I don’t remember what came first for me. Stephen King’s books or his movies? I was super young when I picked up my first King novel, Firestarter, which either my father or one of my brothers had left in the upstairs hallway bathroom (my father referred to the bathroom as the Reading Room, always). I was in grade school- maybe 4th or 5th. I was too young to “get” a lot of the novel, but I read it all.
And I was hooked.
I’ve always been a fan of horror. I suspect King’s movies came first for me, because my older brother Patrick often let me watch scary movies (he used these both to bribe me and scare me) when he babysat me. It was also the 80’s, so not only were we left on our own a lot (which means lots of horror movies), but also that my parents, although loving, weren’t super vigilant when it came to what I was reading, which is how I started reading Stephen King and John Saul and Dean Koontz alongside with my Sweet Valley Highs and my Babysitters Club.
King’s birthday was yesterday- he turned 70. So in honor of my favorite writer, here’s my favorite King novels (I’ll do separate posts for my favorite King novellas and short stories):
Not in any particular order (although the 3 larger book covers are my 3 top favorites):
Carrie- I watched the movie a million times (give or take a few hundred thousand) but I didn’t read the book until I was in my early 20s. I fell in love with the format that King used- prose mixed with book and newspaper excerpts, testimony, etc. It’s kind of impossible not to root for Carrie until the bitter end, even as she’s slaughtering classmates left and right.
Doctor Sleep- I love this book, which is strange because I didn’t love The Shining, which Doctor Sleep is a sequel to. I don’t hate The Shining (there’s really only a few King books I don’t like), but despite several reads, I don’t love all of it. I had trouble connecting to the characters and probably because Kubric’s movie version looms so large in my childhood, the novel didn’t work as well for me. But I had no problem diving into Doctor Sleep. Grown up Danny, now just Dan, was a character I instantly felt plugged in to. Also, it helps that the audiobook creeped the hell out of me, especially if I happened to be driving and passed a motor home.
Misery- I definitely read Misery in high school. I loved it, whole heartedly, and I even love the movie. I will admit to something embarrassing though… in the book, main character Paul Sheldon is known for his gothic romance books about Misery Chastain. Throughout the book, we gets bits of his Misery books, and because I was a teen who had just discovered gothic romance (Victoria Holt!), I really wanted the Misery books to be real. I even tried to find out if they were actual books… they aren’t. I’m actually really glad I read the book, because now that I’m meeting authors that I love in real life, I know not to cross into Annie Wilkes territory and keep my fan-girl levels to not holding author’s hostage in my house while I force them to write books just for me. It’s a lesson you don’t know you need until you read Misery. 😉
It- This book is everything. I first read it in 6th grade (I borrowed it from a boy in my class that I had a bit of a crush on). The beginning is terrifying. But I fell in love with the Loser’s Club. They were totally my tribe, although at the time I didn’t have the words to express it. I’ve probably read this King book more than any other, it’s just my favorite.
Eyes of the Dragon- this is the King book I most often gift- usually to my friends who claim they don’t read King because he just writes horror. Eyes of the Dragon is a fairytale, and I love to read it over and over again (and I’ll admit I loved to read it out loud, because it’s got a story teller’s rhythm to it). It’s also fairly short, so unlike my other two favorites (It and The Stand), it’s not daunting. I found this book up in my grandparent’s attic (my grandfather drove the bookmobile for years, and when funds for the program ran out, he ended up with lots of the books). I read it a bunch of times in a row, just absorbing the book. Main character Peter is one of my all time favorite characters ever- and yes, Flagg is also in the book.
Needful Things- nobody does small towns better than King. I love all of the characters and all of their flaws and greed on full display as the town loses it’s collective shiz when a very creepy store opens up in town. This is one of the King books I read when I was in college, and King was kind of a refuge for me during a time I felt very lost and at odds with myself. I’ve revisited this book many times, and I know I will again. I can already feel the tug of Castle Rock as I write this now.
The Drawing of the Three- This is book 2 in the Dark Tower series. The first book, The Gunslinger, took me 3 tries over multiple years before I finally finished it. The Gunslinger is written in a different style, so despite it’s short length, I had trouble making myself read it until the end. Still the Dark Towers series looms large with other Constant Readers, and I felt like I was missing out on something. Thankfully, book 2 was King at his best. Unlike Gunslinger, Drawing of the Three was instabooklove. I always urge people to just get through book 1 so they can get to this book (although, tons of people love The Gunslinger, so you might love it too).
Dolores Claiborne- King is a great at creating characters that feel real, but Claiborne practically jumps off the pages of this book. She seems to be whispering her story in your ear as you read, and I’ve rarely felt a character’s presence so much in all my reading life (Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, Joe from You by Caroline Kepnes are a few others that spring to mind). “Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman’s got to hold on to.” Yes, indeedy.