Saunders does embrace Buddhism. Not sure if that’s correct, but I find it plausible.


    • P.S. I do recommend reading the book first, or at least having it on hand as you listen to the audible. It is handy (and pleasurable) to refer to the print version and it’s references as you listen.

  • I’ll be the nay-sayer for Lincoln in the Bardo on audio. For me, the ink and paper is the link to the soul of this book. The phrasing on the page, the white empty spaces are where I held my breath waiting for the next voice to tell her or his tale.

    • I’m loving the audio but very glad I read it first.

  • I’ve had a go at audiobooks (which I was book-less, unable to read for a month on doctor’s orders)…..I guess I have a problem that the voice in the audio doesn’t match the one I invent in my head for a character.

  • Thank you for reminding me about this book! Also I feel the same re audio books, but you may have expanded my horizons. For me tho, I wonder if I could knit to an audio book of it’s a good book. Especially since I couldn’t do it in the car back in the long-ago day of a long distance relationship which gave 4 hours of listening time.

    More important, if I order a kit for the colorway scarf today, do I have enough time to finish it by Friday, June 2? I realize that’s somewhat impossible to answer. Would you have enough time? TIA!

  • Father will come to collect me.

    • Crushing.

  • I’ve been reading Lincoln in the Bardo, and while I really like it, it takes a toll emotionally. I’m okay with sad things in books, but this one was hitting me harder than usual. I had just decided to abandon it when I saw this post. Okay, okay! I picked it back up last night.

  • “Lincoln in the Bardo” changed me…The first read *destroyed* me. I had to do it fast because it hurt so bad. So I read it in a day punctuated with sobs, let those taper off for a week, then reread it more slowly. It’s on my short list of most impactful books in my life. xoA

    • That’s incredible Alice and Amy—I agree that it is a book that pulls no punches and then stays with you and informs your thinking and feeling. I connect it very strongly to the play Our Town (which gets mentioned in every review of Lincoln in the Bardo), and also James Agee’s book A Death in the Family. But I did not get any belly laughs from either of those two, and I did from Lincoln in the Bardo!

  • Of the many things I love about your site I do adore all the literary discussions and movie options! Come for the yarn and stay for the dialogue. I am getting “The Americans” season 1 DVD’s from the library today. Also – have just signed up for Lincoln in the Bardo. All of these suggestions are wonderful perks on top of all the knitting and humor!

    • And the recipes!

  • It’s an absolutely wonderful book. Now you’ve got me intrigued to listen to the audiobook. 166 voices!

  • Is it possible to start a thread in the Lounge? I have questions for the collective knitter-mind about this book! There would be spoilers, so I won’t do any asking here. But I’m haunted for sure.

  • I absolutely loved reading this book, and I haven’t done the audio version of it yet though plan to do so. As much as I loved this novel, I love Saunders’ short stories even more – I cannot recommend Tenth of December enough, it is my all time favorite short story collection. The stories so funny, so bleak, so absolutely human. I envy anyone who hasn’t read this collection, as they still have that experience to look forward to!