14 Best Stephen King Books, Ranked

Stephen King began his writing career in the mid-1970s and has been prolific ever since. Many of his titles have spent time at the top of the bestselling lists and were adapted into beloved movies. Stephen King is widely considered to have written the best horror books ever but has also branched out into other genres with great success.

That brings us to our list! We’ve ranked 14 of the best Stephen King books that are well-loved amongst both his fans and new readers alike. Whether you’re new to Stephen King or a fan who’s looking to dive into his backlist, we’ve summarized some of his best books to help you find your next read.

14 Best Stephen King Books

Stephen King has written 60-plus novels, several non-fiction books, and hundreds of short stories. There’s a lot to choose from when it comes to reading King’s body of work, as he’s written books across multiple literary genres. 

The following list is based on the popularity of each title amongst readers and how these books have stood the test of time.

1 | The Shining

Published 1977

The Shining was his third novel and belongs at the top of the list of Stephen King’s best books. The book tells the tale of the Torrance family, whose father, Jack Torrance, takes on a caretaker job at a haunted hotel. The entities learn they can manipulate Jack, and evil chaos ensues for a gripping tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

2 | It

Published 1986

It tells the tale of a shape-shifting entity known as Pennywise the Clown. Pennywise terrorizes the town of Derry, Maine for decades as It lures unsuspecting victims, mostly children, into its murderous traps.

Over time, a group of residents realizes that the entity emerges on a 27-year cycle and seizes the opportunity to destroy It. This novel is widely considered to be one of the best horror classics of all time.

Image of a young boy standing in a dark room wearing a yellow raincoat and holding a red balloon.

3 | Misery

Published 1987

Misery begins when a famous author, Paul Sheldon, gets into an accident that leaves him immobilized. His number one fan, Annie Wilkes, brings Sheldon into her home and forces him to bring her favorite character back to life by writing a new book.

4 | The Stand

Published 1978

The story of The Stand begins when the U.S. government develops a lethal strain of influenza with a 99.4% fatality rate. A security breach allows the virus to escape with one of the facility’s employees, who then unleashes it on an unsuspecting public. Within a month, almost all of the world’s population is dead except for the .6% that manage to survive.

This post-apocalyptic novel with paranormal elements has proven to stand the test of time.

5 | Carrie

Published 1974

Carrie follows the story of a young girl who suffers abuse from her family and classmates. Carrie discovers she has telekinetic abilities and starts testing how best to use them. 

In the meantime, subplots cover stories of teenage manipulation and attraction, with Carrie getting asked to the prom unexpectedly. Carrie gets her revenge at the prom and repays her bullies with the help of her telekinetic abilities.
Carrie is now considered a horror classic, in both its novel and film iterations.

6 | The Gunslinger

Published 1978

The Gunslinger leans more into the fantasy genre and isn’t considered one of King’s horror books, but it is arguably one of the best books by Stephen King. The novella starts with a gunslinger tracking a shadowy character across a desert and has his search halted by a farmer looking for company. 

The farmer gets the gunslinger to tell his tale about his recent travels and is rewarded with a story of the afterlife, drugs, a fanatical mob, and the resumption of the gunslinger’s journey.

7 | Pet Sematary

Published 1983

The Creed family moves into the town of Ludlow with their cat and settles in by taking a stroll around the community. They discover a pet “sematary,” where they eventually bury their pet cat. However, when their cat returns from the dead, it sets off a series of dark events that involves the resurrection of the dead and the ruination of the living.

Close up of a hand holding Pet Sematary by Stephen King while standing in a bookstore.

8 | 11 / 22 / 63

Published 2011

An intrepid time traveler decides to return to this day in order to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He succeeds but finds that he has set off a series of unforeseen events when he returns to the present day. He finds himself faced with the decision to undo his actions and set the world back on its normal track.

9 | Salem’s Lot

Published 1975

Salem’s Lot follows the story of a writer, Ben Mears, who comes home to Jerusalem’s Lot  (Salem’s Lot for short) only to discover that the town’s residents are disappearing and dying. 

It turns out that a new arrival, Kurt Barlow, happens to be a vampire as well as a gentleman antique dealer. Mears learns of Barlow’s intentions and takes it upon himself to form a group that seeks to destroy Barlow.

10 | The Green Mile

Published 1996

The Green Mile is a serial novel that brings together six installments under one cover. The stories are told from the point of view of Paul Edgecombe, a death row supervisor, and the unusual abilities of John Coffey, a death row inmate. 

It’s regarded as one of the best books by Stephen King due to its intricate plots, relationships between adverse groups, and finding beauty in a place of death and darkness.

11 | The Dead Zone

Published 1979

The Dead Zone tells the story of Johnny Smith, a young man who spent five years in a coma and woke up with a “dead zone” in his brain. His other senses compensate by becoming highly sensitive and give Johnny the ability to read people’s futures when he touches them. 

This sci-fi thriller follows Johnny as he grapples with the fallout of these abilities and the burden of the choices he must make.

12 | Under the Dome

Published 2009

This novel is another one of King’s forays into sci-fi. The residents of Chester’s Mill in Maine awake one day to find their town has been cut off from the world by an impenetrable dome. The book then goes on to present different points of view of several residents as they deal with the fact they’ve been isolated in such a strange way.

13 | Mr. Mercedes

Published 2014

Mr. Mercedes is King’s first attempt at writing a detective novel. He originally intended to make it into a short story but wrote a series instead. 

The main character, retired detective Bill Hodges, is mailed a letter from someone who claims to be the person who drove their car into a line of people, killing many. Hodges, fed up with retired life, decides to investigate on his own to find the murderer.

14 | Cujo

Published 1981

Cujo follows the story of a St. Bernard who gets bitten by a bat with rabies. The dog wasn’t vaccinated against the disease, so he developed a full-blown case of rabies. Horror unfolds as Cujo attacks and kills multiple people in the town.

What Is the Best Stephen King Book to Start With?

Opinions vary on which titles rank as Stephen King’s best books, but the general consensus is that his earliest book, Carrie, is the best one to start with. After Carrie, it makes sense for most readers to go in chronological order of King’s books before moving on to more complex books like The Stand

However, you can also simply pick and choose which themes or genres you’re in the mood for as you make your way through his backlist. For example, if you’re interested in fictional death games as a plot, Gerald’s Game is a good place to start, even though it’s not on this list.

Get Affordable Stephen King Books

There’s no denying that Stephen King has been a prolific author over the last 50 years. At Alibris, we sell new and used copies of his books to help build your collection while saving money.

Whether you’re looking for one of Stephen King’s best books from decades ago, or if you’re interested in reading his latest novel Fairy Tale, which is considered to be one of the best books of 2022, you can find it from one of the thousands of independent sellers on our marketplace.

Shop on Alibris now to find your next read and save on books!

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