Stephen King is probably the most recognizable name in modern American fiction. The man is a prolific writer that has written innumerable books, all of them certified bestsellers. His prolificness is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that Stephen King fans have a wealth of novels to pore over and keep them company. But it’s also a curse for those who are just joining the bandwagon because it’s hard to decide on which book to start first.
And this is a real problem when reading King because he maybe prolific but the quality of his works have become a bit sporadic especially with the latter book produced in the last fifteen years.
However, some titles stand out and should be part of everyone’s must-read list. These are the books that show off King’s unparalleled talent for storytelling and a showcase of the master at his best.
1. Salem’s Lot
One of the most important vampire novels in recent memory. King’s Salem’s Lot is a horror novel in the truest sense. It was an absolutely scary read and reinforced the evil nature of vampires. No glittery, brooding vampires here. This is as hardcore as it gets in terms of delving into vampire mythology. This was his second book published and one of the books that announced to the world a new horror master is coming.
King’s first novel is also one of his best written. The story of a bullied girl who discovers her telekinetic powers when she reached puberty still resonates among the unpopular and the outcasts among the youth.
3. The Stand
As post-apocalyptic stories go, few works of fiction come close to the epic breadth of The Stand. The book itself is an especially daunting read as it is one of the thickest pocketbooks out there. But for those who won’t be intimidated by the thickness of the book, they’ll be in for a surprise as this is one thrilling ride.
4. The Dark Tower series
The Dark Tower series is considered an uneven series of books in terms of quality. Majority of those who read it say that the first three books were excellent, the fourth book a toss-up, and the last three books drastically dip in quality. This could be attributed to King rushing to finish the series after a brush with death when he was hit by a car. But despite the dubious level of quality, it is still considered one of the highlights of King’s career because, to put it simply, the world of The Gunslinger is one of the most fully realized in the genre of dark fantasy. The world in which Roland lives in is so vivid that the place practically jumps out at you from the pages. The quest (there’s no other way to put it) is also one fraught with many exciting twists and turns.
5. The Shining
This is King at the top of his game. Everyone knows about the Stanley Kubrick-directed movie starring Jack Nicholson, which is considered the best King movie adaptation. But don’t let it stop you from actually reading the novel, which is one of King’s creepiest. It will give you sleepless nights.
6. Eyes of The Dragon
This novella is not widely popular maybe because Eyes of The Dragon is a fantasy story. But this is still a worthy addition to this list because it showcases King’s stepping out of his comfort zone and into a genre he hasn’t fully tapped yet. And it’s one hell of a yarn. He manages to write it in a style that will remind you of fairy tales but with still that dark edge that bleeds ever so slightly in some scenes.
Another great movie adaptation happened with Misery. But, once again, the book is so much better. Misery the movie may be horrifying in parts, but Misery the book is downright scary because you can feel the claustrophobic atmosphere King adeptly creates as the protagonist tries to escape from the clutches of a deranged fan. The book itself was cleverly written as King tried to write a book within a book.
If there’s one short story collection that I had a lot of fun reading, it would be Nightshift. It’s a great collection of short stories that exceptionally well written. Most notable is that most of the popular short stories King ever wrote are included in this collection.