The last time I updated this ranking of King's books was 2013, which in these times of hardship seems implausibly distant. Uncle Steve has released seven new books in the intervening years (depending on what you count), and with each successive addition, I've felt like I needed to revisit this post.
And so I am, finally.
A word of warning: this list is horseshit. You know that, right...? All lists like this are horseshit. And yet, it's also entirely correct, except in the places where I've undoubtedly forgotten how good some books are simply because it's been too long since I read them. That, and in the places where I'm seeing one title or another through rose-colored glasses. In those spots, I'm probably 100% wrong, but otherwise...? 100% right.
And yet: horseshit.
What I mean by that is this: don't take this sort of stuff too seriously. I promise you that I don't, not even when it comes to my own rankings. There's a good chance that this time next year, I'd put the titles in very different order. My feelings about these books change over time; if I've re-read one recently, the odds are good that I've moved it up in my estimation; if I loved it when I read it the first time but have not returned to it, odds are good that my estimation of it will wither a bit the farther I get from it. Listening to a podcast or reading a blog post about one book or another might have a similar effect: influencing me in some regard so as to move my opinion up or down a bit. A new movie -- or even an old one revisited -- might affect my opinions.
In other words, I'm malleable, at least to some extent. If I had total recall and could remember every word of these books, I might be able to accurately give you a ranking of my own opinions about them; I don't, and therefore can't, so what we're settling for is this list, which is actually just a chronicle of where my thinking about the books (in relation one to another) stands in -- in this case -- late May 2017.
- The Best American Short Stories 2007 (King served only as editor; and if I'd actually read the book, I might include it just for shits and/or giggles, but I haven't)
- Blockade Billy (since the two stories included in this book were later folded into one of King's collections, I figured I'd heave this version overboard, if only to avoid figuring out where to rank it)
- Blood and Smoke (the stories contained in this audiobook exclusive were later collected in other books, and anyways, an audiobook isn't a book, as we all know -- if I ever rank the audiobooks, though, count on it being there, probably ranked pretty high)
- Charlie the Choo-Choo (it's just an excerpt from The Waste Lands, so I consider this to be more of an adaptation than anything else)
- The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (you sometimes see this Rose Red spinoff listed as a King book, but it was actually written by Riddley Pearson)
- The Journals of Elenaor Druse (a Kingdom Hospital spinoff that was actually written by Richard Dooling)
- Mid-Life Confidential and Hard Listening (King was only a contributor to these two anthologies about the Rock Bottom Remainders)
- Six Stories (all of the stories contained in this limited edition were collected later on in other books, so I didn't see the value in muddying the waters by including this, their original appearance)
If you've got strong feelings about any of those, I apologize in your general direction. Be sure to tell me in the comments why you feel they ought to have been included; I'll take that feedback into consideration when I update this list again in 2021 or so. (By the way, when I do that, I'm considering doing a simultaneous companion list that ranks not only all of King's books, but all the books by other members of the King family. Good idea, bad idea, or somewhere in between?)
NOW we can begin in earnest, and we'll start with a couple of Honorable Mentions:
#HM -- Bare Bones (1988) and Feast of Fear (1989)
These two books -- the former from 1989, the latter from 1993, both edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller -- are compilations of interviews King had given to various magazines and newspapers and such. As such, neither can properly be considered to have been written by Stephen King. So do they count as Stephen King books?
They do when you're reading them, I think, which is probably the only thing that matters. In that spirit, I ranked both of these books on previous incarnations of this list. Doing so never sat well with me; it's too difficult to assess them in comparison to each other, not to mention the question of how you assess them in relation to works of fiction.
If you were to do such a thing, I think you'd be obliged to make sheer readability and entertainment value your guiding principle. For my money, both of these books score quite well in such a contest. King's voice comes through clear as a bell, and if you are a fan of his and not merely a fan of his books and stories, then you owe it to yourself to track down copies of both of these.
By the way, there is also a third book (not from Underwood/Miller) in this vein: Fangoria: Masters of the Dark -- Stephen King and Clive Barker. It came out in 1997 and contains interviews with those two authors that had previously appeared in Fangoria issues through the years. It's good, too, so I guess I'm now giving it a sort of honorable-mention Honorable Mention.
#80 -- Stephen King Goes to the Movies (2009)
King's body of work is quite large, and across the forty-plus years he's been funneling the contents of his brain into the world via books, there aren't very many occasions on which you could have accused him of making a cash-grab. What need have you of cash-grabs when you're one of the bestselling authors in the world?