Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.
― Stephen King
With over 60 novels to his name, countless short stories, a best-selling pseudonym, and a laundry list of awards, Stephen King is one of the most established authors of the 20th and 21st centuries. A wordsmith who can make your skin crawl, heart break, or even leave you inspired, there are many facets of King’s writing for you to choose from. The aptly named ‘King of Horror,’ began his meteoric rise with 1973’s Carrie and never looked back. Not without his personal demons, his tortured writing gave breath to those who were silently fighting their own addictions. The man even survived being hit by a car, an event that would inspire several novels and would encourage him to re-attempt finishing his magnum opus, The Dark Tower. Wherever your loyalty lies in the spectrum of King’s genres, Horror, True Crime, Mystery, etc., we can all agree his transcendent writing capability keeps us all coming back for more.
Jon Scott / @JMScott193
Book that got me into Stephen King: So, I was thrown right into the deep end on this one with The Dark Tower series, King’s magnum opus. When I was around 14, a family friend got me a collection set of the first four Dark Tower novels, since she knew how much I loved the fantasy genre. Once I opened The Gunslinger, I was hooked on his storytelling immediately.
Favorite Stephen King book: 11/22/63 is my favorite by him, without question. One of my favorite sub-genres of fiction is alternative history. I am fascinated by the what if’s and what-could-have-been moments in history. Marrying that kind of story with the style of one of the greatest living authors was a perfect union. Yet, King also presents a certain wistful nature for a small town in the 1960s. The scenes where Jake stays in Dallas with Sadie have a nostalgia about them, a yearning for a simpler time.
First Time Recommendation: If you are looking to get into the world of King, then I would recommend starting out with one of his first novels, all of which are classics. Salem’s Lot, in particular, shows King beginning to reach the truly grand heights we’ve come to know from him. In addition, it’s also just a super dope take on vampires. However, if you’re looking for something even simpler, check out Mr. Mercedes, King’s take on the hard-boiled crime genre. It’s an incredibly simple, yet downright effective, detective story.
Jimmy Gaspero / @jimmygaspero
Book that got me into Stephen King: The first Stephen King book I read was Cujo. I was in high school at the time and chose to read it for a school project. At that time, I was familiar with King’s work only through movie and television adaptations, including the 1983 film, Cujo. I still remember the experience of reading Cujo and thinking how unrelenting it was and the shocking ending, very different from the film, was brutal. It’s a feeling that has stuck with me to this today and, all these years later, I still can’t decide if I like the book. It didn’t stop me from reading more of King’s works though.
Favorite Stephen King book: My favorite Stephen King book is Wolves of the Calla. It is the 5th book in The Dark Tower series and contains one of my favorite King quotes: “First comes smiles. Then lies. Last is gunfire.” Wolves of the Calla specifically, and The Dark Tower series, generally, has so many elements of horror, fantasy, and science-fiction. There was just something about the storytelling here that I loved a tiny bit more than the other books in the series.
First Time Recommendation: The Stephen King novel I’d recommend to new readers is The Gunslinger. This can start you on your journey toward The Dark Tower, as all paths serve the beam. It is a great introduction to King’s work as you can then venture toward horror stories like Carrie or It, or science-fiction/fantasy elements like The Stand or The Dead Zone. No matter where you turn next, there is plenty to choose from and if you don’t like it, that’s fine too, as Jake says, “Go then, there are other worlds than these.”
Dana Durante / No Social Media
Book that got me into Stephen King: Salem’s Lot. I was 12 years old when the book was first published. My mother was reluctant to let me read it as she had read Carrie and did not think I was ready to read something scary. After much pleading, it was actually my father who bought the book for me and basically lit the fire that is my love for all things horror. The writing was effortless and the pacing was perfect, it was such a great introduction to his writing. It was also one of the first books where none of characters were safe; I had to read to the very end with this overwhelming sense of dread. Writing this makes me want to pick it up again, just in time for Halloween!
Favorite Stephen King book: The Stand. Perhaps not the best book for our current state of affairs, but it really is such a well-rounded piece of American literature. Aside from feeling like I had some sort of phantom-cold while reading it, this novel was one novel I could not put down. I remember staying up and burning through the chapters, while constantly being reminded that at some point, I did require sleep to function. This book never shied away from the horrors that would befall society in this situation, but also the hope that may come out of it. The longest book I have ever read, but well worth it.
First Time Recommendation: Pet Sematary. This may seem like an odd-choice, being that it is one of King’s most frightening/disturbing books, but I think this is a great place to start. I was never a ‘dip your toe in,’ but rather a ‘cannonball into the deep-end’ type of person, so if that’s your motto then this is your book. However, for those who need more time to acclimate to the ‘King-Verse,’ I would say Salem’s Lot is the way to go. Be warned, once you start a King novel, you’re a fan for life.
Richard Durante / @ArghRJ
Book that got me into Stephen King: Nightmares & Dreamscapes. As a freshmen nursing student, my time was limited, but I was looking for a new book to keep my attention in-between stacks of medical textbooks. A friend loaned me her copy, and I found myself entranced from the first story on. My heart particularly belongs to The Night Flier, but the entire collection deserves equal praise. From there on, my journey began to King’s next short-story collection, and eventually, to his Dark Tower series, but I always find myself longing for these condensed tales. In all honesty, this had held its spot as my favorite of his works, up until I read one of his classics after the birth of my son.
Favorite Stephen King book: The Shining. With my young son in my arms, I remember rocking him to sleep while reading passages of Danny Torrance wandering through the doomed Overlook Hotel. The book elicited such visceral dread, from the long-deceased guests to the vicious topiaries, I found myself hesitant to turn the page. It was the perfect story to be reading with my infant son, as my insomnia addled mind began to see Jack Torrance’s side of things. All jokes aside, read this novel and skip the movie.
First Time Recommendation: Night Shift. This collection of King’s short stories gives readers the widest array of his talents, from the dramatic, to the downright horrific. It’s important to note that King indeed has this range, and even if you don’t particularly like one of the stories, there are so many more to choose from. Most of the people I associate with who state they dislike his works, tend to have not read anything from him, but rather judge his films as an apt sampling. To those I say, pull up a chair, here’s Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, now shut up and enjoy.
Take this knowledge fearless readers and venture on to the works of Stephen King. As we celebrate his birthday, we wish him continued success and many more years of writing to come. As he once stated in Different Seasons: “Get busy living or get busy dying…..there ain’t nothing in-between”