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About the book
  • Published: 3 September 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099561545
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99


A Novel

The greatest rediscovered classic of recent years, Stoner is a literary legend - now repackaged with a more commercial, eye-catching and human-centred cover image.

Read the greatest rediscovered classic of recent years

'A beautiful, sad, utterly convincing account of an entire life' Ian McEwan
William Stoner enters the University of Missouri at nineteen to study agriculture. A seminar on English literature changes his life, and he never returns to work on his father's farm. Stoner becomes a teacher. He marries the wrong woman. His life is quiet, and after his death, his colleagues remember him rarely.

Yet with truthfulness, compassion and intense power, this novel uncovers a story of universal value - of the conflicts, defeats and victories of the human race that pass unrecorded by history - and in doing so reclaims the significance of an individual life.
'A brilliant, beautiful, inexorably sad, wise and elegant novel' Nick Hornby

‘A terrific novel of echoing sadness’ Julian Barnes

  • Pub date: 3 September 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099561545
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

John Williams

John Williams was born on August 29, 1922 in Clarksville, Texas. He served in the United States Army Air Force from 1942 to 1945 in China, Burma and India. The Swallow Press published his first novel, Nothing But the Night, in 1948, as well as his first book of poems, The Broken Landscape, in 1949. Macmillan published Williams' second novel, Butcher's Crossing, in 1960.
After recieving his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Denver, and his Ph.D from the University of Missouri, Williams returned in 1954 to the University of Denver where he taught literature and the craft of writing for thirty years. In 1963 Williams received a fellowship to study at Oxford University where where he received a Rockefeller grant enabling him to travel and research in Italy for his last novel, Augustus, published in 1972. John Williams died in Arkansas on March 4, 1994.

Also by John Williams

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Praise for Stoner

“I was stunned by it... It’s beautifully written in simple but brilliant prose, a novel of an ordinary life, an examination of a quiet tragedy, the work of a great but little-known writer”

Ruth Rendell, Guardian

“A masterpiece of sad lucidity, as moving as it is psychologically compelling”

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

“It is a remarkably affecting story, told in quiet, unshowy prose”

Stefan Collini, Times Literary Supplement

“In recent times I have owed more to word of mouth than to the statements of reviewers, when it comes to finding my way to rewarding work published or reissued… This is also true, or truer still, of Stoner”

Karl Miller, Times Literary Supplement

“My favourite book of the year...a masterpiece—beautifully written with a rare tenderness and wisdom that will make you want to read it again”

Jonathan Pugh, Daily Mail

“With prose of breathtaking clarity, and a narrative that flows along seamlessly, Williams subverts the American dream via an underachieving and rather unlucky university lecturer... Anyone who loves literature will surely love this”

Judy Moir, Herald

“The other book that cheered me up this year was Stoner by John Williams…re-emerging this year – rather triumphantly (and permanently this time, I think)”

Robin Robertson, Glasgow Sunday Herald

“A compassionate depiction of Everyman that celebrates the transformative power of literature”

Melonie Clarke, The Lady

“A beautiful, sad, utterly convincing account of an entire life… I’m amazed a novel this good escaped general attention for so long”

Ian McEwan

“A terrific novel of echoing sadness”

Julian Barnes

“Stoner is a brilliant, beautiful, inexorably sad, wise, and elegant novel”

Nick Hornby, The Believer

“I have read few novels as deep and as clear as John Williams' Stoner. It deserves to be called a quiet classic of American literature”

Chad Harbach

“One of the great forgotten novels of the past century. I have bought at least 50 copies of it in the past few years, using it as a gift for friends. It is universally adored by writers and readers alike. The book is so beautifully paced and cadenced that it deserves the status of classic”

Colum McCann, Guardian

“A beautiful and moving novel, as sweeping, intimate and mysterious as life itself”

Geoff Dyer

“One of the great unheralded 20th century American novels...Almost perfect”

Bret Easton Ellis

“It's simply a novel about a guy who goes to college and becomes a teacher. But its one of the most fascinating things that you've ever come across”

Tom Hanks, Time

“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...few stories this sad could be so secretly triumphant, or so exhilarating. Williams brings to Stoner's fate a quality of attention, a rare empathy, that shows us why this unassuming life was worth living.”

