Favorite Stephen King Novel?

It’s Halloween and that, to me, is the time of the horror novel.

And of course, you can’t talk horror novels without some talk of one of the Masters.

So: Stephen King.

I asked this on FB a few weeks ago and it produced some interesting discussion, so I’m bringing it here to the blog because, well, YAY BLOG.

I gotta know: what’s your favorite King novel?

And, more importantly, why?

Bonus question: least favorite King novel (and also, why)?

If I had to pick my favorite — which is a tooth-pulling maneuver, because so many choices — I’d go with the entirety of the Dark Tower series, with a preference toward Wizard and Glass. Least favorite — you know, I don’t know. I tried Gerald’s Game and just couldn’t do it. Cell had a cool idea but the execution didn’t come together for me. But if I had a gun to my head: Dreamcatcher. (Doubly true of the movie, of which I am not a fan.) Still, some of King’s leastmost works are still better than so many, you know?

153 comments

  • Favorite: It. I lost decades of teenage sleep imagining that killer clown’s face, laugh, and voice. And the image has only worn off a little now that I’m an adult.

    Agree with you about Gerald’s Game. It just didn’t do it for me.

  • I have to pick one? When I was first getting into horror and reading in general my mother had the biggest Stephen King collection. I think she had all of his books in hardcover, at least the ones he had released that far. I might be able to narrow it down to two.

    Salem’s Lot – The first book that actually kept me up at night. I remember one of the scenes near the very end, my back was to a window and I was alone in my room. That ended up with me running downstairs. The movie was disappointing, but they normally are. Something about King novels doesn’t translate well to movies and tv shows.

    The Shining – I don’t remember this one as well as I do Salem’s lot, I think it warrants a reread when I get a chance. Most of what I remember is just how scary Jack Torrence could be, not as a ghost but as a person. What I do remember is I left this book wanting to know what happened next. I’m about halfway through Doctor Sleep and so far I am not disappointed.

    Least Favorite: The Dark Tower series – I was pretty young when I tried to read that, I think I need to give it a shot again now that I’m not like 12 anymore. That would probably help.

  • One of my faves was Rose Madder. I really liked that story. It seems sometimes like it’s the one everyone forgot about, but I love it.

    All time fave though, all of the Dark Tower series. 100%

    My least fave is a tie between Cell and Under the Dome. Cell bcs I disliked the entire thing and Under the Dome bcs I hated the ending.

  • I’m going to go with “Salem’s Lot” as my favorite. My reasoning is the excellent job Mr. King did in creating a sense of isolation for the town. It added to the feel of helpless dread.

    My least favorite, simply because it started out so fantastic and then let me down so dramatically, is “It”. 80% of the book scared the piss out of me. Then came the space spider. And the weird child orgy. Barfo!

    • I agree that the child orgy was lame/disturbing, and definitely not in a good way. That’s the only way they could defeat the beast–a gang bang? I loved the mini-series for leaving that out.

  • This is tough, because I’m a huge Stephen King fan and have read all of his novels and stories except the Dark Tower series. And while he’s written so many amazing books, he’s also written quite a few bad ones, as others have pointed out.

    My favorite (besides On Writing) would have to be Bag of Bones. There are some problems with it, but this book shows off one of the things King does best–the slow build of that creepy “there’s something wrong with this town” feeling. I loved the depth of this story and the characters he created. Sara Laughs was so real that I actually did an internet search to see if someone like that had ever lived. The details seemed so authentic. The idea that an old woman could be a physical threat to a healthy young man, though? I’m sorry, that scene was laughable, as was the one where Mike’s wet dream danced on a frisbee and all the guys acted like they’d never seen a woman before. If I could cut those two scenes, I would.

    My least favourite: IMO, King had a run of bad ones in the early ’90s–Gerald’s Game, Insomnia, Dolores, Desperation, but the winner for most disappointing had to be Carrie. I finished re-reading this yesterday because of all the hype with the movie remake. I remembered not liking it as a child, but I didn’t know why. To be fair, this is his first published book, so he was green, but this story had such great potential. He ruins it by giving away too much upfront, stopping in the middle of the auction to recount dry faux “factual” articles about telekinesis, and none of the characters are likeable. Hard to feel sorry for a character who kills the good along with the bad, who is described as “bovine” and whose favorite word is “Ohuh?”, whatever that means. And The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon? Why not just write a valentine to the Red Sox and leave it at that.

    But the one Stephen King book that truly scared me is The Stand, because it was so real. When he starts getting into the Flagg stuff, it lost its impact because my suspension of disbelief went out the window, but the beginning, with all the people dying from the flu? It was so realistic it was truly terrifying. I can easily see that situation happening for real. It took several tries before I could get through it. That’s how much it disturbed me.

  • Am I gonna be the first to say… my favourite King novel (and one of my favourite books) is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. It’s got that creep factor, but it’s also sweet and thoughtful… it explores the big issues. And it feels so real despite being so unreal.

    I also think that SK is the master of the scary short story. He’s taken years off my life with tales like The Boogeyman and Crouch End. And the writer in me is so grateful for On Writing. It makes me feel better when I’m having one of those moments.

