Penguin to Set World Record with “Lincoln in the Bardo” Audiobook

For the past several years publishers have been gambling with radio play quality audiobooks as the audiobook market grows large enough that some titles sell more in audio than in print or as ebooks.

Now Time reports that Penguin Random House is breaking the bank with George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo. this book will feature 166 narrators when it is released next month:

Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Lena Dunham, Ben Stiller, Susan Sarandon, Megan Mullally and Don Cheadle are among the celebrities who have all lent their voices to narrate the story, about Abraham Lincoln mourning his son Willie in a graveyard full of ghosts. Penguin Random House Audio is applying for a Guinness World Record for most individuals’ voices on a single audiobook.

This was a really gratifying artistic venture — to have so many talented people give their time to my work like this,” Saunders emailed TIME. “I had approached Kelly Gildea, the producer, with high hopes but also (I can see in retrospect) with no idea of how much I was asking—the sheer amount of work and organization. But she agreed immediately and went to work on it: 166 different voices, one for every character in the book, no doubling, and the final cast included A-list Hollywood talent, amazing audiobook professionals, and (especially meaningful to me) a bunch of family members, close friends, and volunteers from Random House and ICM. I love the way that the variety of contemporary American voices mimics and underscores the feeling I tried to evoke in the book: a sort of American chorale.”

166 voices would be a stretch for a single narrator, but it’s not out of the question.

Literary Hub notes that the world record holder for the greatest number of “distinct and distinguishable” voices performed in an audiobook is Roy Dotrice, who voiced A Game of Thrones, with all its 224 characters. He got the award in 2011 for A Game of Thrones, but as George R R Martin pointed out Dotrice has probably already beaten his own record while narrating later books in the series.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. poiboy17 January, 2017

    typo in title

    1. Nate Hoffelder17 January, 2017

      yes, thanks.

      1. poiboy17 January, 2017

        np boss


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