Stephen King

Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Stephen King Book

With two major movie adaptations of his work hitting cinema screens this year, Stephen King is a hot property once again. Not that he ever stopped being a hot property, of course. He’s one of the bestselling authors of all time. Odds are good that you’ve probably read some of his novels or novellas or short stories at some point in your life. What are your favorites?

Shannon Nutt

I arrived at the Stephen King party pretty late. I think I was out of college before I read one of his novels. Therefore, I’ve never gone back and read some of his classics, like ‘The Shining’ or ‘The Stand’ or any of the ‘Dark Tower’ books. Most of my reading has come from releases he’s made in the past decade. Of those, my favorite by far is ‘11/22/63‘, in which a high school teacher goes back in time to try to stop the Kennedy assassination.

I was drawn to the book because of my love of both history and time travel, but the big surprise here is that King has used the premise to write a love story – and a pretty moving one. The book is huge and might take you the rest of the summer (if not the year) to get through, but I highly recommend it for those who haven’t yet picked it up. J.J. Abrams produced a pretty decent adaptation (starring James Franco) for Hulu that’s also worth checking out, but since big chunks of the book are condensed, I advise reading the novel first then checking out the miniseries.

M. Enois Duarte

This is a pretty difficult topic for me because I’ve been a Stephen King fan since childhood. His books were some of the first I read when I arrived in the U.S. and was learning English. After some thought, I’ve decided that ‘Night Shift‘ is probably my favorite book because it’s a collection of what I consider some of his best short stories.

Aside from ‘Different Seasons’, this is the book with the most stories that have been adapted for movies. ‘The Mangler’, ‘The Boogeyman’ and ‘The Lawnmower Man’ are still among some of my favorites because they’re pretty damn creepy and twisted. I also love ‘One for the Road’, which is a loose sequel to ‘Salem’s Lot’. ‘Grey Matter’ is a dark, bizarre cautionary tale against alcoholism. In addition to the creepy stories, the book also has a couple of sad, poignant tales about living with the pain of remorse and lamenting one’s past actions, such as ‘The Last Rung on the Ladder’ and ‘The Woman in the Room’. It’s a great collection of some of King’s best.

Luke Hickman

I was 10-years-old when Rob Reiner’s adaptation of ‘Misery‘ debuted in theaters. I wanted to see it so bad, but because of the R rating, my parents wouldn’t let me. Not wanting to wait until an edited version of it aired a few years later, I talked my parents into gifting me the novel. I was 11 when I finally got my hands on a paperback edition (which I still own), but I read it cover-to-cover in no time. I recall it being the first book that made me tense up as if I was watching a scary movie. What a great reading experience. It was nice seeing the movie on television a couple years later and not being disappointed with it.

Brian Hoss

As I stated in a 2015 Roundtable, Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ remains perfectly horrible. To go with the prisoner, stalker, and performer nightmare, it also has painkiller addiction, a Dragon Lady in the maternity ward, and a killer riding mower.

Just to highlight some other of King’s gifts, ‘The Tommyknockers‘ made skiing seem like a lose/lose proposition, and for whatever reason, the thought of being captive in the vampire lair of ‘Salem’s Lot‘ always seemed like bad fate for a child.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Back in my junior high years, I read everything by Stephen King that I could get my hands on. If I didn’t buy a half-mauled paperback from a used book store, chances are that I at least checked it out from my local library. More than anything, I found myself re-reading his short story collections over and over again. It’s been at least 25 years since I last cracked any of those open, but one that’s stayed with me in particular is ‘Survivor Type‘, collected in ‘Skeleton Crew’. It unfolds as a series of diary entries by a disgraced surgeon who’s marooned on a desert island, with only a cache of heroin to keep him company. After amputating a badly injured foot, Dr. Pine realizes he’s stumbled onto a way to stave off starvation for at least a short while longer. His diary entries are at first clinical and clear-headed, with Pine rationalizing how he can recover from severing and devouring various parts of his own body (anaesthetizing himself with heroin all the while, naturally). The diary charts his gradual descent into madness, becoming almost completely incoherent as ‘Survivor Type’ draws towards its sudden and grisly conclusion. It’s not exactly King’s most artful work, but for better or worse, ‘Survivor Type’ is one that I’ll never forget.

Josh Zyber

Like many adolescents, I went through a Stephen King binge-reading phase in middle school and high school. I don’t remember a lot of the details of those books, but a few that I recall liking were ‘The Stand’, ‘It’, ‘Carrie’, ‘The Tommyknockers’, ‘The Dark Half’, ‘The Eyes of the Dragon’, ‘The Talisman’ (King’s collaboration with Peter Straub), and of course ‘The Shining’.

