Spooky season may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a classic horror novel before the Christmas season kicks into full swing. No one does “spooky” better than the king himself: Stephen King. Here are my top 5 Stephen King recommendations that you can read any time of the year.
“Joyland”: This book follows the mysterious story of college student Devin Jones as he embarks on his journey as a summer employee at the iconic amusement park, Joyland. Post-heartbreak and completely lost in his sense of being, Devin is searching for a way to feel fulfilled again. After discovering secrets about Joyland’s blood-covered past and befriending his sweet next-door neighbor Mike, Devin finds the perfect way to do so. It feels odd to call this book a coming-of-age story, as it encompasses aspects of ghosts, the afterlife, and a crazed killer, but it truly is. Every character in this book is not only likable but also relatable. You watch each character grow, and eventually move on, in a way that tugs on every single one of your heartstrings. For those who don’t love super scary books, this is a perfect read.
“The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”: I may be biased because this is the first Stephen King book I have ever read, but I believe it is King’s most underrated book. Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland wanders off-trail without supervision during a nine-mile hike across the Appalachian Trail. As you can probably guess, Trisha becomes lost in the woods. Amid her parent’s divorce, Trisha is faced with not only the external dangers of the wilderness but also her internal struggles. This exhilarating and triumphant story about a nine-year-old’s motivation, resilience, bravery, and passion for living is truly unlike anything you have ever read before. King portrays a child’s mind in such a skilled way—the depictions in this book could make your skin crawl. However, if you’re a hiker, it may be a while before you get back on the trails after reading this one.
“Doctor Sleep”: The sequel to “The Shining,” one of King’s most iconic and well-known pieces, is “Doctor Sleep.” Little Dan Torrance is all grown-up and fighting with demons inside and outside of his head. Abra Stone is a twelve-year-old who holds power that is unimaginable and greatly coveted. The True Knot is a murderous group of paranormal, immortal, vampire-like creatures constantly in search of their next victim. These three paths are intertwined into an epic story of good versus evil, all leading up to one of the best end-battle scenes I have ever read. This book is very long but very worth it. Though you technically don’t have to, I highly recommend reading “The Shining” or at least watching the movie before reading this book, or else you will miss some exquisite Easter eggs. It wraps up the story of “The Shining” and Dan Torrance in a satisfying and tear-jerking way. But, be warned, this book is extremely graphic and disturbing. I personally had to take a few breaks between chapters because the content was so dark.
“The Institute”: Another extremely disturbing book by King, but nonetheless amazing. So you know I’m not spoiling anything, the back cover of this book reads, “In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’ parents and load him into a black SUV.” Luke is taken to The Institute, a place where little boys and girls just like him—those with the powers of telekinesis and/or telepathy—are held captive. All residents of The Institute start in the “front half,” but those taken to the “back half” never return. As Luke’s front-half expiration date approaches, he becomes more eager to escape. This book is a harrowing tale of determination and willpower that I simply could not put down; I had adrenaline pumping through my body during every single chapter. The ending is heartbreaking and unsatisfying, but King has a funny way of giving books the endings they need, not the endings a reader desperately wants.
“The Green Mile”: The Green Mile is my favorite book of all time. The “green mile,” or E-block is the line of cells at Cold Mountain Penitentiary where convicts condemned to death take their final steps. John Coffey is one of the alleged criminals residing in the green mile for the murder of twin girls, but E-block’s supervisor, Paul Edgecomb, discovers there is much more to Coffey’s story than it seems. “The Green Mile” was the first book to ever make me cry, as I bawled my eyes out through the last 100 pages like I never had before. King touches on the political topic of the death penalty, and yet disregards politics by instead focusing on the innate human emotions and cultural inequalities surrounding this tragedy. This book truly is a piece of art that will keep you on the edge of your seat while you’re reading it and lost in a world of thought after you’ve finished.
Some honorable mentions that didn’t make my top five list include: “Storm of the Century,” “The Shining,” “The Mist,” “Mr. Mercedes,” and “Carrie.” Honestly, I am very biased towards Stephen King, but in my opinion, any book you pick up by him will be a winner, with the exception of “The Colorado Kid,” but that’s a whole other story.