So, you’re looking for the best Stephen King books? Well, friends, you’ve come to the right place! Known as the king of horror, Stephen King has masterfully crafted over 80 dark tales that are sure to keep you up at night. But with so many books, how do you know which story to pick up first? Whether you’re new to the horror genre or a die-hard King fan like me, these 10 best Stephen King books are must-reads! So scroll down, but only if you dare!
Ever since Halloween of 2017, I’m sure you’ve heard of Pennywise the dancing clown, or at least seen him. It’s hard to forget the sadistic smile of a clown emerging from a storm drain. Stephen King’s IT is a colossal book, equating to over 1,000 pages of pure, heart-stopping terror! The novel follows a group of 7 kids, The Losers, as they are tormented by an evil, killer clown over the course of several decades. in small town Derry, Maine.
IT was the first Stephen King book I ever read and I highly recommend it, as this novel not only showcases some of his finest writing but delivers character development that captures the nostalgia of youth that only childhood can bring.
2. The Shining
Redrum, redrum! The Shining is one of the most iconic horror flicks of all time… When I say “Here’s Johnny” tell me an ax didn’t just flash before your eyes? Now, I will admit the movie is good, but as the saying goes, the book is way better, and I cannot stress that enough! The endings of the book and movie are drastically different, and reading Stephen King’s ending to The Shining will leave you sleeping with one eye open at night.
Jack, Wendy, and little Danny Torrance, who is no ordinary boy, check in to the infamous Overlook Hotel for the winter season. In this slow-burn haunting, readers witness Jack’s sanity deteriorate as dark entities urge him to terrorize his wife and son. Next time you find yourself in a hotel, think twice before checking in to room 217!
3. The Stand
Seeing as we are in the midst of an actual pandemic, this book is more than fitting to read now, and it’s one of Stephen King’s most famous books!
In this post-apocalyptic work of dark science fiction, a deadly, weaponized virus nearly eliminates the entire United States population. The few survivors band together to try and rebuild their lost social systems from the ground up, as well as take a stand against a demonic dictator. After the year we’ve had with COVID-19, this novel offers a much-needed hopeful perspective on the nature of the human condition.
4. Salem’s Lot
Out of all the best Stephen King books, King himself has stated that Salem’s Lot was his favorite book to write. In this horror novel, writer Ben Mears returns to Salem’s Lot and discovers that his childhood town has more than one dark secret to keep… Hint: If you like vampires, then this book is for you!
“Cabin fever” is a gross understatement when it comes to Stephen King’s Misery. At the time when Stephen King wrote this book, he was having some troubles with his fans. On one particular plane ride, inspiration struck when he wondered what it would be like to be taken hostage by his number 1 fan… Cue fictional psychopath Annie Wilkes!
In this terrifying thriller, famous writer Paul Sheldon gets badly injured in a car accident, but his biggest fan, nurse Annie Wilkes, comes to his rescue (or so he thinks)! Paul soon realizes that he’s a prisoner, and will have to play by Annie’s rules if he wants to make it out alive.
6. Pet Semetary
Where would we be without the dogs and cats in our lives? But our pets, like all good things, must come to end… Right?
When the Creed family moves into their new home in Maine, life seems too good to be true, except for the creepy graveyard in the nearby woods where decades of dead pets have been laid to rest. In this bone-chilling story, King makes it clear that sometimes things are better left in the ground. Although morbid and disturbing at times, this book is truly a classic Stephen King must-read!
7. The Dark Tower Series
This legendary set of 8 books tells the story of the last gunslinger’s quest to the Dark Tower, using Western, magical, and even science fantasy themes. The truly incredible thing about these books is that it references many of his other works, including IT, The Stand, and Salem’s Lot, making this series the ultimate must-read for any Stephen King fan!
Have you ever wanted to go back in time and change just one little thing, like, say, a tragedy that changed the course of humanity? Well, in this suspenseful page-turner, high school English teacher Jake Epping goes back in time to try and prevent the assassination of former United States President John F. Kennedy. This epic novel pays homage to King’s excellent historical research and storytelling skills.
They say that dog is man’s best friend, but that is not the case in Stephen King’s Cujo! This is the story of a once lovable dog turned savage by a rabid bat bite, and the terror he wrecked on a small town in Maine (I’m not sure if you can tell by now, but Stephen King loves Maine). After reading this book, a cat sounds pretty good, am I right?
Prom has always been known as an unforgettable night for seniors, and in Carrie, this is no exception! All Carrie wants is to feel like a normal teenager, despite her psychic abilities. Constantly berated by her classmates and religious mother, on prom night Carrie is hoping things will finally be different. At first, prom seems too good to be true, but then things take a dark turn… And Carrie is hell-bent on getting her revenge!
This was King’s first novel, and truly the “Maine” (pun!) staple in any collection of best Stephen King books!
Bonus! On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
If you’re a die-hard Stephen King fan like me, consider reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft to really get an insight into the genius behind his storytelling. This book is a no-nonsense, no-fluff guide on the hard mechanics of writing literature. Any aspiring writer of any genre needs to read this book!
Which of these best Stephen King books was your favorite? Any nightmares? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
Feature Image Source: Personal photo from my own Stephen King library!
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