The book I want to call out here, however, isn’t one of his horror novels at all, but rather ‘Danse Macabre‘, King’s non-fiction examination of the history of the horror genre. A collection of essays based on his teaching notes from his career as a college professor in the 1970s, I found the book fascinating without the burden of being too academic. Unlike far too many of today’s writers (both literary and screenwriters), whose sole motivation for writing a particular story is how “cool” they think the concept or a plot twist will be, ‘Danse Macabre’ demonstrates just how much real thought and effort Stephen King puts into his own writing, which undoubtedly accounts for why so many of his stories haven proven effective at getting under readers’ skin.

Tell us about your favorite Stephen King books in the Comments below.

18 comments

  1. The Stand…actually the second over-inflated version that came out, adding hundreds of pages to an already (for some) bloated novel. Still my favorite overall. Scariest for me was Salem’s Lot at the time. It gave me nightmares…lots of fun.

  2. Chris B

    I love It, I think it’s one of the best works of popular fiction in any medium. 11/22/63 is really good to. My favorite of his short stories is “Riding the Bullet”

  3. James Smith

    The Talisman is probably my favorite of King’s books. I remember years ago that Steven Spielberg was going to make the film version but for whatever reason, it never happened. Runner up would Misery, The Dark Tower series and The Shining.

  4. I’ve lost track of his books in recent years (decades?), but at the time I presumed THE STAND would always be his magnum opus.

    It gets discounted because of the prurient bondage content, but I remember thinking GERALD’S GAME was pretty creepy-ass.

  5. Scott

    This is easy, The Stand. I’ve read the extended version a half dozen times by now. It’s so hard not to get caught up in the world he builds in the book.

    I remember everyone loving It back in the day, I was never able to get into that one.

    Under The Dome was a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed, the TV show was one that I could net get through though.

  6. Paul Anderson

    I was a voracious King reader up until Needful Things and then I stopped cold turkey. Not quite sure what happened. Just lost interest I guess. The first novel of his I read was Christine. I was 13 at the time and saw a display of them in paperback at the local drug store. NY Times #1 Bestseller!!! It had this cover with Christine written in chrome. I had to have it. Used some of my Christmas money to buy it and as soon as I got home I started to read. Hooked me from the get go. I ended up going to the local library and checking out all of his books up to that point. I enjoyed them all, especially The Stand and Salem’s Lot, but my heart is still with my first time. For a freshly minted teenager who loved cars (I grew up in Flint, MI surrounded by the Big 3) that book spoke to me.

  7. I want to throw some love to “Doctor Sleep”. I really enjoyed the story of Danny Torrance as he has moved on from the Overlook incident. It is a great follow up to “The Shining” and gives you more insight on how the shining works and how evil feeds from it. Give it a read/listen.

  8. Csm101

    Christine is one of my favorite King novels. I love John Carpenter’s adaptation, but I would love to see a miniseries on an uncensored network.

  9. Dan

    Without a doubt for me it’s Talisman and Black House. Honorable mentions go to the full version of The Stand, 11/22/63. , The Green Mile, etc. It’s incredibly hard to put them in order of favorites after Talisman and Black House.

  10. Plissken99

    Salem’s Lot is probably my favorite of his books, it’s a damn creepy read. The Dark Tower books are my absolute favorite series of books by any author(haven’t read A Song of Fire and Ice yet to be fair). They blend horror, sci fi and fantasy beautifully. Roland and his Ka-Tet are awesome characters, I hope they show up soon on film.

  11. TonyD

    “N” is a relatively recent horror novella with shades of Machen and Lovecraft. It’s relatively short, especially by King standards, but absolutely riveting from start to finish. Word for word, it’s probably my favorite piece of Stephen King fiction.

  12. Thulsadoom

    I read a few when I was younger, but I ended up reading a lot more Dean Koontz. With King’s work, I always found myself feeling that his concepts worked best as the basis for his numerous film adaptations, and that the books themselves never really grabbed me. I will, however, say that his non-fiction ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ is superb. I may not personally be a fan of his books, but he knows his craft, and it’s a must-red for any would-be author.

  13. Jason

    For me it’s always been Pet Sematary. Every few years I always read it again, around Halloween. It sets such an evocative mood. And it always felt to me like a long form version of one of those classic EC Comics.

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