Saturday, May 27, 2017

Worst to Best: Stephen King Books (2017 edition)

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.
  
Is that enough caveat-laden prevarication for you?  Probably so.  Amazingly, I have more, beginning with a short list of books I opted not to include, along with my justifications for omission:

  • 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?


I'd say there's no way to look at Stephen King Goes to the Movies other than as a cash-grab publication.  Frankly, the only reason I included it here is so I could feel genuinely good about what I chose as the lowest-ranking book.  No King fan worth her salt doesn't already have all of these stories in their original book appearances, so who was this anthology for?  New-to-King readers?  If so, then why would you willingly tell them that the movies Children of the Corn and The Mangler exist?  You bury that knowledge, not ride it around town in a convertible.

I'd forgive that if the introductory segments King contributed were more substantial.  Add them all together and you barely get the length of a decent introduction.  There was an opportunity here for King to have contributed major new essays pontificating on the nature of being adapted into a different medium; and indeed, I'd argue that the book's cover kind of implies that that is what you'll get.

You don't.

All that said, the actual quality of the fiction presented here is tremendous.  So in that sense, you could certainly do worse.


#79 -- The Dark Man (2013)




"The Dark Man" is a poem King wrote and published in 1969.  It represents his first flirtations with the character who would later become Randall Flagg, and so in that sense, it is an important piece of work, one which King fans deserve to be able to read.  And so they can, via this illustrated edition.

Still, did it have to cost $25?  Man, talk about a cash-grab.

I let 'em grab mine, of course, and was happy to do so (the "them" in this case being Cemetery Dance press).  Happy-ish, at least.  Or if not happy, then willing.

But it left a bit of a taste in my mouth, and that taste remains to this day.  That is based in large part on two things:

  • The art by Glenn Chadbourne is pretty good.  This is more his book than King's, I'd argue, and it's not even a close race.  With that in mind, it's unforgivable for his name not to be on the cover.  This was evidently because Chadbourne didn't want it there, but somebody ought to have insisted on his behalf.
  • The poem runs all of about 250 words, and in order to extend it enough to be able to charge $25 for the book, it was necessary to spread the poem out in a manner that does it no favors.  I'm a traditionalist, I guess, but in my opinion a poem's line breaks and overall visual presentation are as important as the words themselves.  The flow from one line to the next is also crucial.  This book destroys that aspect of the poem; utterly annihilates it.
  
Also: frankly, it's not much of a poem.  I like a few of King's verse works -- "For Owen" and "The Bone Church" especially -- but his college-era poems are mostly weak.  Not uninteresting for the King fan willing to take them on, but not special apart from their historical and/or curiosity value.

For me, all of that adds up to The Dark Man being a title that is doomed to remain near the bottom of this list for the rest of eternity.


#78 -- Rage (writing as Richard Bachman, 1977)




Published in 1977, but actually written a decade or so earlier (during King's college years), Rage is no longer in print at King's insistence.  There are reasons for that, and they involve fucked-up teenagers having committed brutal acts of violence that were, to one degree or another, inspired by this very novel.  (Or, more likely, by its appearance in The Bachman Books; more on which later.)

If you want to know King's thoughts on why he pulled the book from print, find his essay "Guns."  He'll tell you all about it, in compelling fashion.

I support his decision.  I don't entirely agree with it, but then again, I didn't write it, and wasn't in a position where I had to decide whether or not to continue making money off the back of a book that allegedly spurred people to murder.  If I was King, I'd likely have done exactly the same thing.  I'm not King, though; I'm a blogger with the freedom to not have to worry about things like that.

Anyways, I don't think it's much of a novel.  I've not read it in a few years now, and my memory of it is that it simply doesn't hold up.  I felt differently when I read it in high school, though, and maybe it's fitting that that thought sends a bit of a chill up my spine.


#77 -- Secret Windows (2000)




I'm mildly torn on this one.  On the one hand, I feel like I'm being too harsh; on the other hand, this one strikes me as both another cash grab AND as a failure of concept.

The book was released as an exclusive to the Book-of-the-Month Club at around the time On Writing was hitting shelves.  So it was a blatant attempt to piggyback on the conversation around that book and get some attention for the BOMC.  Okay, fine; I support that as an idea, I guess.

The problem is, the execution was sloppy.  About half of the book's contents were reprints of material that was -- and is -- quite easy to get.  The kind of King fan who was itching to get their hands on this book already had that stuff (an excerpt from Danse Macabre and the foreword to Night Shift, short stories that were in existing collections, etc.).  I suppose that this sort of gambit was necessary for the publisher to stick to the stated theme of the collection: essays and stories about writing.  But if you have to resort to reprinting easily-obtainable material in order to get your project to its target length, then doesn't that suggest to you that you need to rethink your project?

Anyways, the good news is this: like Stephen King Goes to the Movies, the actual quality of what's here is exceptional.  And in this book's case, there's a lot of great material that was otherwise hard to find.  The treasure trove of that stuff makes me feel somewhat bad about placing Secret Windows this far down on the list, but in the end, I think it's the right call.  That's especially true if you're a King fan who isn't interested in his nonfiction.


#76 -- End of Watch (2016)




I enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy to one extent or another -- we'll get to them in due time, of course -- but found the finale to be anything but grand.  The first novel (Mr. Mercedes) is a straightforward crime novel, and the second (Finders Keepers) follows suit except for a worrying hint in the final pages that a supernatural element is going to be introduced for the third book.

Spoiler alert: it is introduced.  And here's the frustrating thing: some of that stuff is great.  But most of it is not, and some of it is among the worst fiction King has ever published, in my opinion.  Worst of all, the supernatural interjection ends up being more or less irrelevant in the grand scheme of the novel.

A few good bits come via the team of ongoing characters -- Bill, Holly, Jerome, etc. -- that King created for this trilogy.  But in this culminating novel, they are few and far between, and while I've ranked this a bit ahead of Rage (and therefore allowed it to avoid the title of Worst King Novel As Per Bryant), if I had to choose between sitting down right now and reading one or the other, I'd opt for the Bachman.


#75 -- Blaze (2007)




Bachman is having a rough time of it so far, eh?

Here's the thing: I remember nothing about this novel.  Nothing whatsoever.  I finished reading it and can remember thinking it was okay, but beyond that, I got nothin'.

I figure there must be a reason for that.  I'm choosing to blame the novel, which might, for all I know, turn out to be the wrong choice.  Eventually, I'll reread it, and who knows?  Maybe I'll be in for a pleasant surprise.  One can hope.


#74 -- The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)




I never have managed to warm to this one.  It's not awful, by any means, and you have to admire King stretching himself a bit to write from the vantage point of a young girl.  The book has its fans, and if it has served as an entry-point into King's fiction for a few kids, then its existence is justified regardless of what old dudes like me think of it.

My memory of it is that I'm not a fan of King's prose in this novel.  He was likely trying to tailor it to the audience he was aiming at, and it's similar to The Eyes of the Dragon in that regard.  I don't blame him for trying it, but for me -- ME, myself -- as a reader, it failed to land.

I also don't get much out of the quasi-supernatural elements that are introduced.  These are more ambiguous than in End of Watch, but no less intrusive, in my opinion.  King has a poor tendency to just not be able to help himself with the supernatural stuff.  He's written fiction that is wholly free of it, but it's more common for him to seemingly aim for that but then allow tendrils to come creeping into the mix where they don't belong.  This happens even in good novels sometimes, as we will see with Cujo and Joyland.

I'll complain about it there, too.


#73 -- Rose Madder (1995)




Sorry for sounding like a broken record all of a sudden, but Rose Madder is yet another instance where I feel the supernatural elements don't belong.

Thing is, I'm running purely off a memory of a memory in that regard.  I haven't read this novel in twenty years or so, and while I distinctly recall thinking that it would have worked better purely as a tale of a domestic-abuse survivor and her awful husband, can I be sure I will feel the same way when I read the novel again?  Of course not.

And trust me, I'd love to find upon revisiting this novel that it had sunk its claws into me to stay.  That'd be happy news indeed.

I'm skeptical, though.  It's just not something my memory says is likely.


