There are many ways to impress a lady, but showing her your collection of first edition Stephen King novels is not one of them. I spent a lot of time in my childhood investing in bullshit that I was told would be valuable some day. That must have been a baby boomer thing – all the stuff from their childhood somehow became valuable. Not so much with the children of the 1980s. “Better hold on to that,” they’d said. “It’s gonna be worth money someday,” they said. Comic books, Baseball cars, even books. “Hardcover first editions,” is what the mutant at B. Dalton bookstore told me in 1996.
I even kept all my CDs – for sentimental reasons. I wasn’t dumb enough to ever think they’d be worth money. CDs were never going to be worth anything, but guess what happened? Vinyl records came back and are now worth ridiculous amounts of money. Who the hell saw that coming? There is one basic rule when it comes to collecting: The larger a man’s collection becomes – the more his sex life is reduced.
Well, no one ever saw eBay coming, but it pretty much devalued the shit out of everything. My foray into investing was the equivalent to an adult losing their ass in the stock market. I kept everything in mint edition too, ready for “the flip” as they say. But it never came and now I’m a man in my thirties with a collection of junk that I need to get rid before anyone sees me with it.
You know who also likes to collect things? Serial killers. They collect “their victims”. With that being said – forgo the collection route and let us break down 40 Stephen King novels.
You will see many “Top Stephen King Novels” stories or various lists that rank his books – they are all false. Why? Because they are making lists just based off of popularity. In most cases – the popularity is due to a successful movie such as Pet Semetery and The Shining. Does this mean they were Stephen King’s best novels? No, not necessarily.
My list is made by one person who has individually read all of the books that they are rating. I’ve been reading Stephen King since my school forced us into the Bookit program in sixth grade. I’m sure this probably put me on a few “Possible Future Terrorist” lists, but oh well. As I’ve grown, I still read about one or two books of his a year. Yet, I feel the urge not to discuss it in public as I imagined I would’ve grown into better, more sophisticated literature at my age – and yet, I have not.
In my opinion – King’s longer novels seem to be his best. I believe it is due to the character development that he brings to his novels. The more we invest in the characters the more we invest in the story and thus, the payoff is more substantial when the novel comes to a resolution. I also see a correlation that his work from the late 1970s to the late 1980s tended to his best. Years later, I read that is approximately when he quit drinking and doing drugs – go figure. No wonder he wrote IT at 1000+ pages – he was all coked up at his typewriter, churning out page after page.
I’ve read 42 of his novels to be exact and 3 of his collections. I’ve read the books as far back as 1977s ‘Salem’s Lot to 2015’s Bazaar of Baddreams and many in between. When King was asked which of his own writings was his best he has repeatedly answered with Lisey’s Story though the book has not been widely received among his fans.
40. Gerald’s Game
While the 2017 Netflix Original film has garnered great reviews – the actual book is not one of King’s best. The book was widely panned upon it’s initial release in 1992. Gerald’s Game was referred to as part of King’s “Feminist Trilogy” by his fans, which also consisted of Delores Claiborne and Rose Madder. This is not a negative term, but simply King’s progression to female protagonists. Gerald’s Game takes place entirely inside a woman’s mind while she is chained to her bed. It is mostly psychological as she battles not only her way to freedom, but the dividing voices in her head. I give King credit for this book as it was unique and unlike any of his other stories at the time. It ultimately fails to entertain or intrigue the reader. The lack of dialogue makes the reader suffer as they are reading 300+ pages of someone’s thoughts which drags. The problem with the main character is that it is sometimes hard to feel sympathetic for her.
39. Rose Madder
I bought this book at a Giant Eagle at a heavily discounted rate when I was in 6th grade (1996). Not that it’s important, but it’s the most notable thing to me about this book: the fact that I can remember that I bought it at a Giant Eagle super market in 1996. I would soon go on to see why I got it so cheap. Similar to Gerald’s Game in that we have a female protagonist that is fighting for her life. The premise is an abused wife who goes on the lamb to escape her psycho, physically abusive cop husband. He tracks her down using his gumshoe skills, but she takes unusual solace in a painting she purchases second hand. I wouldn’t say any Stephen King book is really horrible, but this wasn’t his best.
