Stephen King is my all-time favorite horror writer. Although occasionally he’ll put out a book that falls short of his normally high standards, it’s hard not to pick up each new novel to see what his twisted imagination will conjure up next. Following are five books that I recommend as his all-time best. I’ve included very few plot details in order to avoid spoilers. At the end of each review is a comparison of the movie(s) made from the book:
#5. ‘Salem's Lot’: Before the sympathetic pop culture vampires of today, there was unabashedly evil Barlow. This character is the sole reason I simply avoid basements to this day. The story also nails it (no pun intended) with the creepy drizzly New England setting. Movie comparison (1979 mini-series): Too many details were changed from the book but the movie nonetheless has very eerie scenes. Note: while writing this article I learned there is a 2004 movie remake which I have not seen. Comments, anyone?
#4. ‘The Stand’: An epic length post-apocalyptic story in which the survivors segregate into good and evil camps for a proxy showdown between God and the Devil. The journey undertaken by the main characters in order to band against evil reminded me of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ novels. Movie comparison: A mini-series that had to leave out way too much from the book. A movie re-make is purportedly in the works for 2013.
#3. ‘Misery’: Arguably the most deliciously sinister plot of all his stories. The book is so absorbing that I was trying feverishly to figure out a way for the trapped protagonist to escape his hellish predicament. Movie comparison: A good movie with great actors but the details are tamed down, presumably for mass theatrical appeal.
#2. ‘Night Shift’: King’s first collection of short stories; they contain some of his most clever and diabolical premises. I recommend reading this book above all his others because of the bang for the buck (20 stories). Movie comparison: All but a couple of the stories were made into movies or screenplays. The best of them are ‘Children of the Corn’ and ‘Maximum Overdrive’ (although maybe I’m biased on these particular movies because I especially enjoyed the original stories).
#1. ‘Pet Sematary’: (Bleep) your pants scary. Plan on not turning off the lights between readings. Movie comparison: Not even in the same league as the novel. If you want to be scared, do not see the movie before reading the book.
Honorable Mention: ‘Cujo’, ‘Skeleton Crew’, 'The Long Walk' (as Richard Bachman)