Top 10 Stories & Books by Stephen King

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Stephen King is quite prolific, having penned over 40 novels and 166 works of short fiction.  Therefore, for this Top Tenz list, we couldn’t narrow it down to just novels or short stories.  Any reader of King’s knows that he threads many of his works together, but the purpose of this list is to praise and examine 10 of King’s best stand-alone works – even if that work is part of a bigger story.  And let’s face it, in the world of Stephen King there is always a bigger story.

10.   Everything’s Eventual (Short Story)

Published in Everything’s Eventual:  14 Dark Tales, this quirky tale follows Dinky Earnshaw, our 19-year-old narrator who has the uncanny ability to draw pictures that kill people.  A mysterious man from a mysterious corporation gives Dinky a house to live in, a car to drive, plenty of money, and pretty much anything he could ever ask for in return for Dinky drawing his pictures (Dinky, as our hero, has no idea the power his pictures wield).  Even as the truth of what he’s doing starts to dawn on Dinky, he starts to realize that the mysterious corporation is not what it seems, and that the people he’s killing might not be the bad guys after all.  Dinky makes an appearance in King’s opus The Dark Tower series, where the mysterious corporation is shown to be linked to the Crimson King. Everything’s Eventual

9. Low Men in Yellow Coats (Novella)

This Novella appeared in the collection Hearts In Atlantis, and is another offshoot of The Dark Tower series.  Ted Brautigan has escaped from his incarceration as a beam-breaker for the Crimson King.  We don’t really fully understand this until the final book of The Dark Tower series, but we know by the end of “Low Men in Yellow Coats” that Ted is going to work for the bad guys in return for them leaving Bobby alone.  Wait a minute; we may be a little ahead of ourselves.  Ted moves into the same apartment building as Bobby Garfield, the child of a single mother who is sleeping with her boss.  Which is scandalous, especially in 1960.  Ted and Bobby form a friendship that makes his mother very suspicious.  Ted lets Bobby know that he (Ted) is being chased by “low men in yellow coats” who put up lost pet signs and draw stars and moons on the sidewalk.  Bobby meets Carol, a lovely young girl who also develops a strong affinity for Ted.  Carol gets attacked, Ted tries to help her, Bobby’s mom walks in at an inopportune moment and we find out that she calls and turns Ted in to the “Can-Toi”, or the low men in yellow coats.  Sound confusing?  Give it a read.  We guarantee you’ll enjoy it. Low Men in Yellow Coats

8.  Misery

Annie Wilkes is Paul Sheldon’s “number one fan”.  Paul writes Annie’s favorite stories about Misery Chastain, a tragic heroine who Paul has the nerve to kill off in what was supposed to be the final Misery novel.  It just figures that Paul would just so happen to get into a car accident right near Annie’s house.  She rescues him, takes him to her house, and at first it seems that Paul’s really lucked out.  He has a “number one fan” to take care of him.  It turns out that Annie is completely off her rocker, and that Paul isn’t so lucky after all.  Made into a movie with James Caan and the incomparable Kathy Bates (who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Annie), the movie was not near as disturbing as the book.  Trust us. Misery

7. Carrie

What can we say?  King can really write crazy.  Carrie was published in 1974 and has been a banned book in schools all over the U.S.  It’s also been widely adapted:  two feature films, a TV movie, and even a Broadway musical.  Not too shabby for a manuscript that Stephen King threw away initially. Carrie

6. The Long Walk

Published under King’s nom de plume, Richard Bachman, The Long Walk takes place in an alternate universe where life in these United States is more like life in a police state, where teenage boys are forced to take the “long walk” and are killed by soldiers for their indiscretions.  It is a well-crafted, fully horrifying piece of work. The Long Walk

5. Rage

Also published under the name Richard Bachman, this psychological thriller/teenage horror story is so powerful and has so many social implications that Stephen King has decided for it to stay out of print forever.  Since the odds are pretty slim that you’ll get to read this one, we’ll give you a short plot synopsis.  Charlie Decker is an angry young man.  So angry, in fact, that he beats a teacher with a wrench, grabs his pistol out of his locker, sets his locker on fire, and then shoots two teachers.  As if that wasn’t enough, he holds a classroom full of his fellow students hostage.  Disturbing, but not an original story, right?  The catch is that the story sounds familiar because of things that have happened since Rage was published.  Added to the fact that the story is much more interesting than just a disturbed kid.  The dialog between Charlie and his hostages is riveting, and the story is a testament to how horrible teen life can be and how angry life can make a child that is having a hard time becoming an adult.  Unfortunately, copies of the book were found in the possession of real-life kids who were angry and messed-up enough to commit similar crimes.  Hence, it is out of print. Rage

