Stars come out to read George Saunders' debut novel

Books for gift-giving: 8 of this year's award-winning novels

One of the most hotly anticipated books of the year is the debut novel by short story writer George Saunders, and the audiobook, due out alongside the book on February 14, brings star power to a reading of the creatively told story.

"Lincoln in the Bardo" is set in 1862, less than a year into the American Civil War, as President Lincoln's 11-year-old son Willie lays gravely ill. The boy died days later, and according to newspaper reports a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to his crypt several times.

Saunders' tale, based on that historical truth, takes the story into a supernatural realm, as Willie "finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance," according to the book's publisher, Penguin Random House.

The book takes its title from the transition state known in Tibetan tradition as the bardo.

Both dark and humorous, "Lincoln in the Bardo" is told in a form that, according to the publisher, "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?"

This theatrical, multi-voice story lends itself to the audio form, and the audiobook will be a star-studded feat, featuring a 166-strong cast.

Julianne Moore, Susan Sarandon, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Carrie Brownstein, Miranda July, Lena Dunham, Jeffrey Tambor, Don Cheadle, Patrick Wilson and Ben Stiller can all be heard, as can Rainn Wilson, Jeff Tweedy, Kat Dennings, Bill Hader and Keegan-Michael Key.

"Lincoln in the Bardo" releases in physical, digital and audio form February 14.

Listen to a clip from the audiobook: