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Stoner (New York Review Books Classics) [Kindle Edition]

John Williams , John Mcgahern
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (747 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 into a “proper” family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.

John Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. 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 unforgiving world.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This reprint of Williams's remarkable 1965 novel offers a window on early 20th century higher education in addition to its rich characterizations and seamless prose. Sent by his hard-scrabble farmer father to the University of Missouri to study agriculture, William Stoner is sidetracked by an obsessive love of literature and stimulated by a curmudgeonly old professor, Archer Sloane. Sloane helps Stoner avoid service in WWI, and Stoner eventually becomes an assistant professor. He then meets and marries a St. Louis beauty, Edith, who quickly subjugates her contemplative, passive husband. As decades pass, Stoner entrenches himself deep into the life of the mind, developing into a master teacher but never finding solace in the outside world. Stoner's single joy is Grace, their daughter, whom Edith appropriates as a weapon in her very personal war against Stoner's quest for inner peace. Williams (1922–1994) won the NBA for Augustus (1973), and NYRB will republish his western, Butch's Crossing next year. Williams's prose flows in a smooth, efficient current that demands contemplation. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"It’s simply a novel about a guy who goes to college and becomes a teacher. But it’s one of the most fascinating things that you’ve ever come across." — Tom Hanks, Time Magazine

"Stoner is written in the most plainspoken of styles….Its hero is an obscure academic who endures a series of personal and professional agonies. Yet the novel is utterly riveting, and for one simple reason: because the author, John Williams, treats his characters with such tender and ruthless honesty that we cannot help but love them." — Steve Almond, Tin House

"[T]he work deserves to be called a 'perfect novel' — there's not a misplaced word or a trace of contrivance." -Boldtype

"The best book I read in 2007 was Stoner by John Williams. It’s perhaps the best book I’ve read in years." -Stephen Elliott, The Believer

"John Williams's Stoner is something rarer than a great novel - it is a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving, that it takes your breath away." -The New York Times Book Review

"Williams didn't write much compared with some novelists, but everything he did was exceedingly fine...it's a shame that he's not more often read today...But it's great that at least two of his novels [Stoner, Butcher's Crossing] have found their way back into print." -The Denver Post

“A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man” —The New Yorker

“Why isn’t this book famous…Very few novels in English, or literary productions of any kind, have come anywhere near its level for human wisdom or as a work of art.” —C.P. Snow

“Serious, beautiful and affecting, what makes Stoner so impressive is the contained intensity the author and character share.” —...

Product Details

  • File Size: 590 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1590171993
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (May 5, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003K15IF8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,790 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
237 of 242 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hero or A Loser? July 1, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
On the first page of this fine novel the author tells us that the protagonist is a man of no particular esteem, a university professor who, after 38 years of teaching at the University of Missouri rose no higher than the lowly rank of Assistant Professor.

William Stoner came to the University of Missouri from a poor farm, became entranced by medieval and renaissance English literature and went on to get a PhD in that field. He was a shy man, and throughout his life had but two real friends. His wife was not one of those two. Within a couple of months of marriage Stoner realized his marriage was doomed to failure. Early on, a situation arose at the university in which Stoner, adhering to principle, earned the lifelong enmity of his department head. Another situation arose that offered Stoner a chance at happiness, and that failed.

One reviewer of this book wrote that he didn't see why anyone would want to read this book about a loser. But was he a loser? In an interview the author, John Williams, stated that he felt that Professor Stoner was a "hero." Surely this is a story of a man who really never got anywhere in life, his marriage was a failure, his parenting poor, and he never was really a vibrant member of the university faculty. Yet in some ways Stoner never gave up. Lacking innate teaching skills he worked hard at it, and became a popular teacher. He was never bitter, and, though struggling as a parent and father, he held on.

So there are two ways of looking at our "hero" or "loser." I found the book to be a wonderfully different view of a man's life. Certainly we can identify with him in some of our own failures, with our own wishes that maybe somethings in our lives might have been different.
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262 of 272 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understated masterpiece, akin to Joyce and Tolstoy. July 18, 2003
Format:Paperback
I'd never heard of this author or this book until I read an essay about him in an old back issue of Ploughshares by the novelist Dan Wakefield. I was suspect, too, because I'm not one for academic novels, unless they're farcical, because the only thing there seems to be at stake in academic novels is tenure, which in my opinion, doesn't make for such great reading. Well, not so in Stoner. Stoner is a quiet look at a man's largely unheroic and drab life, "an adventureless tale" as Joyce wrote (and in many respects William Stoner, the protagonist, comes right out of Dubliners). The feat of this book is that Williams makes the diurnal and fairly dull activities of an academic utterly riveting. How does he do it? By not being precious or pretentious about it, which is how so many other writers would have handled the material. Instead, Williams believes in the integrity of his hero, for whom nothing is easily achieved, or for that matter, very attractive. Even Stoner's honeymoon is a fairly squalid affair, and somehow, as bad as the story gets -- and it doesn't get bad in a dramatic or gimmicky way, just bad in the sense that Stoner never really experiences any joy in his life -- we keep reading. The book is grim, yes, and yet it will leave you feeling oddly enthralled. Read it.
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93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book About a Small Ordinary Life March 14, 2004
By Mark
Format:Paperback
In this remarkable, overlooked work, John Williams chooses as his central character an undistinguished English professor (Stoner), who lives a largely uneventful life teaching at a drab Midwestern university. Neither Stoner's wife, nor his colleagues, nor his students think much of him. Yet the degree to which Williams succeeds in bringing the reader to identify with -- and care for -- his most unlikely protagonist is nothing short of a triumph. The final pages, in particular, are sad, transcendent, and unforgettable.
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69 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Marvelous Rediscovered American Novel August 5, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Every once in a while, a worthy but largely unknown novel registers on the literary radar screen and receives deserved attention. Dow Mossman's verbally hyperactive but extraordinary THE STONES OF SUMMER is one such example, rediscovered a few years ago by Mark Moskowitz's STONE READER documentary. John Williams's STONER is another, revitalized by Morris Dickstein's June 2007 paean in the New York Sunday Times Book Review. A thousand thanks, Mr. Dickstein - STONER is indeed a marvelous tale of American life and academia in the first half of the 20th Century.

Published in 1965, STONER was the second of Williams's three novels. Despite the date and serendipitous title, this is far from a beat or hippie generation story. To the contrary, hero William Stoner is a salt of the earth middle American, born and raised on a modest family farm in Missouri at the beginning of the 20th Century. Through intelligence, hard work, and good fortune, Stoner enters the University of Missouri to study modern agriculture. Williams presents his hero as a classically naïve farm boy, utterly awed by the buildings, the books, the other students, and the general aura of academe. All goes well until Stoner the freshman literature class of Archer Sloane. Despite being publicly embarrassed by Sloane for his inability to explain a Shakespearean sonnet about lost love (which also foreshadows his own later life), Stoner nevertheless discovers his true calling in literature. He changes majors, obtains his degree, and ultimately accepts a teaching position at his alma mater. One of his few good friends from the university, Dave Masters, subsequently describes the young Stoner with dead-on precision as "our own midwestern Don Quixote without his Sancho" - prophetic words, indeed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars for Stoner!
I felt an empathy towards the character. But, was very disappointed that at the end of the book he was almost destroyed. I have rarely read any book that treated academia well. Read more
Published 8 hours ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great book!
This is my kind of book. It is a quiet book. It is a character book.
Each character in this book is so well developed that I know I
would recognize him walking down the... Read more
Published 1 day ago by A. Rochester
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Sweet, sweet book
Published 1 day ago by Amos W. Perrine
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book
Published 2 days ago by Gillian Crowther
5.0 out of 5 stars Stoner is Everyman
One of the finest books I have ever read. Williams describes life in a way to connect in a profound way with each of his readers.
Published 3 days ago by Norma B Berlin
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like Literature you'll like this book. Very well written.
The book is a tour de force of writing. Somehow he gives away Stoner's entire life history in the first few pages and manages to turn a quite boring life into interesting reading. Read more
Published 3 days ago by LZSOB
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting
There's something haunting about this book. It is beautifully written and I'm going to try his other books too.
Published 4 days ago by Wendy R.
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, Mr. Professor
Stoner is a 50 year old book that is enjoying a recent renaissance. Set in the early 1900s, it details the story of a young Missouri farm boy, William Stoner, who discovers his... Read more
Published 4 days ago by K. Piers
3.0 out of 5 stars If you like life stories of semi-interesting people
If you like life stories of semi-interesting people, this is for you. I think the man Stoner needed to be fleshed out as to what kind of a teacher he was. Was he a Mr. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Riptorn
5.0 out of 5 stars I am better for knowing Stoner
One of the best Don't know how I missed it when it first came out. So glad I saw Steve Almond's article about the book in the NYTimes Magazine (May 14th I think) section last... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Hugh J. Maher
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