The 10 Best Stephen King Books

Updated July 28, 2017 by Quincy Miller

Stephen King's It
The Stand
We spent 47 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Undoubtedly one of the most prolific (and quite possibly one of the greatest) writers of our generation, Stephen King's books offer much more variety than the horror stories for which he became famous. Cozy up in a safe spot with one of these novels and lose yourself in the imagination of an extraordinarily creative, talented, and haunting storyteller -- that is, if you dare. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best stephen king book on Amazon.

10. Salem's Lot

Salem's Lot shares the story of Ben Mears, a troubled author who returns to his hometown to find dark things happening. It is King's second book and you can see how raw his style was when he started, so if you read later works you'll see how much he's grown as a writer.
  • very influential in the horror genre
  • great contemporary vampire novel
  • the ending is anticlimactic
Publisher Anchor
Model n/a
Weight 11.2 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. 11/22/63

King changes history in 11/22/63, a tale that centers around the death of JFK and the assassin that needed to be stopped. It's interesting to see how he interweaves historical facts with the make-believe to create vivid feelings and a plausible plot.
  • good for readers who dislike horror
  • humanizes lee harvey oswald
  • seems to stall midway through
Publisher King, Stephen
Model n/a
Weight 2.5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Pet Semetary

In Pet Semetary, an Indian burial ground has the ability to bring the dead back to life, although the main characters soon find out that it may be best to leave the dearly departed slumbering. Read this book and see if you ever feel like walking through a cemetery again.
  • probably king's creepiest story
  • terror is both real and supernatural
  • may be too macabre for some
Publisher Pocket Books
Model n/a
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. The Gunslinger

First published nearly 40 years ago, The Gunslinger is the first story in the Dark Tower series and still manages to captivate audiences today. The entire set is eight novels long, so if you enjoy it, you'll have plenty more follow-up books to read.
  • plot travels through parallel worlds
  • spellbinding tale of good vs evil
  • a bit short on action
Publisher King, Stephen
Model n/a
Weight 5.6 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

6. Stephen King's Carrie

Stephen King's Carrie is a story about a teen who gets bullied by her classmates and sets out to wreak vengeance. It's the kind of novel that will hit home with most readers, as we can all relate to having an elaborate revenge fantasy every now and then. Right?
  • king's first published book
  • uses unconventional storytelling
  • characters lack depth
Publisher Anchor
Model n/a
Weight 5 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. The Green Mile

The Green Mile tells the story of the guards who watch over prisoners on death row when a condemned man with magical powers enters their midst. It was originally published as a series and all volumes were on the best seller list simultaneously.
  • villains will make your blood boil
  • the kind of book you can't put down
  • can be a bit cutesy at times
Publisher Pocket Books
Model n/a
Weight 8 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

4. Misery: The Reissue Edition

Misery: The Reissue Edition is about a bestselling novelist who is being held captive by his greatest fan, a woman who happens to have evil plans. At just 352 pages, it is one of King's shorter novels and a good entry into his collection of masterpieces.
  • very realistic horror
  • extremely terrifying
  • gives glimpses into an author's life
Publisher Signet
Model n/a
Weight 6.2 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. Stephen King's It

If you're not already afraid of clowns, Stephen King's It will change your mind in a hurry. It's a story about a horrendous murder that took place in a small town in Maine 28 years ago and continues to haunt the characters well into their adult lives.
  • entire town is well-developed
  • lots of interrelated flashbacks
  • taps into deep childhood fears
Publisher PowerbookMedic
Model n/a
Weight 1 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. The Stand

See what the apocalypse looks like from Stephen King's point of view in The Stand. It's a towering story about an eerily-plausible super flu that kills 99% of the world's population within weeks of the outbreak. Despite its length, you'll probably finish it in a few days.
  • multiple horrifying villains
  • contains biblical undertones
  • perfect for science fiction lovers
Publisher Anchor
Model n/a
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. The Shining

His most popular novel, The Shining, is a chilling ghost story dealing with a caretaker and his family at a haunted hotel. If you like eerie tales that keep you both intrigued and frightened, then you owe it to yourself to read this book and enjoy King at his best.
  • psychological horror story
  • unflinching look at alcoholism
  • book that truly established king
Publisher Anchor
Model n/a
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

What Makes Stephen King Such a Popular Author?

