Stephen King gives a wry smile at the camera at an event for the movie It

The 10 Best Stephen King Books Ranked

Stephen King has written one metric f**k-ton of books. The man has written so many books that he actually had to come up with a pseudonym in order to release MORE BOOKS because his publishers couldn’t keep up with him.

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So to celebrate the man who spars with internet transphobes and has spawned more movie adaptions than you can shake a stick at, let’s rank his best.

10. Misery

James Caan as Paul Sheldon in Misery
(Columbia Pictures)

Misery is a book about cocaine. I know what you’re thinking “but I’ve seen the movie with Kathy Bates and the only blow in it is a blow to the shins with a sledgehammer!” I understand, but you need to read between the lines. No pun intended.

Misery is about a famous novelist who, after being injured in a car crash, is nursed back to health by an adoring super fan. Things quickly take a turn for the worse when the author informs his Number #1 fan that a character from her favorite novel isn’t coming back. She locks the author in a bedroom and forces him to write a new novel starring her favorite character. Essentially it’s about an author who is compelled to write by a malevolent, all-consuming force. Cocaine. Annie Wilkes. They’re one and the same.

9. The Dead Zone

Adapted into a film by David Cronenberg, The Dead Zone tells the story of a high school teacher named Johnny Smith who develops psychic powers after a devastating car accident. After waking up from a coma, the doctors reveal that Johnny has a “dead zone” in his brain as a result of the accident. As a result, the other parts of his brain begin working overtime, granting him psychic powers! Whenever he makes skin-to-skin contact with a person, he gets a vision of their future. His life as changed after shaking hands with a sociopathic Bible salesman with delusions of grandeur who dreams of becoming president. Johnny realizes that the only way to stop a future nuclear war is to assassinate the man before he can take office. It’s a “would you kill Hitler if you had the chance” sort of story. Johnny’s answer? “Yes.”

8. The Shining

Homer Simpson in The Simpsons' parody of The Shining

While the film adaption of The Shining is hailed as one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces ever conceived, Stephen King famously hated it. It isn’t hard to see why. Kubrick’s icy cold vision of the haunted hotel takes out the burning heart of the original work.

The story is the same: Struggling author Jack Torrence is hired as a groundskeeper for the remote Overlook Hotel in the offseason. After bringing his family there, they soon become haunted by the specters of the hotel’s previous denizens. While the film version of Jack begins the story as an unsettling creepazoid, the novel version portrays Jack as a kindhearted father who falls victim to forces beyond his control. Far more sympathetic, and tragic.

7. Pet Sematary

Church the zombie cat from Pet Sematary looking creepy.
(Paramount Pictures)

Pet Sematary is one of King’s most personal books, penned after one of his children’s brush with death. The way King tells it, his son was playing near a busy street when he was nearly struck by a passing truck. King was able to pull his son away from the street just in time. Haunted by the experience, King wrote a story about what would have happened if he had been a second too late … and if there was a spooky place in the woods with the power to bring the dead back to life.

6. Salem’s Lot

Salem’s Lot is one of the best works of vampire horror ever told. The action takes place in the New England town Jerusalem’s Lot, known as Salem’s Lot by the locals due to all the creepy goings on there. After a mysterious, coffin-keeping stranger moves into a secluded mansion, the sleepy little town becomes plagued by the blood-sucking undead. Who can save them? Looks like a job for writer Ben Mears, college grad Susie Norton, and local 12-year-old boy Mark Petrie! For those looking to take on King’s Dark Tower series, the novel is an essential read for the introduction of Father Callahan, the vampire-fighting Catholic priest who appears in the series.

5. Carrie

Sissy Spacek in 'Carrie'
(MGM)

Carrie was Stephen King’s literary big break. It’s a tender and terrifying exploration of one of King’s major themes: coming of age. Carrie White is a shy, sensitive girl who lives a sheltered life in the care of her fanatically religious mother. “Care” might be the wrong word here, as Carrie’s mother is deeply abusive to her daughter in order to purge her of “impurity”. Carrie is shunned and bullied by her peers and lives a friendless existence. Things get worse when the poor girl begins exhibiting psychic powers, and has no way to control them. After Carrie is pushed too far by local bullies, she begins a bloody saga of revenge that will never be forgotten by the few who survive.

4. Different Seasons

Different Seasons is a collection of short stories that provides a home for arguably his greatest work: The Body. The Body is a departure from King’s blood and guts horror, and tells the story of four boys who embark on an adventure to see the body of a dead 12 year old on summer day. It’s perhaps King’s greatest coming of age story, chronicling the boys’ first ever experience with death. The concrete knowledge that the world is not a safe place, not even for children. The story was later adapted into the tear-jerking 1980’s blockbuster film Stand By Me. It’s impossible to experience this tale with dry eyes.

3. The Dark Tower series

A box set of Dark Tower books
(Simon & Schuster)

The Dark Tower is a seven-novel (plus one novella) epic about a gunslinger Roland Deschain and his Arthurian quest to find The Dark Tower, a mysterious nexus that serves at the center of the Stephen King multiverse. While The Dark Tower was published as seven books, it’s actually just one long meganovel. While the series suffers a bit from pacing issues, King makes up for it by providing readers with his most interesting character ever conceived: the taciturn, pragmatic, romantic, and ruthless gunslinger who will stop at nothing to complete his quest.

2. The Stand

In the not-too-distant future, the world is ravaged by a government-developed supervirus that causes the grisly death of over 99% of Earth’s population. The few survivors of the plague begin experiencing psychic visions depending on their moral character. The good are called to seek out America’s oldest woman east of the Rockies, while the evil are drawn to a dark figure who is attempting to build an empire in Las Vegas. The book is the ultimate good versus evil story, where the moral are called to make a final “stand” against the depraved to decide the fate of the new world.

1. It

Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) the evil clown in 'It: Chapter One'
(Warner Bros.)

It is remembered as King’s most terrifying story, but it is also one of his most beautiful. Every 27 years, the sleepy town of Derry, Maine is attacked by a nameless horror from beyond the stars. To better prey on Derry’s children, the creature takes the form of a clown named Pennywise. A group of seven kids make a successful stand against the cosmic horror and are called to defeat the monster for good 27 years later. It is an exploration of the fleeting magic of childhood, and a group of adults’ impossible attempt to recapture the halcyon days of youth.

(featured image: Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Warner Bros.)


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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels in crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.