4. Wizard and Glass (A Dark Tower Novel)

Let’s face it.  This series is Stephen King’s opus, and so many of his works weave into it.  Since we’re doing this list based on stand-alone works, we didn’t include the whole series.  That’s OK, because some of the books are better than the others.  This is one of them.  This is the story that, most notably, talks about Roland of Gilead’s history, and what a history it is.  This is one of the best-crafted, wondrous, disturbing quest stories of all time, not just in Stephen King’s world. Wizard and Glass

3. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

This story comes from the short story collection Different Seasons, which was also the book with “Apt Pupil” and “The Body”, both of which were made into feature films.  So was “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”.  As great as the film was, the story is better.  It is rich and delightfully told, and you should read it.  Today.  You won’t be sorry. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

2. The Gunslinger (A Dark Tower Novel)

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”  If you’ve read this book, that line gives you chills.  A poem by Robert Browning called “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” was the unlikely inspiration for this 12-year-in-development labor of love.  Funny enough, Browning’s poem is said to have come to him in a dream, fully formed in iambic pentameter.  The title of the poem comes from Shakespeare’s King Lear.  Shakespeare got the idea for Edgar’s rant from a fairy tale called “Childe Rowland”, which incidentally takes its inspiration from a medieval ballad.  One might say that the inspiration for The Gunslinger has inspired many other great works before it.  King has often said that he was on a sort of “auto-pilot” during the creation of The Gunslinger and The Dark Tower novels.  Guided by the spirit of creation, anyone? The Gunslinger

1. The Stand

If Stephen King considers The Dark Tower novels to be his “magnum opus”, The Stand is perhaps his greatest masterpiece.  A sprawling and magnificent novel, The Stand takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where most of the human population is dead by the hand of a man-made biological virus/weapon.  An oracle’s dreams draws a group of survivors together to rebuild society, but Randall Flagg has other plans.  And that synopsis barely scratches the surface of this amazing piece of literature.  A bonus for true fans, The Stand is totally linked into The Dark Tower series – Randall Flagg is the villain, there is a superflu, everything is a wasteland but as a stand-alone novel it really holds its salt. The Stand


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35 Comments

  1. I bought ‘Rage’ in a drugstore because the cover (Charlie siting on the teacher’s desk) pulled me in. (Yes, first edition. Still have it.) It’s a powerful story, told very simply. It parrallels ‘Carrie’ in a way. Considering his own background, it’s no suprise that his work on these two books is so powerful.

    • Oh my goodness! I’ve been trying to find the book “Rage” for 2 years. Do you know anywhere else they sell. If not, I’m willing to buy it off you..

      • IT was my first Stephen King book…..in grade 5!!! Since then, I've read everything by him that I could get my hands on. Never had the pleasure of reading Rage though.

  2. Next to The Stand, I put The Shining up there over some of these. That one is NOTHING like the movie and will scare the beejesus out of you. Also the Breathing Method. A short story from "Different Seasons". Such a cool story!!

  3. Dolores Claibourne is the exception that proves the rule that the King films are always weaker than the books. Maybe The Running Man too…but the other films are often really, really bad.

    Pet Sematry must be the worst adaptation of the lot, it is so bad it is almost funny.

    • You really aren't giving enough credit for bad King adaptions. Graveyard Shift was probably worse than Pet Semetary. Of course I thought The Running Man was a pretty lackluster adaption too.

      Stand By Me was an excellent adaption too, although I like The shawshank Redemption as well, so what do I know?

