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Top 10 Stephen King Books of All Time


Top 10 Stephen King Books of All Time

Top 10 Stephen King Books of All Time

We live among walking legends, from LeBron James and Steven Spielberg to Paul McCartney and Meryl Streep. In the category of writing, Stephen King is among the very best. The 75-year-old from Maine has written countless classics, with a signature ability to both instill fear and keep readers helplessly attached to the plot.

Dubbed the “king of horror,” King is a living icon, still turning out quality material. Some of the scariest concepts that continue to creep you out, the clowns, the twins in the hallway, and the buried pets, are the handy work of King. It’s no wonder many consider him to be one of the greatest writers of all time.

But with such a vast portfolio of scary books to his name, where does one start? Relax, I’ve saved you some time and assembled the very best Stephen King books to enjoy as you cozy up and watch winter wind to a close.

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Salem’s Lot (1975)

Written during what many consider the height of King’s literary prowess, Salem’s Lot includes many of King’s favorite topics: A writer protagonist, a haunted mansion, hometown horror, and murder. But it’s also a vampire story, which is somewhat out of character for the supernatural storyteller. The novel’s slow start is hard to persevere through, and the layout is a bit outlandish and can feel like a soap opera, but at heart, this book is about the evil of humanity, and this reality keeps us gripped. Amazing storytelling, trope characters turned into real three-dimensional people, or vampires, lands Salem’s Lot in the top ten, but far from the head of the list.

Full Dark, No Stars (2010)

Like most authors, King started out writing short stories and novellas. And damn, does he know how to pack a punch in a few pages. Full Dark, No Stars is a compilation of four novellas that focus on the darkness of human nature and retribution. It’s easier to approach shorter stories cemented in the real world, especially if you’re new to horror and sci-fi, so be prepared to go full-fledged King fanatic after this read.

The titles include 1922 (about a man who murdered his wife), Big Driver (a drive home that went really, really poorly), Fair Extension (a man makes a deal with the actual devil), and A Good Marriage (I’ll let your imagination do the guessing). Each story compiles page-turning violence and gruesome situations that make you say, “How does this guy even come up with this?”

Misery (1987)

Expect A-plus gore, blood, and psychopaths worthy of sleepless nights and paper cuts. A No. 1 national bestseller, Misery is amazing and just go read it now. Famed novelist Paul Sheldon is taken in by his No. 1 fan after getting into a car accident in the middle of nowhere. She holds him hostage, forcing him to write another novel that brings a main character back to life. She motivates him through torture. You’ll be both terrified and captivated by the “bad guy,” the delusional Annie Wilkes.

The Stand (1978)

It’s a good ol’ end-of-the-world story. After an error by a Defense Department laboratory wipes out 99% of the population with super flu, survivors go absolutely berserk. Many readers, King fans or not, have called The Stand the best post-apocalyptic book ever. Needless to say, it did help define the genre and turn a ton of skeptics into sci-fi lovers. The common sentiment before reading this book is, “I didn’t think I’d like it,” and it’s the best book that hit us over the head and make us believers. To really reap the full effect, crack open this book when you’re sick and have a couple of down days to binge-read. Preferably in an isolated cabin away from society.

It (1986)

King shot himself in the foot and separated the true believers from the phonies when he decided to make It 1,000-plus pages. Sorry, Steve, but that’s too long. If you did manage to get through 1,000 pages of terrifying clown nightmare scenes, you probably fell in love with the book. (Stockholm syndrome perhaps.) It has become a cultural phenomenon and is one of those “my favorite books of all time!” novels people brag about reading 20 times. That’s because it’s relatable. We all have fears floating in the back of our consciousness that need to be confronted.

Pet Sematary (1983)

In theory, it’s about not wanting your beloved pet to die. Thanks to King’s hand, this No. 1 New York Times bestseller is artfully disturbing and yet relatable. A classic in the King canon and a must-read for fans and nonbelievers alike, Pet Sematary has been called “convincing”… as in when people read this book about raising animals from the grave they believe it. That is evidence of a seriously deft hand on King’s part. Many of his fans consider this in their top three favorites, saying it literally gives them nightmares. Better still, it’s a quick read that shoots straight to the nervous system.

The Green Mile (1996)

John Coffey arrives at a penitentiary to death row, “The Green Mile”, after being charged with murdering two girls. An intense journey of sadism, injustice, empathy, and racial bigotry follows and leads you to the verge of tears. The Green Mile was first released much like an HBO serial in six installments, spaced apart by six months. All six installments ended up on The New York Times bestsellers list and now the book is largely sold as one novel that is rich, beautiful, and truly sad, but also filled with those soul-inflating moments of pure human goodness. Every character has an edge and you really hate the bad guys.

The Dark Tower: Gunslinger (1982)

The Dark Tower series turned out to be a major hit for King, who wrote the first book in the 1980s. By this time, King had mastered the art of writing sentences that readers ate up quickly and that left them starving for more. King’s inspiration for this novel actually came from stitching together five short stories, melding them together with inspiration from the poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.” It took more than 12 years to finish this novel, which follows The Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead, in his quest to catch the man in black and get to The Dark Tower. All you need to know is many consider this series some of King’s best work ever, and the futuristic, Old West, apocalyptic sci-fi universe is fresh, cool, and mind-expanding. Fair warning: be prepared to binge-read the entire Dark Tower series. You don’t think you will, but you will.

The Shining (1977)

If you don’t know this story, shame on you. And if you’ve only seen the film, double shame. Jack Torrance takes his wife and kid to the Overlook Hotel, where he will work as the offseason caretaker. It’s winter, desolate, and surprise, surprise, the hotel is haunted. Wildly imaginative yet somehow realistic, we never question the bizarre events in this novel, which is a major feat. King came out with the sequel, sort of, Doctor Sleep, which follows the little boy Danny when he’s an adult with supernatural abilities. Cut to the heart of King and begin here.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000)

Ever wonder how Stephen King comes up with all this wild shit? He tells you in his own words how he builds the architecture of each story, the details of every character, and the psychology of the perfect sentence. On Writing is a bible for anyone who wants to write and is a field guide for King fans who get a filling history of the author’s upbringing and how he came to be, well, The King. Yep, he used to be poor and got so many rejection letters they couldn’t fit on his wall. A brilliant book about a brilliant mind.

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Jordan Heath is a writer, artist, musician, and amateur historian. He’s the co-host of Campfire: Tales of the Strange and Unsettling and a contributing writer at Paranormality Magazine. A husband and father of five, this bonafide enthusiast of all things bizarre is on a personal quest to revel in the mysteries found in the blurry edges of our reality.

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  1. Pingback: 8 Horror Authors that Belong on Everyone’s Bookshelf

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