Our Maine Man: A Stephen King Top 10


If you liked being a teenager, there’s something really wrong with you. ~Stephen King

If you don't get the reference, you're reading the wrong blog

Recalling my childhood story about the Demon Horse also reminded me how much I still love Stephen King. I figure that King is a lot like The Beatles, whom I also love. Yes, he’s done some purely self-indulgent crap over the years, and also some common crap, but he’s also produced so much brilliance that I can gladly overlook this. I’m not sure exactly which of his books I read first, but I’ve been a lifelong fan. If I hadn’t been, I might have given up once The Regulators came out. The local librarians where I lived were always happy to hold a copy of King’s latest for me…and I was glad they did.

I also realized I’d never attempted to rank my favorite King works. For the sake of argument I’m including everything: novels, screenplays, short stories, novellas, nonfiction. It was like trying to choose my favorite A-Team episodes, or ice cream flavors. Most of them are just so damn good. So, without further ado…*insert drumroll*

#10. The Running Man (1982, novel, as Richard Bachman)

This short but terrifying piece is, in some way, the ancestor of today’s bestselling Hunger Games trilogy. It’s also unbelievably intense and strangely believable for a jaded audience reared on reality shows. Read it and see what America is becoming.

#9. The Green Mile (1996, series of novellas)

I almost chose the short story here that was the basis for the excellent Shawshank Redemption. This is a throwback to the days of the Depression and dime novels, and it really works. It’s a tearjerker, a mystery, a supernatural piece, and an argument against the death penalty all in one.

#8. Faithful (2004, non-fiction, with Stewart O’Nan)

If you’re a Red Sox diehard, you need to read this book. Even if you’re not, it makes the game of baseball accessible, relevant, and hilarious. It’s a straightforward, day-by-day account of the Sox’ remarkable 2004 season, written by two men who know and love the sport. Self-indulgent indeed, which brings me to…

#7. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999, novel)

I’ll admit I included this one not just because it’s a terrific suspense story, but because it brings back so many childhood memories for me. I never did get lost for that extended length of time, but if I had, I might have done the same things the young protagonist does. Perfect for sharing with a precocious young reader, and it’s also been adapted into a cool pop-up book.

#6. Misery (1987, novel)

One reason I’m not desperate to pursue writing for a living? Just in case I ever became famous, I’d hate to meet my “biggest fan.” Which is exactly the premise for this chiller. The movie’s actually pretty good too.

#5. The Dark Tower (series of novels, 1982-2004)

“Why is this not higher?” you ask. The only reason is because there’s just so many great titles on the list, and I have to consider the series as an ongoing story rather than individual stories. King has said TDT is his attempt to create a postmodern Lord of the Rings style adventure, and hits the mark nicely. Another volume is due to come out next year.

#4. On Writing (non-fiction, 2000)

Imagine being given a private piano lesson with Chopin, or a session in the physics lab with Einstein, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what sort of boon this book is for writers. It’s deceptively straightforward and offers amazing insight and candor from a man who’s been writing bestsellers for 40 years. A must-have for anyone who wishes to write.

#3. It (novel, 1986)

Clowns. Giant spiders. School bullies. Dark, tight spaces. Darkness. It reads like a laundry list of most little kids’ worst fears (including my own.) This was the first book I ever remember having to leave the light on for at night. As I’ve told many of my friends, if it doesn’t scare you, you’re probably impossible to scare.

#2. The Langoliers (novella, 1990)

This might be the biggest head-scratcher here. I still can’t figure out why this story fascinates me so much. Is it the Twilight Zone-style plot? The weird twist on time travel stories? Bronson Pinchot’s histrionics in the wonderful B-movie version? I don’t know, but I do know I re-read this story at least once a year. Ever since, I’ve been afraid to stay awake on an airplane.

#1. The Stand (novel, 1978)

This wasn’t even close. I’ve read, re-read, recommended, and cried over The Stand at least a hundred times. It’s no less than the ultimate battle between good and evil…and the premise is horrifyingly possible. If you haven’t read it, take a long weekend and treat yourself. I promise you’ll be reading long into the night, even if you can guess how it all ends.

Honorable mentions to: The Shining (1977), Pet Sematary (1983), Needful Things (1991), Bag of Bones (1998)

Coulrophobia: fear of clowns

I invite my readers to submit their own King favorites…or not so much favorites…this month as I forge toward NaNoWriMo with a post a day. Drop me a line anytime at wikusandmurdock@yahoo.com and don’t forget to subscribe to P&Q!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on October 3, 2011.

6 Responses to “Our Maine Man: A Stephen King Top 10”

  1. Great post and it made me remember how much I really enjoy reading his stuff. It’s been a long while since I’ve picked up a book that wasn’t part of the Harry Potter series and thanks for reminding me of my roots! My all-time favorite had to be “Needful Things” and I’m glad to see it made it into your honorable mentions. “Misery” and “It” were both awesome reads, and I remember really enjoying “Nightmares and Dreamscapes” too. I really need to pick up some more of his books…

  2. I was never a Stephen King fan. But your post has made me want to pick up a book or two and give him another chance. Maybe I’ll start with your #1, The Stand. I have an 8 hour flight coming up. That should give me a good start. Thanks for the post!

  3. Personal circumstances have kept me away from your blog for a while, so forgive me if I’m a little behind, but I was really excited by this post in particular.
    I don’t really know why I was never aware that you were also a King fan, but I scrolled down the page hoping to see my favourite SK book somewhere near the #1 spot, and there it is… right at the top.
    I have spent so many years defending my love of Stephen King to die-hard literary snobs, who seem genuinely puzzled to find Stephen King on my bookshelves alongside Hemingway, Melville or Dickens. The reason for their confusion? In almost all cases, it is simply because they have never opened one of his books.

    Well done. I remember buying The Green Mile in chapters, and I still have them all somewhere.

  4. […] topic without losing fingers in the process. But I’m certainly going to start by referencing the blog post which made me turn back to my keyboard in the first place. Because it has been literally hours […]

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