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The Best Stephen King Books

The Best Stephen King Books

By Dan_Bergstein

The Halloween season is approaching like a slowly-approaching thing that approaches. Sorry. We’re not great writers. Perhaps we should take a cue from the legendary, and possibly immortal, Stephen King. Stevey has been writing spooky novels for decades, and now is the season to dip into his crazy world. Plus, last week he announced that his next book, Dr. Sleep, will be a sequel (of sorts) to The Shining! Holy freaking crap! Isn’t that awesome?

If you don’t know where to dive into the library of Stephen King, here’s a rundown of his best works. Be warned: His ability to scare is equal to his inability to write a good ending. In some cases, it’s best to just stop reading when you get to the last ten or twenty pages of his books. That doesn’t stop us from loving the modern-day Edgar Allen Poe.

10. Cell
This is King’s take on the zombie genre and he pulls it off quite well even if the technology addiction metaphor is so heavy-handed that the hand fell off the body and left a dent on the Earth. The world goes crazy after a phantom cell phone call infects society, resulting in a zombie apocalypse. If you’ve ever seen a zombie movie, you probably can guess how this plays out.

How bad is the ending?
Bad. It’s not even an ending. It’s as if he took a break from the writing desk, went to make a cup of tea, and never came back. The rest of the book is pretty great, in a gory, icky kind of way.

9. The Green Mile

A man convicted of a brutal murder he may not have committed is sentenced to prison and befriends a man of a different race, and the reader learns a lot about life. No, it’s not The Shawshank Redemption (a movie which was based on a short story also written by King). The Green Mile isn’t scary, so if you prefer stories about tolerance and magical giant African American men to stories about horrific demonic clowns, then this might be the King book for you.

How bad is the ending?
Not bad, actually. It’s not as wonderful as the ending to the Shawshank movie, but it might make you tear up. And there’s an adorable mouse in the story, too!

8. It

And if you do like horrific demonic clowns, then you probably have already read this book eight times. One of King’s lengthier novels, this tale of a fear-eating ghoul will take a few nights (or weeks) to finish, but there are plenty of scares to help keep you awake.

How bad is the ending?
Awful. To defeat the shape-shifting monster, the youngsters in the story conduct a ritual that sounds like a bad (x-rated) joke. Years after you finish the book you may say to yourself, “Did that really happen?” Yes it did. Yes, It did. (See what we did there?)

7. Under the Dome
At over 1,000 pages, this recent novel is the size of a small, book-shaped dog. If you plan to finish this story about an invisible force field before Columbus Day, you better hurry. With well developed, likeable characters and nasty, nasty villains, everything about the story is fun and exciting…until the last few chapters when you begin to feel like a kid whose dad promised to take him out for ice cream, but instead took him to the broccoli store.

How bad is the ending?
An 8-year-old on a Mountain Dew high could write a more original and creative finale. This one really ticked us off because there was potential for an amazing conclusion. Grrrr.

6. From a Buick 8
If you don’t have the time to wade through the 1,000 page tomes of It or Under the Dome, the light and breezy From a Buick 8 is right for you. The story is about a strange car that may or may not be a portal to another dimension. (Spoiler Alert: It is a portal to another dimension.) You can probably finish the whole story in an afternoon or an aftermidnight.

How bad is the ending?

It’s not horrible, but far from good. If endings were flavors, this would taste like carrots.

5. Bag of Bones
King’s first book published after his near-death car accident is one of his most subtle and quiet novels. The book tells the story of a sad writer who deals with the death of his wife by living in a haunted lake-side cottage. It’s a slow burn of a story, so don’t expect epic car chases—and one scene involving rock-throwing is unintentionally hilarious—but it’s a good read for a lazy, warm October weekend.

How bad is the ending?
We don’t remember it. It probably sucked.

4. The Dark Tower books
We’re clumping all seven books into one entry. Is that cheating? Nope! The story of connected universes and mythical heroes is light on scares but has enough imagination and utter weirdness to satisfy even the death metal crowd. Not all the books in the series are created equal. The Waste Lands is clearly the best, while Wizard and Glass is without question the worst. The other books fall somewhere in between.

How bad is the ending?

So bad that during the last book, King actually advises the reader not to finish. No joke. (But it makes sense when you get to Book 7.)

3. The Stand
It’s 1,300 pages of fascinating character development, drama, tension, and fear, followed by ten pages of face-palming aggravation.

How bad is the ending?
It’s best that we don’t talk about it or else the frustration rash under or arms will return.

2. Pet Cemetery
This is King’s scariest and most gruesome story. It’s tough to read not only because it’s frightening, but it’s also heart-punchingly tragic. The book is about a husband and wife desperate to bring their dead son back to life. You will cry. You will need a hug. Plan accordingly.

How bad is the ending?
It’s okay, but seems more like the conclusion to an episode of The Twilight Zone than the end of full-length novel.

1. The Shining
A haunted hotel, a sad child, a drunk father, a frightened mother, and gigantic croquet mallets equal an unforgettable ghost story. This is one of the rare cases when the movie is actually better than the book, and the book is still pretty darn great. If you’re only familiar with the movie, prepare to be surprised at the many changes. (Mainly: No spooky twins.)

How bad is the ending?
Not too bad at all. The story reaches a satisfying conclusion, which makes us a bit nervous about the proposed sequel.

That’s the list of Stephen King’s best novels. Because we’re mean, we didn’t include his short story collections (which are often better than his long-form books). Now...let's fight about the list! Ready. Set. GO!

Related post: Fury (This Is a Book Review, Not a Post About Your Rage Blackouts)

Topics: Books
Tags: halloween, scary things, stephen king, scary stories, horror novels, scary novels

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