This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!
Stoner, John Williams
Although this book is called Stoner and begins during the college years of a young man, don’t get the wrong idea – Stoner is just the main character’s name. William Stoner was born to poor farming parents on a homestead in Missouri where he grew up during the early 20th century. His parents somehow found the money to send him to college to study agriculture, but after a couple of semesters he changed his major to English Literature and never looked back. Williams (note the “s” – I’m talking about the author now) beautifully records the love and loss that Stoner experiences throughout his life as a student and subsequently an assistant professor in his college town, and while some characters seem more believable than others, the overall result is an engaging story about love, integrity, and beauty as well as their opposites. I really enjoyed reading it, which actually kind of surprised me, as I usually enjoy “slice of life” novels more than extended life stories.
As for whether or not it should be on the 50Nifty list? The land and personality of Missouri comes through this text clearly, and I felt it was a wonderful choice for the state. From the farm where Stoner grew up to the personalities of his relatives to the college town he lived in, I felt like I understood something about the place after having read this book.
By the way, we’re over halfway through this project (can you believe it?) and you might be able to tell that although the reading part of it has been really fun for the most part, I’ve been writing less and less about the books each week. I’ll keep the series up as a way to record a few thoughts each week, but consider this my disclaimer for the length/literary legitimacy of future posts during the project!