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Stoner | [John Williams]

Stoner

William Stoner is born at the end of the 19th 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, far different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments.
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Publisher's Summary

William Stoner is born at the end of the 19th 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, far 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.

©1965 John Williams (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“A perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving, it takes your breath away." (Morris Dickstein, New York Times Book Review )

“A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man.” (New Yorker)

“An exquisite study, bleak as Hopper, of a hopelessly honest academic at a meretricious Midwestern university. I had not known…that the kind of unsparing portrait of failed marriage shown in Stoner existed before John Cheever.” (Los Angeles Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (688 )
5 star
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3 star
 (105)
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Overall
4.1 (585 )
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4.2 (578 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (17)
Performance
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  •  
    Wolfpacker Memphis, TN 12-09-14
    Wolfpacker Memphis, TN 12-09-14 Member Since 2014

    Curtis

    HELPFUL VOTES
    582
    ratings
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    331
    137
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    75
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "What a Depressing Life!"

    I found this book to be interesting to a degree, and I cared enough about William Stoner to want to finish it. Imagine a boring, depressing life. Then ask a friend to help you make it more boring and depressing. That's Stoner's life.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas More Billings, MT USA 11-15-14
    Thomas More Billings, MT USA 11-15-14 Member Since 2012

    Unafraid to read from any genre.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    139
    25
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    4
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not with a bang, but a whimper..."

    Here's a scary story for you. Not one with fictional creatures or supernatural occurrences, but instead, a novel that details all the quiet miseries and disappointments we work-a-day stiffs endure throughout the course of a lifetime. It is not an escape, but a story that forces you to confront the choices you have made in your own life. The writing is done with great care and intelligence, so that the reader gets the sense that WIlliams truly knows this academic world and its inhabitants.

    Stoner is so unsettling in its description of family and work life that I think we could cure the earth's overpopulation problem if this book became mandatory reading in the eighth grade.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annie Allerton 12-19-12

    DIY critic

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    3
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Stoicism rather than communicating"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I found it moving and some beautiful writing, but so bleak, so frustrating that he was unable to be more assertive and express his needs, and he was such a withered character in himself – depicted powerfully by the writer. However my sympathy was engaged with him and the other unfulfilled characters – his bitter wife, his destroyed daughter, the envious, revengeful and bitter academic rivals, and his briefly involved parents - like scarecrows in themselves.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rhonda USA 10-13-12
    Rhonda USA 10-13-12 Member Since 2014

    Rhonda478

    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
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    40
    38
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    Story
    "Depressing"

    It must have been very difficult for john Williams to write such a depressing book. Robin Field did an excellent job reading. Would look for him again.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RHONDA SWAIN GREENWOOD, IN United States 10-16-12
    RHONDA SWAIN GREENWOOD, IN United States 10-16-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    2
    2
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    0
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    Story
    "Not my cup of tea"
    What did you like best about Stoner? What did you like least?

    A Sad story of a lonely man.I guess the book was just not my cup of Tea.Even though the book was well written I justI wanted to take Stoner out for Ice Cream. I thought that might Cheer him up.


    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Howard Roark 05-20-15 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Leaves a mark"

    This is a beautiful depiction of a life in quiet desperation. But what was I expecting?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    satya 05-05-15
    satya 05-05-15 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    38
    27
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    0
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    Story
    "Morose beyond imagining"

    Morose! Some moments of intrigue and life are quickly smothered in a blanket of indifferent sadness. But I sat through it. I don't know how.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Eureka Springs, AR USA 04-15-15
    Amazon Customer Eureka Springs, AR USA 04-15-15

    perpetual student

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very touching"

    Born in a time and place when so much of the emotional life lies below any clear awareness and understanding, life empels Stoner into the tragic circumstances he accepts so stoically. He becomes a jewel caught in amber I grew to care for and even love.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Parola138 United States 04-14-15
    Parola138 United States 04-14-15 Listener Since 2005

    We bite

    HELPFUL VOTES
    324
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    123
    100
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    27
    1
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    Story
    "This is literature"

    This book, believe it or not, is NOT about smoking weed. No, it's about a kid who grows up on the farm and basically has no character, personality or goals in life. His family saves money and sends him to college to learn agriculture so that he can become a repeat of what his father has done his entire life.

    This story is not exciting by modern standards. It lacks vampires, soap-making and terrorism. However, the author has that special ability to paint very vivid pictures with very few words. It is the author's talent that makes me care about some random dude in a university during and after the first world war. I had never heard of this writer and by chance discovered him. He is quite talented. I thought I would hate this book based on the content, but the delivery and the crispness of each human subject that is introduced has that sort of magic that few books have.

    This is what you call literature- where though it is fictional, it is somehow truer than real life.