The only book I’ve ever put down without finishing – in my life. I had huge expectations for this book as at that point King’s longer novels tended to be his best. Well, he proved us wrong on that one (and again with Under The Dome). I put this book down TWICE before finishing it on a third attempt. This book is unnecessarily long. It could have 200 pages cut easily. The pacing of the middle of the book is so slow and boring. It chronicles a man’s sleeping problems after his wife’s passing, but it leads to supernatural powers. The payoff is an okay ending, but it is still not worth it. If you want a cure for your Insomnia – this book might be it as it has put many to sleep.
37. Nightmares & Dreamscapes
It’s not that this collection of novellas and short stories was terrible – it’s that it doesnt leave any memoroble stories. Once again, I think King’s longer stories with solid premises are his best work. It’s a decent collection, but you prbably wont see any of these stories optioned for a movie. It’s a good option if you have simply read all his other work. If you want short stories – I’d recommend Different Seasons or even The Bazaar of Baddreams over this collection.
36. The Regulators
Written under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman, The Regulators was a companion piece to the simultaneously released King authored Desperation. I read this years after Desperation, so it was not fresh in my mind, but it didn’t need to be. The Regulators uses the same cast of characters but, in a parallel universe where a different premise is applied. There isn’t a huge connection between the two that really makes reading both books worth it. It’s just simply two different storylines with the same cast of characters but in different towns. The Regulators is based in Ohio and Desperation is based in Nevada.
35. Bag of Bones
I read this one immediately after it’s release in 1998. This was King’s first novel under his newly acquired employer – Scribner so there was lots of press promoting the book. Honestly, I found it boring. It touches on a similar vibe as Insomnia – a lonely man, holed up in an empty house (in this case – a cabin on the lake) who is experiencing some type of supernaturla phenomona. King usually has the protagonist as a white male author, similar to himself. “You write what you know,” as the saying goes. Without giving away much detail – the climax resolves the cabins supernatural past with a grisly event that happened there long ago.
34. Hearts in Atlantis
I know – everyone loved the Anthony Hopkins film – well that is only one of the four stories that actually make up this collection of novellas. Low Men in Yellow Coats seemed a little too out there and just plain stupid to me. I think King has a tendency to go a little “too-supernatural” to the point where you laugh to yourself and say “This is just dumb.” I will say this – Blind Willie is one of my favorites, not because it’s necessarily great, but because it is one of the most original, weird short stories I have read and pretty clever. I still remember it – 11 years after reading it.
33. The Bazaar of Baddreams
You will find that a lot of King’s collections round out the bottom of this list. If there was a standout from this collection it is Afterlife. I remember Afterlife being my favorite especially the part where he says “You say that every time you come here” to the main character who is dead, but doesn’t realize he is stuck in some type of purgatory . I found UR to be pretty lame as it was a shameless story that was just an endorsement for the Kindle. Mile 81 is reminiscent of of From A Buick 8 with the car eating people. Batman and Robinhood was interesting when the dad stabbed the truck driver. Most of these short stories deal with death.
32. From a Buick 8
Speaking of From a Buick 8. This book really isn’t that bad at all and extremely entertaining – it’s a quick read clocking in at under 400 pages – yes, that is short for a Stephen King novel. The novel follows a young kid who is serving as an intern at a local police station, the same station his fathered was employed at previously before being hit by a semi. The Buick 8 resides in a garage that no one is exactly sure how it arrived. The car seems to have superpowers (kind of lame, I know) and seems to teleport things from another universe. Kind of a dumb plot, but it was entertaining.
31. Finders Keepers
The second novel in the Bill Hodges Trilogy really has no ties to the other books other than the fact it takes place in the same neighborhood. It does stay in the same vein of the other two novels in that it’s another venture into detective territory for King and not horror. I had high hopes for this one, after reading the superior Mr Mercedes. It had all the makings of a great Cape Fear-like revenge story. This story was missing the darkness that Brady gave Mr Mercedes. It’s not a bad story, but at the end I couldn’t help but ask myself “How likely is it for a man to spend his whole life in prison and be so crazed and possessed to read some note books?” Money. Yeah, that would make sense, but this just didn’t seem realistic. The book starts off strong with a robbery that escalates leading to the protagonist’s imprisonment.
