What's your favorite Stephen King book?

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#1 Edited by liquiddragon (3553 posts) -

I haven't read any books of his. What's your favorite by him?

I'd appreciate it if it's just one recommendation per person. It gets too overwhelming when everyone suggests a bunch.

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#2 Edited by MonkeyKing1969 (7687 posts) -

I have only read his stuff written prior to 1985, and then Dolores Claiborne and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Given my very specific reading list, it the earlier books that I know and enjoy.

  • Carrie
  • 'Salem's Lot
  • The Shining
  • Roadwork, The Long Walk, The Running Man
  • The Dead Zone
  • Firestarter
  • Cujo
  • Christine
  • Pet Sematary

I was a weird kid, so I read most of his books when was was 10 -15 years old. The later books I read when they were published in my 20s. Psst, I don't think of Mr King as a very good writer. Nice ideas; but he is a poor wordsmith, makes overly long books.

If you want silly scary books go for Firestarter, Cujo, or Christine. If you want something slight more serious Carrie, Shining, Dead Zone and Pet Sematary. Th Bachman novels like Roadwork, The Long Walk, The Running Man are fun too. If you just want a creepy but more moder and adult books try Dolores Claiborne and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

Never read It or any of the Dark Tower stuff...my loss maybe.

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#3 Posted by Wemibelle (2650 posts) -

I'd probably say 11/22/63, although I'd need to read it a second time to be sure. It's a really interesting mix of historical fantasy and King's usual style of writing that I enjoyed quite a bit. I also reeeeeallly liked Joyland, despite being very atypical in style from King's usual writing.

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#4 Posted by Toastburner_B (472 posts) -

The only book of his that I really liked was 'Salem's Lot. The others I read were pretty "meh" imho. I actively hated The Stand and I can't remember why I bothered to finish it.

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#5 Edited by Barrock (4167 posts) -

Either Carrie, Salem's Lot or Misery are good starting points.

I've read a good portion of his stuff, but I have weird favorites. I really enjoy Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and Misery.

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#6 Posted by CreepingDeath0 (421 posts) -

Not 1 book, but The Dark Tower series is the best thing he has ever written.

When it comes to his more typical horror I actually find his full length novels somewhat lacking (with a few exceptions) but it's short stories where I feel he truly excels. Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of 4 great stories that I feel makes a good starting point.

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#7 Posted by stantongrouse (243 posts) -

The Running Man

It's not a horror per se, but I thought the tension throughout was really good. I was also one of the first book where I read it after seeing the film and couldn't understand how one came from the other. Both are great but so, so far apart it's a little weird. It's short too, more of a novella, so it's a quick read.

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#8 Edited by notnert427 (2294 posts) -

Probably The Green Mile. The Shining is also quite good.

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#9 Posted by not_a_bumblebee (152 posts) -

Stephen King's short story collections are the best. Skeleton Crew is my favorite because it contains The Mist and several other iconic stories. All his short story collections are worth reading as are his novella collections like Different Seasons, 4 Past Midnight, and my favorite The Bachman Books which contains his best novella The Long Walk.

As for actual novel I'd say either Misery or the book he co-wrote with Peter Straub called The Talisman.

I'm a huge fan of The Dark Tower series but it's hard to recommend something that is a huge undertaking which is just completely bonkers and like most epic series ends in disappointment. Seriously besides the Dark Tower series you have to read It, The Stand, Insomnia, Eyes of the Dragon, 'Salems Lot, Hearts in Atlantis, the aforementioned The Talisman and it's sequel Black House, several short stories, and a novella or two. There is probably several other novels I forgot. Seriously The Stand alone, which I love, is like 1100 pages and surprisingly important to The Dark Tower series. Again not something I recommend lightly or at all.

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#10 Posted by glots (4417 posts) -

I've really enjoyed a bunch of his short stories, but out of the novels, Pet Sematary might be my favorite.

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#11 Posted by SethMode (2100 posts) -

I'm here to second that the short stories are, in my opinion, his best stuff. A lot of even his better novels get bogged down in pages upon pages of endless prattling and make me wonder why the book is like, 600 pages. 11/22/63 was the most recent offender of this.

