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4.29  ·  Rating details ·  121,473 ratings  ·  13,423 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 ...more
Paperback, NYRB Classics, US / CAN Edition, 278 pages
Published June 20th 2006 by New York Review Books (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)

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Average rating 4.29  · 
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 ·  121,473 ratings  ·  13,423 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nyrb, college
"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 ...more
Jim Fonseca
I read Stoner after I saw that almost all my friends on GR had read it. It’s an impressive work which I finished months ago but hard a hard time figuring out what to say about it with thousands of reviews already out there.

Stoner is the life story of an unremarkable man and the consensus seems to be “he did his best.” He came from a Missouri farm family and a poor background but manages to become an English professor at the university. One theme is the ‘loneliness’ and ‘distant courtesy’ of man
Oct 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Spoiler alert: read at your own peril.

UPDATE December 2010:

I just submitted this to Better Book Titles. I hope they accept it.

Original Review October 2009:
This is the most straight-forward linear narrative type of novel I've read in the past year. So at first, I was not impressed. But I soon realized that the novel is impressive precisely because it is able to be so damn linear, the writing style so damn plain, and the characters so damn dull and yet... and yet it manages to make me continue rea
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. The other, utterly different ones are Titus Groan/Gormenghast (which I reviewed HERE) and the Heaven and Hell trio (which I reviewed HERE). But it’s hard to explain its mesmerising power in a way that does it j
Glenn Russell
Jul 22, 2015 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 and occasionally downright hostile, a stark, demanding life chiseling character as can be seen above 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 starting point
Sean Barrs
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Bibliophiles, book junkies, obsessive readers and those that are lost in words.
Recommended to Sean Barrs by: Councillor's review

It was a hard decision; it was a choice between this and The Vegetarian by Hang Kang. But I had to think which book taught be the most, and which book helped me the most. I enjoyed them both immensely, I loved them, but this one set me on my path in life; thus, I will always be grateful for John Williams and his Stoner.

He opened the book; and as he did so it became not his own. He let his fingers rifle t
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
"… a quiet sadness for the common plight was never far beneath any moment of his living."

This novel damn near broke my heart. Come to think of it, it did break my heart. I’ve been picking up the pieces and trying to put them back together for the past eleven days since finishing it. I don’t know what else to say that hasn’t already been said about this exceptional piece of writing. We are William Stoner. Isn’t there a piece of him in every single one of us? We go about our lives with the best in
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 03, 2012 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
Paul Bryant
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
I asked my daughter if me and her and her mother were in a hot air balloon and it was about to crash into the ocean who would you throw out to keep the balloon aloft, me or your mother? She said she’d throw me out. I said Why? She said Because you’re bigger than her. So I said okay, imagine that me and your mother weigh exactly the same, then who would you throw out? She said she’d throw me out. I said why? She said because you’re older, so you’ve had your fun. So I said okay, imagine that me an ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stoner: My new favorite novel

Stoner is the opposite of what we wish for in life, it‘s the opposite of our idea that our hard work will pay off and that we will have a happy and fullfilled future, particularly in the context of pursuing an academic career. But it‘s also a declaration of love for literature.

Stoner/ book cover

Stoners story starts in a way that we would celebrate as great achievement of western culture and enlightenment. He is the son of a hard working but poor farmers family. His
Vit Babenco
Feb 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Career opportunities...
He saw the future in the institution to which he had committed himself and which he so imperfectly understood; he conceived himself changing in that future, but he saw the future itself as the instrument of change rather than its object.

William Stoner is a humble soldier of science, the one belonging to the majority of scholars. He is an outsider of life, honest and conscientious.
…he had gone through a kind of conversion, an epiphany of knowing something through words that
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i have started and stopped writing this review several times because i cant seem to find words big enough to do this book justice or words strong enough to hold how i feel about it.

this is a story about an average man living an every day life. it could be considered unglamorous, boring, and even frequently disappointing. but isnt life often unglamorous and boring and disappointing? and i think thats the genius of this novel. to take a common man and make you love him because you realise that yo
I have very conflicting emotions regarding this novel so I decided not to rate it. For almost half of the novel I thought all the 5* reviews were right and I was listening to a literary masterpiece. Then, something happened and I started to get pissed of by the author and Stoner. I still very much enjoyed the subtle beautiful prose but I could not ignore some aspects that bothered me. I will explain in more detail what I mean but there will be spoilers. Because of that, I will start with a short ...more
Jul 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic-novels
“William Stoner entered the University of Missouri as a freshman in the year 1910, at the age of nineteen. Eight years later, during the height of World War I, he received his Doctor of Philosophy degree and accepted an instructorship at the same University, where he taught until his death in 1956. He did not rise above the rank of assistant professor, and few students remembered him with any sharpness after they had taken his courses. When he died his colleagues made a memorial contribution of ...more
Maria Headley
Aug 27, 2007 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
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've read such an excessive amount of books, you might imagine I stumble upon treasures like Stoner every day. Ha! That's hilarious.

I read every day, and I discover through that process many good books and average books, but rarely do I find a life-altering gem such as this.

Stoner is one of those quiet, slow-paced novels that stabs you right in the heart with its painful, accurate knowledge about life and how most people live it. Yes, it's sad but true; the average person will have a less than
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The strongest of us are but the puniest weaklings, are but tinkling cymbals and sounding brass, before the eternal mystery."

Heartbreaking, beautiful and eloquent work of literature!

I felt John Williams`s Stoner was similar to reading a brilliantly written obituary, except that this was not a short account. The story covers Stoner`s early upbringing in his parents farm, school days, studying in the university, as a university professor, as a friend, husband, father and lover, and in the end
Mar 06, 2015 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
“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 (fictional

Albrecht Dürer: Job and his Wife

Vintage books seem to specialise in producing beautiful paperback editions of titles that have been out of print or have only recently been 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
Luca Ambrosino
Sep 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

«William Stoner entered the University of Missouri as a freshman in the year 1910, at the age of nineteen. Eight years later, during the height of World War I, he received his Doctor of Philosophy degree and accepted an instructorship at the same University, where he taught until his death in 1956. He did not rise above the rank of assistant professor, and few students remembered him with any sharpness after they had taken his courses. When he died his colleagues made
Mar 19, 2013 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
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Look! I am alive!"

Being alive, and feeling it, is more important than striving for perfect happiness, which is an illusion in any case, - that is what Stoner seems to say over the course of his life. And reading his story made me acutely aware of being alive myself, going through the range of emotions it inspired in me, from sadness and anger over tenderness and love to deeply felt satisfaction when I closed the novel.

Stoner is Don Quixote stuck in reality.

He has the same love of reading and
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The story evolves so gently and quietly that talking about it feels like tainting it and violently intruding on something that prefers to be left in peace. This has as much to do with the story’s subtle and eluding tone, as with the parallel narrative. Stoner is a quiet and gentle men with the purest of intentions, but which, as it often happens, get tainted when materialized. His life advances in an isolated manner, devoid of the force that transforms a thought into action or the knowledge of h ...more
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 unfor
Apr 22, 2014 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 tak
Adam Dalva
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly melancholy, wistful campus novel whose flurries of hope are always the perfect length - we root for Stoner, even knowing from the beginning where the story will end. There are incredible descriptions: marble stairs wearing down over 40 years; college greens stretching forever; memorable bodies on memorable characters; faces of loved ones flashing through light. And the supporting characters! One pleasure of this book is that no one, except a certain love interest, is particularly m ...more
Jan 17, 2014 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
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What's Next?: Book Review: Stoner 1 5 Jul 17, 2021 11:06AM  

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

John Edward Williams, Ph.D. (University of Missouri, 1954; M.A., University of Denver, 1950; B.A., U. of D., 1949), enlisted in the USAAF early in 1942, spending two and a half years as a sergeant in India and Burma. His first novel, Nothing But the Night, was published in 1948, and his first volume of poems, Th

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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.” 714 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.” 564 likes
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