New York Times

“Rarely has the intimate detail of a life been drawn with such emotional clarity”

Simon Hammond, Observer New Review

“There are a handful of books that have made me want to be a better writer, that in their quiet way have shown me the potential of fiction. Stoner is one of those. It does not rely on flash or suspense or tricks -- it is simply a stunning novel that through the power of character and language becomes more timeless, more important, more real, than most novels can ever hope to be. Stoner is something rare and precious that should never be forgotten”

Eowyn Ivey, author of the international bestseller 'The Snow Child'

“I was stunned by it... It’s beautifully written in simple but brilliant prose, a novel of an ordinary life, an examination of a quiet tragedy, the work of a great but little-known writer”

Ruth Rendell, Guardian 'Books of the Year'

“The novel is filled with life’s most profound moments and passions”


“The most extraordinary work of fiction I've read in a long time... If you're looking for a book that's simple and subtle, warmly human and at the same time utterly pitiless in his rendition of the vicissitudes of an ordinary existence, here's one you will read again and again”

John Gray, New Statesman

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

The New Republic

“A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man”

New Yorker

“An exquisite study, bleak as a Hopper”

Los Angeles Times

“Simple and true”


“This quiet and elegant novel resonates long after reading”


“It is the literary equivalent of a leg of lamb so tender, easy-to-leave-the-bone and immaculately prepared you could eat it every day for the rest of your life; it is a feast for the soul, next to which snail porridge and garlic sorbet seem almost laughably unsatisfying.”

Huffington Post

“A slow burning but perfectly paced novel that shows how any unremarkable life is worthy of sincerity”

Richard Cole, Waterstones

“This sad but honourable story of an academic who makes the wrong decisions in what would appear to be a quiet, unremarkable life is the word-of-mouth hit of the summer. Read it and you’ll see why”

Daily Telegraph

“It’s as if this novel is about all of us: our hopes, disappointments and sorrows… This plain novel about a quiet life is a lesson in values, told with love and awe”

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

“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

“Reading this book was such a profound experience that I wanted to reread it almost immediately after I put it down… Stoner is a classic, beautifully written history of a simple man’s life. The intricacies, heartache and love are all laid out with perfect clarity and reality, compassion and significance”


“I defy anyone to read the final pages without feelings for this man, which is surely what Williams intended, since feeling is what has been missing from his life and those of others. The value that Stoner ascribes to literature, to a precision of language, each word in its place, is that to be found in this novel, which is remarkable precisely to the degree to which is unflinching in its observation and stunning in its humanity”

Christopher Bigsby, Times Higher Education

“It is a paean to life itself, the notion of love, and the suggestion that even the most mundane existence contains, within its heart and soul, all the fires of the world”

Irish Examiner

“A masterpiece of sad lucidity, as moving as it is psychologically compelling”

Sunday Times

“A subtle masterpiece”

Irish Times

“Without question one of the greatest forgotten novels of the 20th century – *Listed in ‘100 best things in the world right now!’ feature*”


“The prose reads as though Williams is composing chamber music for one”

Daily Telegraph

“The brilliance of Stoner...is to remind us that even the most outwardly unremarkable life inwardly blazes with passion, pain – and courage”

Sandra Parsons, Daily Mail

“Stoner is a wonderful novel, rich and sombre, a record of pain and less but also of moments of vision and tenderness... You'll just have to take my word that Stoner's narrative rhythm, its spacing of event, is flawless”

Adam Foulds, Independent

“It’s difficult to know how a novel could be any better”

Chris Patten, Tablet

“Enthralling and the overall effect is both a surprise and a delight”

Kathy Watson, Tablet

“Spare, wise, and utterly compelling”

Peter Brookes, The Times

“Probably one of my favourite books I've ever read”

Tom Odell, Observer

“Beautifully cadenced and understated in the most profound way”

Colum McCann, The Gloss

“Timeless and perfect”

Archie Bland, Independent

“Sometimes a novel comes along – something so good, so pure, so vibrant – that it doesn’t matter when it was written: it’s still going to be book of the year”

Colum McCann, Esquire

“Written in such beautiful prose that it seems effortless, but isn't. Like Stoner's life, there's nothing flash here but the book lingers long after you leave its final page”

Donal O'Donoghue, RTE Guide

“This delicately told story thoroughly deserves its second chance”

Katie Allen, Simple Things

“A quiet yet powerful reminder – if ever we needed one – that universities, and scholarship, do not represent a turning-away from the real world, but a full-on engagement with it”

James Underwood, Times Higher Education

“We defy you to read this quiet, haunting novel without raging, internally, that Stoner should let himself be so downtrodden, so overlooked”


“A very sad, poignant story”

Jeffrey Archer, Independent

“It was well good”

Hunter Davies, New Statesman

“A melancholic book, elegantly written… It reclaims the significance of an individual life”

Gerry Boland, Roscommon Herald

“A great literary western”

Western Morning News

“A tragic, elegantly written book”

Maureen Lipman, Daily Express

“A beautifully written story”

Rachel Carey, Times Higher Education Supplement

“A reading experience like no other, itself a romantic and melancholy tale of the power of literature, it is a novel to be savoured”

Bethan Mason, Pembrokeshire Herald

“A literary sensation.”

Trevor Lewis, The Sunday Times

“Deservedly a cult classic…a great novel in the purest sense… Stoner is a study of an ordinary life graced by quiet heroism. Unquestionably one of the finest novels of the 20th century, its genius lies in its candour and in prose that simmers with subtle intent.”

Irish Times

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Book Clubs
Book club discussion notes for Stoner by John Williams.

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