Having said that, I read his more recent book The Outsider, and actually liked it so much it made me want to read the trilogy of books it is sort of a sequel to. However, it's really hard to get myself excited for a book called "Mr. Mercedes" about a guy that kills people with a fucking car. Jesus Christ King and murder cars. (also, I know that it isn't *just* about a guy that kills with a car, The Outsider actually references enough of that trilogy of books that I have a pretty good idea what they're about and they still seem interesting -- I just found myself rolling my eyes at the title).

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#12 Edited by tds418 (523 posts) -

If you want to get into his epic fiction without comitting to the whole Dark Tower saga I remember really enjoying The Stand. I believe it's upwards of 1000+ pages but it's only one book, and King is generally a quick read. The beginning of the book I remember being quite creepy, so you'll still get a taste of his horror sensibilities. Salem's Lot and The Shining are obvious picks if you want to dive right into his traditional horror fare. As for his recent books (or somewhat recent), I too enjoyed 11/22/63 a lot. Interesting combination of historical-fiction and a somewhat surreal ending, IIRC.

(I know you said just to pick one but he has a lot of books!)

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#13 Posted by sparky_buzzsaw (8956 posts) -

Generally The Stand or It, but I'm also tremendously fond of Bag of Bones. It was quirky and heartfelt in some really fun ways, and felt like a breath of fresh air at the time. Of his shorter fiction, The Long Walk is a personal favorite.

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#14 Posted by cameron15 (5 posts) -

I like 11/22/63. But he has a lot of really nice books as for me.

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#15 Edited by ltcolumbo (194 posts) -

When I was a sophomore in high school, I spent five days in the in-school-suspension room for creating a piece of fine artwork inside a classmate’s notebook that culminated in a conversation with the vice principal which began “So what can you tell me about cornholing Mrs. Klimas?” It turns out that once you remove the teachers from classes, the actual coursework for an entire day of school only takes about 45 minutes, so I had seven hours to kill each day for a week. I passed that time by reading several Stephen King books, one of which was The Shining.

I was basically an adult at this point, and I read that book in a well-lit room, in the daytime, 5 feet away from the comforting chatter of secretaries, teachers, and passing students, and despite the completely safe and welcoming atmosphere, I went home every night that week and well beyond and spent the night with all the lights on freaking out at every subtle noise I heard. To this day, that is still the only piece of media that has ever truly scared me. Frankly, it terrified me and I still have a thing about long hallways full of closed doors. I do not know if it was his best novel, but I believe it to be his most effective novel. I read it twenty years ago, and it his only book I have not gone back and reread.

The Stand is probably the book that made me a fan. I don’t remember the differences between the versions of the Stand (the original was under 1000 pages, I think), but the interstitial chapters telling random stories about the downfall of society were effing brilliant, especially the rogue military troop and their game show. I was not a fan of the ending, but like most Stephen King books, it’s still worth reading for the rest of the trip there.

The Talisman was also fantastic, but the sequel was very disappointing. It’s definitely my favorite book that contains the phrase “perhaps thinking of his own substandard whanger.” I have spent the last couple years going through and listening to a lot of audiobooks on my daily drive, and I cannot recommend any of the Stephen King books read by Frank Muller enough. His voices for the spider who yells “Fushing Fief” at Jack in the Talisman and the lobstrocities in the Dark Tower novels are top notch. I don’t know about most people, but when I read, every character has the same voice- my voice. Having someone read it aloud with different voices and nuances is a completely different experience and makes re-“reading” totally worthwhile.

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#16 Posted by Efesell (4633 posts) -

I really like The Stand, and this topic reminds me of The Talisman that I totally read and remember liking but could not tell you a single thing about it.

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#17 Posted by BaconHound (304 posts) -

First, I love it that the OP says to list just one book and the first reply is a list of 9 titles. LOL.

Anyway, it's been a while, but I liked The Dark Half a lot.

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#18 Posted by SkyCladObserver (4 posts) -

I think Salem's Lot is my favorite. I also really liked the Stand, but it was super duper long.

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#19 Posted by jadegl (1414 posts) -

The Dead Zone

I absolutely love this book. It’s not really talked about much in comparison to his other early works, but it’s the one that has stuck with me the most.

And any of his short story collections are bangers, especially Night Shift imo.

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#20 Edited by Rahf (544 posts) -

OnWriting, which King started before the accident and finished after. I think it is one of the most interesting and possibly inspiring little books on writing prose. He goes through fundamentals, shoots some opinions on other work (mostly positive) and really lays his take on constructing the written word out there. Really, really recommend it for those of us with at least a passing interest in writing.

