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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Stephen King Books

Your picks for the horror master’s scariest, most suspenseful page-turners, from ‘It’ to ‘The Dead Zone’

Stephen King

Stephen King poses during a portrait session on November 16th, 2013 in Paris, France.

Ulf Andersen/Getty

In our recent interview with Stephen King, we asked the author to name the best book he ever wrote. Without a moment's hesitation he went with Lisey's Story, a 2006 novel about a woman coping with the death of her husband, who happened to be a best-selling author. We figured many of his fans would have a different choice, so we opened it up for a vote. Here are the results, but note that the vast number of Dark Tower books made it hard for any one of them to make a great showing on the list. 

Stephen King Salem's Lot
4

‘Salem’s Lot’

After breaking big with his debut novel Carrie, King proved he wasn't a one-trick pony when he released the follow-up in 1975. Salem's Lot has a rather simple premise: What if a Dracula-like vampire moved to a small town in Maine? Slowly, much of the town transforms into vampires – until a high school teacher and his young girlfriend begin fighting back. For years King contemplated writing a sequel, but he decided to simply fold one of characters, Father Callahan, into the final Dark Tower books. 

Stephen King The Shining
3

‘The Shining’

King and his young family moved to Colorado for a brief period in the mid-1970s, and when they were out there they spent a night at the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. The place was about to close up for the winter, and King spent time wandering around the nearly empty building all by himself. He imagined would it be like spending the entire winter trapped inside, and the idea for The Shining came to him almost at once. At the time, he was struggling with a pretty bad drinking problem, and this became a major element of the plot. Stanley Kubrick adapted the story for the big screen in 1980, and it over time it has become a beloved classic – though King has been very vocal about his distaste for this version. 

Stephen King IT
2

‘It’

King's 1986 novel It has caused more people to fear clowns than perhaps any movie, book or TV show in history. It's an epic story, spread across three decades, about a group of Maine friends that battle a demented clown named Pennywise who lives in their town's sewers. They think they kill him in the 1950s, but 30 years later they are forced to reunite for a final battle. At 1,142 pages, it's one of King's longest books, but many people find themselves reading it in a matter of days.

Stephen King The Stand
1

‘The Stand’

The original draft for The Stand was so long that printing presses were literally unable to handle it, forcing King to cut out a large chunk of the book, the story of a super virus called Captain Trips that wipes out about 99 percent of the planet. The survivors come together in two camps and wage the ultimate war of good against evil. It's a crazily ambitious book, but King executed it flawlessly. The uncut version came out in 1990, and four years later ABC turned it into a miniseries. There's been talk for years about a proper movie – or even a series of movies – but neither has yet to happen.