Lists, Reviews

Stephen King: A Top Ten List

In case you’ve missed it (and yes, I’ve sort of beat readers over the head with it, but I’m excited – what can I say?), Wendy and I are hosting a Stephen King reading month – King’s March. It just so happens that this week’s top ten prompt, as hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is “favorite books from “x” genre”. In this case, x is equal to Stephen King. He’s published so much that he deserves his own genre, no?

Disclaimer: As I’ve not read all of his work, this list is neither definitive nor comprehensive. It is solely based on my good opinion – whatever that’s worth.



Bonus: The Dark Tower series. I ddn’t feel I could really include these without taking over the list. They belong in a category of their own (i.e. Stephen King’s magnum opus), but they do deserve at least a mention because they are fantastic.

10. Skeleton Crew. Most of the stories are good, but I adore The Mist. For the record, I hated the changed ending in the film version.

09. Lisey’s Story. King has gotten a lot of flak for not being able to write women, but this book proves that he can do it well.

08. Misery. In a rare combination: good book, good movie. (Like The Stand and The Shining, creepy Colorado…)

07. The Dead Zone. A rather melancholy novel, like Duma Key (review to come) it’s a tragedy all around.

06. The Long Walk. One of his Bachman books, this novel is almost a precursor to The Hunger Games. Plus, he’s quite succinct in this one. If anyone is looking for a short, solid Stephen King novel, this is a great one to start with.

05. ‘Salem’s Lot. A solid vampire story, but perhaps his greatest achievement is his use of place as character in this novel.

04. Pet Semetary. For me, this is the scariest novel of all because I can see myself reacting in exactly the same way.

03. IT. The reason I hate spiders and clowns can be directly attributed to this book. Side note: I cannot believe what I was allowed to read when I was younger.

02. The Stand. Possibly the definitive Stephen King standalone novel.

01. Bag of Bones. Deep down, Stephen King is a romantic. I’m not quite sure what it is about Mike and Jo  (and later, Mike and Mattie), but this book makes me an emotional train wreck in all of the best ways – a haunted love story.

It should take me another 2-3 years to finish working through the rest of Stephen King’s backlist. I’m curious if that will necessitate any changes to this list and I’m looking forward to finding out. I always feel like the odd King fan out as I didn’t particularly like Carrie and I downright loathed Gerald’s Game, yet I enjoyed the much maligned Needful Things and Desperation. Just in case anyone is wondering (because it’s popular), The Shining would have likely come in around #15.

For those of you who have read SK, do you have a favorite novel? And because I’ve never asked this, if you don’t read Stephen King, is there a particular reason why?


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  • Angie @Angela’s Anxious Life

    How crazy!! I did my list King too… but it’s almost totally different then yours! LOL!! Obviously I’ve read King.. but to be honest I have avoided IT. I am scared to read that book…SCARED!!!!

    My Top Ten

    • Rory

      Great mind, obviously.

      Not all parts of IT are scary, but there are a few parts that are downright terrifying. There are two scenes that vividly stick out in my mind to this day – and I first read the book 16 years ago.

  • Alice

    I’ve only read ‘Salems sLot – I’ve mentioned before that I’ve grown to find him difficult to get into. However, I want to try one of his books again this year, figure I’ll start with your favourite.

    • Rory

      I think Bag of Bones is one of his books that does a good job straddling the line between pure entertainment and literary fiction. I really enjoyed it (of course), but I think it could be good for someone who might not otherwise find King appealing.

  • Daphne Trumps

    you know, I’ve read a few of his books & I’ve loved what I’ve read, but I have not read ANY of these. my fave of the ones I’ve read is Gerald’s Game. I also really loved Carrie. great list. reminds me that I need to read more SK. Also, did you read & how did you feel about 11/22/63? that is going to be the next SK book I will read.

    • Rory

      Carrie was fine, but the handcuff scene in Gerald’s Game turns my stomach. Ick. 11/22/63 is very good – long, but so good.

  • Nish

    I think Pet Semetary and Misery are higher on my list (probably 1 and 2) than in yours, and I didn’t like the Dark Tower series at all.

    • Rory

      There are some days I might rank Pet Semetary as #1, of all the books, I think that one scared me the most overall (too close to the truth?). The Dark Towers series definitely starts stronger than it ends, but I do like it.

  • Lianne @

    And because I’ve never asked this, if you don’t read Stephen King, is there a particular reason why?

    I don’t know if I’ve told you this yet but I did read the first book in his Dark Tower series. It was all right, I guess I was expecting more from the first book in the series so yeah, I will eventually get around to the rest of the books, lol. Otherwise, the whole “too many books, so little time” reason I think is why I haven’t checked out more of his books xD

    My TTT

    • Rory

      It’s worth it, but sometimes I think what makes the Dark Tower series so beloved is the amazing connections to his other books. I don’t know, though I do know that I recommend them.