One of the better parts is how Morris Bellamy keeps getting passed up for parole when his victims states she is still grieving from the rape. There is a point where the timelines almost get mixed up within the story, at one point we jump back to Morris’ past as a child and how his mother didn’t think much of the Jimmy Gold books and then we jump to Peter’s current timeline while he is living in the same house. Also multiple characters are introduced rapidly and have multiple names such as Andrew Halliday then being referred to as Drew. I did like how Morris felt that Jimmy sold out and that he succumbed to the American dream – which was everything he stood – which was how Morris viewed himself and his why he took such offense to it. My advice to clean this book up would be too cut back on Peter’s family and have the story more about Morris in prison, Morris getting out and Morris terrorizing Peter.
30. The Green Mile
The Green Mile was the first Stephen King novel I ever read. It’s original release was actually structured as a “serial novel” meaning that the the story was broken up and released in six separate paperbacks… and also more expensive than buying one hardcover book, hmm, what a coincidence?! The story was pretty good. I feel like this was the beginning of King’s venture into more detective oriented work as it was actually quite clever storytelling and less horrific than his prior work. Many people rank this book higher in their King lists due to the movie, but it’s not one of his best books, even though the movie was so widely received.
29. End of Watch
The final entry in the Bill Hodges Trilogy. Decent, but no where close to the first – Mr Mercedes. It is great to have Brady return after his absence from Finders Keepers. The story has a strange premise of Brady brainwashing people through the use of a handheld video game – this made me laugh as it’s just straight up dumb.
28. Skeleton Crew
King’s second collection of stories after Night Shift. Not many notable stories here other than The Raft which was featured in Creepshow 2, directed by the legendary George Romero and The Mist which was adapted for television. Neither being that great in my opinion.
27. Dark Tower 5: Wolves of The Calla
I feel that Stephen King rushed to finish the rest of the Dark Tower books – and it starts with this one. King was hit by a car in 1999 and he realized that had he died, he would’ve never completed his magnum opus – The Dark Tower. He then wrote the final three novels within five years of the accident. And many were not pleased with the final additions. Especially after coming off of possibly the best two dark tower books ever – The Wastelands and Wizard and Glass. It all started with Wolves of The Calla, the weakest of the Dark Tower stories in my opinion. It had a setup that sounded like a war was going to take place, but it felt like a derailment from the the timeline of the Dark Tower story.
26. Dark Tower 7: Song of Susannach
A step above Wolves of The Calla and a much leaner publication with 200 pages less.
25. Dark Tower 6: The Dark Tower
This book should’ve ranked higher considering it is the final entry in The Dark Tower collection (well, not the final release see The Wind through the Keyhole. The expectations were high and the stakes even higher. Some of our main loved characters are killed off in this book and a resolution of Randall Flagg is finally made. The most provoking thing about this book is the ending King gives it – which I first yelled “Oh, bullshit!” when I read and finished the book. Looking back – it is the perfect ending for this collection and King knew best. I liken the reaction to the ending of this book similar to the ending of the final episode of The Sopranos.
24. Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger
Ah, where it all started. It starts of with a western theme of Roland chasing the man in black across the desert with his trusty revolver. One memorable scene is when Roland does LSD and sex with a ghost (oracle) in order to obtain information about the Man In Black, pretty out there. In the end, Roland catches up to him, but his answers remain. This novel is definitely more of a setup than a complete story, but its future holds much promise.
23. Under The Dome
Like Insomnia, I had high expectations for this book as it seemed to be another magnum opus in the same vein as The Stand and IT. Unfortunately, it was not. The story almost has too much of a wide cast of characters to make any of them count. The book does not start off slow like a predicted, it discusses the early stages of the dome becoming. It also depicts slicing a poor woodchuck in half that was actually from Kings 1970s manuscript. The First 300 pages are mainly learning the vast cast of the town. The book even provides a menu of who they are what they do in the town. This is definitely a needed resource as you find yourself many times forgetting who the hell “Scarecrow Joe’s” mom is compared to another mom who is equally forgettable. I feel Kings characters are definitely weaker and blander than usual in this novel.