    Didn’t like? Needful Things. It was long ago that I tried to read it, but I was such a fan and I gave up, thinking it probably would have made a great short story. Maybe there was a payoff and I never got there.

  • I have really enjoyed most of the King books I’ve read but for some reason I just keep going back to the novella “The Body.” It’s the one they made the movie Stand By Me after. He just captured the voice and time of those character’s childhood so well. I’ve read it like 4 times and by the way the late great Frank Muller narrates the crap out of that book. So good. 11/22/63 comes in a close second. He really captured a slice of the 60s and it was so enjoyable to read.

    My least favorite would have to be The Eyes of the Dragon. I was bored out of my mind. Maybe it’s an amazing book but I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t get very far into it. It seemed like it was all telling instead of showing. I also have tried reading The Gunslinger 3 separate times because everyone says The Dark Tower series is amazing but I just can’t get into it. I will try again someday though.

  • I’m with you all the way with Darktower.. My least favourite King book is Volume VII of the Dark Tower. It was a cop out ending… Even if he had the ending in mind right from the beginning (Which is deliciously Ironic for those that haven’t read it) It was at the very least, not executed well.. My absolute Favourite is The Long Walk. It’s Dramatic enough to make a good movie, instead of a Typical King cheesy horror flick.

  • I loved the hell out of King from ages 12-16, then discovered Lovecraft and didn’t look back until recently.
    The Guardian started a King marathon and even though I’m about ten books behind, I’m still going strong.

    My favourite (so far) is a book I didn’t read in my youth, The Long Walk. The sense of desolation and the slow, dry pace was wonderful and horrible to experience.
    My least favourite has been Christine which feels lazy, like King was painting by numbers and kept in the narrative stumbling block he fell over when he hospitalised the main perspective character.

  • THE LONG WALK. I read it four years ago and still get into lengthy discussions about it today. It stayed with me.

    I try to read PET SEMATARY every year on Easter Sunday. Because, ya know, resurrection.

  • Yep yep. The Stand and On Writing are the two that do it for me.

    Otherwise, I don’t know that I’ve read enough of his to have one to hate (or maybe I only read them on recommendations and generally like what I read).

  • There are so many it’s hard to choose, but if by favorite you mean “reread the most times” I’d have to go with The Stand and The Long Walk. The Stand was just so… possible. Well, until the Randall Flagg stuff, but you know. And The Long Walk is so matter-of-fact about killing all those kids, it’s fascinating. I loved most of his earlier stuff and I’m liking his later works (trunk novels or no), but there was a time when I was disappointed every time I plunked down my $25 for his latest work.

    Desperation/The Regulators? Violence porn in a confused setting. Cell? Just awful. Dreamcatcher? Actually boring. Insomnia? I got about two-thirds of the way through this and could not remember how we got from the beginning of the book to this point.

    He’s redeeming himself these days, though. I loved Under the Dome until the stupid ending that makes everyone mad. 11/22/63 was a good read. Even Doctor Sleep and Joyland are pretty good.

  • The Long Walk has resonated with me longer than any of his others. I think it was the whole psychology of the thing. That and the halftracks filled with soldiers killing kids.

    Least favorite? Not sure, but I lost interest after The Tommyknockers.

  • The Dark Tower- Read it over a period of a long time and happened to be the first King book i read so those things probably make me partial towards it, but it took me for a ride in another world i’d never forget.
    And its hard to choose the worst but, Gerald’s Game, might have gone with Dreamcatcher if i had read it. I had seen the movie so it I didn’t think it was worth reading.

  • Favorite: Pet Cemetary. I was 15 when I read it, and my friends and I would all joke about the noises in the night being the loons. To this day I still remember the imagery of the jogger, of disbelief turning into acceptance and then into crazy. The movie didn’t do it justice or capture all of the horror of his descent into madness. Not saying IT or The Stand or The Shining or Salem’s Lot weren’t good. They were, but this one resonated and made my imagination sing in a creeptastically awesome way. I think Thinner would be my 2nd runner up, as that’s another one that left detailed images burned into my memory.

    Least Favorite: Misery. I didn’t relate to any of the characters and simply didn’t care. I think after chapter 3 I just skimmed to the end just in case my step-mom wanted to discuss it. meh. I’d say Dreamcatcher ties but I didn’t even get through the book, and the movie kinda pissed me off. It wasn’t so much scary as it was… gorey?

  • My favorite: Needful Things. It is the first novel by King that I’ve read and it was love at first sight.
    The Dark Tower series is awesome, and Salem’s Lot and Pet Sematary, and On Writing, too.
    Least favorite: From a Buick 8 (finished it, didn’t like it much) and The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon (I abandoned it after a few pages). Maybe I’ll give it a go again sometime, who knows.

  • If reading IT hasn’t convinced you it’s King’s best, try reading Leah Rhynes’ description of the book on http://bit.ly/1cQcJgL.

    The Body has a lot of the same depth, of course. And, Salem’s Lot for just following a concept all through the town and watching it all go.