      And I definitely know the feeling of too many books, too little time.

  • Charleen

    He definitely gets his own category! I don’t know that I could rank all the ones I’ve read, but #1 without a doubt is The Green Mile, and The Dark Half would be a close #2.

    • Rory

      Those are two of my favorites as well, especially The Dark Half (which Thad, incidentally, is mentioned in Bag of Bones).

      • Charleen

        So, apparently once I get something in my head, I can’t get it out… so guess what today’s post is?

  • Liesel Hill

    It and The Stand are the only two I’ve read on this list. I really need to read more King. I actually really want to read The Shining, just so I can read Dr. Sleep. 😀 Great picks! Happy Tuesday!
    My TTT

    • Rory

      Happy Tuesday!

  • Samantha

    This picture is the best. The very best. Haha!

    The Dark Tower is very high on my list, so is The Shining and The Stand. I enjoyed Misery and The Green Mile as well, and IT. The characterization in IT is amazing. It was so much more than a horror novel, which surprised me, actually. I still have a lot more to get through, although I think the next ones I’ll be reading are ones that have Dark Tower references or ‘mentions’ of Roland Deschain. 🙂

    • Rory

      Thanks, I thought so too!

      I agree about IT, my childhood self had a big crush on child and adult Ben. Insomnia has quite a few Dark Tower connections.

  • Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

    I read The Mist separate from Skeleton Crew but really enjoyed it. Have yet to see the film though but have heard of all the hate regarding the ending so I haven’t felt inclined to seek it out. I really loved his Night Shift anthology, have you read that one? I Am the Doorway was terrifying. Salem’s Lot was pretty fantastic too. At this point I’ve only read 9 King books. Night Shift is my favorite. Still working up the courage to read The Stand though.

    • Rory

      I won’t give it away, but as SK left The Mist on a mildly hopeful note, the movie killed all hope. It was awful. The rest of the movie is pretty decent, so I recommend giving it a shot if you come across it at the library or something (but I don’t know that I would purposefully seek it out). I haven’t read Night Shift yet, but it’s sitting on my shelf. The Stand is long, but worth it. Pet Semetary scared me the most.

      • Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

        You haven’t read Night Shift? So there are actually King books you haven’t read? lol

        • Rory

          Haha yes, there are several, actually – a lot of the older ones (Eyes of the Dragon, From a Buick 8, etc.) I haven’t come across yet. I’ve read a few of the Night Shift stories that have been published elsewhere, but never the collection in its entirety. I really need to, I’ve read great things about The Man Who Loved Flowers and Last Rung on the Ladder and Sometimes they Come back… Sigh. Too much to read.

          • Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

            I started out with Carrie and for the most part have been reading only his older stuff. Tried going in order of publication but skipped The Stand because of its daunting size. I’m a wimp when it comes to big books.

          • Rory

            You know, I never liked Carrie… I don’t know why. Thankfully I didn’t read that one first (The Stand was first, then Bag of Bones, then IT, then The Shining…and then I lost track).

          • Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

            I think it went Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining then I started bouncing around and read The Mist by itself, Cycle of the Werewolf, In the Tall Grass…

            I only remember this because I only started reading King in 2011. lol

  • April @ The Steadfast Reader

    Stephen King is my sprit animal. 🙂 I love this list – you’re right on with Lisey’s Story. I feel like Rose Madder isn’t a bad novel for his ladies either.

    • Rory

      We share a spirit animal! And thank you.

      I agree about Rose Madder. I really enjoyed that one, actually, I read it when I was really young and had to ask what blue balls meant. Embarrassing moment.

  • Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies

    How awesome that you gave Stephen King his own list! (and I love the picture, too) I’ve read about half of your top 10, and I’m still (slowly) working my way through the Dark Tower series (I’ve read #1 – 3 so far). I loved 11/22/63 and Under the Dome, and loved rereading The Shining this past fall (and then Doctor Sleep). Misery would be on my top 10 King list for sure, probably Pet Semetary and a bunch of early books too. So hard to choose! I don’t usually read short stories, so I have a bunch of his collection yet to read, and I still haven’t read Lisey’s Story, even though it’s been on my shelf for a couple of years now. This is terrific!

    • Rory

      I thought that picture was hilarious. I loved 90% of Under the Dome, but was really let down by the end. I really enjoyed Lisey’s Story, but that seems to be hit or miss with everyone. As good as he is when he writes 1000+ page books, he is just as good in short story form.

  • Kate @ booksaremyfavouriteandbest

    As I may have mentioned, I’ve only read one King book, Carrie (and it was in the eighties so it doesn’t really count…). Not sure why I haven’t read any more, short of the fact that I don’t like horror and I don’t like books that make me feel scared.Perhaps I have King pegged all wrong?

