Stephen King is one of the most prolific and successful authors of our time, known for his gripping horror and suspense novels that have captivated readers for decades. With over 60 novels and countless short stories to his name, Stephen King’s body of work is vast and varied, making it difficult for readers to know where to start. In this article, we have compiled a list of the 20 best books of Stephen King in order of publication, giving readers a comprehensive guide to his most significant works. From his first novel “Carrie” to his most recent publications, we’ll take you on a journey through King’s terrifying and captivating world of storytelling. Whether you’re a long-time fan or new to Stephen King’s work, this list is sure to offer some excellent reading suggestions to add to your collection.
20 Best Books of Stephen King In Order (from 20th Century)
- Carrie (1974)
- Salem’s Lot (1975)
- The Shining (1977)
- The Stand (1978)
- The Dead Zone (1979)
- Firestarter (1980)
- Cujo (1981)
- The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1982)
- Christine (1983)
- Pet Sematary (1983)
- The Talisman (1984)
- It (1986)
- Misery (1987)
- The Dark Half (1989)
- Needful Things (1991)
- Gerald’s Game (1992)
- Dolores Claiborne (1992)
- Insomnia (1994)
- The Green Mile (1996)
- Bag of Bones (1998)
“Carrie” is Stephen King’s first published novel, which was released in 1974. The book tells the story of a teenage girl named Carrie White, who is relentlessly bullied by her peers and tormented by her abusive, overly religious mother. However, Carrie discovers she has telekinetic powers that she can’t control, and after a particularly humiliating incident at her high school, she unleashes her powers in a terrifying display of vengeance. The novel is a haunting exploration of the horrors of adolescence, the destructive power of religious extremism, and the consequences of unchecked bullying. “Carrie” was a critical and commercial success, and it launched King’s career as one of the most popular and influential horror writers of all time. The novel has since been adapted into several films, a stage play, and a television series.
Salem’s Lot (1975)
Published in 1975, ” ‘Salem’s Lot” is Stephen King’s second novel, and it tells the story of a small town in Maine that becomes infested with vampires. The novel follows the town’s residents as they try to survive the onslaught of the undead, led by the enigmatic and malevolent vampire, Kurt Barlow. ” ‘Salem’s Lot” is a chilling and atmospheric exploration of the power of evil and the insidious ways in which it can infiltrate even the most idyllic of communities. The novel has since become a classic of horror literature and has been adapted for film and television multiple times.
The Shining (1977)
First published in 1977, “The Shining” is a psychological horror novel by Stephen King that tells the story of a family who becomes the winter caretakers of the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado. However, the hotel is haunted by malevolent spirits that drive the father, Jack Torrance, to madness and violence. The novel explores themes of alcoholism, domestic abuse, and the effects of isolation on the human psyche. “The Shining” has since become one of King’s most popular and enduring works and has been adapted into a highly successful film by Stanley Kubrick.
The Stand (1978)
Published in 1978, “The Stand” is a post-apocalyptic horror novel by Stephen King that depicts a world devastated by a pandemic that has wiped out most of humanity. The novel follows a diverse group of survivors as they attempt to rebuild society and battle against the forces of good and evil represented by the charismatic leader Randall Flagg and the kindly Mother Abigail. “The Stand” is an epic and ambitious work that explores themes of morality, faith, and the nature of human civilization. It has since become one of King’s most beloved and influential novels.
The Dead Zone (1979)
“The Dead Zone” is a 1979 novel by Stephen King that tells the story of Johnny Smith, a man who wakes up from a five-year coma with the ability to see into the past and future of the people he touches. Johnny uses his powers to try and prevent a catastrophic event, but his actions have unintended consequences. The novel explores themes of fate, free will, and the morality of using supernatural powers for personal gain. “The Dead Zone” has since become a classic of the horror and science fiction genres and has been adapted for film and television.
Published in 1980, “Firestarter” is a horror novel by Stephen King that follows a young girl named Charlie who has pyrokinetic abilities, meaning she can start fires with her mind. Charlie and her father, who also has psychic abilities, are pursued by a government agency known as “The Shop” that wants to use their powers for their own purposes. The novel explores themes of power, corruption, and the impact of trauma on individuals and society. “Firestarter” has been adapted for film and television, and it remains a popular and enduring work of King’s bibliography.
“Cujo” is a 1981 novel by Stephen King that tells the story of a friendly St. Bernard dog named Cujo who is bitten by a rabid bat and becomes a vicious and deadly beast. The novel focuses on a mother and her young son who are trapped in their car by Cujo as he rampages through their small town. “Cujo” explores themes of isolation, despair, and the primal fear of being hunted by an unstoppable force. It has been adapted for film and remains a classic of the horror genre.
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1982)
“The Gunslinger” is the first novel in Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series, published in 1982. It follows the journey of Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger in a world that has “moved on,” as he pursues his quest for the fabled Dark Tower. Along the way, he encounters a variety of allies and enemies, including the enigmatic Man in Black. The novel blends elements of fantasy, horror, and western genres, and it sets the stage for an epic adventure that spans seven novels. “The Gunslinger” has become a beloved classic of modern fantasy literature.
“Christine” is a horror novel by Stephen King published in 1983 that tells the story of a haunted car, a 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine, and its teenage owner, Arnie Cunningham. As Arnie restores the car, he becomes possessed by its malevolent spirit and is driven to violence and madness. The novel explores themes of obsession, possession, and the dangers of unchecked desire. “Christine” has been adapted for film and remains a popular work of King’s bibliography, known for its eerie atmosphere and memorable villain.
