- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- Commercial & Creative Writing
My top 5 favourite Stephen King novels
My favourite Stephen King novels
I first came across Stephen King when I was quite young and my parents were watching the film version of 'It' (starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the clown) on the television. I was allowed to stay up and watch it and although it was too long ago to remember the film particularly well, there are still scenes I can remember vividly.
It was quite a few years later that I actually started reading King's novels, but once I started, I quickly became hooked. On this lens I want to share with you my five favourite Stephen King novels and why I enjoy them so much.
Photo of Stephen King courtesy of Pinguino - wikimedia commons
About Stephen King
Stephen King was born in 1947 in Portland, Maine and after studying English at the University of Maine, started out as a teacher before finding fame as an author.
His first novel was 'Carrie', published in 1973, and since then King has published more than 50 novels and short story collections, many of which have been made into films and television shows.
King still lives in Maine, with his wife Tabitha King who is also a published novelist.
Stephen King's first novel to be published, 'Carrie' was also one of the first of his novels that I read.
The story revolves around Carrie White, a shy, teenage school girl with telekinetic powers who is constantly bullied and teased by her peers and her unstable, deeply-religious mother. At the start of the story, Carrie is virtually unaware of her powers and has no control over them, but as the story proceeds towards its tragic ending, Carrie learns to master her abilities.
One of the reasons I enjoy this book so much is the unusual style in which it is written. Large parts of the book are written in the form of newspaper and magazine articles, letters etc. giving a different perspective on how you view the story, being able to see it through others' eyes.
The characters are also strong. Carrie is painfully shy and awkward and although the reader is invited to pity her and sympathise with her, it is all too easy to see why she is the victim of other children's taunts and bullying. Her progression from a weak child, to what she becomes at the end of the story is well thought out and chilling.
My favourite character however is Carrie's mother, Margaret. A devout Christian fundamentalist, Margaret believes all things to do with human body and sex are sins, which leads to a very awkward scene in the girls locker rooms at the beginning of the book, and regularly punishes Carrie for her perceived transgressions. it is easy to see how Carrie has turned out the way she has, when raised by a woman such as this.
As well as being a great book, Carrie has been adapted into a movie of the same name, released in 1976, starring Oscar nominated Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie as Carrie and Margaret repectively, as well as a young John Travolta. It has also been made into Broadway musical.
The film adaptation starring Sissy Spacek as Carrie.
The novel that started it all, Carrie.
Published in 1983, 'Christine' is another classic Stephen King novel. Christine is a red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury, bought by nerdy teenager Arnie, despite the his best friend Dennis' best efforts to talk him out of it. Christine is in a bad state when Arnie first comes across her, but he starts to restores her. As he does, his own appearance improves, seemingly in tandem with Christine's, i.e. his spots start to disappear, he becomes more confident etc. As Arnie gets more and more withdrawn and obsessed with Christine, mysterious deaths start happening and Dennis learns more about the history of Christine and her previous owner.
For me, one thing that makes 'Christine' so good is how it plays on the idea of cars having personalities. It's common for people to name their cars or describe them as 'she', but in 'Christine', King takes that to a whole new chilling level. A great read.
'Christine' was also made into a film in the same year, directed by John Carpenter, starring Keith Gordon and John Stockwell.
'Christine' by Stephen King
The John Carpenter film version on DVD.
The first Stephen King story I came across (although admittedly in film form), 'It' features for me the most memorable of King's characters, Pennywise the clown.
Set in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, 'It' simultaneously tells the story of seven young children who gather together to tackle a supernatural power which is murdering the children of the town, alongside the story of the children returning to Derry as adults to once again tackle the returning power.
'It' is a fantastic book for many reasons. I love the idea of the close knit group of friends, all of them 'losers' for one reason or another, coming together to battle an evil spirit as well the usual bullies.
Pennywise the clown also makes a fantastic villain. Clowns are scary from the start, but a clown who actively kidnaps and murders children is particularly chilling. The first time we meet Pennywise is the scene from the film that has stuck with me the most over the years, and its telling in the book is no less scary.
The film version of 'It' was released in 1990 starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown.
'It' be Stephen King.
The 1990 film version of 'It' starring Tim Curry.
The most recent of Stephen King's books that I have read, 11/22/63 is about Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, who travels back in time in order to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy on, as the title implies, the 22nd November 1963.
As the time portal Jake uses only takes him back to 1958, Jake has to adapt to life in late 50s, early 60s America and the book describes this period in fantastic detail. There are many other occasions during Jake's time in the past where he changes history, sometimes in a small way, sometimes in a large way, and we learn later on what effect these have had upon the modern world.
I found 11/22/63 to be one of those books that is difficult to put down. It is a long book (849 pages), but it flew by and I couldn't wait to see what happened at the end and whether Jake succeeded or not. I also enjoyed the nod near the beginning to 'It' where some of the characters reappear and references are made to King's earlier work.
Although more famous for his horror stories, I always enjoy King's forays into science-fiction and this is no exception. A fantastic story, told in vivid details and in a relaxed, conversational 1st person prose, I would recommend this to anybody who enjoys science fiction or pondering about 'what ifs'.
11/22/63 by Stephen King.
The Running Man (1982) (by Richard Bachman)
Written under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, 'The Running Man' is another one of Stephen King's science fiction novels.
It tells the story of Ben Richards, an unemployed man, living in the USA of 2025, a totalitarian dystopia where the world economy has collapsed and people offer themselves up to strange TV shows in desperation to make money. Ben decides to sign up for 'Running Man', a television show where the contestants are declared an enemy of the state and given a 12 hour head start, before being hunted down by hit men hired by the TV company. Contestants are awarded $100 for every hour of survival with the aim of a $1 billion prize for surviving 30 days. The record for survival stands at only 8 days and 5 hours however.
I really enjoyed the vision of the future and the parallels between the 'Running Man' show and the modern reality television show glut. Considering the book was written in 1982, I wonder if this is coincidence or if King saw this as the way television was going.
'The Running Man' was also made into a movie in 1987 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards. Although the film is only loosely based on the novel, it still features the idea of a TV show where contestants have to outrun hired hit men.
'The Running Man' by Stephen King.
The movie version of 'The Running Man' starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Favourite Stephen King novel
Which is your favourite Stephen King novel out of the five on this page?
Other notable Stephen King novels
Stephen King has written a lot of great novels and short stories and inevitably a lot are going to be missing from a list of just five. Here are some more that I have enjoyed over the years.
Successful novelist, Paul Sheldon awakes after a car crash to find himself the prisoner of crazed fan Annie Wilkes, who will only let him go if he writes her another story featuring her favourite character, Misery.
A Richard Bachman novel, about a young boy Seth who gains the ability to control reality and unwittingly unleashes his imagination upon the inhabitants of his street.
Another Richard Bachman novel, 'Thinner' tells the story of Billy Halleck, an overweight lawyer from Connecticut who is cursed into extreme weight loss by a old Gypsy man.
A collection of short stories, three of which were turned into Hollywood movies (The Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil and Stand by me).
A chilling story about a cemetery which brings dead pets (and people) supposedly back to life.
Which books would you put in your top 5 Stephen King novels? Are there any great ones you think I should have included? Are there any in my list that you didn't enjoy? Have your say below.