  4. You should add photos or videos! I know that sounds dumb but it makes the list more entertaining.. just a suggestion.

  5. Yeah, IT horrified me. It's amazing how psychotically imaginative it is. I can't even look at a picture of it.

  6. I love the site- I have gotten hours of entertainment out of it- just wanted to add my 2 cents…in "The Long Walk", the kids are not forced into it- they have to volunteer, and write an exam, and there are 2 lists- primary Walkers, and backup Walkers, in case one of the primaries backs out…

  7. Like a lot of people on this comment board – I was introduced to Stephen King's world in grade school!! LOL – I had many sleepless nights yet could not stop reading his madness!

    A far as novels go – nothing was more disturbing and CREEPIER to me than 'IT' and 'Pet Semetery'. I still hate cemeteries and clowns to this day.

    Fave S. King Short stories – Quitters Inc, Mist , Dolan's Cadillac, Grey Matter, Everything's Eventual, That Feeling You can Only Say in French, The Boogeyman scared me sh*tless! and finally The End of the Whole Mess.

  8. Great list! Really takes me back to a time when I read nothing but Stephen King. A couple I thought were great too were the Langoliers, a short story from “Four Past Midnight”, and the Eyes of the Dragon, which also has Randall Flagg in it.

  9. I recently found a copy of the Bachman Books on eBay! I read them in grade school…they still hold up today.

    • Oh quit it. This is a list based off of opinion. Mr. King has made many stories in his lifetime, and it’s hard to choose from all of them.
      Stop being so critical. Just because your favorites aren’t up there, doesn’t mean that it’s a bad list.

  10. I was very amused by a cameo that Stephen King made in Creepshow’s short story “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” where he characters his own story of a farmer that founds a strange meteorite at the backyard which he touches and a fast growing alien plant starts to grow all over his body, but that’s a story made for the movie.
    My favorite from S.K. is Salem’s Lot.
    To be honest I was very terrified to turn the page, I even got shaking hands when I was turning the page haha!
    I had to sleep with the lights on for about a month, I was 8 when I read it.

    Regards!
    A.

  11. Geralds Game is a good read, it gets right into your mind, especially just before bed!!! Who is standing in the corner watching you in the dark???!!!!

  12. Of his newer novels, ‘Under The Dome’ is really quite good. I think that the novel is his best work. EVER.

  13. I bought ‘Roadwork’, another Bachman paperback and ended up finding and buying ‘Rage’ and ‘The Long Walk’ only because I could not believe how much this Bachman guy was ripping off King’s style (I was already a fan).
    I’ve felt since the first read that ‘The Stand’ was King’s best, and one of the best books I’ve ever read. The attempts to bring it to (whatever) screen have yet to match the impact of the written version (I understand there is another attempt in progress).
    You missed ‘The Mist’. Excellent short story, completely free of reason or hope.

  14. Two comments:

    First, NO “Salem’s Lot”?!?!? I almost fell over.

    Second, the description of the “Long Walk” wasn’t very accurate. The “walkers” volunteer to take the walk in hopes of getting their hearts desire. It’s set in sort of a similar universe as “The Running Man”.

  15. I agree that Misery, The Long Walk, Wizard in Glass, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and The Stand should probably be in the Top Ten… Or maybe the Top Twenty. SK is very prolific, so there are a LOT of options. And yeah, maybe Low Men in Yellow Coats, too. I think most of the rest were great reads, but not his top. Also agree with others in that I can’t believe The Shinging wasn’t included–freaking TERRIFYING–and I’m surprised no one mentioned Christine. I was a pretty big fan of Firestarter and Eyes of the Dragon, too, . Notable short stories that stuck with me: Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut, Word Processor of the Gods, The Body, Children of the Corn, The End of the Whole Mess, The Jaunt, Survivor Type. And, as someone who thinks most of his stuff is pretty riveting, I thought Insomnia was pretty… rough. 🙂 Finally, the story I wish I’d never read–TOO disturbing–was Library Policeman. You can’t undo that. 🙁

  16. I was really glad that The Long Walk was included in the list. Personally, I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t put the book down at all. But the description of the summary wasn’t as accurate as I hoped. Still I loved your list. Hopefully I’ll be able to read all the selections from the list, but judging from the comments, Rage wouldn’t be easy to track down. Anyways, I hope you make other lists of other great writers.

  17. Seattle Websites on

    Oh yes, “Misery” and “Carrie”. Those where the best back then, but they’re still good now. There’s a few I’m not familiar with. I guess I need to check out those books.

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