Pet Sematary (1983)
It is a horror novel by Stephen King published in 1983. It tells the story of a family who moves to a new home near a pet cemetery that has the ability to bring dead animals back to life. When their young son dies in a tragic accident, the father buries him in the cemetery, leading to disastrous consequences. The novel explores themes of grief, loss, and the temptation to play God. “Pet Sematary” has been adapted for film and television and remains one of King’s most disturbing and unsettling works.
The Talisman (1984)
“The Talisman” is a 1984 dark fantasy novel co-written by Stephen King and Peter Straub that tells the story of Jack Sawyer, a young boy who embarks on a quest through a parallel universe known as “The Territories” to find a mystical object that can save his dying mother. Jack is pursued by supernatural forces as he travels through this strange new world, which is populated by creatures both fantastical and terrifying. The novel explores themes of heroism, loyalty, and the power of imagination. “The Talisman” remains a beloved work of dark fantasy and has been adapted for various media.
A horror novel by Stephen King, published in 1986. The book tells the story of a group of friends known as the Losers’ Club, who are terrorized by a malevolent entity that takes on various forms, but most commonly appears as a clown named Pennywise. The story alternates between the protagonists’ childhood experiences in the 1950s and their adult lives in the 1980s as they confront their past traumas and the evil force that has returned. “It” is a sprawling and epic work that explores themes of childhood trauma, the power of memory, and the bonds of friendship. The novel has since become a classic of the horror genre and has been adapted into several film and television adaptations.
Misery” is a psychological horror novel by Stephen King, published in 1987. It tells the story of Paul Sheldon, a best-selling author who is rescued by his “number one fan,” Annie Wilkes, after a car accident. However, Annie is not just a devoted admirer; she is also a psychopath who holds Paul captive and tortures him to force him to rewrite his latest novel. The novel is a terrifying exploration of the obsessive nature of fandom, the power dynamics of captivity, and the line between reality and fantasy. “Misery” has been adapted into a successful film and stage play.
The Dark Half (1989)
Published in 1989, “The Dark Half” is a psychological horror novel by Stephen King that tells the story of Thad Beaumont, a writer who decides to “kill off” his pseudonym, George Stark. However, Stark comes to life and begins murdering people, forcing Thad to confront his own dark side. The novel explores themes of identity, duality, and the power of creativity. “The Dark Half” was well-received by critics and readers alike and has been adapted for film. It remains a notable entry in King’s bibliography, particularly for its exploration of the creative process and the darker aspects of human nature.
Needful Things (1991)
“Needful Things” is a 1991 horror novel by Stephen King that takes place in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. The novel centers on a mysterious new shop called “Needful Things” that opens in town, owned by the enigmatic Leland Gaunt. The shop sells items that are tailored to each customer’s deepest desires, but the price is often too high to pay. As the townspeople become increasingly obsessed with the store, their desires turn to violence, leading to a terrifying climax. “Needful Things” is a chilling exploration of the human psyche and the price of obsession.
Gerald’s Game (1992)
It is a 1992 novel by Stephen King that follows the story of Jessie Burlingame, a woman who becomes handcuffed to a bed in a remote cabin after her husband Gerald dies during a sex game. Jessie is left to confront her inner demons and the terrifying realization that she may not be alone in the cabin. The novel explores themes of trauma, survival, and the human psyche’s ability to create coping mechanisms in the face of extreme stress. “Gerald’s Game” has since become a critical and commercial success and has been adapted into a Netflix film.
Dolores Claiborne (1992)
“Dolores Claiborne” is a 1992 novel by Stephen King that tells the story of a woman named Dolores Claiborne, who is accused of murdering her wealthy employer, Vera Donovan. The novel is written in the first-person narrative from Dolores’s point of view as she confesses her life story, revealing a history of abuse and tragedy. The novel explores themes of domestic violence, female empowerment, and the effects of small-town gossip and judgment. “Dolores Claiborne” is a departure from King’s usual horror genre, but it is a powerful and gripping novel that has been adapted into a film starring Kathy Bates.
Published in 1994, “Insomnia” is a horror/fantasy novel by Stephen King that tells the story of Ralph Roberts, an elderly man suffering from insomnia and strange hallucinations. Ralph discovers that he has been chosen by mysterious beings called “the Purpose” to fight against a supernatural force that threatens to destroy reality. Alongside his friend, Lois, and a colorful cast of characters, Ralph embarks on a surreal and epic journey that explores themes of life, death, and the nature of reality. “Insomnia” is a complex and thought-provoking work that showcases King’s mastery of the horror genre.
The Green Mile (1996)
“The Green Mile” is a 1996 novel by Stephen King that was originally released as six separate novellas. Set in the 1930s, the story follows Paul Edgecombe, a prison guard at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, and his interactions with a death row inmate named John Coffey, who has a supernatural gift. The novel explores themes of racism, injustice, and the power of empathy and forgiveness. “The Green Mile” is a poignant and emotional work that has been praised for its masterful storytelling and unforgettable characters. It was later adapted into a successful film starring Tom Hanks.
Bag of Bones (1998)
Published in 1998, “Bag of Bones” is a ghost story and a mystery novel by Stephen King that tells the story of a bestselling author named Mike Noonan, who suffers from writer’s block following the sudden death of his wife. Noonan retreats to his lakeside cabin in Maine, where he becomes embroiled in a sinister plot involving a local millionaire, a group of vengeful ghosts, and a secret from his own past. “Bag of Bones” is a haunting and atmospheric tale that explores themes of grief, loss, and the power of the supernatural.