    I do have his non-fiction book, On Writing, sitting in my TBR stack. That’s likely to be my next King.

    • Rory

      Some are scary, some are more literary fiction with a bit of scare in them and some are pure mysteries with no horror in them. Some are just rather gruesome (Gerald’s Game). And some are awful – Dreamcatcher and Cell specifically. Personally, I didn’t care for Carrie and if I had read that one first I don’t know if I would have continued.

      On Writing is excellent, I think you’ll like it.

  • Missie

    Truth be told I haven’t read any of these, but I have heard good things, I really should pick up more Stephen King!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

    • Rory

      You’ll at least have to give a chance someday.

  • Kelly

    I can’t believe how much of him you’ve read! I’m completely new to his work, with the exception of On Writing (which I don’t think counts, really.)

    • Rory

      On Writing absolutely counts!

      I’m making a pointed effort to read everything he’s written – whether good or bad. It has taken years so far and it will take many more (I’m averaging one story or book a month).

  • Words for Worms

    We’ve had this conversation before, but you know how chicken-y I am! That said, most of the King I’ve read I’ve really liked (The Stand, 11-22-63, and most recently The Green Mile.) I could not look at the doggone refrigerator magnets for weeks after Bag of Bones, I kept expecting messages from the other side. I clearly have issues.

    • Rory

      Until you, I had never thought of Bag of Bones as scary – sad, yes, but scary, no. But those refrigerator magnets are creepy, I guess they didn’t bother me because I knew the person using them didn’t want to hurt him I dunno…

      I like all three you’ve read too. Excellent choices.

  • Shannon @ River City Reading

    Ha! Love that picture. I have a pretty limited King scope, but I was a big fan of 11/22/63. I really do want to read The Stand, even more so now that it was so high on your list.

    • Rory

      Isn’t it great? I love seeing the personality of authors.

      The Stand is a must. I read a quote where Stephen King expressed a joking disappointment that his best work was written over 20 years ago.

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    I’m reading my first Stephen King — just for you guys! I’ve never read him before because I’m a scaredy pants and a lot of his books are horror.

    • Rory

      I’m honored. 🙂

      If you enjoy The Shining,but not the scary parts, you should give 11/22/63 or The Green Mile a try someday. They’re great without being scary.

  • Isi

    I have read The dome, and I liked it. I haven’t read much by SK mainly because I thought he only writes horror, and that’s not my thing, but a friend told me I was wrong and gave me some recommendations, and now I’m keen on reading more by him.
    For example, The long walk is on my list.

    • Rory

      He has a lot of books that are a little bit of everything (a little scary, a little mystery, a little love story…).

      I would definitely give The Long Walk a try. It’s very good.

  • Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    Sooooo glad The Long Walk is on this list. It’s probably my all-time favorite SK. But also I loved Gerald’s Game (talk about creepy sexual perversion, but you know SK likes to throw that into his books) and of course the classics like Carrie and Firestarter. . . . okay, this is harder than it seems. OH!!! GREEN MILE = outstanding books and really good movie.

    • Rory

      I liked Gerald’s Game until I got to the end handcuff scene and then I was totally grossed out. I would’ve died in the handcuffs, I think.

      I loved The Long Walk, it’s definitely my favorite Bachman book so far and I love reading precursors to popular dystopia.

  • Naomi

    I haven’t read a lot of SK (mostly a time thing). I read a couple of his scary books (Misery, for one) when I was in High School, and recently 11/22/63, which I really liked. The great thing about coming to this list late, is I get to see everyone’s favourites, so the next chance I have to pick up a SK book, it will be a good one!

    • Rory

      I started reading SK in high school and never stopped. One of my golden moments was in college when I discovered that my library had a big collection of Stephen King novels. I have no idea why, because otherwise they had very little fiction. I spent a lot of time hidden in the stacks reading when I should have been studying.

      That is a benefit – so much to choose from!

  • Cathy746books

    I wish I had seen this before I started March Madness! I have quite a lot of King novels in the 746 TBR pile and have never read any of his books. I will definetly read one in April (King’s April doesn’t have the same ring to it!). Is there any one you would particularly recommend?

    • Rory

      Of his “classic” books, I’d probably recommend Pet Semetary or ‘Salem’s Lot. If you’re looking for something a little less scary I’d would go for Bag of Bones or The Green Mile.

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  • Melinda @ The Book Musings

    I know I should, but I still haven’t read any Stephen King, because I’m such a scaredy cat!

    • Rory

      If you ever are feeling brave, I’d be happy to give you some non-scary ones (or, at the very least, less scary). He has a little something for everyone.

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