Around pages 500-600 the story hits full gear and really picks up as I read these pages in about 2 days. I thoroughly enjoyed the grocery store scene as it seemed how King intended the original manuscript The Cannabils as a social joke tragedy. Big Jim reveals himself as a fat tyrant who rules the town with an iron fist behind the scenes with Sanders as his fall guy and first in command. Sanders eventually looses it after his wife and daughter both die and becomes friends with Chef as they go on a crystal meth high induced shootout at the radio station.
I was initially surprised that the big secret was that all the towns elites were in on making meth and wondered how this could be the cause of the dome. I found Carter Thibidoes growing resent for Jim Rennie, while they are stuck with one another, in the bomb shelter – interesting. It had many gross themes as do previous King novels, such as a three way which made me want to puke. I still wished there would have been an explanation to why children were all having seizures and kept emphasizing that “Halloween will be some type of judgment day”. I was also disappointed with the explanation of the transmitter (with the same symbol that was on It’s door) belonged to the Leatherheads (which I felt were boring lame monsters) who are much like children torturing the town like kids tortured ants. I did like the part where the girl comes back after Julia gets her ass kicked and offers her shirt and says “wear it home, it will look like a dress.” There was no sympathy in the girls eyes and yet no anger. It was simply humanity that somewhat felt bad for another human.
Overall the story featured much less gore than many of King’s past stories which is not a negative. It is more of his political/environmental opus that shows humans for what they really are – no more than ants under the magnifying glass. And how crazy and childish we can act when we are deprived of what we once had.
This book as reportedly the first book King wrote sober. In 1986, his family held an intervention and dumped out his wastebasket in front of him which was riddled with empty beer cans, liquor bottles, cocaine and endless cigarette butts. Well, his first venture into sobriety did not help his writing. Honestly, I didn’t feel it was that bad, I actually found aspects of this book hilarious in many ways – the way something should be funny. Under the Dome was the last SK book I read prior to this and found many similarities between the story:
-This is a “large complete town cast” of characters which sometimes makes it hard to remember who is who.
-The town is cut off from all outsiders and outsiders are unable to penetrate into it.
-An alien force is the cause.
I found the characters more likable and better developed than the characters in Under The Dome, who felt like bland people to me even by the end of the book. Gard is the most well fleshed out character and most likable. I feel Gard was inspired by Stephen’s alcoholic past and made for a great and entertaining character.
The first 200 pages start off well. It builds the lonely life of Bobbi Anderson and Jeff Gardner. I like how Tommyknockers is full of sub plots. It is something King’s later works missed. It leaves many questions and subplots to be resolved or answered, then the last 100 pages is just one thing happening after another, getting answered, giving the reader closure and tying up all the loose ends.
21. Delores Claiborne
An overall pretty entertaining read that made for a decent movie. The “King+Kathy Bates” formula works again. As with Gerald’s Game – this novel works the occurence of a solar eclipse into the storyline.
The companion peace to The Regulators, this was King’s last book with his former publisher Viking. Not a bad book at all. Especially for 1990s King. Every artist has their peak and Stephen King’s was the late 70s to late 80s. His work in 90s just lacked. Maybe it was the absence of drugs, maybe it was just the natural fatigue of writing your 20th novel and trying to be original without repeating yourself. Desperation takes place on a lonely Nevada highway where a family is taken into custody by a possessed police officer. We find out later there is a hidden past to the city of Desperation, that is the reason for Collie Entreagians demeanor. I found the history of the coal mine extremely interesting.
19. Black House
Stephen King teams up with Peter Straub once again to continue the tale of Jack Sawyer and his time traveling adventures. While this book isn’t quite the Talisman, it was quite entertaining and extremely disgusting at parts – an old man in an old folks home that does lewd things.
I never read this book during my original Stephen King book marathon when I was 12 because I had been highly aware of the movie (as most people are) so it didn’t leave much interest for me to read it. It was a pretty straight forward idea – family pet goes rabid and harrases family locked in car. To this day, I still thinks it’s a great premise but, lacked any mystery for me to want to read it.
As the years have passed and I’ve read more King books, I’m starting to get down to the titles I initially passed on. I try to save some of his early works (mid 70s to mid 80s) to read in the future as this was my (and many) favorite King era. Maybe it was because he was still doing a lot of cocaine (apparently he doesn’t even remember writing Cujo). Maybe the cocaine is the reason that Cujo has no chapters but, just one longed coked-up rant in story form.
