A Beginner’s Guide to Stephen King

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Are you a neophyte of the spook-i-verse? Welcome, welcome. If you’re interested in starting down the terrible, creaky stairs to the basement of horror, there’s only one place to begin: welcome to the Stephen King book list.

Recently, Simon and Schuester announced they had partnered with Alexa to create an interactive Stephen King experience; you answer some questions, and they create a recommendation. However, their Stephen King book list is only 56 titles. King is a man of innumerable material. Literally. The largest search engine in the world isn’t even sure how many books he’s produced:

Stephen King Book List

Stephen King is blowing up right now. While we were at BookCon, people were crawling over each other to get at a new copy of the Outsider. Hulu came out with Castle Rock, so now each Wednesday King fans watch in gape-mouth astonishment and then comb Reddit for theories. It’s a great time to become a Constant Reader.

So, you want a recommendation as to where to begin, but don’t want to be limited? Don’t worry, New Reader, I am here to escort you on this journey. My lifelong love of King and all things spooky began at the ripe age of seven, when my blessed parents thought I’d never discover the use of stools in order to reach the books on the top of their shelves. In the years since, I’ve amassed a collection. So, if you’re ready for an expert, I’m happy to oblige.

A note: King’s content can be very disturbing. If we included a trigger warning, it would be for everything. If you need to avoid specific content, I would suggest doing some light research beforehand, or if you want to avoid spoilers entirely, feel free to reach out to me. In collections, feel free to skip any material you can’t handle.

Stephen King Book List: Page Chaser Edition

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Start with: Everything’s Eventual

What should be your first Stephen King book? I picked this as the opening number for many reasons (beyond the obvious; that short stories are quicker to digest).

  1. It has a wide variety of his best-hits; paranormal, hauntingly realistic, devil confrontations, ghostly room at the inn.
  2. “Riding the Bullet” and “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away” are v famous and potentially familiar to you, New Reader.
  3. The inclusion of “1408” is a good introduction to the phenomenon of “oh, this is so different and so much more nightmarish than the movie.” You’ll experience that a lot. This phenomenon might even ruin a movie you once enjoyed.
  4. Finally, this collection in particular still haunts me, years later (I’m looking @ you, “Lunch at the Gotham Café.”)

Next up: Night Shift

If you’re familiar with King, you’re probably also familiar with the idea that he has the tendency to take things that aren’t scary at all, and make them scary. Night Shift proves that he can freakin’ do it. Demon-possessed laundry press? Oh, yeah. Murderous, autonomous trucks? You betchya. Electric Lawnmower, killing machine? You’d better believe it. Also, remember that oh-no-movies-are-different phenomenon from Everything’s Eventual? It’s going to blow your mind when you read Children of the Corn. All 50 pages of it. That’s been made into seven oh no, I forgot the one in 2011 so that’s eight oh why, a TV movie, okay nine, oh please no they’re making a tenth one this year ten movies.

intro to Stephen king, how to start reading Stephen king, first Stephen king book I should readMove onto: Four Past Midnight.

Now that you’ve finished two amazing short story collections, you’re ready for the next step: novellas. King has a lot of novella collections, but this has to be the one for you, because “The Langoliers” will ruin your life. Think you’ll ever fly in comfort again? You’re wrong. Welcome to your existential crisis. It also touches on one of King’s strengths: the ability to make a person deranged by isolation more threatening than actual monsters (which you’ll experience again in “The Mist” and, my most beloved of his works, The Stand). The rest are suspenseful thrill rides, with “Secret Window, Secret Garden” being a personal favorite.

Next at bat: Different Seasons

Oh, this sweet little nightmare factory. Prepare to have your mind blown, because this collection includes both “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body.” Both were adapted into very famous movies. You can probably guess the first, but “The Body” was turned into Stand By Me, and if you loved the movie then be prepared to love the novella even more. You’ll likely enjoy “The Breathing Method,” but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say this about Four Seasons: “Apt Pupil,” especially in light of recent times, can be skipped.

Last up: Carrie

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This is where I leave you, New Reader. Your first full-length King novel should be his first published full-length novel: Carrie, published in 1974. To paraphrase Stefon, this book has everything. Supernatural powers. Multi-level storytelling. The constant question of, “who is the real monster?” Even if you’ve seen the movie adaptation (any of them), they can’t begin to touch on the deeper elements of this novel. Read it. Love it. Become an official Constant Reader.

Please let us know your thoughts, if you picked up any of these books, or your favorite work of King’s below! How does our Stephen king book list compare to yours?

If you’ve decided King is not your thing, why not try:

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2 Comments

  1. Salem’s Lot was my first, just a hint, if you will, of what was to come! INSOMNIA threw me for a loop but The Talisman, his collaboration with Peter Straub, another favorite of mine, remains my favorite. Read 3 times already.

    • Those are all great King masterpieces as well! I am always torn when trying to decide which of his books to read next, but The Talisman will definitely be moving up on my list! Thanks for sharing!

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