List of The Best Short Story Collections By Stephen King
I'm back with my commentary on Stephen King's work of short stories! The last time, I listed down the best and the scariest short stories ever written by the number one bestselling author Stephen King. This time, I'm going to list down his best short story collections as well as the best stories (or worst) from each collection! Enjoy!
NOTE: The collections below are listed in NO PARTICULAR ORDER!
1. Nightmares & Dreamscapes
Nightmares & Dreamscapes (23 short stories)
Nightmares & Dreamscapes is a collection of 23 short stories by Stephen King. This is probably one of the best, if not the best, of his collections. The writing style has really developed and matured in this collection. Most of the main characters in this collection got the character development that they needed.
My favorite and in my opinion the best short story from this collection (also, in my opinion one of King's best short stories yet) is Dolan's Cadillac. This was not necessarily a scary story, at least not in a conventional way. The story was about a man whose wife was murdered by (presumptively) a crime boss of some sort, named Dolan. Even knowing how powerless he was, just a typical teacher, against Dolan, a big and wealthy crime boss, he was still determined to have a revenge against the murderer of his wife.
The plot itself is not the greatest thing about Dolan's Cadillac. Anyone who writes the same story with the 'exact' same plot could probably just turn it into just another revenge-theme short story full of cliche. But what makes Dolan's Cadillac one of Stephen King's best, to me, is how wonderfully written the story was, how detailed the protagonist's thoughts were told to us, how close we felt to the protagonist's every action, feeling, and emotion.
Another notable work from this collection is The End of the Whole Mess. This one is also one of my favorites, ever. Like Dolan's Cadillac, this story was not typically "scary", it was actually quite a sad story about two brothers, one whom was born genius, and whom was set to make the world a 'better place'. I helplessly teared a little the second time I read the story. I didn't know Stephen King was capable of making his readers cry too.
Another notable story worth mentioning is Crouch End.
2. Skeleton Crew
Skeleton Crew (22 short stories)
Skeleton Crew is a collection of 22 short stories including The Mist, which has been adapted to the big screen and was a financial success with positive reviews by critics. The short stories in this collection altogether were taking the span of seventeen years of King's life. The oldest was The Reaper's Image which he wrote when he was just 18, and the most recent was The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet, which King finished writing in November, 1983 (still a long time ago, I know).
This collection contains my favorite, The Jaunt, a story that takes place in the future where humans can move from one place to another using a technology known as "Jaunt" within less than a second. It also contains some really eerie ones, like The Monkey, a story about a broken toy, which is a soft and cuddly monkey, that will clap its cymbals to kill his owner's friend or loved one.
And since the stories were written in the span of seventeen years, you can actually notice how King improves as a storyteller throughout. Even though this collection contains some of his improved writing style, there's also a few stories that still seemed raw in their presentation, like Survivor Type and Uncle Otto's Truck. In Uncle Otto's Truck, King seemed to do a lot of "telling" rather than "showing", so the story's not really my top favorite.
Another one of my favorites from this collection is Gramma, a story about a boy who fears his bedridden grandmother. I reviewed this short story as well as The Jaunt in more detail in my previous article (scroll up and look for the link in the first paragraph).
Altogether, this collection is, in my opinion, one of the best and contains ones of the scariest stories that will not disappoint.
3. Night Shift
Night Shift (20 short stories)
Stephen King started his writing career by writing short stories which he sold to men's magazines like Cavalier and Penthouse, and which most of those were later published as a collection titled "Night Shift". Night Shift contains 20 short stories altogether. Because Night Shift contains mostly his early works, you will notice the raw writing style with not much of character development like in Strawberry Spring, a story about a serial killing that was going on in a small community college during a period of spring that was called "strawberry spring".
Or sometimes you get plot holes or plots that don't make much sense like in Sometimes They Come Back. This one is a story about a high school teacher who was haunted by the murder of his brother when he was very young. The 3 killers eventually caught up with him and he had to face it now that he was a lot older.
The best short story from this collection, in terms of writing style and storyline, is probably Jerusalem's Lot, which I think is also the scariest from the collection. Other notable story from this collection is Children of the Corn.
This collection is a must have, though, if you are a Stephen King fan, or if you're an aspiring fiction writer (as an inspiration!). It's true that people say if you want to be a writer, you WRITE. Stephen King's earliest works weren't the greatest piece of writing out there, but he writes, and then he gets better, and better, and eventually became one of the best.
4. Everything's Eventual
Everything's Eventual (14 short stories)
Everything's Eventual is another one of my favorite short story collection by Stephen King. The collection contains only 14 short stories, but some of the most eerie stories are in this collection! If you just want to be scared, this collection is probably just the right one for you.
Other than The Man in the Black Suit, which is a story about a nine year old boy who believed he met a "devil" while out fishing in the woods alone, which I thought was scary, and which I reviewed in my previous article (scroll back up and see the first paragraph for the link), The Road Virus Heads North is also my top favorite from this collection.
The Road Virus Heads North is a story about a horror novelist who bought an eerie painting on a yard sale on his way back from a conference. The picture changed a few times after he bought it, and he later realized that it was not just a normal painting he had bought. The young man who painted it had committed suicide with a note on his shirt that said, "I can't stand what is happening to me".
Other stories worth mentioning are 1408, a story about a man who checked into a haunted hotel room, and which the story was already adapted to a movie, starring John Cusack (loved the short story, not the movie). Another one is Riding The Bullet, a story about a young man who, while hitchhiking his way to a hospital to see his sick mother, stopped at a graveyard to rest, and the next thing he knew he was hitchhiking with a dead man.
Mostly just good stories here in this collection, and like I said, the most eerie stories are from this collection. Recommended!
5. Full Dark, No Stars
Full Dark, No Stars (4 novellas)
I debated with myself whether to include Full Dark No Stars in the list, or if it's better to give the place to Different Seasons. Finally I decided that Full Dark No Stars has slightly better stories (as well as good writing style) than Different Seasons. I loved Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which is the first novella from Different Seasons, and I really loved the movie it was adapted to. But altogether, Full Dark No Stars won because of its sharp writing style and the unusual edgy stories.
My favorite from Full Dark No Stars is of course, the first novella that appeared in this collection, which was titled 1922. This novella tells a story about a man who plotted and afterward killed his wife with the assistance of his own son. I loved this novella, and it's probably about the same level as Dolan's Cadillac (which I really loved) to me.
Another one worth mentioning is Fair Extension, which is actually much shorter than the other stories in the book. This one is about a dying man who was suffering a lung cancer, and who was told by his doctor that he only had 6 months to live. His fate changed when he met a man named Elvid ("devil", get it?) who was offering life extension and happiness to him.
If I should tell you, some (or maybe all?) of the stories in this collection could probably upset or offend some people in a way. I mean, a husband (and his teenage son) kills his own wife because of 100 acres of land? A man takes great pleasure in seeing his best friend suffer from the lost of wife, sons, wealth, even life itself? Some people might pass these off as 'sickening'. But to me, Stephen King was just showing us the ugliest side of humans, which exists in all of us, whether we want to believe it or not. Some people need a big push to make them do something evil, some others just need "just the right push". But some just don't need any kind of push at all, as long as the chance is right there in front of them.
So what makes you do something evil? You think you know the answer, but you really don't, until it happens.
So do you have your favorite short story collection by Stephen King? Let us know in the comments section below!