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4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  40,081 Ratings  ·  5,368 Reviews
William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar’s life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known.

And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage
Paperback, 278 pages
Published June 20th 2006 by NYRB Classics (first published 1965)
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Madeleine Gadd Because it reminds us that ordinary people who live ordinary lives can have a beautiful story to tell too.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
aPriL does feral sometimes At the end of the book, Stoner has some self-revelations in which he comes up with explanations how he is about it all, if I remember.

I think despite…more
At the end of the book, Stoner has some self-revelations in which he comes up with explanations how he is about it all, if I remember.

I think despite Stoner's rationalizations about Edith, his daughter's issues and Katherine, he WAS true to his heart. He avoided the war when he was young. That exposed the choice he would make over and over - avoiding the wars of life in all of its aspects and echoes. That was who he really was, if not what he wanted to be. Perhaps we are following our hearts even as we think we have sacrificed, when actually it's because of unconscious and deeper feelings.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 04, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing
In his extreme youth Stoner had thought of love as an absolute state of being to which, if one were lucky, one might find access; in his maturity he had decided it was the heaven of a false religion, toward which one ought to gaze with an amused disbelief, a gently familiar contempt, and an embarrassed nostalgia. Now in his middle age he began to know that it was neither a state of grace nor an illusion; he saw it as a human act of becoming, a condition that was invented and modified moment by m ...more
Dec 08, 2010 Jimmy rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I was going to start out this review of Stoner by feigning comic incredulity that the former conductor of the Boston Pops wrote a novel about potheads, but that is far, far too obvious and unsatisfying even for the likes of me. Instead, I am going to confess that I read only half of it (and, thereby, my ignorance has been properly disclaimed) but that this aborted reading filled me with such unmitigated contempt for the author that I plan on mounting every soapbox (if soapboxes haven't been tech ...more
Jul 09, 2012 RandomAnthony rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
John Williams's Stoner blew me away. I've never read anything like it and some passages left me moved to the point of exhaustion. When I finished I put down the book (well, the Nook), picked it up again, and re-read highlighted pages. Stoner gave me strength; if you believe that the right books find you at the right time, as sometimes I believe, this book found me at the right time.

Stoner outlines the life of a farm kid who, at his dad's recommendation, attends college for agricultural studies b
After 63 pages: “Stunned by Stoner. This is agonisingly wonderful.”

At the end: “Finished. Him and me. Exquisite but exhausted.”
Then I immediately started rereading - something I have only previously done with children’s picture books.

It is, without question, my joint favourite book ever. (Titus Groan/Gormenghast is the other, in a very different way.) For that reason, I’ve really struggled with this review: it’s hard to explain its mesmerising power in a way that does it justice. In a departure
Maria Headley
Aug 30, 2007 Maria Headley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: next-to-the-bed
Devastating novel of academia, unfulfilled hope, and a life not-entirely-lived. Gorgeous writing, heartbreaking plot, and if you're a fan, as I tend to be, of stories set in the dark halls of libraries and universities, this is one to read. The love story within this book is suddenly out-of-nowhere rapturous, and the marriage is brittle, delicate, insensible and perfectly done. The book feels so modern, though the bulk of the action is set in the 30's and 40's. I kept stopping to check that this ...more
Glenn Russell
Aug 08, 2015 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

For the hardworking men and women living in the open, windswept farm country of the American Midwest during the late 19th and early 20th century, day-to-day existence was frequently harsh an occasionally downright hostile, a stark, demanding life chiseling character as can be seen in artist Grant Wood’s ‘American Gothic’. If you take a good look at this painting and then envision a son, an only child, working the fields alongside his father, you will have a clear image of the startin
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” - Henry David Thoreau

The triumph of this work lies in its self-effacing world-weariness, its tone of indifference even to the prospective reader's concerns. In the manner of the protagonist's iron stoicism in the face of misfortune and persecution, the narrative revels in its own lacklustreness, its state of diffused melancholy.

William Stoner, first student and eventually English professor at (fictiona
Bookworm Sean
Mar 12, 2016 Bookworm Sean rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Bibliophiles, book junkies, obsessive readers and those that are lost in words.
Recommended to Bookworm Sean by: Councillor's review
He opened the book; and as he did so it became not his own. He let his fingers rifle through the pages and felt a tingling, as if those pages were alive. The tingling came through his fingers and coursed through his flesh and bone; he was minutely aware of it, and he waited till it contained him, until the old excitement that was like horror fixed him where he lay……

William Stoner has a terrible life: his marriage is a disaster; his daughter resembles her damaged mother; his teaching career is
Jan 20, 2016 Seemita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who prefer a serene stream to a wild wave
As a child, I had a thing for inanimate things. A sling, a pond, a pebble, a mica chip; they would catch my attention and hold it hostage. I would play for hours together with these silent, placid beings, drawing great solace from their harmless, non-fluctuating colour, and intention. Occasionally, a friend or two would drop in and ask in mock incredulity, ‘Don’t you ever get tired playing with them? They neither move nor speak.’ I wouldn’t answer. Only under my breath, after their departure, wo ...more
The US does not have sadness on its agenda. Its psyche is a constant concern with happiness, fulfillment, the American Dream and the way to this god given of all rights. Never has the isolated country been brought to its knees. Never has the culture and creed and thought of civilization of the American people been forced to view sadness as something other than an error to be fixed. Sadness is the result of tragedy, grief, a lightning strike catastrophe that time will heal. Naturally.

