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Top 5 Stephen King Novels from a Stephen King Fanatic

By Ally Bolender
Assistant Web Content Manager

With nearly 100 novels, 200 short-stories and at-least 83 movies based on his work, Stephen King’s writing and story-telling is something of its own kind. Because of that and his constant need to pump out more work, I haven’t even come close to reading even the most influential ones yet.

But, I have read upwards to thirty of his novels and short stories. So, if you’re trying to read more for your New Year’s Resolution, or miss that page-turning feeling a good book has or just want to try something new—pick up one of these.

 Take it from me, they’re good.

5. “Carrie”

“Carrie”was the first of King’s novels to introduce a blend of horror and I think that is why “Carrie” remains one of his most well-known novels. It was new, fresh and the debut of King’s horror voice.

This is the book that put King on the map, and rightfully so. This novel has everything from catholic-nun horror, a strange little girl, demonic powers—and of course–high school. The classic novel was made into the classic movie, “Carrie,” in 1976.

 If you’ve already seen the movie, don’t worry, the book is still better (and scarier in my opinion).

4. “End of Watch”

The final book of the “Mr. Mercedes” trilogy takes a dip into the supernatural genre. A serial killer (from the previous books in the trilogy) is stuck in a coma-like state and his mental ability is essentially non-existent. Except, he has telepathic abilities to manipulate people and objects.

This novel was gut-wrenching. It made me want to throw my book a few times and definitely had me on edge. It’s a bit different from King’s usual work but just as intense. It’s not necessary to read the trilogy in order. In fact, I read this one first and still found it my favorite.

3. “Firestarter” and “The Dark Half”

“Firestarter” and “The Dark Half” are going to be a tie. They’re both strangely different, but it’s too close of a call to pick my favorite of the two.

“Firestarter” was the very first novel I ever read by King. I rented it from my middle school library and immediately fell in love with the quick-paced storytelling, unique plot and general voice of King.

“Firestarter” is one of King’s very early books and is–in my opinion– more supernatural/science fiction and less horror than any of his other novels. The book is about a man and woman who meet at one of those experiments that pay you for participating.

Well, they fall in love and have a kid, and quickly realize something very unusual about the kid. For years, they try to run and hide but the government wants that child back–Eleven vibes for sure. “Firestarter” is a good book to get you into King and to follow a quick-paced story with lots of moving parts.

“The Dark Half” is about a not-so-great author named Thad Beaumont who begins to write under a pen name, “George Stark.” These new novels become very popular and the secret gets out.

For publicity, the Beaumonts hold a funeral for “George Stark,” but a real George Stark emerges from the grave and begins a gruesome and horrific killing spree, killing everyone that he thinks caused his death.

But Beaumont is the only one who knows who the killer is, and he isn’t even sure if he is real.

On the surface, this book sounds cliché, but it is good and so much more in-depth than I can describe to you. You will definitely be alongside Beaumont questioning what is real and what is not.

2. “Full Dark, No Stars”

“Full Dark, No Stars” is a collection of four of King’s short-stories (they aren’t very short). The short stories included in “Full Dark, No Stars” are “1922,“ “Big Driver,” “Fair Extensions” and “A Good Marriage.”

“1922” is a dark, eerie and unsettling tale about greed, murder and guilt–in that order. It is a story about crime and punishment, but in a typical Stephen King sort-of way.

Netflix has even turned this short story into a movie, but it’s not even as unsettling as the short-story itself. If you really liked gruesome, try “1922,” but you surely will not want to read before bed.

Before reading “Big Driver,” I wanted to include a trigger warning with this story in particular and emphasize that this story may be sensitive for some readers.

“Big Driver” is a bit of a cross between horror and thriller as the events involved are certainly very real, but certainly insane at the same time. “Big Driver” is a brutal revenge story of a woman who was raped by a truck driver, and finds out that she wasn’t the only one, just the only one that survived.

King holds nothing back in this story.

“Fair Extensions” somewhat eases the mood after reading something as heavy as “Big Driver.” “Fair Extensions” is about a cancer-stricken man who comes across a business to extend your life, but it comes with a cost. I won’t spoil anything because you really should give this one a read.

This short story is loaded with dark humor, the delivery is seamless, and the outcome appears effortless. If you aren’t totally on-board with the whole horror genre, you should start here. King takes the reader into one of his rabbit-hole storylines, where there is no such thing as impossible. 

The last short-story is, “A Good Marriage.” This short story is my favorite out of the collection. Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage while her husband of many years is away. Instead, she makes a horrifying discovery. Like, really horrifying. This novel is a great plot-twisting, on the edge of your seat type story.

And, finally…

1.“Doctor Sleep”

Look, don’t expect this novel to continue where “The Shining” left off. The sequel to “The Shining,” “Doctor Sleep,” starts off 40 years after the horrible events that happened at the Overlook Hotel.

Danny Torrance is well into his adulthood at this point but carries demons much as his father did.

Something I love about this novel is the protagonist, Abra. She is a strong, teenage-female character who works with Danny to fight evil forces.

Both Danny and Abra possess the power to “shine.” Danny acts as Abra’s mentor through the process of discovering her strength.

This book follows a more supernatural genre, not so much horror. Some readers argue it wasn’t written similar enough to “The Shining,” but I think that was the point. With a young woman protagonist, a man finding his purpose through her, a new type of evil antagonist and even a fight scene, it is supposed to be something new. How are you supposed to top “The Shining” anyways?

I hope these stories encourage you to reach out into new genres and maybe pick up a King novel next time you’re at Alkek! I can promise you that you won’t want to put it down.

Featured image by Ally Bolender via Canva.

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