    Magic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Everett Harper Long Beach, CA USA 04-05-15
    Everett Harper Long Beach, CA USA 04-05-15
    ratings
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    1
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    "Not a "happy" book"

    Worth the read although depressing in sections. Beautiful writing and haunting images. Stick with it to the end and you'll be rewarded.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 21-30 of 55 results PREVIOUS12346NEXT
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  • hfffoman
    Kent
    7/6/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A thoroughly unenjoyable listen"
    Would you be willing to try another book from John Williams? Why or why not?

    This is my second John Williams novel. The first was good, but I won't try another


    How could the performance have been better?

    The performance was rasping and pedantic, like someone reading from the bible and making an effort to be as dull as possible.


    Any additional comments?

    I could not listen to the end. I don't mind that the story is sad and depressing. I do mind that Stoner's behaviour is not only exasperating but unconvincing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Cornwall, UK
    5/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An Unexpected Classic"

    This is a dry, quiet, stoical description of a complete life beginning in the 1890s and ending in the late 1950s. At the beginning, it seemed too dry, and I wondered whether I should continue. But, gradually, as the life of this quiet, socially-inhibited academic moves forward, it slowly exerted a grip, and I started to get eager to get back to it. It becomes a story about life itself. Happiness is ephemeral and Stoner often finds himself wondering what life should mean. A failed marriage, a beloved daughter who becomes distant, a touching but doomed love affair, and an academic career crowned by the writing of one solid but soon forgotten study of medieval English. It has moments of intense sadness and stoicism and the constant physicality of our ageing is a constant backcloth. Stoner reflects at the end, "If I had been stronger; if I had known more; if I could have understood". Unfortunately, none of us have a script before we start. We have to work it out as we go along. This novel is psychologically astute and captures the essence of what it means to be alive.I loved it. It was one of the best books I have come across. As I listened, I felt an excitement to be discovering a classic, where simple prose, has extraordinary, sometimes breathtaking, depth and power. Superb.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Gilly
    5/1/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A beautifully written book, beautifully read."
    Would you listen to Stoner again? Why?

    I may well. The gentleness of the story tells persuades me that there is much I will gain from a re-read.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Firstly, the start, describing him home life on the farm and later when he discovered what true love was.


    Any additional comments?

    Try it - it is different and better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Louisa
    Freshwater Bay, United Kingdom
    3/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dull and overrated."
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    There is no real plot and frankly one never really cares about the central character. A story does not have to be a bodice ripper or a ripping yarn but it does have to have a point and I didn't feel I got much out of the story or the characters.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • G
    Northampton, United Kingdom
    2/24/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Work of Art"
    What did you like best about this story?

    it's a beautiful slow melancholy tale of a normal persons life


    What does Robin Field bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    he's not a charismatic reader but suits the book well


    Any additional comments?

    recommended to me by a stranger in a bookshop as the best book she had read thanks for the tip.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rachel
    OXFORD, United Kingdom
    2/16/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Disappointing"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    A move eventful story, nothing much happened.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Robin Field’s performances?

    No, I found the narration tiresome though fitting to the story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Clare Dudman
    North West England
    1/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Perfect"

    A perfect book. Just an ordinary life - but beautifully told and beautifully read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Trea
    London, United Kingdom
    12/13/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Indeed a lost classic!"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    This was a wonderful, sad, truthful, engaging story of an ordinary man living out his time on earth in the best way he could manage. I've both read the book and listened to the audible version. The story and the characters engaged me thoroughly; however, I was entranced by the story despite the narrators best efforts. Field's rather exhausted voice almost pushed me away from listening. It was well worth my time to listen to this book, although I am glad I began by reading the book as I'm not sure if I'd listened from the start I would have been as engaged by the story.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked the quiet truth, the spare but poetic style of writing, the haunting, sad but almost heroic quality of this ordinary academic, caught in the trap of his own life. It was a thrill to uncover a novel and author that I had been previously unaware of.


    Did Robin Field do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

    Unfortunately, I am not a fan of this narrator's interpretation of the book. I felt he read in a flat-footed, exhausted and almost resigned manner. Perhaps the narrator chose to read the story in that way to reflect the oppressive quality of Stoner's life; however, I felt the story merited a voice with a bit more magic. The story rose above the narration in this case.


    Do you think Stoner needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No follow-up book would be appropriate, given the book's ending. The book as it stands is complete and so well-formed. The ending is quite remarkable as a frank, honest description of the last moments of a man's life. The author begins the book by describing Stoner as a man of no particular merit and thoroughly forgettable. Howver, as the story progresses and as I got to know him more fully, I began to appreciate and see the depth in this most ordinary man.


    Any additional comments?

    This story was a quiet revelation. It's sad and tragic tale, but there is a benevolence in the way the author brings to life this ordinary man. I urge anyone looking for a reflective, rather emotionally tough book to listen!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rebecca
    12/21/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Abdorbing"
    What made the experience of listening to Stoner the most enjoyable?

    Listening to the story unfold over the lifetime of Stoner. I spent a week just living in this story.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Being aware of Stoner's self discoveries about his life and his understanding of others' lives. The way he thinks.


    Any additional comments?

    I enjoyed the literary references which I'll now check out.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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