#72 -- Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (2013)




I didn't consult my rankings from previous lists prior to making this one, that is true; but as I'm writing these summaries of my opinions on each book, I am checking the 2013 list to see what I said there.  And in some cases, I'll be copying and pasting those thoughts here, because I do not feel the need to avoid doing so if I like what I'd previously written.

Speaking of which:

I debated whether I should include this at all.  Because despite the fact that the edition of the soundtrack that includes a physical copy of the libretto is advertised as a "hardback," it is nothing of the sort.  It's a flimsy, poorly-printed paperback, and my final opinion was that it was really more of a set of overblown liner notes than a book.
  


Still, just for the hell of it, I included it, and my snap judgment was that it deserves to be ranked near the bottom of the list.  It isn't bad; but as readability goes, this does not compare at all favorably with the other published script of King's (Storm of the Century).  Combined that with the fact that the "book" itself is difficult to hold, unpleasant to look at, and even a little smelly, and what you have is a book that I simply have a desire to rank lowly.
  


Perhaps future incarnations of this list will find me in a better, more forgiving mood. 



A lengthier review, mostly focused on the music, can be found here.
  
For the record: four years later, I am NOT in a more forgiving mood with this one.  But it's not bad, and I highly recommend tracking it down and reading it along with listening to the music, if you're inclined to listen to the music.  It certainly clarifies the story quite a bit.
  
  
#71 -- Mr. Mercedes (2014)
  
  
   
  
King seemed somewhat outside his element in this crime thriller about a retired detective battling a serial killer.  You can feel him straining for effect in his depiction of several of the subordinate characters: this is the writing of a talented man who is describing not people he knows, but people he has imagined, probably based on those imagined by other people's crime-novel characters.  These are cover songs performed by bands who never even heard the originals.
  
It almost works.  There are some great scenes -- including the opening -- and overall I'd say I enjoy about as much of it as I don't.  This is the definition of a mixed bag, though, and some elements weigh it down crucially.  I can't get over the steppin-fetchit jive routine Jerome uses.  It's not entirely unrealistic; I've seen that sort of thing done in both real life and art.  In King's hands, though, it comes off as clunky and misguided and it drags the novel to a screaming halt every time he uses it, which is entirely too frequently.
  
  
#70 -- Lisey's Story (2006)
  
  
  
  
This is the novel King frequently cites as his favorite of his own works these days, to which I can only frown.  SMDH, as the kids might say; this novel is weird AF.
  
With the possible exception of End of Watch, I don't think I've ever disliked a King book more intensely than I disliked this one.  It all comes down to the "private language" the titular character shared with her husband, of which we receive copious examples, most of them even more ludicrous than that abbreviation bullshit I used above.  I was of a decidedly FML bent while reading those sections of the novel, and as I've thought about it over the decade since, my antipathy for it has grown, expanding ever outward exponentially.
  
This is not dissimilar to Jerome's jive-talk in Mr. Mercedes in that what King is doing is admittedly realistic.  People DO have private ways of talking to one another, precisely like this.  To an outside observer, anybody speaking to their cat likely sounds insane; but poke your head into an inside-joke-laden private conversation sometime and see if you don't hear something similar to the oddities Lisey and Scott use to communicate certain ideas.
  
I'll give you an example from my own life.  I can't entirely remember how this weird practice began, but at a job I held in college, a few of my co-workers and I would communicate with each other at times by barking like dogs.  The joke was that we would do so in an inflection that just barely allowed us to get the general gist of the "words" we were mangling into dog-barks.  This all had something to do with a hypothetical dog named Booj, who was not actually a dog at all, but a person.  I think the genesis of this had to do with blaming silent farts on a dog sleeping next to you.
  
If all that sounds stupid AF, well, it was.  Of course it was!  But to this day -- and I just tried it out loud to myself -- I can still "speak" in that language, and as a practice it still makes sense to me, even though its origins have at least partially vanished for me.
  
Now, imagine having to listen to a bunch of idiot college guys "speaking" that way.  It'd drive you nuts, especially if you had no clue what it meant.  (We were doing this on a bus one day, and a guy walked up to us and very politely said, "You fellows are going to have to stop that now."  And so we did, chastened.)  King gives us enough information about the language of the Landons that we are invited into the private communication of their life together, but I never felt like I was part of it.  I felt like an outsider the entire time, and I don't think that was what King was going for.  It grated on me every time, a kidney stone in prose.
  
Much of the rest of the novel is very good, though, and I'd say about a third of it is flat-out great.  It's a novel that certainly does have virtues, and if you respond positively to the private-language elements, you may well find it to be a bit of a masterpiece.
  
I'm hoping that whenever I revisit it, that'll be my experience.  After all, the notion of private language has indeed taken on new meanings in the post-Cell era of compressed digital language.  I hate all that shit, but even I use it once in a while.  So it may be that the gibberish Lisey and Scott speak would seem a lot less awful now, what with the language of the world around me constantly being pressed downward in awful ways.  In that manner, it might be that Lisey's Story seems eminently more acceptable next time around.
  
  
#69 -- Dreamcatcher (2001)
  
  
  
  
I'll never forget the excitement with which I sat down to begin reading Dreamcatcher.  Lest we forget, the world nearly lost Stephen King in 1999, and though he survived the car accident that nearly took his life, for a while there was some doubt as to how his career might be impacted.  Word was that he was finding it difficult to perform the physical function of writing.  What did this mean?  Would the parade of books slow down, or -- horror of horrors -- cease altogether?
  
We know the answer now, of course, but for a while the outcome was in doubt.  Dreamcatcher was the first book King wrote entirely post-accident, and was written longhand with a fountain pen.  If you were a King fan settling down to read Dreamcatcher on the day it was released in March of 2001, odds were decent that you knew those circumstances behind its composition, and it made you feel good to know that even if Uncle Steve had to write by literally writing, he would do it, and could do it, and had done it.
  
The first couple of hundred pages of Dreamcatcher are riveting stuff, too, and I'd say that up until the appearance of Mr. Gray, the novel is on par with just about anything he's ever written.  "He's still got it," I am sure I thought; "you can slow this guy down a little, but there ain't no stoppin' him."
  
Unfortunately, the novel falls apart at some point after that.  Not to the point of being unreadable; it succumbs to tedium and a lack of cohesion, but even at its worst, it was -- and is -- demonstrably of a piece with the rest of King's career.  Not a successful example, perhaps; but an example.  That seemed important at the time, and if you take this as a transitional novel, it still is important.
  
And like I say, there is some awfully good stuff in there.  As misfires go, this is the kind most novelists would envy.
  
  
#68 -- The Colorado Kid (2005)
  
  
  
  
If you conducted a poll of all King-readers, I suspect The Colorado Kid would be one of the most unpopular books in King's bibliography.  If you publish a novel under the Hard Case Crime imprint and then plaster the slogan "Would She Learn the Dead Man's SECRET?" across the front cover, you should probably expect that the vast majority of your readers are going to want the answer to that question to be a simple "yes."
  
In The Colorado Kid, the actual answer is a more complicated one: "No, because life is full of secrets, and very often we -- as a species -- must grapple with the fact that the meanings behind them will elude us and remain secretive.  This is what life is, and doesn't that make sense?  Because lying on either end of that life is what may well amount to eternal secrets; the REAL mystery is how we cope with that on a daily basis."
  
Or something like that.  Bottom line is, you never find out who the dead man is, or who killed him, or why (or if he even WAS) killed.  He MIGHT merely have died in the way a lot of people die: silently, alone, and with no help from anyone else.  Or maybe he was one of those walk-ins from Song of Susannah and/or "The Reploids."  Maybe not.
  
This novel, essentially, is a shrug in prose form.  Understatement: that didn't work for everybody.
  
It kind of did work for me, though.  Again, maybe it was just happiness for there to be a new King book.  This one was the first novel he released after finishing the Dark Tower series, and it had been widely reported that he was hanging up his jock and calling it a career after that.  Then, a year later, The Colorado Kid.  "Ah," I must have thought, "he couldn't stay away!  Excellent!"  So I responded to the existential bittersweetness of the novel.
  
But my memory is that I like the characters and the prose, and that King made the lack of a satisfactory story a part of the story, thereby turning it into something that satisfied.
  