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#21 Posted by Manicshoes42 (2 posts) -

I've read a lot of Stephen King's "most famous" books and most of it is very hit and miss for me. Some books I could not put down and others I wished would just end. If you're looking for some of his best suspense/horror work, I have to say Salem's Lot is fantastic. The build-up and slow, creeping terror was much better than I anticipated.

If you're looking for some of his best general work, definitely go with 11/22/63. This has become one of my all time favorite reads. It'll easily leave you in tears by the end of the book.

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#22 Posted by shivermetimbers (1721 posts) -

I could be coy and recommend 'Maximum Overdrive' (it's a film he directed and wrote) since it's the best thing he's ever done, but if you want a book, the Dark Tower series is alright.

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#23 Posted by totsboy (501 posts) -


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#24 Posted by Lothoryn (2 posts) -

Haven't read too many but I really like Salem's Lot and The Stand. Started listening to The Stand on a long solo work trip from Vermont to South Carolina and back, it was a great way to consume that first half of the book.

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#25 Edited by Forrester90 (1010 posts) -

I haven't read a lot of King's work but I can easily say that:

1. The Mist

2. The Shining

3. IT

are the best of his work that I've read.

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#26 Posted by not_a_bumblebee (152 posts) -

I could be coy and recommend 'Maximum Overdrive' (it's a film he directed and wrote) since it's the best thing he's ever done, but if you want a book, the Dark Tower series is alright.

That's based on a short story called "Trucks" which is a part of Stephen King's first short story collection, Night Shift.

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#27 Posted by Undeadpool (7108 posts) -

It's hard to recommend one thing from the man who has, famously, forgotten about writing more books than most of us will ever actually write, but 11/22/63 is one of the best books I've read full stop. And, without giving anything away, it's a true rarity for Stephen King in that it has not just a good ending, but an incredible ending (that his son, Joe Hill, apparently stepped in on with some suggestions). It's well-researched historical fiction, it's the only time I've read the the afterword of a book (which is lengthy and goes into some FASCINATING research details) because I simply wanted more. I didn't want the book to be over. It's much lighter on the supernatural, besides the main conceit, and the characters are so well-realized. It really feels like a book written by someone who has written a TON.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention "The Stand." It's a great first King read: it's massive, but divided into 3 sections, each with their own feel, and while the ending isn't great, it's still very much worth the trip. It manages to ground the 'cosmic horror' that flew off the rails in stuff like IT. Also do NOT read it if you're coming down with something, the first 3rd is literally "this is how it would really happen" with a weaponized viral outbreak.

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#28 Posted by Dichemstys (3932 posts) -

I never read 11/22/63, I'm happy to see that one of his newer books is getting so much love.

If you're into horror, I'd recommend It.

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#29 Posted by SSully (5639 posts) -

Really big fan of The Stand and the Dark Tower series( Wizard and Glass or Drawing of Three are probably my favorite).

Also really happy to see so many mentions of 11/22/63 - it probably has my favorite ending of one of his books.

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#30 Posted by Max_Cherry (1659 posts) -

The Dead Zone was pretty exciting.

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#31 Posted by Pooch516 (8 posts) -
@ssully said:

Also really happy to see so many mentions of 11/22/63 - it probably has my favorite ending of one of his books.

Good to hear-- I'm listening to the audio book now and really liking it, but wondering how it's actually going to end was making me nervous. Legit the first story in a long time where I can't figure out how it will all get tied up, since the stuff that I thought was going to be an annoying side story is now tying into the main plot in a cool way.

In terms of the actual question- I think Drawing of the Three (second in the Gunslinger series) is my favorite. I would also recommend The Body (the short story that the movie 'Stand By Me' is based on) since that was technically the first of his I ever read, I think back in high-school. Would probably be a good, nostalgic summer read.

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#32 Posted by jackwl89 (7 posts) -

The Green Mile, definitely my favorite!

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#33 Posted by wardcleaver (345 posts) -

I have watched many of his movies, but the only books I can remember reading were The Stand and the short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I liked those well enough. I have always wanted to read The Shining, just to see what Stanley Kubrick supposedly fucked up in the movie version (according to Stephen King).