5 Stephen King Books You Should Read At Least Once In Your Life

Stephen King is unlike any other author. He was a true trailblazer in the genre of horror fiction that paved the way for writers to explode the volume on the shelves of scary stories. For many, King is probably the first horror book you have picked up. Much of his work has been transformed into equally as terrifying film franchises — although not all are accurately represented on the big screen. Regardless, to dive into the horrifying world of his mind, we have come up with this list of the best Stephen King books you should read.

That begs the question: which are the best Stephen King books of all time that prove to be the most legendary and chill-inducing reads? StudyFinds visited 10 expert book review websites to find out. And because King fans enjoy a suspenseful read, we listed them in reverse order, saving the best for last. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

The List: Best Stephen King Books, According to Readers

5. “The Stand” (1978)

“The Stand” is a postapocalyptic story about a virus – “Captain Trips” – that kills almost all life on earth. The few survivors split into two groups facing each other in a final fight of good against evil.  Due to its complexity, this novel was originally published in an abridged version. “It’s a crazily ambitious book, but King executed it flawlessly,” writes The Rolling Stone.

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“The Stand” by Stephen King

Buckle up, apocalyptic warriors, because Stephen King’s “The Stand” is about to blow your mind. Esquire hails it as the horror genre’s very own “War and Peace,” a sprawling, epic tale that takes you on a wild ride across a post-apocalyptic America. It’s a story brimming with death, yes, but also the potential for rebirth, making it a true American odyssey.

And here’s the kicker: according to Vanity Fair, “The Stand” remains utterly unmatched even decades after its release. It’s an ageless story that feels eerily relevant in our own times, making it a must-read for any fan of gripping dystopian adventures. So, what are you waiting for? Dive into this modern classic and prepare to be swept away by King’s masterful storytelling.

4. “It” (1986)

King’s truly terrifying story about a group of young outcasts facing a shapeshifting evil, mostly in the form of the clown “Pennywise,” traumatized generations of readers and made scary clowns a horror staple.

red writing and clown smile on white background
“It” by Stephen King

Forget creepy clowns lurking in the drains, Stephen King’s “It” is so much more than your typical horror story. Business Insider says it delves into profound themes that linger long after you finish the last page, venturing way beyond cheap scares.

Esquire even goes a step further, calling “It” King’s magnum opus – a culmination of everything he’s mastered throughout his horror writing career. It’s like a masterclass in crafting chills, served up with a nightmarish twist. No wonder IGN hails it as one of the greatest horror novels ever written! So, if you’re looking for a horror story that will stay with you for years to come and leave you pondering the depths of human nature, “It” is a must-read.

3. “The Dark Tower” series (1982 – 2012)

At least one book from this eight-novel series made it to nine out of the ten consulted lists. “Gunslinger” – “a sprawling fantasy epic,” per Books and Bao – and “Wizard and Glass” – “as close to a standalone story as you can get in The Dark Tower,” according to Esquire, seem to be the experts’ favorites.

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“The Dark Tower” Series by Stephen King

“The Dark Tower” series follows its hero, Roland Deschain, a gunslinger, on his journey through a postapocalyptic world to said dark tower. Stephen King weaves a world so vivid and intricate in his Dark Tower series, you’ll swear you can feel the dust beneath your feet and the wind whipping through your hair, says Reader’s Digest. Each book in the series acts like a puzzle piece, clicking perfectly into place to build a truly remarkable story. King’s a master of weaving fascinating elements together, and his keen eye for detail makes this a journey you won’t soon forget.

2. “Misery” (1987)

A very close second on this list, “Misery” tells the story of novelist Tom Sheldon, who finds himself first rescued, then imprisoned by his “number one fan” nurse Annie Wilkes, “a multi-dimensional villain [in] an intense and graphic tale of the struggle between prisoner and captor,” according to Business Insider.

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“Misery” by Stephen King

Buckle up for a terrifying tale of obsession and survival in Stephen King’s “Misery.” Books and Bao warns that this isn’t your typical scare-fest. It’s a psychological horror story that will mess with your mind as much as it chills you to the bone. King unleashes one of his most unforgettable villains in this twisted masterpiece, so be prepared for a wild ride.