Your mileage may vary, of course.  In deference to popular opinion, I've ranked this one fairly low; but in my heart, I suspect it probably does not deserve it.
  
  
#67 -- Cycle of the Werewolf (1983)
    

  
  
I've got a tremendous nostalgia for this novella, but if I'm being honest I have to admit that it has less to do with the novella itself than with the Berni Wrightson illustrations that accompany it.  Glorious stuff.  Horrifying stuff, too, especially if you were a horror-averse wussy like I was when I was in my early days of King fandom.  You might fairly wonder how such an individual became a King fan at all.  It's a long story, and I know it, and even I still wonder.
  
We don't have time for it right now, and it doesn't matter for our current purposes anyways.  The point is that I was precisely -- with laser precision -- the right kind of person to be impacted by the work Wrightson does in Cycle of the Werewolf: there werewolf clawing through the cabin door; the policeman's face being ripped off; the decapitated pigs.  Gnarly stuff!  All-time classics, man; Wrightson is gone now, but the effect of his work lives on.
  
As for King's novella, it's not bad.  It's a shaggy beast, and not an entirely successful one, but it's got its moments.
  
And hey, did you know about this?
  
  
  
  
In my initial version of this list in 2011, I actually included Silver Bullet as a separate book.  It's not an unreasonable decision: after all, this 1985 movie-tie-in edition DOES also contain the entire King-written screenplay, as well as the original novella.  All the Wrightson art is still there, too, so really, if you're going to own Cycle of the Werewolf, this is probably the copy you want.
  
  
#66 -- The Talisman (1984, written with Peter Straub)
  
  
  
  
I wish I loved this novel now the way I did after the first time I read it.  I don't, though.  The last time I reread it -- 2009 or 2010, this would have been -- I felt like it was a failed experiment.  There are good scenes, but the authorial voice is badly off.  King and Straub are not particularly similar authors, and the fact for me is that their styles simply do not (and did not) mesh.  they are on record as saying that they did imitations of each others' styles in collaborating on this novel, and if so, then that might be a big part of what soured me on it during that last reread.  I don't know that two dissimilar authors doing pastiches of each others' work makes for good prose.
  
The story doesn't particularly work for me, either.  In order to sell me on the notion of children having action/adventure-type experiences, you have to create an environment within which that can happen.  I don't think King and Straub pull it off here; the story is too gritty, too based in realism, for me to believe that a child could hitchhike his way across America.  And yes, I know that he does eventually get captured.  What I'm saying is that for me, it doesn't work despite that.
  
It worked for teenage me, though.  So who knows?  Maybe the next reread will return me to that vantage point.  I'd be okay with that.
  
  
#65 -- The Plant, Book I: Zenith Rising (2000)
  
  
  
  
Do people still know about this novel?  I wonder.
  
It was a big deal when it was initially released, one segment at a time over the course of six segments, during the year 2000.  The project actually goes back to the mid-eighties, when the first three installments were self-published by King and given as Christmas cards -- !!! -- to a limited number of people.  In 2000, King resurrected the story, and also the self-publishing conceit: he published each installment as an e-book and helped pioneer the art of pay-on-your-honor Internet publishing.  The response was initially strong, but apparently weakened over time, as did King's interest in the story.  What you've got in Zenith Rising is an incomplete novel, one that is really just getting going when it "ends."
  
There doesn't seem to be any sign of King ever returning to the project to complete it, and so it remains a curiosity.  Fans of Mr. Mercedes will recognize one of that novel's unfortunate character traits here as well: a black man who satirically speaks in stereotypical speech patterns.  Why this idea fascinates King only King can say; what I'll say is that it works a little better in Zenith Rising than it does later in Mr. Mercedes, but only a little.
  
The entire novel -- "entire" being a relative concept here -- is still available for free download on King's website.  I'd say it's worth reading if you're a big enough fan to be reading my doofy little blog, so go download the PDFs and give it a shot; but remember: it will not have a resolution.
  
  
#64 -- Nightmares in the Sky (1988, photos by f-stop Fitzgerald)
  
  
  
  
Not unlike Zenith Rising, this one is a bit of a curiosity within King's bibliography, albeit in a very different way.  As the cover indicates, this is a book of photographs -- of gargoyle statues atop buildings, to be specific -- with text by King.  The text consists of a fairly lengthy essay that will entertain those who enjoy King in non-fiction mode.  It runs about the length of a good-sized short story, or maybe even a short novella.  (Novelette?  Is that what "novelette" means?)
  
It's a good essay, and the photographs are cool.  I can't in good conscience place the book any higher than this on the list, but it's one I'm more than happy to have on my shelf.
  
  
#63 -- Faithful (2004, co-written by Stewart O'Nan)
  
  
  
  
Previously, I said this:
  
I may as well admit that I'm not a baseball fan.  It's too slow for my tastes; a game goes by and all I can think is that I could have just watched an Alfred Hitchcock movie...two, if extra innings are a factor, or if the pitcher develops a sudden hard-on for the idea of trying to catch a runner off base.  
  

But that's okay; I don't have to be interested in a subject to be interested in someone writing about that subject.  A good writer will make you interested, at least while you're reading as he waxes philosophical about his own obsessions.  And King's sections of this book are predictably engaging, entertaining, and illuminating.  

  
So why so low on the list?  Well, the answer is that King wrote only about half of the book; the other half is by Stewart O'Nan, whose contributions I did not enjoy.  In fact, I only read about maybe the first half of them; after a while, I began simply skipping ahead to the next King-written section.  So, on the whole, I can't rank it any higher; just can't do it.
  
My feelings haven't changed much, if at all, but I do want to emphasize that I thoroughly enjoyed the King-written sections.  O'Nan's, as I recall, weren't bad; he just didn't have King's ability to transcend my inherent disinterest in the topic.  Does that make it bad writing?  No, it just makes it specialized writing.  So if you ARE inherently interested in the topic -- as I know at least one of this blog's readers (hi, Bryan!) to be -- then this is likely a pretty great book.
  
Anyways, how can you not love the fact that King and O'Nan had already decided to do this book way before the championship run?  AND they then win their first Series in forever?!?  Man, there's 19 all over that shit; so the King fan in me loves the book if only for that.
  
  
#62 -- The Eyes of the Dragon (1984/1987)
  
  
  
  
From my previous rankings:
  
King's only true high-fantasy novel (with the novel-length "The Wind Through the Keyhole" -- the story within the novel, I mean, as opposed to the novel overall -- being a bit of an exception) comes off as an interesting experiment, but not much more.  His style is simply too modern to work in this mode, and the story itself is too flat to sustain the novel's length.  It would have worked better as a novella, but the overly modern tones in the narration would have harmed it at any length.
  
The crossover elements with other King works are mildly interesting, but if I'm being honest, I can't reconcile this Flagg with the Flagg in The Dark Tower, much less the one in The Stand.
  
A couple of things to add to that: first, the reason I gave the publication date as two separate years is that the novel was first published as a limited edition in 1984.  The mass-market edition did not come out until 1987, and that version apparently included some significant revisions.  So while the novel's first appearance was indeed '84, it was 1987 before the version the vast majority of us have access to appeared.
  
Second, I'd like to share a memory with you.  Around New Year's 1991, which was only a few months after I became a massive King fan, I traveled out West to attend the Fiesta Bowl football game with my parents.  One night, while they went out with some friends, I was called upon to babysit my brother and my parents' friends' children, which I did at their hotel room.  I had zero babysitting experience, but I was in high school and everyone figured, hey, what could go wrong?  Nothing much did; we all knew each other, so we just watched tv or played games or whatever.  Come bedtime, I either took the initiative or was called upon to tell a bedtime story.  The story I chose, from memory, was the entire plot of The Eyes of the Dragon.  You don't think of it as a horror story, but everyone not me sure did seem rattled by it.
  
Good times!  Sorry, Whites.
  
  
#61 -- Finders Keepers (2015)
  
  
  
  
Generally speaking, this is a strong novel, one which works as an interesting thematic companion to both Misery and Lisey's Story.  It also works for me as a follow-up to Mr. Mercedes in that it brings that novel's core characters into the story in what struck me as an entirely organic manner.  It rights some of that novel's wrongs, too, so in general is a superior sequel.
  
