It was just over a year ago that the New York Times boldly declared, “George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year.” It was January 3rd. A new year had barely begun, resolutions still being freshly formed, and even the most devoted of readers were perhaps still undecided as to what their first read of 2013 would be. No doubt, this hot-off-the-presses headline made that daunting decision much easier. And so Tenth of December began its ascent toward the top of bestseller lists, and by the actual tenth of December 2013, countless more had chimed in with enthusiastic agreement; the New York Times had been right with its premature prediction according to Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, The Washington Post, TIME, and Entertainment Weekly—just to name a few.
But what also took the literary world by storm was not just Saunders’ literary voice but his speaking voice as well. A longtime beloved professor at Syracuse University (Go Orange!), Saunders is no stranger to addressing a crowd. And keeping a classroom of college students captivated is no easy task. So perhaps it should come as little surprise to listeners that this imaginative writer is an equally creative and clever (and now, award-winning) audiobook narrator.
In an interview with The Awl, Saunders’ narrative work is likened to “a cast of thousands.” And AudioFile gushed, “Saunders’ untrained voice is the perfect conveyance for the earnest vernacular of his offbeat characters… subtly nuanced contemporary babble that Saunders captures so well on the page, and even better in this memorable audio production,” awarding the recording an esteemed Earphones Award. In addition, Audible.com recognized his work as a best audiobook of 2013. Hear a clip here:
It is with great excitement that we welcome Saunders back into the Random House recording studio this spring to share another already-acclaimed work: his convocation address to the 2013 graduating class at Syracuse University. His speech may have been originally intended for a select group of students, who will no doubt recount their college commencement with a great amount of gratitude for having witnessed Saunders’ delivery firsthand; but the speech turned out to have a much farther reaching impact than even the immensely successful Saunders could have ever imagined. The printing of the transcript in the New York Times went on to be shared more than one million times, receiving readers’ comments such as:
“Probably one of the most important lessons ever taught. Think of how much brighter the future would be if more people learned this and actually followed this sage advice. Brilliant.”
“This is absolutely lovely and necessary (AND short and funny — the master of the short story indeed).”
“Many thanks to Mr. Saunders for sharing his words with the world. The best commencement speech I’ve ever read, and I have read many over the years.”
Now titled, CONGRATULATIONS, BY THE WAY: Some Thoughts on Kindness, this expanded version of his Syracuse speech will be available as an audiobook download on April 22nd, perfect timing to share with new grads. Sure to be a powerful and inspiring listen, Saunders will deliver his impactful words once again so that millions more can experience them the way they were originally intended—to be heard. Don’t miss the chance to allow Saunders to personally congratulate you, in his own voice, with his trademark wit and poignant wisdom.
And congratulations, George Saunders, on another respected achievement that will surely be one of the best audiobooks of the year. We’re not waiting until December to declare it.
See a video of Saunders delivering his original speech below: