King’s widely acknowledged as the master of paranormal terrors, but his real skill is his trademarked technique of intertwining the most unearthly storylines with familiar, everyday reality. And his latest book certainly hit the mark; it got us reminiscing about some of our favourite Stephen King novels of all time. Whether you’re new to the world of King, have only appreciated his work through the many movie adaptations, or have read all 54 titles in his repertoire, these are the ones you can read again and again… (if you dare).
If you’re not scared of clowns, you’ve clearly never read It. The ultimate heart-pounding book, this one follows seven children as they are terrorised by ‘It’, a being which takes on the shape of their nightmares; typically, a demonic clown known as Pennywise. Almost 30 years later, the children are adults and the horror of ‘It’ has been buried. Or so they think. The group now need to finish what they started and destroy the evil force once and for all.
“This book is terror on a level all other authors reach for but fall pitifully short of” – StephenKing.com Reader Reviews
The Shining is perhaps one of King’s most famous titles, and – if you haven’t read the book yet – chances are you’ll have seen the eponymous Jack Nicholson film (although the “HERE’S JOHNNY!” line never actually features in the book). Struggling writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance decides to take on the job of caretaker of a haunted hotel in the mountains with his wife and uniquely gifted young son. However, the Overlook Hotel’s past is slowly revealed, as the hotel attempts to claim the family’s souls.
“’The Shining’ did something that few books have ever managed to do: frighten me… Through only his pen, King manages to make the darkness of my room eerie and uncomfortable.” Paul Beimers Book Review
The Long Walk
Written when King was just 18 years old, The Long Walk packs as much of a punch as it did in 1979. It was actually written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman and is considered by many to be one of King’s finest (and most terrifying) books. The premise: 100 teenage boys take part in an annual walking competition, where each contestant must not drop below a certain pace. Three warnings and they’re shot dead. The 100 slowly whittles down to one, and the winner receives the ultimate prize: anything he wants, for the rest of his life.
“There are traces of The Long Walk in a great number of contemporary young adult novels – its DNA is all over ‘The Hunger Games’, for example – but, unlike so many of the books it has influenced, ‘The Long Walk’ is actually scary; threatening and unsettling.” – The Guardian
This horror story is set around a newly-opened shop called ‘Needful Things’ – a place where customers can find unusual objects that they’ve been longing for all their lives. The shop owner, Leland Gaunt, has just one request: that each customer carries out a little deed or practical joke. This spirals out of control and soon the whole town is battling one another. Will anyone work out Gaunt is behind it?
“Needful Things is like cooking a pot roast in a crock pot. It starts out slow, begins to simmer, and is a churning cauldron of deliciousness by the end.” – Goodreads Review
If you’re looking for an epic series to get your teeth into, look no further than ‘The Dark Tower’ series – an 8-volume saga that incorporates various genres, including sci-fi, fantasy, horror and Western. The books were initially released in instalments – meaning fans often had to wait up to five years to get their next fix! Fortunately, readers today don’t need to wait patiently and can buy the whole series in one go.
“The books are a mind-bending blend of genres… Rarely do we see a complete integration of genres at all, and never with the complexity King has achieved here.” – Best Fantasy Books Blog
The ultimate post-apocalyptic story, The Stand expands upon the happenings in his earlier short story Night Surf. Fans were delighted when a longer version of the novel was released 12 years after it was initially published. The threat in this book isn’t a ghost, clown or psychotic fan; it’s a flu-like illness, nicknamed ‘Captain Trips’ – a sickness that has killed off 99.4% of the world’s population.
“The Stand is a masterpiece, and I don’t use that word lightly. King says in the novel’s introduction that he “wanted to write a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings, only with an American setting”, and that’s absolutely what he did.” – The Guardian
Ever heard of Annie Wilkes? She’s the reason that every writer is wary of over-enthusiastic fans. It follows the infamous Wilkes as she kidnaps romance novelist Paul Sheldon – her favourite author – after he is involved in a car crash and forces him to write. Slowly but surely, she turns from being a slightly crazy number one fan to a psychotic, notorious serial killer. With just two main characters, there is never a dull moment in Misery; prepare to hold your breath as the suspense builds.
“Misery has everything: thrills, spills, shocks, romance (sort of) and laughs (yes, even amidst the carnage, you’ll find time for an open chuckle or two). All of which come thick and fast.” – Chris High Book Review
Duma Key is one of King’s more recent novels, published in 2008, telling the story of self-made millionaire Edgar Freemantle and his life after he is crushed by a crane. As well as losing one arm, he seriously damages his brain. His wife leaves him, and he is contemplating suicide when his doctor asks him if there’s anything that makes him happy – and there is: sketching. It turns out he has a talent, but Duma Key – where he is staying – is beginning to tighten its grip.
“In these scenes towards the end, King not only thickened the shadows and made things move in my peripheral vision, he kept me awake for hours afterwards while every image he’d drawn came at me out of the dark. I didn’t go to sleep till it was light outside”. – The Guardian
Published in 1996, Desperation came out at the same time as its “mirror” book, The Regulators. The two novels represented parallel universes, with some of the same characters in both. Desperation is a tale about several people who, as they travel along the deserted Highway 50 in Nevada, get kidnapped by the deputy of the fictional town of Desperation. The deputy has been possessed by Tak – an evil being – so before the captives can even think about fleeing Desperation, they need to begin their battle against evil.
“With this astonishing work, King again proves himself the premier literary barometer of our cultural clime… The terror is relentless – this is King’s scariest book since Misery.” – Publishers Weekly
Bag of Bones is told from the first-person perspective of a widower author with a serious case of writer’s block. Four years after the death of his wife, Mike Noonan is still mourning; he is haunted, both by spirits and by memories. Returning to the lakeside hideaway in Maine where they used to holiday, he discovers that his late wife may have hidden something from him. Mike’s path then crosses with Mattie and her young daughter and he feels compelled to help her. But will it end up being a battle for their lives? Both spooky and sentimental in equal measures.
“King depicts [Mike’s long bereavement] with an eye for the kind of small but moving details that don’t typically distinguish blockbuster horror novels… Inevitably, the everyday and the supernatural levels turn out to be connected.” – New York Times Review
Let us know what your favourite Stephen King book is in the comments box below.