I'm deducting some major points, though, for one single plot development involving a character who ought to be dead but isn't.  And no, I don't mean Brady Hartsfield (although the fact that this novel's closing pages set up the wildly inferior End of Watch is indeed a flaw I'm holding against it).  No, I mean a character who is literally shot in the head at point-blank range but kind of just gets up, rubs some dirt on it, and continues to play ball. 
  
Now, I'm not a particularly bloodthirsty reader; I don't need King to murder innocents left and right in order for me to feel as if my reading time has been well-spent.  But I do need King to play an honest game with me, and in this moment, we get what may be one of the most fundamentally dishonest happenings in all of King's fiction.  It is, in my opinion, a glaring stain on an otherwise solid novel, and I'm holding the book accountable for it.
  
  
#60 -- Cell (2006)
  
  
  
  
Here's a case where my feelings about the novel have almost certainly been tainted by the movie.  In case you haven't seen the movie, oh, man: I can't recommend it highly enough if you are in the mood to see a shitty movie.  Not an entertainingly shitty movie; just a shitty movie.  If you get in moods like that, God help you, but your need is always able to be satiated.
  
Anyways, I remember liking the novel just fine, but it has receded in my memory somewhat.  I remember very little about it, to the extent that when a commenter -- hi, Dan! -- recently left me a series of comments detailing the numerous Dark Tower connections that are present in Cell, I remembered none of them.  That sort of thing tends to stick with me, so either I wasn't paying much attention -- always possible -- or my memory has simply decided there's no need to hold onto this book.
  
In the absence of positive proof to the contrary, I'm going to assume my memory knows what it's doing.
  
  
#59 -- Black House (2001, written with Peter Straub)
  
  
  
  
How did you feel about this one, 2013 Bryant?
  
I still don't think that King's voice and Straub's voice mix terribly well, but Black House is -- in my opinion, at least -- an improvement over The Talisman in virtually every way.  The links to the Dark Tower series are compelling, and this is essential reading for fans of that set of stories.
  
My biggest complaint: this novel set up an expectation that Jack Sawyer would appear in the later Tower novels, an expectation which was completely unrealized. 
  
I'll be curious to see how I feel about this one whenever I reread it.  I'll also be curious to see if the hypothetical third novel by King and Straub (A) ever shows up and (B) addresses any of my Dark Tower frustrations.
  
You never know.
  
  
#58 -- American Vampire, Vol. 1 (2010, co-written by Scott Snyder with art by Rafael Albuquerque)
  
  
  
  
Tough to figure out where to rank this one, guys, and I feel like I might have gone too high.  I dodged the issue by not including it in 2013, but looking at that decision now, it feels like a cheat.  After all, it's a book, isn't it?  And a book co-written by Stephen King, at that; the fact that he was only a hired gun for it shouldn't be held as reason to ignore it.
  
As a King work, it's on the slight side -- he only wrote parts of the five issues this graphic novel collects, the rest having been written by series creator Scott Snyder -- but that's the worst you can say for it, which means it must be fairly good, right?
  
Right.  But if I'm being honest, I think I have to confess that Snyder's sections are better.  But hey, doesn't that mean the book overall is better?  And therefore worthy of consideration?
  
Yep.  I think so.  But I don't think I can -- or should -- go any higher than this.
  
By the way, the series is up to nine volumes now, but none of them beyond the first has had any involvement from King.  This is now to say that the series isn't good without him; it is, although it seems to have gone dormant with no signs of completing.  Snyder is a busy man, though, being perhaps the world's current champion among Batman writers.
  
  
#57 -- The Running Man (1982, writing as Richard Bachman)
  
  
image borrowed from http://www.stephenkingrevisited.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/the-running-man.jpg
  
  
As I've written about elsewhere, this was the first King novel I ever read.  This was due to the Schwarzenegger movie, and I wonder how many other people currently striding the planet can say that they inadvertently became Stephen King fans due to that movie.  CAN'T be many.  That kind of delights me.
  
Anyways, I think it's a pretty good novel.  It reads like exactly what it is: a novel King wrote between the end of college and the publication of Carrie, while he was still finding his voice and figuring out what kind of writer he wanted to be.  Some of the themes remain relevant to this day, which is the mark of genuinely good science fiction.
  
  
#56 -- Gwendy's Button Box (2017, written with Richard Chizmar)
  
  
  
  
I enjoyed this novella-length book, which contains an intriguing central conceit, an admirable central character, and some good writing.
  
But it also disappointed me in some aspects.  It's been heralded as a return to Castle Rock, which it is, if you want to get technical.  Does the return amount to anything, though?  I'm not at all convinced that it does.  Similarly, a set of kinda/sorta connections to the wider universe of the Dark Tower are unsuccessful.  "Unsuccessful" might not even be the right word; in fact, the connections are vague and ambiguous, to the point of making me wonder if they even really exist.  If they do, I'm unconvinced that they exist in any meaningful fashion.
  
None of that helps the story at the heart of all of this shrugging, which deserved better, less frivolous, development.  What's here isn't bad; it's just minor, in every way.
  
  
#55/54 -- Desperation (1996) and The Regulators (1996, writing as Richard Bachman)
  
  
  
  
Last time around, I threatened to rank these same-day-release twinner novels as one.  I still can't quite bring myself to do that, but I've decided that until such time as I reread them both, I'm going to rank them back to back.
  
Historically, I've thought of Desperation as being the superior of the two, but my feelings on that have been influenced by a few commenters who've told me that they feel The Regulators to be a tighter, more impactful piece of fiction than its bloated, pretentious sibling.
  
I'll get back to them one of these days, but for now, this is where my gut tells me to put them.
  
  
#53 -- Hearts In Suspension (2016, anthology featuring King and other writers)
  
  
  
  
If you have some sort of burning desire to accuse me of inconsistency, well, I'm about to give you some ammunition.
  
Facts:
  
  • Only some of Hearts In Suspension was written by King.  This makes it similar to the non-fiction anthologies Mid-Life Confidential and Hard Listening, neither of which were included in this ranking.
  • Of what WAS written by King here, a sizeable chunk of it consists of a reprint of "Hearts in Atlantis" (the novella from the book of the same name).  I docked major points from Secret Windows for containing a similarly large reprint of an excerpt from Danse Macabre.
  
My defense follows:
  
  • I have not actually read Mid-Life Confidential cover to cover.  I've read the essays by Steve and Tabitha, but none of the rest.  If I had, I would likely have considered including both it and Hard Listening here.
  • Unlike those two Rock Bottom Remainders anthologies (the one I've actually read, at least), this book is often very much about Stephen King even when it's being written by other writers.  Almost all of them share memories and anecdotes of King.
  • In the case of the reprint of "Hearts In Atlantis," I feel as if its appearance here serves almost as a fictional sequel to (and/or retelling of some aspects of) King's excellent, novella-length essay, "Five to One, One in Five."  It casts the novella itself into new light -- light that is different from, but also fundamentally related to, the context within which it exists in the book Hearts In Atlantis -- that, in tandem with the essays by King and others, makes Hearts In Suspension into a book that serves as a crucial component in building a biographical understanding of King.  That sort of thing either is or isn't important to you.  It's important to me, and so I had no choice but to include this book here, despite it violating some of the criteria with which I had considered other books.
  
Plus, it's billed as a Stephen King book!  Says it right there on the cover, so it must be true, right? 
  
Speaking of which...
  
  
#52 -- Creepshow (1982, illustrated by Berni Wrightson based on the screenplay by King)
  
  
  
  
This graphic novel adaptation of the movie doesn't quite name King as THE author, but it adds a possessive to King's name just before the title, so it kinda/sorta gets that job done.
  
My 2013 rankings did not include this book -- a fact which surprised me when I went to check what I'd said about it -- and I can only conclude that I omitted it due to the seeming fact that King himself did not directly work on it.  So in that sense, it's probably best considered an adaptation moreso than an actual book by King.
  
[UPDATE:  Friend of the blog Peter Hansen informs me that in an issue of Bill Munster's fanzine Footsteps, Berni Wrightson verifies that King did indeed script the comic itself.  "How did the final project finally come to an end?" Munster asks.  Wrightson replies, "I would draw the pages in pencil and send them to Maine for Steve to script.  He'd send the pages back to me, and my wife, Michelle, would do the lettering, and then I would ink it and color it.  My wife helped color it too."
  
So there you have it!  King clearly did have direct input, although it sounds to me as if the layouts were determined strictly by Wrightson, based not only on the screenplay but on set visits and conversations with both King and director George Romero.  
  
Folks, shit like this is part of the reason why I love doing this blog so much.  I've been wondering for years how exactly this comic came together, and thanks to wondering aloud (as it were), I've now found out.
  
Thanks, Peter!]
  
I could make an argument either way, but this time around, I seem to be in a more inclusive mood than I have been in the past.  So welcome to the rankings, Creepshow; sorry I didn't put you higher.  But you did better than over two dozen other titles, so keep that cadaverous chin up, my friend!  You are loved here.
  
Creepshow's comic book adaptation is perhaps the very first encounter with King that I ever had.  I was looking through it in a grocery store one day at the tender age of eight, and was so horrified by the image of a severed-head birthday cake that I hold on to the feeling to this day, some thirty-five years later.  Maybe that hauntedly-nostalgic feeling is making me prize this comic more than I ought to.
  
But maybe not!  The comic has terrific Wrightson art, and his adaptation does justice both to King's screenplay and Romero's film.  It is a thoroughly acceptable alternative version of Creepshow, and if you are a blogger seeking to rationalize his decision to include it on a list like this one, you could make an argument that King's screenplay served as just as direct a source of collaboration -- not merely adaptation -- for the comic as it did for the film itself.
  
Works for me!  We'll see if I feel the same whenever the next version of this list rolls out.
  
  
#51 -- Four Past Midnight (1990)
  
  
  
  
This book will always hold a special place in my heart if only for two reasons: (1) that glorious cover art on the mass-market hardback and (2) the fact that this was my first King hardback.  That would have been via my joining the Stephen King Library, which I did specifically so I could get this book as soon as possible.  I have never gotten over the thrill of receiving a new King hardback in the mail once per month, and probably never will.  Why would I?!?  It was fucking great!
  
Anyways, Four Past Midnight.  A solid collection of short novels, but a little bit uneven.  I think "The Langoliers" is a lot of fun, albeit a bit wonky in places (and with one of the all-time hemorrhoidal characters in Craig Toomey).  "Secret Window, Secret Garden" is the best of the four, for my money; an excellent riff on ideas King had already explored in The Dark Half.
  
Both "The Library Policeman" and "The Sun Dog" are steps down, and fairly severe ones.  The former has some cool ideas, but also has a genuinely unfortunate and thoroughly icky rape scene; the latter is a concept in search of a story, with a strong subordinate character (Pop Merrill) and little else to recommend.  Neither of these are bad, exactly, but they do make the collection unbalanced, with the first two tales being far and away the superior ones.
  
  
#50 -- Storm of the Century (1999)
  
  
  
  
My memory of this book is that King's screenplay is damn near as readable as much of his prose.  This is saying something, because screenplays tend -- in my experience -- to be tedious reads more often than not.  Knowing the movie that eventually resulted sometimes helps; but there's no guarantee of it.
  
I know and love the miniseries that resulted from this screenplay, of course, so it is likely that my perception of the screenplay is colored by the finished product.  I'd love to be able to read an unproduced original screenplay by King to see how it worked on me as its own thing.  I think that I think, based on this one, I would enjoy it just fine.  King's personal touch -- the chumminess he oftens shows in his introductions and other nonfiction -- is on display, and it gives the screenplay a fun informality that most examples of the medium do not possess.
  
That's how I remember it, at least.  It's been a while since I read it, so I might be exaggerating my responses.
  
Sidebar: why didn't King published his Rose Red screenplay like he did this one?  It's always bugged me not to have that one, even though the miniseries is a distinct devolution from Storm of the Century.
  
  
#49 -- Doctor Sleep (2013)
  
  
  
  
I gather that Doctor Sleep is not particularly beloved among King fans, many of whom find it to be VERY guilty of not being The Shining.
  
I'd argue that it actually IS The Shining, at least for its first chapter, which picks up not long after that novel's end, peeking in on young Danny to find out how he's doing.  This stuff to me feels as if it was a heretofore-unreleased chapter from the three hundred pages that King lopped off the novel's end; it feels that of-a-piece to me.
  
From there, however, it becomes almost entirely its own thing.  The big complaint is probably a valid one: that the villains of this novel -- the soul-sucking vampires of the True Knot -- are ineffective and weak.  I feel that complaint at times, but by the end of the novel, I wondered if King hadn't made them weak -- and, at times, oddly sympathetic -- on purpose.  This might not work for you, but I'm pretty sure it did work for me.
  
I also found Danny's plight to be a moving one, and enjoyed the major new character (Abra Stone) King introduces.  I hope we haven't seen the last of her.
  
  
#48 -- Everything's Eventual (2002)
  
  
  
  
I would argue that this is King's weakest short-story collection, and I would also argue that "weakest" is a very relative designation in this context.  It's a solid collection, and I don't know that I'd say there's a dud in the bunch.  MAYBE "Autopsy Room Four" or "Riding the Bullet," but they're both alright.
  
The best-in-show swards for this one (as I see it) probably go to "The Little Sisters of Eluria" (a Dark Tower midquel that tells a groovy vampire story) and "Everything's Eventual."  But if you told me your favorite was "The Road Virus Heads North" or "L.T.'s Theory of Pets" or "1408," I'd nod sagely and know that I was among my people.
  
King the short-story writer is sometimes neglected by his fans, and that's a shame; he's got some awfully good work in collections like this one, and we'll soon see to what extent I prized that side of his career as we move forward in our rankings.
  
[Sidebar: the font size on the title for this one (in my post, that is, not in the book) keeps changing from largest to smallest.  Not sure why.  So if you see it that way, apologies!  It's unintentional, but apparently determined to stay that way.  If not, then apparently my typing this fixed it.  Hey, whatever works.]
  
  
#47 -- Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993)
  
  
  
  
Heyyyyyy.....
  
Trust me, I wasn't expecting this either.  But here we are, with a second consecutive story collection.
  
This one is a whopper of a book, and while there are a few stories I don't much care for -- "Chattery Teeth," anyone? -- the majority of them range from good to great.  The best, in my opinion (and in no particular order of importance):
  
  • The Night Flier
  • You Know They Got a Hell of a Band
  • The Ten O'Clock People
  • Crouch End
  • Umney's Last Case
  • Head Down
That last is not a story at all, but a New Yorker essay about his son's Little League team.  To this day, I don't quite know why King thought Nightmares & Dreamscapes was the proper venue for that charming-and-not-even-vaguely-nightmarish-or-dreamlike piece of work, but I'm happy to have read it.  Even more so when I consider that the boy who plays a crucial role in it has written fiction that I love, too, and later this year has a novel co-written by his dad coming out.
  
Pretty cool.
  
  
#46 -- Just After Sunset (2008)
  
  
  
  
Alright, time for the other shoe to drop, I guess.  I actually ranked these three collections back-to-back-to-back on purpose.  In ranking the books, I came up with numerical scores based on nothing more than seat-of-my-pants gut-impulse work.  For example, I awarded "10" to the books I feel are unassailable masterpieces, "9.5" to books I feel are masterpieces with a few flaws, and so on down the line.
  
When I got to the collections, I consulted the table of contents, performed a similar function for each story within it, and then took an average, which is how I determined what level those books belonged in.
  
In the case of all three of these collections, my scoring system put them all within a very narrow margin of each other, which makes sense, because I do have a hard time deciding which of them is which in terms of ranking them against each other.  With that in mind, I thought it made sense to simply lump them all together here, because it made it easier for me to figure out where to place the novels that came before and after them.
  
I was a little surprised that Just After Sunset scored tops among these three, though.  But when I thought about it, the surprise began to fade away a bit; "N." alone bumped this collection ahead, more than likely; and "A Very Tight Place" helped it along.  I'm also very fond of both "Graduation Afternoon" and "Willa," and who doesn't love "The Cat From Hell"?
  