There are several reasons why Stephen King is one of the best-selling authors of all-time, not the least of which is that King is a highly-structured technician. King plays to our fears, whether those fears are represented via the apocalypse (The Stand, The Mist), unrighteous confinement (Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Misery), isolation (Thinner, The Shining), or teenage angst (Carrie, The Body, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon). In every case, King presents these scenarios by way of characters who we can relate to. The struggles are common, and yet the conflicts remain other-worldly and bold.

The prose in a Stephen King book is well-written without feeling too dense or pretentiously wise. King's focus is on engaging the reader and drawing her in. He prioritizes page-turning over reading passages twice. Cynics might contend that Stephen King's work is entertaining without being refined. And yet it stands to reason that King authored On Writing, one of the most critically-acclaimed books ever published about literary craft and development of style.

Stephen King's work subverts motifs. King presents readers with a homicidal clown (It), for example, or a woman who has kidnapped a man (Misery). King presents us with a death-row messiah (The Green Mile). He intrigues readers by presenting them with a new way of thinking about a well-trodden path.

On top of all of this, Stephen King is prolific. He has written 56 novels, 11 short-story collections, and five nonfiction books. King was so prolific during the 1980s that he actually began publishing under a pseudonym (Richard Bachman) to provide himself more freedom and avoid any risk of overexposure.

Stephen King in Movies, Music, Television & More

Stephen King has been a household name for more than 40 years. Over that period he has extended his reach into various areas of pop culture. Most fans are aware that between 1992-2012 King played guitar in a literary rock band (i.e., The Rock Bottom Remainders) whose rotating line-up included: Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Sam Barry, Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver, and Robert Fulghum (among others). But King is lesser known for having written the liner notes that appeared on the inside jacket of a Ramones tribute album entitled We're a Happy Family in 2003.

In 1996, Stephen King collaborated with Michael Jackson on a 40-minute musical film entitled Ghosts. Around the same time, the heavy-metal band Slipknot began making sly references to Stephen King's novels in their lyrics.

Two of Stephen King's strongest novels from the 1970s - Carrie and The Shining - have been adapted into classic movies by auteur directors Brian De Palma and Stanley Kubrick, respectively. In fact, nearly 60 of Stephen King's novels or short stories have been adapted for film or television, with some of the more notable examples including: The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, The Green Mile, Misery, and It. Stephen King has made cameo appearances (a la Stan Lee) in a lot of the movies that have been adapted from his work.

Stephen King voiced himself via a season 12 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Insane Clown Poppy." King's work has further been referenced via numerous Simpsons Halloween specials, along with individual episodes of The Office, Family Guy, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and Stranger Things.

From July, 2003 to January, 2011, Stephen King wrote a pop-culture column for Entertainment Weekly that he called "The Pop of King."

Stephen King: A Life In Writing

Stephen King began writing as a child growing up in Durham, Maine. King was a fan of comic books and horror movies, and his interest was such that he and his brother wrote and published a homemade fanzine named Dave's Rag, which they distributed throughout local schools.

King had his first short stories published via sci-fi magazines while he was still a teenager. After graduating from the University of Maine, King submitted several pieces to popular men's publications while also working as an English teacher to pay the bills.

King's first significant break came when his novel Carrie got picked up by Doubleday in 1973. King followed Carrie with the even more haunting Salem's Lot in 1975. Amidst meteoric success and the death of his mother, King began to drink heavily. Hoping for a transition, he temporarily moved his family to Boulder, Colorado, where he was inspired to write The Shining, which came followed by The Stand.

Throughout the eighties, King continued to ride a wave of success. He commenced working on The Dark Tower series, and he published Christine. King's early novels were being adapted into successful screenplays, meanwhile, and though his novels continued topping the best-seller lists, some of his more recent efforts were being met by a lukewarm response.

In 1999, Stephen King was struck by a minivan while walking along the shoulder of the road on Route 5 in rural Maine. He suffered a collapsed lung, multiple leg fractures, severe lacerations, and a broken hip (among other things). Upon recovering, King went back to work. He has been churning out consistent novels ever since.

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Last updated on July 28, 2017 by Quincy Miller

Quincy is a writer who was born in Texas, but moved to Los Angeles to pursue his life-long dream of someday writing a second page to one of his screenplays.

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