After reading he was on drugs during the writing of this novel – my expectations actually increased for this book. I still think points in The Talisman and The Dead Zone where the storytelling pulls you in, must’ve been due to the fact he was on drugs. I honestly find myself thinking “Yeah. He was definitely on drugs when writing this section,” cause the story telling is so good it pulls you into it’s almost incoherent, chaotic ramble.
One thing that initially struck me was Vic’s acceptance with Donna cheating on him. I remember being shocked thinking “Well, I bet something horrible happens to her later that evens the score.” She cheats on him cause she feels old and alone. Come on, lady. Then Vic, the dumbass, buys this excuse and sympathizes with her. Honestly, I expected the story to be more fast paced and pull you in more than in that it really does. It kind of just dottles along at a medium pace. Almost too slow for a King book that is only 317 pages long,
The best part of the book was when Tad dies while Vic is killing Cujo. I honestly didn’t see it coming. I felt Cujos death was quite uneventful. He had only killed the one cop during the Pinto incident. And I felt like “That was it?!” when he finally died. No pay off. But I think King used that as a distraction to hit you with Tads death. Also I don’t think King presented Tad’s condition as serious to the reader as it should have been, which then made the reader feel like Tad still had more time than he really did.
King is great at having what I call “dual-heightening-builds” where a story has two or more sub plots going on that are both leading to their own separate climaxes. They rotate and switch off from one another from each chapter. Every time you think the issue is about to reach its climax and come to a resolution, he ends the chapter and switches to the other plot. I also like how the stories last line ends with how the rabbit that led Cujo down the hole which was the whole cause of the events.
I preferred The Dead Zone as a book much more over this one. I remember thinking that book as dragging but the way it finished so strong was quite impressive. Dr Sleep was more engaging than Cujo as well. Cujo is very simple, linear story that had a good premise, moderate to OK pacing
The movie made Kemp one of Vic’s peers which gives him more of a reason to be in the story line. Vic spots Donna and Kemp at his place talking at her car which gets the drama going. These are great rewrites for the screen because it tells you something without any dialogue in a shorter amount of time and most importantly it gives you a feeling like you know the suspicion and sickness Vic must feel when he sees her cheating. The movie added a few nice touches that enhanced the story such as Donna locking herself out of the car with Tad inside and Cujo not being dead after the bat incident.
17. Needful Things
Some may find this title a little high on the list given it’s reputation. I thought this book was a very original departure for King – instead of just focusing on horror, King focuses on people’s obsessions and the items that hold the object of their desire. In this case it is an antique store run by the suspicious Leland Gaunt, who you guessed it – is the incarnation of the devil. One woman seeks something to take away the pain of her arthritis and so on. Gaunt has a cure for all but his price isn’t the usual – not cash or credit, but a favor in return. Also known as King’s last “Castle Rock” story. There are some tie-ins to what happened in other Castle Rock stories here such as Thad Beumont from The Dark Half.
16. The Eyes of the Dragon
Not a horror story by any stretch of the imagination, but a pretty clever crafted fairytale about a prince and princess in medieval times. King wrote this story for his young daughter in 1985 hence the absence of violence from it. I have to say this is one of the smartest examples of King’s storytelling, it is also quite short which will make it more palatable to a wider arrange of readers.
15. The Dark Tower 2: The Drawing of The Three
Damn good story. This is really where the Dark Tower starts to gain momentum. All three characters are introduced to Roland after he draws them from a deck of cards. The lady of shadows, the prisoner and death. Roland travels to three different time periods to enocounter all three.
14. The Dark Half
By the late 80’s King was still churning out original ideas, and The Dark Half is definitely one of them. Starting from a not-so completely devoured twin, young Thad Beoumont has very bad headaches, which leads the doctors to discover the undissolved teeth and eye of his wombmate. As time goes on, this twin, “once removed” starts to take on a life of his own and threatens Thad to continue writing under his George Stark pseudonym.