  
#45 -- Under the Dome (2009)
  
Be aware that there are spoilers for this novel in this section.  So if you don't want to know, skip on ahead. 
  
 
  
  
A controversial novel among King fans, many of whom feel that the sci-fi elements -- spoiler alert: it's aliens -- are a betrayal or something.
  
As McMolo put it in his Dog Star Omnibus writeup, "What else could it have been?"  I guess it could have been the work of the Sombra Corporation or something, but that would have been its own kind of cliche, and anyways, I think the existential dread/horror that King summons via what he does here is pretty damn mighty.
  
There are a number of setpieces that rank right up there with King's best, in my opinion: the dropping of the dome into place and the resultant chaos; the grocery-store riot; the horrific sexual assault scene by out-of-control deputies; a very large explosion; and, indeed, some of the alien stuff.
  
I have never forgiven King for naming his hero "Barbie," though.  To say this does not work is an understatement; what's worse is that an antagonistic character uses the name frequently in a mocking way that is annoying to look at on the page, and must be hellish in audiobook format.
  
And then there's Big Jim Rennie.  The Stephen King Cast once named him the #1 King villain of all (in episode 121, that was), and I thought that was pretty damn cool.  Whether you find it to be cool might depend on whether your politics match up with the host's, but if they don't, then they don't line up with King's, either; and rest assured that his politics are on full display in this novel.  Rennie is a satirical character who smacks of Dick Cheney, and I'd argue that the novel is too one-sided.  That doesn't bother me too too much, because I'm part of the choir to whom King is preaching.  But as a general principle, I wondered if King wasn't alienating (pardon the pun) people in too willy-nilly a fashion.
  
I can live with that, though.  If I'm being honest, it's the whole "Barbie" thing that's keeping Under the Dome down here in the forties.  Without that, I think it'd stand a good shot at the twenties.
  
But even so, I think this is a heck of a novel.
  
  
#44 -- The Bachman Books (1985)
  
  
  
  
I've done a version of this list that included The Bachman Books, and I've done a version that omitted it.  As I said earlier, I'm in an includin' frame of mind this go-'round, and so here it is, the 1985 omnibus that gave most King fans their first crack at the four novels that had been unknown to them prior to its appearance.
  
Part of the reason I include it here is that it IS a distinct title, so on a purely technical level, it counts as a separate book.  But that's a weak justification on its own; after all, there are single volume editions of The Mist and you don;t see me including that one separately from Skeleton Crew.  Similarly, there's a two-volume paperback of Under the Dome, and I'm not ranking them separately.
  
So why give this book different/preferential treatment?
  
It might be simple nostalgia.  After all, this is how I encountered Rage, The Long Walk, and Roadwork for the first time (I'd already read The Running Man in movie-tie-in format).  So when I think of those novels, this is how I think of them: as components of a collection (omnibus, technically).
  
Apart from that, I'd argue that when you put those four short novels together under a single cover, they take on an identity that makes the book something more than the sum of its contents.  You could build a collection similar in page length out of Carrie, The Gunslinger, Cycle of the Werewolf, and The Colorado Kid, but would there be any thematic cohesion there?  Hell of a book; but no, that'd just be a ramshackle omnibus of no particular consistency.  
  
With The Bachman Books, you're getting something else.  You're getting four novels that make sense when you put them in a basket together; that feed off of one another; that enhance one another.  Rage plays almost like a prelude, establishing an air of sweaty desperation that almost makes the suicidal actions of The Long Walk makes sense.  Then, in Roadwork, the protagonist seems almost like a grown-up version of Charlie from Rage, or a guilt-ridden survivor of The Long Walk.  His desire to bring an end to things leads in perfectly to The Running Man, where a desperate and furious man tries to turn the system against itself.
  
All of this is accidental to some degree, but what does that matter?  It's the end product that counts, and I think this is a very strong one.  (Rage notwithstanding, although even it seems more acceptable in this guise.)
  
  
#43 -- From a Buick 8 (2002)
  
  
  
  
My memory of this one has faded to an indistinct blur.  But it's an indistinct blur that has YOU LOVED THIS WHEN YOU READ IT IN 2002 spray painted across the front in clear and easy-to-read block letters, so that probably means something, doesn't it?
  
  
#42 -- Gerald's Game (1992)
  
  
  
  
I've got a great memory of reading this one while on a family trip to Gulf Shores that happened during the summer after I graduated from high school.  I began reading it on the trip down, sitting in the back seat, hoping nobody would spontaneously grab it out of my hand and discover the unrepentant filth that King was pouring into my eyeballs.  I can't swear to this, but I think I made it all the way to the degloving scene, and may have let out a literal hurk of disgust.
  
I didn't really know what to make of the novel as a young man of seventeen, which seems entirely right.  Why would I get some of what is going on in that novel, psychologically-speaking?  So I read it, and put it to the side, and would probably have said it was one of my new least-favorite King novels.
  
When I came back to it a few years later, though, I got a lot more out of it, though.  I read it a third time at some point after that and felt like it was really kind of genius.  It's a great concept, and King gets some good mileage out of it as a Hitchcockian setpiece, but also as a venue for having Jessie "talk" to "herself" as a means of working some of her shit out.
  
And then there's the Space Cowboy.
  
Man oh man.
  
  
#41 -- Needful Things (1991)
  
  
  
  
Another of King's small-town-under-supernatural-siege epics, and if that's a subgenre that you dislike, then I genuinely wonder what you're doing reading a blog like this one.  But it takes all types to make a fandom go 'round, so I don't necessarily discount the possibility.  If that's you, then welcome!  You're among friends, sort of.  We're the sort of friends who will almost certainly talk about you behind your back, though, so fair warning.
  
Anyways, when it comes to that subgenre, Needful Things is middle of the pack, I'd day.  And middle-of-the-pack King is  pretty dang good, so is this a good novel?  You better believe it.
  
Alan Pangborn is one of my favorite King protagonists, in fact, and to this day it irks me that King didn't find an excuse to drag him into the Dark Tower books somehow.  Ace Merrill and Danforth Keeton make for strong subordinate villains, and Leland Gaunt is a very strong main villain.  There are some wonderful setpieces, a goodish amount of excellent writing, and an autumnal tone that I am always happy to find in a King book when he brings it out.
  
My chief complaint: I get that this is satire, but I don't know that King is entirely persuasive in selling the idea that all these people turn into such shits.  In most cases, the explanation isn't particularly supernatural; the supernatural was a mere facilitator.  It goes too far for my tastes; the realism drains out of it at a certain point, and the believability goes with it.  The novel holds its integrity via the sheer force of King's talent, but it's a near thing.
  
All that said, yeah, definitely a good novel.
  
  
#40 -- Thinner (1984, writing as Richard Bachman)
  
  
   
  
In high school, this is one of the King novels that left me cold.  In the years after that, my opinion of it only weakened, largely thanks to the influence of the dreadful movie adaptation.
  
However, when I revisited the novel a few years ago, I found that it was much stronger than I'd ever given it credit for being.  It's soaked in dread; as soon as the pounds begin coming off Billy -- and maybe even before that -- you know he's a goner.  The suspense comes from wondering how long it will take and how awful the process will be.
  
Some of the Mafia-related elements are iffy, but that is more than made up for by the note-perfect ending, which is awful in the best possible way.
  
  
#39 -- The Tommyknockers (1987)
  
  
  
  
Remember how, one title ago, I was talking about a King novel that I didn't much like in high school and which suffered in my memory after that due to a lousy movie version, but then impressed me way more when I revisited it years later?
  
Well, here's another one of those.
  
This one is underrated, in my opinion.  There are a few aspects of the novel that don't work, and if all you think of when you remember this book is that there's a flying killer soda machine, well, I can't blame you.  However, there is WAY more to the novel than that, and while there is a stretch of the narrative where King seems to lose his way for a bit and start cramming in stuff that really doesn't need to be there, I'll take that any day of the week.  Why?  Because the novel ends well.  This is something that can't be said of all of his books; even a few of the great ones end poorly.
  
