This has all come about because im trying to finish ‘Doctor Sleep’ and just can’t seem to find the time right now- but in a discussion at work was trying to find my favourite Stephen King book and simply couldn’t, so instead im going to list of his books that i simply consider essential reading for anybody. Im sure if you’ve read a host of Stephen King books and scroll the list it may not contain all of your personal favourites, but with over 50books in print theres a host to choose from and not everything can make the list. So lets get this started…..
For me this is the best piece of work that has ever come out of the very talented brain of Stephen King, and despite being well over 30years old now it still has the capacity to creep me out and downright scare me in places. This book at its heart a character driven horror piece that tells the tale of one man and his decent into madness and how this affects the family around him. Jack Torrence is a classic character from King, who is so well written, from the mentions of his childhood to his alcohol abuse problems that reading him slowly going mad and tormenting his family and young son is a truly scary experience. Add into this a host of ghosts (The lady in the bathtub is the worst) and a bunch of creepy hedge animals, a young boy with a supernatural ability and a final encounter between a son and his father that still holds up as a great end to any story and this has to be the best works of King. (Hence my eagerness to finish Doctor Sleep)
The Dark Tower
I know this isnt technically one book- but it is one story so i feel vindicated in including all 8 books here. And how could you not include the multi-story epic when it has to be one of the best- if not the best- multi book story ive ever read. The opening line will forever stay with me “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed” is the best chilling way to begin this tale, but where the book goes from there is so much more chilling, adventurous and emotionally engaging that there is no way i couldnt include this on the list. This is easily Kings most ambitious piece, and he admits this himself, and is clearly a labour of love and it shows in the depth of character development and the story telling. I can honestly say that i have never cared so much about fictional characters in a book that ive been anxious and worried about where it goes next and dreading the end (there was a tiny cry in between too)
The series follows Roland, that last of his king (Gunslinger) on a quest to find the Tower and save his world, but the story gets so much bigger, weirder and the cast grows enormously as the try to find the Tower and the Crimson king- all the while re-meeting the man in black. This is such an eclectic mix of genres its hard to describe or fit into any one- but one thing is for sure with this series it will stay with me forever for the characters and the end will never be forgotten.
This is the biggest of all of Stephen Kings books clocking in at a massive 1100 pages, and the story is epic enough to match the page count. This is a great post apocalyptic horror that matches good against evil all the through and plays host a deadly virus, ‘Captain Trips’ and a massive showdown at the end. This story contains a huge amount of characters to follow through, people to love and hate and a massive trail right across America that is filled with horrific moment after horrific moment and the dark spirit Randall Flagg (Who may later appear in the Dark Tower series) and that’s without mentioning the ‘Trashcan’ man. This is a hell of a ride from beginning to end and thoroughly deserves the huge page count as if a single moment was missing this tale would loose some of the allure and the shear horror it portrays.
This is Stephen Kings first published novel, and despite the some 49+ novels later is still one of the best works that King has written in my honest opinion, this may be due to the fact that when i read it i already knew the brilliance of King and had a bit of ‘rose tinted glasses’ towards the book but the fact that it still remains relevant today (a recent film remake) surely proves that this could be one of the best works he’s produced. The story is possibly the most broken down story that king has ever told, in terms of the fact that the book clearly has three stages to the story, one full of tension character development and build-up followed by a huge section of pure catastrophe and the book ends with the aftermath of this event. No other tale from King has ever been so linear, yet for some reason this approach not only works in ‘Carrie’ but also adds a real feeling of impending doom and makes the reader anxious all the way through the first third of the book keeping you engaged at all times. The book tells the story of a young shy high school girl who possesses telekinetic abilities and due to a combination of a horrible and torturous upbringing and family life and bullying within school decides the time has come to put a stop to it all by using these abilities to exact revenge on everyone who has been teasing her leading to one of the worst disasters in American History. This is one of the most commonly banned books in the USA, due to its portrayal of high school violence and the books usage of fictional newspaper clippings and articles to tell some of the story- but that just adds to the fact that this book is a clear must read.
Stephen King hit a real home-run with this book, despite it being another massive release topping 1000pages as it introduced the world to ‘Pennywise’ the clown and brought to life many peoples irrational fear of clowns and make it seem alot more rational. This is a dark title and story and most of that has to do with the fact that the majority of the story is about a group of children, who are affectionately dubbed “The losers club” having to fight and deal with the horrible supernatural evil that is ‘Pennywise’ lurking in the sewers of their hometown and kidnapping and eating children. King then forces this group to re-face their ultimate evil as adults, as it resurfaces and requires the group to re-band and defeat it once more- this is a great tale of friendship and horror that needs to be read, as PennyWise truly is a creepy villain worth it. and finally ‘They all float down here’
This is literally the second Stephen King book that i read, along time ago though, but it has stayed with me ever since and that’s the reason its made this list. It hasnt stayed with me out of horror, like IT or out of huge character development and heartbreak like ‘The Dark Tower’ but simple because it is a vampire tale that really does get the villains right. I know in an age were Vampie tales are a dime a dozen (some of them even have sparkly vampires- I mean really) that a book from 1975 may seem out of place but this tale keeps the vampires as violent, eternal and scary monsters just like they should be. The story takes place in a small and isolated town, where vampires are kidnapping children and the sheer isolation of the town to begin with along with the small band of good hearted citizens trying to save them just helps add to the feeling of doom and isolation for this town and they’re helplessness. For true vampires this is a story well worth reading.
That’s it- I really could go on but i need to keep it short. If you’ve never read any of the above I cant recommend them enough, so get to it.