Still need convincing? How about this: The Manual says it all. “Misery” is a runaway bestseller for a reason – it’s simply amazing. So, what are you waiting for? Dive into this chilling tale and see for yourself why it’s a horror classic.

1. “The Shining” (1977)

A recovering (?) alcoholic, his young wife, and their psychic toddler are left alone in the middle of nowhere to take care of a haunted hotel during the off-season. What could possibly go wrong?

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“The Shining” by Stephen King

Say “boo” if the image of an axe-swinging Jack Torrence didn’t immediately enter your mind.

Stephen King’s “The Shining” isn’t just a horror classic, it’s a pop culture phenomenon. Sure, Stanley Kubrick’s legendary film adaptation with Jack Nicholson‘s chilling performance (and maybe some questionable hedge trimming choices) helped solidify the novel’s fame, according to ScreenR

Business Insider calls “The Shining” King’s most popular book, and for good reason. It was his first ever bestseller, a major turning point in his career. Reader’s Digest says it cemented his status as a horror master. King’s ability to weave personal and paranormal terror into a story is unparalleled – this book will have you burning the midnight oil, flashlight firmly in hand.


Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.


  1. The one book of his that scared the Dickenson out of me is Pet Cemetery. I would not read it at night. After I read it I saw a stray white cat in my driveway and it totally freaked me out. I have cats but not a white one

    1. My personal favorite is The Long Walk. (think Squid Games but King did it first and better.

    2. Agreed, woke up screaming the night I finished it and I’ve read and seen countless horror books/movies.

  2. It’s hard to pick a favorite out of so many great stories but I think I read and reread The Dark Half the most. George Stark was terrifyingly unstoppable.

  3. The Talisman with the protagonist Jack Sawyer on his epic journey to save his mom. I couldn’t put the book down. A movie with the right young actor would be a mesmerizing movie. Also, I have to mention The Institute and The Long Walk. The latter being an earlier work was an adventure I never expected. Thank you, Mr. King.

    1. His book of short stories when he was Richard Bachman…especially the one about the kids on the raft in a lake. Great imagery.

  4. Good list but I would leave the Dark Tower off. It never grabbed me. Probably just me. Some of the books mentioned above here in the comments would also be strong contenders, especially Pet Sematary, The Dark Half and 11.22.1963. I also have a soft spot for Salem’s Lot, though it’s probably not quite top 5. As for movies, I would say The Shining and 11/22/1963 would be my favorites, just ahead of It, Pet Sematary, and Misery tied for second. But really SO many really good books and films beyond that. I had the good fortune to spend a half-year as a graduate school research assistant for a professor who was actually writing a book of serious literary criticism on King’s works. At a time when horror was simply NOT considered a literary genre at all. I was responsible for identifying and explaining all of the references to drugs, rock and roll, and other pop culture items King uses to give really strong sense of time and place (verisimilitude), as well as adding depth of character. This was in the mid-80s, so it was only the first fifteen books or so (though I have read most of the rest since), but it was kind of a guilty pleasure compared to my coursework and teaching obligations. Even having read tons of classics I have to say King is one of my favorite authors all time. He really has been a huge source of enjoyment to me for decades.

  5. Misery? Be serious. Not in the same league as It, The Stand, or a dozen others. And the Dark Tower books are boring and literally unreadable. They’re the only thing he’s written that I couldn’t Wade through. What about The Green Mile?

  6. My favorite book by Steven King
    Is The eyes of the dragon that was my very first hard copy book I ever received and had it with me for many years and when I went back home to visit I had left it there and somehow it was sold at her yard sale and I’ve been looking for another ever since

  7. Pet Semetary should have been #1, it’s his scariest book that leaves a big impact on readers. The movie doesn’t do it justice.

  8. I agree with all these but imho The Stand should be No. 1. That’s is my favorite

  9. His book of short stories when he was Richard Bachman…especially the one about the kids on the raft in a lake. Great imagery.

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