With this one, though, he got to where he needed to go, and he got there in style.
  
Apart from that, I like almost all of the major characters, including the two doomed not-quite-lovers.  There is a lot of reflective, affecting material here; and the novel's central conceit is undeniably cool.
  
  
#38 -- Insomnia (1994)
  
  
  
  
Here's one that I enjoyed quite a bit upon its initial release, only to then sour on at some point thereafter.  This was likely due to not enjoying the audiobook, which, as I recall, is not particularly great.
  
And that's probably unfair to hold the novel accountable for the audiobook's failing.  Reading the novel itself in late 1994, I was moved to tears; if an audiobook failed to recapture that magic -- or, worse, somehow managed to diminish it -- then that's a real shame.
  
I'm going to be rereading this one at some point in the not-too-distant future, and I'm looking forward to it.  I skimmed through a bit of it recently while looking for some information about the Random and the Purpose (for my posts discussing my reappraisal of Revival), and was blown away by the bits that I read.
  
Most of you will likely know that Insomnia is a key component in the Dark Tower mythos.  It's not an actual part of the series, but among the close companion pieces, it's one of the most important.
  
  
#37 -- Christine (1983)
  
  
  
  
If I'm being honest, then I have to admit that John Carpenter's movie version -- which I love -- has almost totally overwritten the novel in my memory.  I can conjure up little impressions of the novel -- enough to remember that I really liked it the first time I read it, and have continued to do so every time I have revisited it since (which is apparently not often enough) -- but beyond that, what I mainly see in my mind's eye is Buddy Repperton's wonderful hair.
  
I think about several things in relation to the first time I read the book.  I checked it out from the school library during the fall of my junior year (1990-91), and did a great deal of the reading during Driver's Ed class.  Or maybe not during it, because, you know, class was going on; but it was definitely on my mind when the football coach who taught the class showed us a perils-of-the-road film called Blood on the Highway (or something like that -- it might actually have been wither Blood on the Windshield or Red Highway).  I was a scared little lamb in all sorts of ways back in those days, and had a very difficult time watching even fake movies that had blood in them.  I'd typically avoid those movies altogether, or just stop watching the screen if I sensed some blood about to appear.
  
So you can imagine how unenthused I was by the idea of seeing a film full of footage from real-life car crashes.
  
FUCK THAT.
  
I refused to watch it.  I went to the teacher before class and said, "Coach, I can't watch that movie."  He looked at me, squinting and scowling and possibly (this might be an invention of my memory) chomping an unlit cigar.  "God damn it, Burnette, go to the library or something," he said, inclined to make allowances for a football player, but not necessarily inclined to be cheerful about it.  
  
And so I did, where I used the time to work on Christine.
  
I damn near had a couple of wrecks later on in the semester when we went out driving; I wonder if my failure to see the warning film flashed across his mind as he was applying the passenger-side brake those cars were equipped with?
  
Anyways, that's what I think of when I think of Christine, if I'm not thinking of the movie or of the line about the one thing that maybe smells finer than new-car smell.
  
That stuck with me, too, of course.
  
  
#36 -- Danse Macabre (1981)
  
  
  
  
I'm not gonna lie: this book is badly out of date by now, and probably ought to be lower on the list.
  
But I can't do it.  I fucking love this book, which is equal parts autobiography, critical essay, and philosophy.  I defy you to read it and not come away with a list of about a hundred books you want to go read, or movies you want to go watch, or tv/radio shows you want to dive into.
  
And if I could get a wall-size poster of the paperback's cover, you'd best believe one of my walls would suddenly have a sweater.
  
  
#35 -- Full Dark, No Stars (2010)
  
  
  
  
This collection of three novellas and one short story has a sort of thematic unity: it's about the bad things men sometimes do to women.  It begins with the impressively oppressive "1922," which is one of my favorite King novellas.  And that's saying something.
  
I'm less enthused by "Big Driver," which features some lapses in good taste and -- at the time I initially read the book, at least -- seemed a bit off in the prose in some way I couldn't put a finger on.  Still, it's good, and comes to a satisfying conclusion.
  
The short story -- "Fair Extension" -- is solid; the grand finale, "A Good Marriage," is very strong indeed.  Don't ever watch the movie, which is as appealing as spider butts.
  
  
#34 -- The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah (2004)
  
  
  
  
I think most Towerphiles hold this one in relatively low esteem, down there at or near the bottom of the pile for the series.  I can't honestly say I disagree with that assessment, but for my own tastes, I think this is a perfectly good novel.
  
I say that, but ... I don't actually remember all that much about it beyond the main thrust of the Roland/Eddie plotline.  A few things involving Susannah and Mia spring to mind, too, although I have that subplot mentally marked as "TEDIOUS."  Not majorly tedious; but tedious in comparison to much of the rest of the series.
  
As with virtually every book on this list, including the ones I remember relatively fully, I look forward to revisiting it and finding out how my opinions change.  Speaking of which...
  
  
#33 -- The Dark Half (1989)  
  
  
  
  
...this is another one that I found, upon a modern-day reread, to be a great deal better than I'd remembered.
  
Here's what I had to say about the novel the last time I ranked all these books:
  
The plot is moderately hard to swallow, and is somewhat lacking in clarity (what the hell is George, anyways?), but King’s prose is solid.  Don’t believe the hype about how this is a parable for the way King’s own “Richard Bachman” pseudonym story played out in real life; this is actually a story about a writer wrestling with his own demons, not demons foisted upon him by the outside world.  As such, it makes an interesting companion piece to both Misery and The Tommyknockers.

A three-part exploration of the novel by yours truly can be found here, here, and here
  
I still don't know what the hell George is, but in one of those reviews, I kind of put forth a theory about it.  It might not work for you, but it works for me pretty well.
  
  
#32 -- The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012)
  
  
  
  
From my 2013 rankings: 
  

If I'm being honest, I suppose I have to admit that this is the worst of the eight Dark Tower novels.  However, saying that is hardly an insult: this is a terrific novel, one which employs an effective nesting-doll structure to tell three stories (the ka-tet seeking shelter from a vicious storm; young Roland investigating murders committed by a shapeshifting skin-man; and a young boy in Mid-World embarking upon a dangerous quest to save his mother from an abusive stepfather).  
  
In this novel, King has written a strong tale about the power of storytelling, and he's also made his magnus-opus universe feel like even more expansive a place than it felt before.  That's quite an achievement.

Here's my review, and here (plus here) is a conversation I had with Bryan McMillan about the novel.
  
The thing is, this one is holding up really well in my memory, and I no longer actually think of it as the worst novel in the series.  ("Worst" being a highly relative thing here.)  The only thing I can think of to say about it that's a negative is that there are some anachronistic errors in the series continuity.  Not even major ones; minor ones.  I don't even remember what they are, because I didn't catch them; I read this online circa 2012.
  
In other words, I kinda don't give a shit.
  
What I care about is the extra time the novel afforded me with the primary ka-tet of the series.  All that starkblast stuff is great.  But I also love BOTH of the flashbacks; the Roland-visits-the-nuns stuff is wonderful, and the Merlin-as-a-tiger stuff, too.
  
It's just a damn fine novel all the way around, really.  I'm okay with it having leapfrogged Song of Susannah in my estimation; I think that's a totally fair assessment.
  
  
#31 -- Roadwork (1981)
  

image borrowed from: http://www.stephenkingrevisited.com/revisiting-roadwork-by-richard-chizmar/
  
I didn't give too much of a damn about this novel when I read it in high school, and that's appropriate: there's very little in it that a teenager ought to give a damn about.  It's about a sad, broken man who decides he's had enough and isn't going to give in any farther than he's given in already, even if he knows it's stupid.  If a teenager understands any of that, that teenager is fucking doomed.
  
I enjoyed it quite a bit when I reread it a few years back, during the height of the recession.  
  
It made a lot more sense then.  Truth is, it's a very good novel, one which proves -- if only to me -- that King probably could have had a career writing more or less whatever kind of fiction he wanted to write.  I wouldn't change the trajectory of his career in any way, but part of wonders what the eighth, ninth, tenth novels written by THIS guy would have been like.
  