America, you
Jan 24, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it
This book is surprising, not so much for any plot twists or odd behavior, but for how we come to regard an overtly unremarkable man as interesting and likable. William Stoner was the only child at his family’s farm in Missouri, with a work-to-play ratio that was high even by turn-of-the-last-century standards. When he came of age, his father sat him down and explained in about two minutes’ time how he thought it best to send his son to college to study modern agriculture. It was the longest Ston ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing
This might be for me the best book of the year.
Sublimely told and with such a subtle narrative which flows easily displaying the life of an ordinary man during an extraordinary time in America. This might be the story of a whole becoming country or only the unheroic account of a simple existence.
But its simplicity is what makes it unearthly beautiful, nostalgic and moving.
Early 1900's, Missouri, although Stoner comes from a modest family of farmers his father sends him to the state university to

Albrecht Dürer: Job and his Wife

Vintage books seem to specialise in producing beautiful paperback editions of titles which have been out of print or are only recently translated into English. I have a small collection of their red-spined covers sitting on my shelves. They all have something in common apart from the red spines; they are books I may read again sometime in my life because of the quality of the writing, the depth of the characterisation and the overall worth of the contents. They a
Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.

What to do when everything goes wrong? Work, marriage, parenthood, eventually health? Plenty of benevolent advices and platitudes will whizz around your ears, to help you to bounce back . Remember, it is all in your mind. Happiness is the result of your approach to life, not of what happens to you. Revolt, anger, complaining or denial won’t change anything. Focus on what is instead of on what should be. Accept, accept, accept. Take one step at time, keep
Reading "Stoner" gave me another one of those parallel universe experiences. In the goodreads universe, where everyone else lives, this is apparently a much loved and lauded book. Heck, those good folks at the New York Review of Books tell us it's a classic. And has this to say about the main protagonist:

William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforg
Jun 12, 2008 S. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ellen
I didn't find this as sad or sorrowful as it’s often said to be. For me it’s about how the inner life redeems the outer, how a satisfying life of the mind makes the rest of life bearable. In that way, despite all the protagonist’s misfortune, I found Stoner an affirmative and even uplifting book.

May I add what an incredibly handsome paperback it is? The cover portrait by Thomas Eakins is gorgeous and perfect, grave and balanced.

I should give it five stars. I will.
Jan 18, 2016 Diane rated it it was amazing
What is a good life? When someone dies, it's often commented that they lived a good life, a fulfilling life, a life well-lived.

I finished the novel Stoner a few days ago, and ever since I've been wondering whether the main character, William Stoner, had lived a good life.

Stoner was born to a poor farming family in Missouri. In 1910, he had the chance to go to college to study agriculture, but instead he discovered a love of literature that changed his life. He decided to become an English profes
Apr 03, 2015 Garima rated it liked it
Shelves: my-2-cents

The conclusion of this novel becomes apparent at the outset only and that probably attests the comedy as well as the modest tragedy of William Stoner’s life- a relentless irony coupled with utter predictability. I liked Stoner, the book and sympathized with Stoner, the character but a quandary is what I found myself in and it led me to an odd line of thinking. Somewhere around chapter 5 of the book, I became a disinterested reader, a role I hate to perform but went with it nevertheless like a re
Jun 23, 2015 Praj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pr

"Mr. Shakespeare speaks to you across three hundred years, Mr. Stoner; do you hear him?.........

Sloane was speaking again. "What does he say to you, Mr. Stoner? What does his sonnet mean?

What if? The powerful wordy duo ruminate in the silence of my room, its vestiges drawn-out to the smooth voice of Lee Ann Womack guiding the overwhelming metaphors through the darkness, hoping that I would dance. For hours after I closed a page on Stoner, defying the nudging of Womack, the audibility of the th
Jan 21, 2014 Ted rated it it was amazing
They had been brought up in a tradition that told them … that the life of the mind and the life of the senses were separate and, indeed, inimical; they had believed … that one had to be chosen at some expense of the other. That the one could intensify the other had never occurred to them ...

