So one thing I’ve been told that people love (particularly in blog posts) are lists. And being as it’s almost Halloween I figured I’d do my top ten favorite Stephen King novels being as he’s probably my favorite author that I read growing up and somewhat responsible for me wanting to be a writer when I grew up. Now, I’m not going to summarize what each novel is about, as I figure by now most people know what his
most famous stories are about and/or you’d be a fan of his if you’re even willing to read through this list. Instead I’ll give a few of my own personal connections and reasons for picking said novels. This list will not include the numerous short stories of his (although I’m sure there’s a separate top ten list I could do based on those alone) nor original screenplays (or else my love for Storm of the Century would be near the top of this list) or some of his other various projects. And so . . . we begin . . .
10) The Talisman (with Peter Straub) – This is probably the novel on this list I’ve read the least amount of times (only two, although I have been itching to read it again lately and probably will by the end of this year or beginning of next). But what I remember about this novel was the journey (this was one that I connected with more so than that of Roland’s in the Dark Tower novels, none of which actually make it on this list). And the characters. I also remember reading about the numerous and never ending rumors of it being turned into a miniseries year after year throughout my childhood. Steven Spielberg was the name I remember being most attached to it. I’d still look forward to seeing this story on the screen, pending the adaption was done with care and not just a hack ’n slash job to turn a project out.
9) Firestarter – This was one of two King books that my grandparents had on their bookshelves that I remember from growing up (the other was Pet Sematary). Though this is probably a somewhat dated book now, dealing more with secret government agencies and testing and whatnot but I always wanted another book to feature The Shop or even a book about them. I loved little Charlie McGee and her special abilities (though personally, I always wanted her dad’s ability to “push” more) and just wanted the bad guys to leave her alone. I remember everyone talking about the movie when I was a kid, and I loved to watch the various adaptions after I had read each book, and thinking eh, not bad but so so. This is definitely one of those where the book is stronger than the movie.
8) Pet Sematary – I’m not one of those people who found Pet Sematary to be too scary to finish reading but I did love it for how atmospheric it was. Murder, the dead coming back alive, cemeteries, Indian burial grounds, curses, the wendigo and the list goes on. The cover alone I remember seeing at my grandparent’s house and I just had to read this book. Gruesome, over the top and a hell of a ride, which if I remember my King over the years I think it’s one of the main things he wants for his readers. Just to sit back and enjoy.
7) Needful Things – This is a book that affects me both as a reader of King’s books and as a writer. On the reader aspect I always loved King’s books set in Castle Rock (I wanted to move and live there, or in a small New England town just like it growing up) and while I enjoyed the story I came to later on realize a difference in the novels King wrote that came out after the destruction of Castle Rock. The more horror-centric aspects to his novels began to fade for a more focused idea of the human side of his stories. I think this is why more of what are considered his “classics” came out before and got him the title as King of Horror as opposed to more of his psychological thrillers which followed (Dolores Claiborne, Gerald’s Game, Rose Madder, Lisey’s Story, etc). Not that he hasn’t had good ones since, just that they aren’t in the same corner as his older horror based novels. As far as the writer in me goes I’m absently horrified/mystified/in awe to think about the “board” King must have used to keep track of writing this novel and would have loved to see what it looked like (it had to put anything they had in The Wire to shame). Basically, Person A does something mean to Person B that causes Person B to blame Person C who had nothing to do with it said crime and so on it goes, on and on. This is how the whole novel goes. This could not have been an easy novel to keep track of, especially considering the sheer size of the overall novel, and I can’t help but be in awe of King for writing it. As far as the movie goes, I liked the casting, and what was in there was good, just wished the other 60% of the novel could have been as well. Oh and on a side note, if you can catch the longer Directors’ Cut on TV I’d recommend doing so, just to see what didn’t make it into the theatrical cut.
6) Christine – Christine was one of those rare exceptions to the rule where I had actually seen the movie before reading the book and while I loves me some John Carpenter I wasn’t especially blown away by it (although I do appreciate it for what it is now, years later). So it was one of those books I wasn’t especially dying to read and after I had already read everything else King had to offer at the time (somewhere around the time Needful Things was released in hardcover) I finally made my way to the novel and completely fell in love with it. The overall supernatural aspects to the story as so much more prominent in the novel and I loved the high school protagonists, which probably helped as I was in high school at the time. I haven’t read this novel in close to 20 years but it still sticks with me (which is why it’s where it is on this list) and memorable as it was I can’t wait to dig into it again.
The next five books next time . . .