George Saunders's Headshot

George Saunders

Bestselling Writer, Author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December - Panelist Blurb

The recipient of a 2006 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (“Genius” Award), George Saunders is the author of a novel, four collections of short stories, a novella, a book of essays, and an award-winning children’s book.

His long-awaited novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, was published in 2017. Colson Whitehead (2021 CT Forum alum), called it: “A luminous feat of generosity and humanism.” His most recent book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, offers a literary masterclass on what makes great stories work, how to become both a better writer and reader, and what they can tell us about how to live.

In 2017, Saunders won the Man Booker Prize for Lincoln in the Bardo. His collection, Tenth of December, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and winner of the 2014 Story Prize for short fiction, and the 2014 Folio Prize, which celebrates the best fiction of our time. Chair of the Judges for the Folio Prize, Lavinia Greenlaw, said:

“George Saunders’ stories are both artful and profound. Darkly playful, they take us to the edge of some of the most difficult questions of our time and force us to consider what lies behind and beyond them. His subject is the human self under ordinary and extraordinary pressure. His worlds are heightened versions of our own, full of inexorable confrontations from which we are not easily released. Unflinching, delightful, adventurous, compassionate, he is a true original whose work is absolutely of the moment. We have no doubt that these stories will prove only more essential in years to come.”

Tenth of December was also named one of the ten best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, and the collection, and Saunders’ work, was highlighted in a New York Times Magazine cover story.

Saunders’ other collections include the bestselling Pastoralia, set against a warped, hilarious, and terrifyingly recognizable American landscape; CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, a Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and In Persuasion Nation, one of three finalists for the 2006 Story Prize for best short story collection of the year.

Saunders is also the author of the novella-length illustrated fable, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, and New York Times bestselling children’s book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, illustrated by Lane Smith. The Boston Globe lauds Saunders’ ability to “construct a story of absurdist satire, then locate within it a moment of searing humanity.”

Congratulations, by the Way is a book containing the funny yet uplifting graduation speech Saunders gave at Syracuse University, which went viral shortly after its delivery.

Saunders’ book of essays, The Braindead Megaphone, received critical acclaim and landed him spots on The Charlie Rose Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Colbert Report. Vanity Fair wrote of the book, “Saunders’s bitingly clever and compassionate essays are a Mark Twain-syle shot in the arm for Americans, an antidote to the dumbing down virus plaguing our country. Well, we live in hope.”

In 2006, he was awarded both a MacArthur Fellowship, for “bring[ing] to contemporary American fiction a sense of humor, pathos, and literary style all his own,” and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2013 TIME Magazine listed Saunders on its list of 100 Most Influential People in the World.

He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University.