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My Top 5 Favourite Stephen King Novels

Updated on May 10, 2018

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.

Carrie (1974)

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.

Christine (1983)

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.

It (1986)

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.

11/22/63 (2011)

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'.

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.

Favourite Stephen King novel

Which is your favourite Stephen King novel out of the five on this page?

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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.

Your top 5 Stephen King novels?

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    • profile image

      Moral Man 

      2 weeks ago

      There's more to say about author Stephen King's novel Carrie and the movies based on it. A whole book could be written on its analysis and themes. Carrie is really about the puzzle of evil in the world, and there's similarity between Carrie and William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Both stories deal with human cruelty, violence, degeneracy, and both stories have a pig that is killed, and both stories have teenagers and young people.

      Carrie mostly deals with Moral evil or Human evil/sin. It briefly touches on Supernatural evil by referencing Satan, the Devil, and demons. But it really doesn't address the puzzle of Natural evil, such as cancer, stroke, aneurysm, heart disease, tooth decay, Ebola, birth defects, miscarriages, deformities, centipedes, jellyfish, ticks, mosquitoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and the list goes on and on. Humans are violent and cruel and cause misery and death, but so is Nature, and a lot of the misery, death, and extinctions have been caused by Nature throughout millions of years of history and prehistory. Neither the novel nor the movie versions address the issue of Natural evil. Author William Peter Blatty, who wrote The Exorcist, also wrote the novel Legion, which was made into a movie called Exorcist 3-Legion. This is one of the very few horror novels and horror movies that addresses all three categories of evil. It addresses Moral evil, Supernatural evil, and Natural evil. Author Blatty has produced the most comprehensive and important horror novels/horror movies with Legion-Exorcist 3.

      Getting back to Carrie, some other mysteries and questions remain. As I mentioned before, were Miss Collins/Miss Desjardin and the crowd at the prom really laughing at Carrie? Or did Carrie hallucinate that they were laughing at her? Neither the novel nor the 1976 movie version makes this clear. The reader and the viewers is left to decide.

      Did all those people Carrie kill deserve it? A lot of people will say yes while some people will say no. Some say Carrie was a good person who was pushed over the edge and others say shes an evil, vengeful monster. The reader and the viewers is left to decide.

      On the subject of telekinesis, real cases of this phenomena are rare and people who have this ability can only move light weight objects such as pens and Telephones and none of them has the awesome power Carrie has. Carrie could move heavy furniture and even flipper over a speeding car driven by Chris and Billy. This is probably not based on any real cases of telekinesis.

      Carrie's mother thinks Carrie's telekinetic power is coming straight from Satan himself. "Witch. You've got Satan's power," she warns her daughter. When Carrie insists the power is from within her and not from Satan, her mother insists shes being used as a tool by the Devil and doesn't know it. " You poor child. He doesn't let you know he (Satan) works through you. You must give up this power. You must never use it." Carrie doesn't listen and goes to the prom anyway. Her mother is convinced the Devil is taking complete control over Carrie. Between the menstruation, between Carrie going out to the prom with a boy, and between Carrie's telekinetic power, Margaret White becomes convinced her daughter is a vessel of Satan and decides to kill her when she returns from the prom. But the question remains. Is Carrie's telekinetic power coming from Satan, or the Devil, or demons? Or is it coming from God? Or is it neither from Satan and neither from God? The novel and the movie versions don't answer this question. Its up to the reader and up to the viewers to decide.

    • profile image

      Moral Man 

      3 weeks ago

      The novel Carrie and the movies based on it illustrate what its like to be an awkward young woman who is teased and bullied by her schoolmates and who is abused at home by her Christian Fundamentalist religious fanatic mother. Its also about having the power of telekinesis, a power which Carrie uses to punish her tormentors.

      The 1976 movie version of Carrie is the best version, and the 2002 version is also pretty good, but the 2013 version is marred by the CGI special effects, in my opinion. The movies omitted some scenes from the novel or made changes or added scenes which weren't in the novel. Nearly all movie versions are like this, and no movie is exactly 100 percent the same as the novel.

      The character of Carrie was loosely based on a composite of two young girls Stephen King knew. These two young women didn't have telekinetic power. But they were homely, physically unattractive, probably very poor, and they led miserable lives. Both of these women died very young.

      While Sissy Spacek was a great choice to portray Carrie in the 1976 movie version, she is too pretty for the part. They should have picked a physically unattractive girl or woman for the movie role as it would be more believable. Physically unattractive or physically ugly people are the ones who get bullied, teased, laughed at, or ignored.

      The character of Sue Snell in the 1976 version is ambiguous. Is she good or is she evil? Is she a Jekyll and Hyde who is struggling with her good and evil sides? It certainly seems so. First she makes fun of Carrie near the film's beginning in the shower scene. Then she feels remorse and offers her boyfriend Tommy Ross to go out to the prom with Carrie. Then, when Carrie and Tommy are at the prom and the cruel prank with the bucket of blood is about to happen, we see that Sue Snell sees the bucket and sees Chris and Billy holding the rope to the bucket. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what this cruel couple intend to do with the bucket of blood. So what does Sue do about this? Her behavior is puzzling. She stares at the bucket and at Chris and Billy, and at the same time she laughs. Why? Miss Collins notices Sue Snell and suspects she is up to no good. Miss Collins pulls her away and throws her out of the building. Was Sue Snell trying to stop the monstrous prank by Chris and Billy? Was Sue Snell trying to warn Miss Collins of what was going to happen and Miss Collins wouldn't believe her and wouldn't listen to her? Its still very strange behavior on the part of Sue Snell. On the one hand, she is trying to stop the cruel prank from happening and trying to warn Miss Collins, but on the other hand shes laughing about it. She cant seem to make up her mind whether to protect Carrie or to hurt Carrie. Shes a good person but there's still evil in her, and the evil side in her thinks its funny to watch Carrie suffer.

      This brings us to Miss Collins, or Miss Desjardin. In the 1976 movie version, she was kind and protective of Carrie until the scene where the bucket of blood falls on Carrie and Tommy at the prom. Miss Collins laughs, as do many other people in attendance. Why? Why would Miss Collins laugh at something so horrible and unfunny? If she really loved and cared for Carrie, why would she laugh? This is very disconcerting and disturbing. It turns out Miss Collins isn't such a good person, and has an evil side to her. Some people speculate that Carrie was hallucinating that Miss Collins and everyone else was laughing at her when it was only the pranksters such as Norma, Helen, Chris, and Billy who were laughing. According to the novel, Miss Collins/Miss Desjardin and much of the crowd really was laughing at Carrie's misfortune while the 1976 movie version isn't clear. The story seems to say that human nature is basically evil and that no one can be trusted.

      Carrie is a very very sad, depressing, tragic story The 1976 movie version is one of the greatest movies ever made, and the musical score is awesome and beautiful. Its an incredibly powerful movie.

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