My Top Ten Stephen King Books

Happy Birthday to Stephen King, who turns 70 today!

Welcome to Day Four of Stephen King Week. I’m posting something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews (including 2017’s It), and two Top Ten lists (including My Top Ten Stephen King Movies). Today I’m posting my list of My Top Ten Stephen King Books.

I love Stephen King’s books, which I’ve been reading ever since the age of about 12 when a friend let me borrow his Night Shift short story collection during study hall. I was immediately hooked. That version had the hand with the eyeballs on the cover (from the creepy short story I Am the Doorway):

It’s funny how the brain works: I remember the short stories in Night Shift as if I read them yesterday while I have trouble remembering some of King’s stuff that I read in later years. I suppose it’s a combination of it being a damn good book & the fact that we often seem to have a good memory for the things we loved in our formative years.

Anyway, I’ve always loved King’s short stories & novellas just as much as his full length novels so I don’t want to ignore the collections in this post. As they’d be too difficult to “rank” alongside one-story novels, my below list is a ranking of only King’s full-length fictional novels. But I’m going to talk a little about each of his short story collections at the end of this post too (Well, hell – there are ten so I suppose I can “rank” the collections as well. Oh I do love making lists!). 😉

First, here are My Top Ten Stephen King Full-Length Novels. As always, though, I’m doing a full ranking from least favorite to favorite book and I’ve read way more than ten. Here we go!

The Rest That I’ve Read

38. Dreamcatcher
37. The Regulators
36. Desperation (I honestly can’t remember which is which of The Regulators & Desperation – I barely remember either of them)
35. The Tommyknockers
34. Bag Of Bones
33. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
32. The Outsider
31. Dolores Claiborne (Could do with re-reading)

Top Thirty:

30. Finders Keepers
29. From A Buick 8
28. The Dark Half
27. Under The Dome
26. Blaze
25. Gerald’s Game
24. Thinner
23. Revival
22. Lisey’s Story
21. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

Top Twenty:

20. Duma Key
19. Doctor Sleep
18. Cujo
17. Insomnia
16. End Of Watch
15. Rose Madder
14. Misery
13. Pet Sematary
12. Needful Things
11. The Running Man

Top Ten:

10. 11/22/63

9. Cell (I know I have this too high & will probably change my mind over time. I’ll be reviewing the movie tomorrow so will talk a little about the book too.)

8. Joyland

7. Mr. Mercedes

6. The Long Walk

5. The Shining

4. It

3. The Green Mile

2. ‘Salem’s Lot

1. The Dead Zone

Need To Re-Read:

Rage & Roadwork (I don’t remember them at all) & The Stand. I must have read three quarters of The Stand in my twenties then got too busy in life & took so long to get back to it that I’d have to start from the beginning again. It’s… long! It was great so I still regret not finishing.

Not Read:

Carrie, Firestarter, Christine, Cycle Of The Werewolf, The Talisman, The Eyes Of The Dragon, The Dark Tower Series (other than Book 1), The Plant, Black House, The Colorado Kid, Sleeping Beauties (book coming soon)

Now here are My Top Ten Stephen King Short Story & Novella Collections (ranked from least favorite to favorite). I’ve included my favorite stories from each collection as well:

10. Full Dark, No Stars: Big Driver & A Good Marriage. It’s weird that I don’t remember this collection that well when it’s not that old. I liked A Good Marriage but somehow didn’t even remember I’d read it until I was halfway through watching the film

9. Everything’s Eventual: 1408 is the only story I really remember from this collection. It’s a good one (and decent movie adaptation, as well).

8. Hearts In Atlantis: The story Hearts In Atlantis was very good but I somehow don’t remember the slightest thing about the other stories in this book…

7. Just After Sunset: Willa, The Gingerbread Girl, Stationary Bike, The Things They Left Behind, Graduation Afternoon. Looks like I remember quite a few, so obviously a pretty strong collection.

6. Skeleton Crew: The Mist (could do with re-reading), The Monkey, The Raft & The Jaunt (this last one haunts me to this day).

5. Four Past Midnight: The Langoliers, Secret Window Secret Garden & The Sun Dog (this creeped me the hell out). These stories were great but perhaps my absolute least favorite story of King’s is also in this book: The Library Policeman. Urgh.

4. Different Seasons: The book where only The Breathing Method didn’t become a movie because, seriously, that would NOT work as a film…! The Body became the brilliant Stand By Me, Apt Pupil was turned into an okay film, and it’s obvious what movie came from Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption. I worship that film. Is it time to confess that it’s the only story in this collection that I can’t bring myself to read as I love the film so much? There. I’ve admitted it.

3. Nightmares & Dreamscapes: The End Of The Whole Mess, Chattery Teeth, You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band, Sorry Right Number, Crouch End. Another really strong collection I remember well despite it being fairly old now. It might help that several of these were made into shorts for the TV series.

2. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams: The Dune, Ur, Under The Weather, Drunken Fireworks, Summer Thunder. A really recent book I was very happy with after King’s collections from more recent years have been a bit weak compared to his oldest stuff. And I reviewed every single story in full (I’m a nerd).