The story of a man’s life. A boy, born in 1891 near Booneville Missouri (fictitious), 40 miles from Columbia; growing up on a small farm; quiet, few friends, boyhood spent helping on the farm (at school “he d
Mar 13, 2015 Algernon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2015

In his celebrated epic Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie claims that in order to understand one life "you have to swallow a world", meaning you have to know everything about his culture (India) and his people. With Stoner, John Williams goes to the other end of the spectrum: in order to understand everything you need to know about life, it is enough to look at one man, William Stoner, a man who is not even living out in the world, but is cloistered for most of his life in the ivory towers of
Sep 17, 2015 Zoeytron rated it it was amazing
How many of us wander through life expecting the world to be something it isn't? I fell hard for William Stoner with his quiet, patient strength. This is a somber tale of love and the lack of love, the slow death of a heart haunted by loss; the vindictiveness of college politics, the logic of grammar, and the absolute joy of reading.

...he wandered through the stacks, among the thousands of books, inhaling the musty odor of leather, cloth, and drying page as if it were an exotic incense.

All five
Jul 11, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing
John Williams walks you through each long, exhausting day of Stoner from the time he leaves his poor family farm as a young man through his many trials and tribulations as a college student, teacher, husband, father and lover right to the bitter end with his psychopathic wife by his side continuing to literally drain the very life right out of him. If I ever wanted to strangle a female character, Edith is it!

"He was forty-two years old and he could see nothing before him that he wished to enjoy

Jun 25, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-book, favorites
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

― Henry David Thoreau,

I loved this novel! I’ve had this story downloaded for some time but I’ve always passed it over anticipating a dull and depressing slog…in spite of all the glowing reviews from my Goodreader friends. But, it was as compelling for me to read as any thriller. .The critic Morris Dickstein called Stoner,
"something rarer than a great novel -- it is a perfect novel, so
well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving, it take
Jul 23, 2015 Himanshu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Coming from its Greek roots, this word discovered its origin in early 20th century and found itself perfectly placed between the extremities of sympathy and apathy to satiate our need to express what we have been feeling for centuries long. To detach ourself from the de rigueur warmth of sympathy and the unfilial abyss of apathy. With my limited knowledge on such subjects I wonder what word would have given us this r
Jonathan Ashleigh
Nov 06, 2015 Jonathan Ashleigh rated it really liked it
Shelves: farm-shelf, recent
I would have never thought the bland life of an unfulfilled midwestern professor could be so grasping. Stoner is not someone you want to know or be related to but his struggles are real and worth knowing about. At times, it appears he will find contentment (he is able to get out of the laborious life led by his parents) but his hardships are rough and his life is never lived for himself.

Updated for the sake of convincing more people to read this book:

Now, if such a rating average does not make you want to read this book, then I don't know what else could possibly do so. Now go read this very-close-to-a-5-star-rating-guarantee-book ... now! *

Original review (November 19th, 2915)

I wasn’t prepared for this book to end. Although I kept telling myself I should read more slowly in order to absorb the astonishing beauty of John William’s writing style, the pages flew past, Willi
Dec 31, 2015 ❀Julie rated it it was amazing
I was lucky to squeeze in a new favorite read right before the end of the year- this definitely holds up to its 5 star ratings. The sentences are so beautifully constructed with the line below being just one example of why I loved the writing:

“The love of literature, of language, of the mystery of the mind and heart showing themselves in the minute, strange, and unexpected combinations of letters and words, in the blackest and coldest print—the love which he had hidden as if it were illicit and
Lynne King

Dear Mr Williams,

May I call you John as I feel that I know you so well.

I do believe that there is a life in a different dimension and so I dearly hope that you will see this message from me. You may even be able to hear my thoughts as I write. I hope so.

Your book Stoner for some obscure reason has had such a dramatic effect on me. The life of an individual who initially appeared to lead such a pedestrian life and yet a book which burst forth with continual poetic prose, the like of which
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Around the Year i...: Stoner, by John Williams 12 55 Apr 22, 2016 11:30PM  
Best to be of a certain age to read this book... 35 271 Feb 20, 2016 02:32PM  
Around the World ...: Discussion for Stoner 17 86 Jul 13, 2015 03:29PM  
Stoner -- a real gem of a novel 20 267 May 29, 2015 06:22AM  
Goodreads Italia: Stoner di John Edward Williams - Commenti e discussione 80 248 Mar 03, 2015 10:47AM  
NYRB Classics: Stoner, by John Williams 10 163 Feb 25, 2015 11:17AM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name or a similar one. The middle name has been added to differentiate among them.

John Edward Williams was born on August 29, 1922, in Clarksville, Texas, near the Red River east of Paris, Texas and brought up in Texas. His grandparents were farmers; his stepfather was a janitor in a post office. After flunking out o
More about John Edward Williams...

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“Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.” 342 likes
“In his forty-third year William Stoner learned what others, much younger, had learned before him: that the person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.” 233 likes
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