13. The Shining
When Stanley Kubrick signed on to do the film adaptation, he called King personally and simply asked “Do you believe there is a god?” King responded with “Yes,” promptly before Kubrick hung up the phone. I re-read ‘Salems Lot in 2007 which was written around the same time as The Shining. Honestly, revisiting The Shining made me realize ‘Salems Lot was a much scarier, smarter novel than The Shining. Parts that Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film omitted from this book included Dick Hollaran attacking the hedge animals as well as Jack and Wendy Torrence’s back stories of both their parents.
Wendy never sneaks out the bathroom window in the book nor does Jack Torrence suffer his fate by freezing in the snow. In the book, Jack Torrence dies in the explosion when he tries to dump the boiler. King’s descriptions of alcoholism are extremely vivid and he paints a very detailed picture for the reader. There is a part about wasps bodies popping like popcorn in the book that is quite gruesome. The addition of Jack Nicholson’s bar scene was better than the book, where he desperately states “I’d do anything just for a glass of beer” which is missing in the book. Other differences include that Al Shockley owns the overlook in the book where as in the movie he’s just jacks sponsor.
The pacing was moderate to slow the first 80% of the book, then picked up at the end. As much as I loved Wings, Jack Nicholson’s performance is ten times better than Stephen Weber’s. He’s got being a pyscho down to a science.
12. Doctor Sleep
I’m going to come out and say that this book is actually more entertaining than The Shining. The Shining dragged at many points and wasn’t scary. Doctor Sleep however had excellent pacing and was more creative and weird.
Dan Torrence, the little boy from The Shining, is now 30, alcoholic, no family, no wife, nothing going for him and is constantly hung over. Dan is also roaming from place to place with no real purpose. Dick Hollaran makes a brief appearance as he talks through the dying body of a soon to be corpse, stating “It’s dark here, Doc. This place ain’t the same to me.” Danny is now a caretaker in a hospice so the book goes into vivid detail of the final faces of death, especially when it describes the “wide-open mouth” that humans exhibit upon death. This story has s similar resonance to Blackhouse, also with a clan called the “True Knot” that drives around in RVs, feeding off little children.
Doctor Sleep immediately grabs the reader’s attention off the bat. The book starts off with a young Danny still haunted by the ghosts from The Overlook Hotel. The concept of Dick telling him to put the ghosts in mental lock boxes was brilliant. Overall the book wasn’t as violent as many King novels which was refreshing as it kept your attention through the duration of the story. The only violent part I remember is before Snake-bite Andi is turned into a Vampyre, she slashes a guys cheek with a razor in a movie theatre before killing him.
The pacing of this story is excellent. Scribner took a lot of time editing this book as its release date was pushed back an entire year. Pages 250 – 350 slowed, but 400 – 520 were quite entertaining. I really like the idea of Danny as hospice worker with Azze the cat. I honestly thought this would play a bigger part in the novel, but not as much.
The ending was very emotional. At first, I didn’t recognize who the guy was that had been hit by the car, but when they said “Dan, I know you didn’t care much for him,” I remembered. Something about Dan answering a call for someone he disliked that was a very emotional ending to the story. I still don’t understand the line “somewhere close, a door opened.” Was that him leaving his body or some spirit entering the room?
11. Mr Mercedes
This novel along with Doctor Sleep renewed my belief that King is still a good writer even in his old age. Continuing on the success of his Joyland novel, he starts a detective trilogy as opposed to the horror genre which he is known for. The book starts off on a dark tone, as the antagonist, Brady, is a native terrorist who kills for unknown thrills. The protagonist, a retired cop by the name of Bill Hodges, is inferred to be suicidal because he sits with a revolver in his hand. The book touches on how retired cops have a high suicide rate. The novel is reminiscent of how Doctor Sleep, in that it also started off on a dark tone.I prefer when King drops the supernatural shit and just writes about people in realistic situations. My only qualm with this book was the incest parts, while not getting that graphics, I felt it was just a desperate attempt on Kings part to “shock us” and also explain the reasons why the antagonist is so deranged. Not typically a stock character but close – no girlfriend, computer savvy, no friends, momma’s boy. I have worked in the world of web development and let me tell you – we are not exactly viewed James Dean by outside world.
King is pretty good with the technical references such as Bittorrent and the Mac OS interface. He also gives us a great cliffhanger when Janey ( Bill’s love interest) takes Bill’s car and puts on his hat leading to Brady accidentally killing her. The novel works extremely well with King switching narratives back and forth between subchapters. One of the best moments of the book is the sympathy Jerome’s family feels for Bradey, when he is posing as handicapped, showing up at a concert in a wheel chair. The reader can’t help but feel what a sick bastard he is underneath his disguised veneer.
