Sunday, 15 January 2017

Top 10 Stephen King Books...So Far

It's a question I frequently get asked on instagram - what is your favourite Stephen King book? And inevitably, I give them my top 3 and these 3 picks just roll off the tongue. No thought involved. So then I thought...why not challenge myself to pick a top 10? And here we are! I decided not to include the Dark Tower series in my consideration, it's hard to compare single novels in this series to other standalone books, so just remember that the Dark Tower is quite literally, the best reading experience I've ever had (will probably ever have) in my entire life. So I have not forgotten about Roland and co. Let me know in the comments if you agree/disagree, or if a certain book is missing (perhaps I just haven't got around to reading it yet!).

1. Pet Sematary
In all honesty, I'm not sure this book will ever be topped. There was just something very unique about this reading experience for me. As a fan of horror movies, I'm often left lying awake at night long after the movie is over, breaking out in a cold sweat once I hear what sounds like a creak in the attic above me. So when I decided to read horror books I was under the impression that words couldn't scare me, I need that visual/auditory experience. Then I found Stephen King. Yes, my first King book IT was pretty scary at times, but Pet Sematary was a different level for me. I remember being so engrossed for the last quarter or so of that book, at times I was actually scared to turn the page. I kept thinking "No, King won't go that far..." and then he did! The characters themselves were all unforgettable, from little Gage Creed to Jud Crandall. Sometimes my memory gets the better of me and I forget how a book ends - but there's no chance of that happening with this one!

2. 11/22/63
Jake and Sadie forever and ever and ever... Possibly my favourite couple in literature. There was something so enchanting about their love and their relationship. Sadie herself is my favourite King character ever. A strong woman who has been through, and goes through, so much but still retains her dignity and that spark inside her. The JFK storyline was great, but most of my focus was on the love between these two. Also, one of King's best endings, surely? It was absolutely perfect and had me reaching for tissue after emotional.

3. IT
You never forget your first! And IT was mine. A mammoth book that is really worth investing your time in. It also has what I believe to be King's best villain - Pennywise (sorry, Randall Flagg fans). The friendships between those in the Loser's Club are so reminiscent of childhood friendships, nobody can write that coming-of-age story quite like Mr King. The horror and suspense and tension built within this novel, in addition to the feeling that things just aren't quite right in Derry, results in a book brimming with terror. Sheer brilliance!

4. Desperation
This book is an apocalyptic drama of God and evil, madness and revelation. There is a constant sense of tension that King holds over you relentlessly. And it's a proper horror book, full of gore and blood and guts! With scary animals everywhere from coyotes to scorpions to buzzards to recluse spiders... This was one of those books where I often imagined what it would feel like to be stuck in a situation like this, and it's definitely one of King's most scariest works, in my opinion.

5. Lisey's Story
Lisey's Story was an emotional one for me. Having lost my father at a young age, any piece of writing that explores loss and death can hit me quite hard (a prime example being A Monster Calls).  Of course Lisey's sense of loss refers to the death of her husband, and not her father, but the themes are similar. There's nothing quite like reading parts of a book and realising that you're not alone in feeling this way. It also includes one of my favourite ever excerpts from a book:

"And then sometimes a day would come, a gray one (or a sunny one) when she missed him so fiercely she felt empty, not a woman at all anymore but just a dead tree filled with cold November blow."

Gah, this book has so many stunning quotes like this! A lot of people seem to dislike this one, but no two people read the same book. I just have a personal attachment to this one.

6. Needful Things 
Needful Things really shows how King is the master of characterisation and being capable of weaving numerous stories together into one ultimate pay-off. It's just brimming with excellent characters and an equally brilliant big bad in Mr Leland Gaunt. A very under-rated King novel. Half the fun of this novel was trying to work out where King was going with would it all link together?! A great read.

7. Salem's Lot
When I think of Salem's Lot, I think of the underlying tension looming just beneath the surface for the majority of the story. This is how vampires should be! Scary and deadly, not beautiful immortal creatures that you romanticise and want to fall in love with... fuck that shit! So many parts had me feeling uneasy and quite creeped out. No one writes small town America like King, especially the death of a small town.

8. The Stand
Possibly surprising that King's "masterpiece" is so far down my list. I sometimes wonder if this is because this was one of the first King books I read and I somehow just forget how good it was? We shall see if its position moves on subsequent re-reads. The number of brilliant characters in this book is pretty impressive - Tom Cullen, Nick Andros, Stu Redman, Harold Lauder...I could go on, and even the Walkin' Dude himself, Randall Flagg. Now that I've written that list and thought about the characters I'm questioning myself why this book is ranked so low... I definitely need a re-read!!

9. Doctor Sleep
Yes, it is better than The Shining. Don't make me fight you. Yes, The Shining had its moments, but overall I feel that this is the better story. Dan Torrance has grown into a fine young man, and the character of Abra is one of my favourites written by King. She is such a kick-ass little girl. Rose the Hat and the True Knot are absolutely horrific, some scenes were just hard to read. The murdering of children makes for uncomfortable reading. I'd love to see this book made into a movie.

10. Revival
Revival gets major points for having such a memorable, harrowing ending. Unforgettable! Now that I've read quite a bit of Lovecraft, I can definitely see the inspiration for this story (in particular that ending). It felt like the story moved along at a moderate, but enjoyable pace, before building up to its crescendo ending. So good!!

So that's my top 10...for now. I'm sure as I read more King (and re-read some) the list will continually undergo slight changes, so who knows when I'll update this list. I'll keep you all posted!


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