  • I haven’t read a lot of King, but my favorite has always been The Eyes of the Dragon. The reason why I liked it was that it *wasn’t* a typical Stephen King novel, and I liked the incarnation of Flagg that was in it. I believe it’s the only King novel I’ve read multiple times and will probably read again. I also liked the Dark Tower series. We listened to them on audio. I actually liked Cell, but I had the same problem with the ending I have with a lot of his endings, or lack thereof. That’s my only beef with King works is a lack of solid, cohesive closure, as far as I’ve seen so far. But it’s his style. Beyond that one point, he is a fantastic writer. I’m not sure I can point to a least favorite. Perhaps The Stand, just because I couldn’t get into it. Though I might give it another chance as my reading tastes have changed from the last time I tried to read it and I did dig the mini-series.

  • I have two favorites, for different reasons. First, Rose Madder. Rose really fuckin’ came into her own and put Norman in his place, which is something I’d like to see more of in real life from a few women I know. Second, Eyes of the Dragon. I just love this one, it’s different from his other stuff and I can share it with some of my nieces and nephews to introduce them to his writing without scaring the shit out of them.

    Least favorite is probably Cell. It seemed.. rushed? Incomplete? Almost an afterthought of a story? Whatever, it just didn’t quite do it for me.

    Bonus fave: Delores Claiborne. I like that it’s told all in one sitting by Delores, not to mention the story is pretty good too.

  • October 23, 2013 at 11:02 PM // Reply

    Favorite Novel: The Stand. Epic in scope, memorable characters, truly terrifying and involving.
    Favorite Novella: The Long Walk. The first King work I ever read, in high school. Brutal.
    Favorite Short Story: The Mist. What’s not to like? And it takes place in a grocery store.
    Favorite Non-Fiction: On Writing. I re-read it every few years, it’s just that good.
    Least Favorite King Work: Lisey’s Story. (shudder) Just awful. That book had nothing going for it.

  • My favorite is still THE STAND, but I’m kind of a sucker for that post-apocalyptic type story anyway. Loved the characters, the settings, the villain, everything.

    My least favorite is probably UNDER THE DOME. Took way too long to get going for me, and I had a hard time finding characters to care about in the story. I haven’t seen the miniseries (or whatever it is) but I tend to wonder why they would pick that book to make a TV series out of.

    I’d like to give a shout-out to two of his more current works: DOCTOR SLEEP and 11/22/63. I thought both of these rank with the top tier of King novels.

  • I named my son Roland, so I think that pretty much answers the fave book question. Although I love so many of them that this hardly seems fair. My least favorite has to be Tommyknockers. I’ve tried reading it twice and it just didn’t get any better.

  • Favorite – The Stand, closely followed by Salem’s Lot. I had not read much modern horror and these two books blew my mind. Loved the impact of the Stand and the structure of it. Also really felt like I was getting a piece of each of the characters in that book mainlined.

    Least Favorite – For some reason Tommyknockers, this book was the first of several where it felt like he had written himself into a corner or something and then just pulled the ending out of his ass. There are a few others that made me ask “WTF, that just plopped on the porcelain.” Tommyknockers put a serious dent in his armor for me though.

  • My favourite: Rage (under the name of Richard Bachman, I think). For not-so-clear reasons, it was published under the title “Nightmare in room sixteen” in Norwegian. (Well, the movie “Deliverance” was named “Picnick with death” in Norway, so…) Non-supernatural. Least favourite? No clue to be honest. Need to read more. Maybe Dreamcatcher.

    Regards,
    Lars

  • I think it would be impossible for me to choose a favorite. Christine was the first SK book I read, I had to sneak it home from the library because my mother thought that I was too young (13ish, maybe?) to read “books like that”.

    But I love most of them. The Dark Tower series has a special place in my heart, partly because we almost didn’t get an ending when that bastard in the van almost killed Steve mid-series. But he survived, say thankya and we got an ending, altered though it was by the trauma he survived. I also love it because he put so much of his life into it, and because it’s linked in some way to so many of his other stories, which I think is cool.

    But there are so many other amazing stories… I can’t choose just one.

    The Green Mile, for instance. I read it when it was first released in the serial format and it was sheer AGONY waiting for the next part.

    The Shawshank Redemption was fantastic and definitely ranks among my favorites.

    Bag of Bones… such a great ghost story, though I hate-hate-hated the mini-series adaptation. Horrible job.

    The Shining, of course. Creepy-ass hedge animals! And I just finished Doctor Sleep and enjoyed it immensely.

    I also love The Stand oh-so-very-much! I did a review of that on my blog when I gave away 30 copies for the first annual World Book Night USA in April of 2012. I did a reread and reviewed it because it is truly an epic apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic story.

    It, of course… Rose Madder… Gerald’s Game creeped me the hell out…

    Yeah, I had better stop before this post rages out of control. Let’s just leave it with these few, and long days and pleasant nights to all of my fellow SK fans who posted here!

  • Definitely the Dark Tower series. And if I had to pick my favorite out of that series, it would probably be Wizard and Glass. There’s nothing quite like a good ol’ Western with a healthy dash of black magic and trans-dimensional portals.

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