10. Different Seasons
One of King’s best collections of novellas. The collection is broken down into four stories – each one represent by a season. Hope Springs Eternal entails the story of Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption which was made into an award winning, 1993 film adaptation. Summer of Corruption consists of Apt Pupil which was made into a less successful film in 1997 which explores the past events of a Nazi. Fall from Innocence is The Body which some of you may be familiar with as the 1988 film Stand By Me. This is one of King’s greatest book-to-film adaptations along with Shawshank Redemption.
Misery tells the tale of obssessed reader who actually meets her favorite author and confines him to the seclusion of her own home due to an injury that leaves him immobile. The 1992 film starring Kathy Bates and James Caan has garnered this novel much more attention than King’s other works, but the book is still one of his finest moments. The pacing is just right and the book doesnt overstay its welcome with the reader by exceeding 400+ pages such as many of King’s works are prone to.
8. Pet Semetery/The Dead Zone
The only tie on the list. They are so neck and neck that I couldn’t pick one over the other. Pet Semetery is another big 1980s hit for King, both book-wise and film-wise. This was his last book with Doubleday Publishing, but one of his highest grossing novels of all time.
The Dead Zone was another ESP based book on the heels of The Shining. Psychic powers must have been all the rage in the 1970s as it worked for him twice.
7. Dark Tower 4: Wizard & Glass
Believed by many as the best Dark Tower book – I think it is great, but not the best. The storytelling is in true King fashion and builds as we explore Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower.
6.The Bachman Books
Before Stephen King was a household name, he actually had contractual limitations on how many books he was allowed to publish a year. The reason was that his publisher didn’t want him putting out too many books within a short amount time as it would dilute his sales. So, he created a pen name (pseudonym) Richard Bachman. These early stories included Rage (which King has requested to be pulled from bookshelves due to it’s school shooting theme), The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man. Copies of this are in high-demand as it is was published in a limited release by NAL Publishing and is the only way to obtain the story Rage. The Long Walk is my favorite King short story, followed by One for the Road, Afterlife.
5. Dark Tower 3: The Wastelands
The suicidal choochoo train was one of the coolest ideas Stephen King has ever put to paper. The opening attack scene with the mechanical bear is an awesome opening. The underground world of all the old machines and computers that no one knows how to repair or run could be a look into the future.
4. The Talisman
King’s first collaboration with fellow horror author/friend Peter Straub. This is one of King’s wordier novels and it’s probably Peter Straub’s narrative that is responsible for this. Later to be dubbed the Jack Sawyer Trilogy, the novel follows a young boy’s journey to save his mother who is dying of cancer. While I would initially think that a book about teleporting would sound pretty lame, this book was actually quite entertaining.
3. ‘Salems Lot
I remember thinking this book was okay when I first read it in 1997, but after the second reading I realize how great it was. The part where the vampire saws off the basement stairs and plants spikes on the basement floor – genius! Surely a must for any self-defense guru.
2. The Stand
Originally published at 700 pages in 1975 by Doubleday, the book was then re-issued in 1990 with an additional 300 pages that were cut from the first draft. At 1100 pages this book does not lag at all. The novel is an apocalyptic tale of a “good vs evil” tale set during the outbreak of a national super flu that kills roughly 99% of the entire population. The remaining 1% have dreams of either an elderly woman telling them to meet in Colorado or evil man telling them to meet in Vegas. How appropriate – the sinners meet up in Vegas.
King’s real magnum opus in my opinion, is not The Stand or The Dark Tower – it is “IT“. The story is divided into two main sections – adolescence and adulthood. It starts with eight rejects who charmingly refer to themselves as the “losers club”. Take note – the book is vastly different than from both the shitty 1990’s made-for-tv movie and the much more carefully crafted 2017 theatrical film. This is probably the best example of character development I have read in any literary work. It’s probably due to the scope of the novel spanning 1100 pages and ranging from the character’s childhood to adulthood. One of the few books that I was actually disappointed when it ended due to the fact the story was simply over.