Reader 1: What cha readin’?
Reader 2: The latest Stephen King.
Reader 1: Oh. I can’t read horror.
Reader 2: Stephen King. isn’t. …horror… Well, a lot of his stuff is creepy. Okay, really creepy… and menacing maybe. Alright, disturbing. I guess it is mostly horror. But hey, it’s October. What better time to read some horror?
My first Stephen King was The Dead Zone, the story of John Smith, a teacher who awakens from a 4 ½ year coma, to find he has clairvoyant abilities. He uses his power for good, including solving a serial murder case, but he soon learns that it is responsibility he would wish on no one. A timely read with a presidential election around the corner. Adapted as a 1983 film starring Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen.
The one that kept me up all night was Salem’s Lot, a vampire story that will make you leave the light on. King once said it was the favorite of all his books. Adapted as a 1979 TV movie starring David Soul, a 2004 TV movie starring Rob Lowe, and a 1995 BBC radio drama.
My favorite King is The Stand, a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy about the fallout that occurs when a weaponized strain of influenza is unintentionally released. This one is epic. Adapted as an eight hour miniseries in 1994, and a Marvel comic book series. A film is in the works.
King once said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that he likes to terrify people. However he has proven to be more than capable of diverging from his primary genre. So if horror is really not your thing, but you’d like a well-written, imaginative story with great character development? Try these:
Different Seasons, a collection of four novellas that are (mostly) a departure from King’s usual oeuvre. Three of the four have been adapted to film: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (The Shawshank Redemption, nominated for best picture of 1994), The Body (Stand by Me, 1986), and Apt Pupil, 1998.
Eyes of the Dragon, classic fantasy. No adaptation… yet.
11/22/63, the story of a time traveler who tries to prevent the assassination of JFK. Sixteen weeks on the NYT Best Seller list, LA Times Best Mystery/Thriller, Locus Award for Best Science Fiction novel.
For something completely different try Drunken Fireworks, a 2015 short story published exclusively as audio you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a country store in Maine as you listen to Alden McCausland narrate the story of a July 4th fireworks competition that goes horribly wrong. This story will be included in King’s latest collection of short stories, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, slated to be released in November.
And so much more from which to choose. With more than 50 novels, a handful of nonfiction, and nearly 200 short stories, your nearest librarian can help find the right Stephen King for you.