There are just some days when you want to curl up with a blanket, pick up a spooky read from your favourite author, turn down the lights and become immersed in a world of endless possibilities outside of your own. A world where anything can happen that gives you chills while it keeps you guessing.
You get pulled down the rabbit hole into crazy situation – which should not happen to anyone – and yet, somehow, it is happening to the main character of this story. A seemingly normal situation which started like any other day that even you yourself could experience this week. And here you are, several chapters in, and everything that could have gone wrong has.
One of the most celebrated authors of the horror genre is Stephen King. If you have read or seen any kind of scary book or movie in the last 20 years, chances are you’re familiar with him. The man who became a legend is currently 72 years of age, and is still cranking out new thrilling and atmospheric material to this day. Over the years, he has published over 63 novels which have sold over 350 million copies.
It can be pretty daunting to select the best books of Stephen King at any given moment, so here’s a list of some of our top picks to get you started.
*Disclosure: We only recommend books which we love and would read ourselves. This post contains affiliate links, as we are part of the Amazon Services LCC Associate Program, which may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you.
They say you should write what you know, which is why Misery has such a fitting protagonist: a novelist. Paul Sheldon has been staying in his writing cabin in Sidewinder, Colorado, working on a novel. When he leaves the cabin in a bad bit of weather, he’s involved in a severe car crash, but he is saved by a seemingly kind nurse, Annie Wilkes. Paul thinks he’s in luck; she is kind and doting and claims to be his biggest fan. However, Paul soon realizes that Annie’s love of him crosses the line to obsession.
Annie Wilkes takes him to her remote cabin to help him heal his wounds and recover from the crash. Unfortunately, when she discovers that Paul is killing off Misery – the heroine of his acclaimed novels in his latest manuscript – she decides that this novel needs a rewrite fast.
Paul struggles to find a way to out of Annie’s grasp without getting caught. He needs to keep her pleased, or there’ll be hell to pay. A gripping story that’s a manifestation of any author’s fear of meeting a “super fan” . You’d be hard pressed to find a more difficult to please reader than Ms. Wilkes.
An entirely different take on a captive writer – this time one who’s inside a hotel room. What seems like an easy job for Mike Enslin, a successful writer debunking supernatural phenomena, is about to become his worst nightmare.
Mike Enslin checks into the Dolphin Hotel; a seemingly completely ordinary establishment that any person might visit. However, Mike has heard a rumor about room 1408, which is off limits and not available to stay in. Of course, for Mike, this is a perfect opportunity to add a chapter in his book about a “supernatural” hotel room.
Ignoring all the warnings of the manager as well as the particularly sordid history of this room, Mike decides to spend the night. But from the moment he steps foot into room 1408, he’ll be taken on a terrifying journey through his worst fears. This story will make you think twice about the history of any hotel room you stay in.
8. The Stand
Arguably one of King’s most extravagant novels, The Stand is a gripping tale of America in the wake of an apocalyptic illness that has swept the nation, wiping out the majority of the population. Basically it’s a very timely read for this year, am I right?
The planet is devastated by a weaponized killer virus called “Captain Trips”, which has only left a handful of survivors in it’s wake. Groups are formed; attempting to rebuild and reestablish a proper functional society. However, each side has a very different idea of what is right and wrong, and they’ll battle each other for the ability to lead the new world. Who will win, and stake their claim?
7. The Shining
The Shining, which was made into a very successful movie, which Stephen King himself despises, tells the story of the Torrance family, who head into the Colorado mountains to take care of the upkeep at the Overlook Hotel while it’s closed for the harsh winter months. Jack Torrance, a struggling writer (seeing a pattern here?), is looking to cure his writer’s block while pulling in some cash for his family.
His wife, Wendy, and his son Danny (who has a special gift that he doesn’t yet understand) are in essence trapped in the hotel for the duration of winter with no communication possible with the outside world. As Jack’s writer’s block worsens and he begins to succumb to the dark spirit of the hotel, Danny can sense that something much worse is on the way. He’s not wrong.
6. Under The Dome
This one strays a bit from standard King fare. It leans more heavily into the sci-fi end of the spectrum: an entire town is virtually taken prisoner by a large dome that won’t allow them to leave the city limits. No one seems to know how this happened or who placed the dome around them; they’re simply trapped by an unknown assailant.
This novel examines human behaviour, and what people will do when they are brought to the edge of madness. A fascinating look into people’s interactions and how to survive a hostage situation when the thing being held hostage is an entire town.
5. The Dark Half
Prolific writer Thad Beaumont has had major success writing thriller novels under his pen name, George Stark. After it is revealed that they are one and the same, Beaumont holds a mock funeral for Stark.
Everything appears to be shifting well for the author and his family, until he gets a knock on the door from the police. Local Sheriff Alan Pangborn, a recurring character of King’s, tells Thad that there has been a string of murders recently which bear a striking resemblance to the George Stark novels.
Thad and his wife quickly realize that Stark may not be as fictional as he seems, and they must work quickly to stop him… or Thad and his family might be next.
4. Pet Sematary
Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, move to a rural part of Maine to establish their new home with their two children, Ellie and Gage. The children discover a burial ground nearby, where the local children perform rituals for their dead pets. However, this burial ground seems to do a little something extra for the pets who are laid to rest there. Turns out that the laying part is more temporary than they could possibly imagine
After tragedy strikes the family, Dr. Creed turns to his neighbour Jud Crandall to find answers. They need the cemetery to save a loved one; but what they get back is not the loving family member that they expected, and the Creed’s are about to be drawn into a fight for their lives.
3. ‘Salem’s Lot
Yet another story that begins with a writer, Ben Mears, who returns to his hometown Jerusalem’s Lot, also called ‘Salem’s Lot by the locals. But this seemingly quiet town is about to be turned upside down by the arrival of a new resident.
Kurt Barlow seems to appear overnight, along with his business partner Richard Straker. They’ve bought the creepy old Marston House up on the hill, a place with a dark history. They’re here to open an antique store; or so they say…
A chilling and atmospheric read about a small town that no one notices is slowly being taken over; there’s no one around to help the residents of Salem’s Lot but themselves. But they may not be enough…
Everyone has heard of Pennywise the dancing clown. His circus was blown away into the sewers of Derry, Maine years ago. Poor Pennywise…
Just kidding. This entity takes on the form of a clown and torments the children of Derry every 27 years like clockwork, feeding off of their fear. It’ll take a band of misfit kids, known as “The Losers” to start realizing that Pennywise keeps coming back. And they’ll need to work together if they all want to make it out of Derry alive.
Decades later, the Losers are all grown up now and must return to defeat the demon once and for all. But they can’t possibly know how much it will cost them this time.
1. The Dark Tower (series)
This is Stephen King’s most ambitious book series. It actually took him 22 years to finish all the seven books of The Dark Tower series. The man himself considers is it his magnum opus, and it’s no wonder that he does. Is you are interested in an in-depth review of the series, you can read it in detail here: The Dark Tower in-depth review.
Follow the story of Roland Deschain, a gunslinger, of Mid-World, and his ka-tet, a group of people bound by faith. Mid-World is a post-apocalyptic world where darkness has taken over and rules with no mercy.
Roland and his ka-tet follow the path of the beam to find the dark tower in the middle of the devastated land which is plagued by monsters, strange towns and all manner of abnormalities along the way. All the while the Dark Man looms, set to impede their progress at every turn.