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  • Published: 3 September 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099561545
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $22.99


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

  • Published: 3 September 2012
  • ISBN: 9780099561545
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

John Williams

John Williams was an author, editor and professor. Born in 1922 in Texas, he served in the United States Army Air Force from 1942 to 1945 in China, Burma and India. His first novel, Nothing But the Night, was published in 1948. After receiving his PhD in 1954, Williams returned to the University of Denver where he first studied to teach literature and creative writing for thirty years. It was during this time that he wrote the novels Butcher's Crossing (1960) and Stoner (1965). His last novel, Augustus, won the National Book Award in 1973. John Williams died in Arkansas in 1994.

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Praise for Stoner

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

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

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


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

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

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

I was stunned by it... 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 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

A brilliant, beautiful, inexorably sad, wise, and elegant novel

Nick Hornby, The Believer

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...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

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.

New York Times

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

New Statesman

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Stoner reading notes

Book club discussion notes for Stoner by John Williams.

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