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The Top 10 Best Stephen King Novels

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 5 7

Never was there or will be an author in the horror genre more recognized than Stephen King. Whether you have read his books or watched a movie based on one of them, you will be hard pressed not to have been exposed to his work at some point. However out of his 50+ published novels, 200+ short stories, and 5 non-fiction books there has got to be some bests.

Since the internet loves lists, let's list them!

under the dome

10. Under The Dome

Out of all the classic novels I could of picked, why pick King's 2009 novel Under the Dome? I read this book because the premise was so obviously ripped off from the 2007 Simpsons Movie. A town wakes up one day to find that they have been placed under a dome where no one can get in and no one can get out. Sometimes I find the sheer premise of King's novels so laughable I read them just for a chuckle, this was the case with Under The Dome.

Even though I bought Under The Dome to laugh at it, I was soon pleasantly surprised. Where the premise in The Simpsons was meant for humor, in Under The Dome it is meant for horror. It actually...Works pretty well! You basically get to see this small Maine town rebel against each other and slowly asphyxiate as their evil overlord captors did not have the foresight to poke holes in the dome for fresh air.

Under the Dome: A Novel
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9. Carrie

Carrie was Stephen King's first published novels and is still today considered one of his best. Nothing is more iconic than the scene in Carrie where she is doused in pig's blood at the prom. The story of Carrie follows a young and vulnerable teenager who is slowly developing telekinetic powers but is being abused by both her hardcore religious mother at home and her teenage peers at school. Abuse plus being able to do stuff with your mind is a potent combination that you just know will result in a gruesome tale.

What is great about Carrie is that it is still fairly relevant even in the modern age. Yeah, no kids are not terrorizing their bullies with telekinetic powers, but the theme of abuse certainly has not aged since 1974.

the dead zone

8. The Dead Zone

The Dead Zone is a classic little novel that spawned a pretty good television show. At least, the television show was good until the plot of the book ran out, then it fizzled into cancellation. The Dead Zone is the exploits of former school teacher Johnny Smith who wakes from a five year coma only to realize that he can see the past and futures of the people he touches.

The Dead Zone was one of the first Stephan King novels I read, so maybe my opinion on this one is kind of biased. This little novel is a fantastic read of a relatively old idea. My only complaint was that it was a little too short and while it started off really strong and interesting, when the book ended it felt a little bland.

the green mile

7. The Green Mile

The Green Mile is another King book that maybe was better as a movie. The Green Mile is a tale about the story of John Coffey who was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of two little girls. John's story is accounted through the character of Paul Edgecomb who works as a guard on death row. As it turns out, John Coffey is not only a sweet simpleton, but a gifted one at that.

The Green Mile the book tends to go on and can be a little dull at times, however the movie really did this book justice for me. Tom Hanks and the colorful cast of other actors really made the story come to life. Though that does not mean it was not a great book, I mean, you cannot have a great movie without great writing.

the shining

6. The Shining

One cannot recall The Shining without thinking of Jack Nicholson's iconic face screaming "Here's Johnny!" It is too bad to because King was actually not happy with the movie adaption for this particular novel.

The Shining follows the Torrance family as the patriarch Jack Torrance relocates his family to a secluded hotel in the Colorado Rockies in which he is to work as the winter caretaker. Jack hopes that the seclusion will help him rebuild his tattered marriage and career as an author, both of which were decimated by his alcoholism and explosive temper.

However, Jack's son Danny has been developing telepathic abilities, unknown to his parents. These abilities seem to make the supernatural presence in the hotel grow stronger. When the hotel cannot possess Danny, it instead possesses his father Jack.


5. Cujo

I would say Cujo was probably one of the most interesting reads for me. Nothing says terror like showing how deadly being trapped in a car can be! Cujo is one of those Stephen King books that shows how unremarkable situations can really turn into horrible and tragic times. Cujo is a classic that has scared people away from big, slobbering and possibly rabid dogs for years.

The story of Cujo mostly follows Donna Trenton as she feels increasingly abandoned and unloved by her husband who is often away for work. She decides to pursue an affair with a local handyman named Joe Cambers. Like any good mother would, she brings her son Tad along on one of her booty calls. However, when her ailing car breaks down at her lovers garage, she soon realizes that his lovingly large Saint Bernard dog has been driven mad with rabies.

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4. It

Some 25 years ago, a group of seven children did epic battle with a mysterious creature they refer to as It. They vowed, unsure of whether it was actually dead, to return to this small Maine town if It ever reappeared. It has become obvious that it did reappear so now they must return and fight it again.

It was the book the defined a fear of clowns, It has also since created a generation of people who hate clowns solely because of this book. Pennywise the clown is by far King's most disturbing and unique creature. However, what makes It a great read is the amount of character development. With seven different characters, if you are a fan of character development, you will find no shortage here. It is a great romp getting to know and love these characters from childhood to adulthood. Being that there are seven different characters, this is no small feat on the authors part.

Amazon Price: $8.99 Buy Now
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3. Misery

If you have not noticed, I am mostly a fan of Stephen King's "realistic" horror, as in situations that could actually happen. King can be a little far out there with his plots sometimes. Oh, there is a 1950's automobile that comes alive and kills? Sure. Clown that lives in the sewer? Why not. However, in Misery he paints a completely believable story about an author and the crazed woman that stalks and kidnaps him.

I am a great fan of both the book and the movie. The book was enthralling and horrifying and Kathy Bates brought all that shock to life in her acting. Sometimes it seems like Kathy Bates is a little too good at playing the crazed stalker of Annie Wilkes. What really makes this book shine and rate so high in my mind is how incredibly realistic it could be.

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(price as of Oct 6, 2013)
pet sematary

2. Pet Sematary

When a horror author writes a horror novel, then admits that he scared himself, you know you got something good. Such is the case with Pet Sematary. It is definitely not something to read if you have a toddler or care particularly deeply about the welfare of children. This will make you one insanely fretful mother.

The story follows Dr. Louis Creed and his family consisting of his wife, small child, and cat. He has recently moved himself from the business of Chicago to the idyllic and peaceful town of Ludlow, Maine. However, his house is poorly placed, next to a road where speedy cars kill dozens of neighborhood pets. So many pets that the children built a pet cemetery deep in the woods. However, deeper in the woods lies another cemetery, an Indian burial ground with mystical powers as Creed finds out when the family cat is killed.

Pet Sematary
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the dark tower

1. The Dark Tower

This number one spot cannot be argued. Though I will admit I am cheating a bit because The Dark Tower is not just one book but a series of, I believe, 8 books thus far. Picking the best book of The Dark Tower series is nigh impossible and I will not even try. The reason why this number one spot cannot be argued however is because Stephen King believes these books to be his magnum opus, his legacy, his best novels ever. And why not! They are great and he has put something like 22 years of effort into them.

These books follow Roland Deschain's quest for the "Dark Tower" which is alluded to as an actual place and a metaphor at times. There is really not any other way than to describe the plot of these books without describing them individually. What really hooks people about The Dark Tower series is the many genres it spans. It's fantasy, science fiction, western and horror all rolled into one magical ball of captivating goodness.

What is your Opinion?

This list is my personal opinion as a long time Stephen King fan, so of course you probably disagree with something on this list. Maybe the order, maybe the choice of books. maybe you thought Carrie was definitely better than The Dead Zone (somewhere deep in my heart I think I agree).

Leave a comment and let's discuss it!



Apr 11, 2013 5:29pm
Although my first King book was Carrie, long ago, I just took the plunge to reading the Tower Series this summer. I loved it, though I know others didn't. I felt so close to the characters, and felt sad when it was over. It also makes it clear King's books are all connected. In Lisey's Story, her husband can travel in different dimensions of time, and several characters in The Tower Series show up in other books. I can never think of The Shining without that picture of Jack Nick in my mind either! I also loved it, because we got to see how the kids who didn't fit in grew up, and Bag of Bones is a favorite. You did a good job.
May 18, 2013 6:19am
The Stand is also an outstanding novel, surprised you didn't include it on this list. Dark Tower is definitely #1 though, King himself called it his greatest work.
May 18, 2013 6:42am
I haven't read all the books in your list but I have, pretty much, seen all of them that were adapted for the big screen. A good book doesn't necessarily means a good movie (and vice versa). A personal favorite that I would probably include is Salem's Lot, though. Interesting article.
May 18, 2013 9:23am
"It" always comes #1 for me as it seemed to be the first time he really let the story develop organically taking over 1K pages (unlike the original version of "The Stand" in the late 1970s which suffered from severe editing to get it down to around 700 or so pages). # 2, for me, is "Rose Madder" (I think maybe three people read that one, but it's among his best, I think). Sure he's stumbled a few times ("Gerald's Game" being among his more forgettable).

Love him or hate him--I happen to love him--the man can write and his book "On Writing" was not only informative and helpful it was hilarious ("The adverb is not your friend"). Great list, Amerowolf! Ink-stained thumb's up!
May 18, 2013 12:04pm
My favorite is actually one of his novellas ... Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Most people know about this work from its adaptation for the silver screen, The Shawshank Redemption.
May 18, 2013 4:40pm
Whatever happened to The Stand? Good article though
Jun 21, 2013 4:03am
The Dark Tower is indisputably his best series. I fell in love with Matrim Cauthon because he was the one who brought Roland to his senses :)
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