Read It or Else: “Stoner” by John Williams


Okay okay, I’ll add my voice to the throng championing Stoner, that famously forgotten-but-recently-rediscovered masterpiece. First published in 1965, the novel sold a whopping 2,000 copies, then fell out of print. Now, in 2013, Stoner is topping bestseller lists in Europe and finding a huge new readership in America, that’s right, almost fifty years later. Check out The Millions and NPR for the weird resurrection story.Stoner

The point is: Stoner has finally arrived. You’ll do yourself a favor, both intellectually and spiritually, by reading John William’s masterwork. I finished it in two sittings, and I can’t get the book out of my mind. The story follows the life of William Stoner, an average and forgettable instructor at a small university in Missouri. During the course of this quietly beautiful novel, Stoner comes of age amongst academia and literature, avoids military service, marries a cold and spiteful woman, enjoys a passionate affair, gets embroiled with a vindictive bureaucrat who stanches his career, and grows old.

That’s about it. Really. Nothing much happens. And believe it or not, it’s a damn page-turner. You’ll fall in love with these characters, and you won’t want the book to end.

Written with powerfully simple prose, and brimming with a brilliant author’s profound compassion for his characters—Stoner is (to echo the throng yet again) a perfect novel.