Stoner by John Williams

81eAPjAhPBLFiction — print. University of Arkansas, 1988. First published 1973. 278 pgs. Received from PaperBackSwap.

A heartbreaking tale about living your life placating others and an exposition of roads untraveled, Stoner is a book that meanders its way through one man’s life, exposing everything wrong and everything right within in his world. Yet, in an inspirational way, the journey shows how William Stoner finds strength and solidarity through his exit. Though most of the book is written an a very straight-forward and simple manner, there are those passages within Stoner that make you stop and admire their beauty.

“The True, the Good, and the Beautiful They’re just around the corner, in the next corridor; they’re in the next book, the one you haven’t read, or in the next stack, the one you haven’t got to. But you’ll get to it someday. And when you do — when you do –” (pg. 29)

Williams draws beautiful characters, especially William Stoner, and as the pages left dwindle, I was torn between wanting this depressing novel to end and for the end to never come. One of the most enduring aspects of William Stoner is the fact that he comes alive within the first fifty pages thanks to the exposure to books in one literature class.

“Having come to his studies late, her felt the urgency of study. 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.” (pg. 26)

The only thing about Stoner that really bothered me was the wish for more than what Williams gave me — more detail, more exploration, more understanding. But I think this yearning also matches what Williams wants to show in William Stoner — that man always wants more — and maybe my feelings are exactly what he wanted to accomplish with the novel.


  1. I’ve never heard of this book before (the title makes you think it’ll be about something else), but your review has really piqued my interest. I’ll have to see if my library has a copy of this one.


  2. @ Steph: Yeah, the title is a little weird. I put it on my wish list for PaperBackSwap a while back, and then when it popped up I couldn’t remember what the book was about. My mom thought it was another one of Ellen Hopkins’ books based on the title.

    @ Vasilly: Thanks. It’s a great book, but it does has its moments where I wanted the story to just get on.


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