1. Night Shift: Jerusalem’s Lot, The Ledge, Children Of The Corn, The Last Rung On The Ladder. I love this book so much. My introduction to King & still possibly my favorite book overall. I think he writes fantastic short stories (as does his son Joe Hill, FYI – I highly recommend 20th Century Ghosts). Children Of The Corn is really good (I think it was a hard one to translate to film without it ending up as cheesy as it did). The Last Rung On The Ladder is heartbreaking and possibly the one that most got me hooked on his work (odd, considering it’s a non-horror). Actually, it was Last Rung as well as Jerusalem’s Lot that got me hooked. Jerusalem’s Lot is a story set in the same town as in Salem’s Lot, which I have very high on my novel list. I remember actually almost enjoying the shorter story even more. Sometimes less is more.

People skip these short stories & novellas sometimes but they really shouldn’t be ignored. I think there’s almost more skill to making a short story really good (which is why my posts are always too long. I’m no writer! Blah blah blah. I need to get to the point).

Phew. I think I’ve covered everything? I’ve read none of King’s Nonfiction but Danse Macabre does sound interesting.

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Joyland by Stephen King (Book Review)

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Joyland by Stephen King

***SPOILER-FREE REVIEW***

What It’s About:

It’s 1973 and heartbroken college student Devin Jones takes a summer job at an amusement park called Joyland. What should just be a simple summer job brings Devin lifelong friends, heartache, and some of his best & also most horrific life experiences. These experiences make him an adult but will also forever haunt him as much as the ghost of the girl named Linda Gray, who four years previously was mysteriously murdered in and now haunts Joyland’s Horror House ride.

My Thoughts:

I adore Stephen King. I don’t read as much as I’d like but I always make time for King’s books. Love him or hate him (does anyone hate him?), I think he’s an amazing writer and I find myself “lost” in the world of his books as I read them far more than I do with other authors. I suppose he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because of the whole horror thing but I’ve always preferred the supernatural and horror genres when it comes to books so he writes the sort of stories I love. And what a great storyteller! I’d love to see inside that crazy-ass brain of his.

Joyland is quite a simple and pretty straightforward sort of pulp murder mystery. This appears to be King’s second book published by “Hard Case Crime”. The Colorado Kid was the first, which I’ve not read but should as I love the Haven TV show that’s (loosely?) based on it.

I won’t go into the story much as it would ruin it for anyone who reads it. Yes, the Linda Gray ghost & murder mystery is a fairly big part of the story but there’s much more to the book than just that. I’ve also always been fascinated by books with a funfair type setting & the whole carny thing so we get a great big dose of that in this book.

It takes a while for the story to really get going and the best part of the story & a couple of the most important characters (other than Devin) don’t make much of an appearance until over halfway through the book. But King spends a lot of time developing the character of Devin and I really enjoyed that. My favorite King books are the ones in which he focuses more on character development and giving us characters that we really like & care about. He doesn’t always do this and those in which he doesn’t give us characters that are very memorable or gives us ones that are pretty much all downright hateful (Under The Dome) are the books that end up being my least favorite.

Speaking of Under The Dome, that book definitely had a better overall concept than Joyland but then was filled with main characters I didn’t really care about (and can barely even remember as I type this) and such over the top “baddies” that it was one of the more difficult King books to work through despite the great story idea and really wanting to know how it would end. I loved the characters in Joyland, especially Devin & the two important characters he meets later in the book (I won’t go into that as they’re only hinted at on the back cover) but also the other college friends he makes at Joyland and all the regular Joyland employees. For a short book, I felt like I knew more about even the most minor characters in Joyland than I did about anyone in Under The Dome.

The story in Joyland isn’t going to change the world – it’s simple and pretty predictable but I had fun with it & thoroughly enjoyed the book thanks to the setting & especially the great cast of characters. They’re still quite black & white but that works in this “Hard Case Crime” style of book. When you buy a book as thick as Under The Dome, you expect a bit more.

Note: Sorry to compare it to Under The Dome so much but it’s on my mind as the series is finally starting in the UK (this coming Monday night on Channel Five). Yay! As disappointing as the book was, I still enjoy watching ALL things Stephen King-related and never miss them even though I know some adaptations have been truly horrible.

Summary:

Joyland was a great read. It’s pretty “light” for a King novel but that doesn’t make it any less worthy than his more lengthy books. It’s quite a straightforward crime thriller but with just enough of the weird & supernatural to keep King fans happy. But the thing that works best is a great set of well-developed characters, even down to the minor ones. We care about the people in Joyland and the last half of the book, a big part of which has nothing to do with Linda Gray’s murder, is surprisingly moving and reminds us how great King’s books can be when he focuses on making us understand and truly like the people in his fictional worlds.

My Rating: 4/5

This is my favorite book I’ve read this year, closely followed by The Perks Of Being A Wallflower then the rest below. I haven’t managed to read a lot so far but they’ve all been pretty good:

Wool by Hugh Howey Review

Wonder by RJ Palacio Review

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green Review

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Review