Pretty damn good, is my guess.
  
  
#30 -- Firestarter (1980)
  
  
  
  
From my 2013 rankings:
  
A very good novel; there are no major weaknesses, although Charlie's dialogue is a bit problematic: she rarely sounds like what it seems like an eight-year-old ought to sound like.  King had a differently-gendered version of the same problem in The Shining, but there, Danny's telepathy made for a terrific explanation; there's no such saving grace here.  In any case, the narrative works well enough that it isn't a major problem.
  
The novel gets compared to Carrie, but I find it has much more in common with The Dead Zone.  It's not as good as that one, but it's an entertaining sci-fi thriller with political undertones.  I'd love to read a sequel someday. 
  
  #29 -- The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015)
  
  
This book's cover really shows fingerprints, so don't eat any fries before grabbing it.
  
  
A terrific collection, one which comes close to being as good as any King has released.  The only thing that holds it back is that I'd argue it doesn't have as many masterpieces as a couple of the other collections have.
  
But boy, there sure are some great stories in this book.  "Batman and Robin Have an Altercation" might be my favorite, although "Summer Thunder" and "Ur" and "Drunken Fireworks" and "That Bus Is Another World" and "Bad Little Kid" are awfully fine, too.  And several others, for that matter.
  
The bottom line is that with maybe only two or three exceptions, this collection lands every punch it throws.  And if you buy the paperback, you get an extra story ("Cookie Jar"), which means you get socked in the jaw an additional time.
  
You won't mind.
  
  
#28 -- The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2003)
  
  
  
  
Have I ever been more excited for a book in my life than I was for this one?
  
I don't know.  Maybe at some point when I was a child.  As an adult?  Almost certainly not.
  
Let me set the stage for you: I became a King fan in 1990, and by 1991 had caught up with pretty much every book King has published.  (I had trouble tracking down copies of both Cycle of the Werewolf and Creepshow, but am pretty sure I had found the former by 1991.  In fact, I'm almost positive that I found it in a book store in a mall in Glendale, Arizona, on that same Fiesta Bowl trip that involved me telling a bunch of sleepy children the story of The Eyes of the Dragon for a beddy-bye nightcap.  Creepshow took another few years, I think.)  So I'd read both The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three, and was consequently able to get onboard with The Waste Lands as soon as the mass-market edition of it came out.
  
Then, the wait for the fourth novel began.  It wouldn't end until 1997.  Six interminable years!
  
Two years later, King nearly dies in a car accident.  My first thought was, oh, shit, no more Dark Tower!  Is this to my discredit?  Maybe.  I mean, it's not like it was the ONLY reason I would care, but was it the primary, knee-jerk instinct?  Yeah, it was.  I think of it being to the novels' credit more than to my discredit, but however you want to explain it, it's the truth.
  
King announced in 2001 or so that he realized it was time to get the series finished, and was writing the final three novels back-to-back-to-back.  And in early November of 2003, the first of those hit shelves.  
  
A friend and I went to Walmart at midnight to see if we could find copies.  This was in the days when Walmart routinely put big new releases of movies, music, and even occasional books on sale at midnight when the end of one day changed into the beginning of a release day.  Maybe that still happens on occasion, but if so, I am not aware of it.  It was fun to go snap something up like that on occasion, but on this particular night, we had no luck.
  
Not at first, at least.  We eventually found a store employee who we asked about it, and she helpfully located the appropriate box, hauled out a couple of copies, and sent us on our way, likely shaking her head at the two goofuses heading away from her.
  
She just didn't get it.  This was serious business even to my friend, who was relatively knew to the world of the Tower; for me, who'd been waiting six years for another installment (and who had the brief window of time when it looked as if King's writing days might be over for good), it was even more so.  This was the feeling you get when a pet who's been missing for a few days finally shows up on your doorstep again, missing the tip of one ear and hungry, but otherwise basically the same.
  
And that's not an entirely inappropriate assessment of this particular novel.  I was mildly disappointed in it upon initial read; something seemed a little bit off.  It didn't quite scratch the itch as fully as I hoped.  It was missing the tip of an ear; you checked it out and said, "Hmm ... something happened while you were gone, didn't it?"
  
But, of course, it was very much still lovable.  And among Towerphiles, it seems to be very popular, with some even ranking it as best in the series.  It doesn't even get close to that for me, but does that make it bad?  Not even vaguely.  It's got a lot to recommend, including a major "new" character, a return to the Western vibe of The Gunslinger, some truly bizarre and wonderful metafictional touches, a terrific robot, a great extended action setpiece toward the end, strong character development, and a killer cliffhanger.
  
Don't worry about that missing ear-tip; just let it in your lap and enjoy the time with it you unexpectedly got back.
  
  
#27 -- Joyland (2013)
  
  
  
  
King's second novel for Hard Case Crime was demonstrably more of a murder-mystery than the first one (The Colorado Kid) had been, but it still isn't exactly the sort of thing you think of when you hear the words "Hard Case Crime" in the context of a line of paperback novels.
  
One suspects that Hard Case Crime doesn't mind much; one suspects that they'd be fine for King to go slightly -- or even wholly -- off-brand for them about once or twice a year for the next thirty years.
  
I can't blame them.  And in the case of Joyland, the end result is more enjoyable in almost every way.  (I only qualify it with an "almost" because I am not entirely persuaded by a psychic-child subplot that comes up toward the end.)  The mystery is okay, but what this novel is really all about is a young man trying to get over a broken heart by working in an amusement park for the summer.  It's a novel drenched in melancholy, and the effect is doubled by virtue of the fact that the novel's story is told from the perspective of a grown-up version of the young man.  He's telling us all about the heartache of youth from the vantage point of the heartache of the old, which is to no longer have that youth.
  
Good stuff, guys; King is in fine, fine form here, unnecessary psychic children notwithstanding.
  
  
#26 -- Skeleton Crew (1985)
  
  
  
  
I'm perpetually torn between whether I think Skeleton Crew or Night Shift is King's strongest collection of short stories.  So as to reflect that, I've ranked them back to back, and I've given Night Shift the go-ahead signal.
  
But make no mistake: I don't think Skeleton Crew is one bit less great, and sometimes I wonder if it might not be a bit better.
  
For the moment, I can't quite make up my mind.
  
Anyways, Skeleton Crew has "The Mist," which is arguably my favorite King novella; "The Jaunt," which is one of my favorite of his short stories; "For Owen," which IS my favorite of his poems; and a number of other classics, including "Nona," "The Reach," "The Monkey," "The Raft," "Gramma," and "Survivor Type."
  
Nope; nothing wrong here.
  
  
#25 -- Night Shift (1978)
  
  
  
  
Chock full of excellent stories, Night Shift arguably suffers from the fact that King's writing style had not yet fully developed.  But whatever it lacks in polish, it makes up for in tone and imagination.  I'm not a big fan of "Graveyard Shift," but even it is okay; and it's probably the worst story in the bunch.
  
Highlights include "Jerusalem's Lot," "Quitters, Inc.," "The Boogeyman," "The Woman in the Room," and "The Ledge," just to name a few.
  

#24 -- Revival (2014)
  
  
  
  
A Lovecraftian blast of melancholy, Revival is similar to Joyland in that it involves an old man looking back upon his youth.  In this case, it is not particularly fondly, though, and this novel's protagonist shares more in common with the Danny Torrance of Doctor Sleep than with the theme-park-mascot who is the hero of Joyland.
  
You occasionally hear people carp about how King's best days are behind him, but I don't know how you could read a novel like Revival and come away thinking that.  To be honest, I didn't love it upon my first read; I felt the ending let the novel down.  But even so, I thought the first four-fifths were about as good as anything he'd ever written, and if a guy who's written as much as King has written can still do that this deep into his career, then there's no reason to think there aren't two or three or nine more masterpieces on the way.
  
And on top of that, my second read of the novel convinced me that the ending was much better than I'd initially given it credit for being.
  
  
#23 -- Cujo (1981)
  
  
  
  
From my 2013 rankings:
  
Oppressive, depressing, and very memorable.  The best sections may be the ones in which King writes from the dog’s point of view; he does so quite well, and also invents several great characters of the two-legged variety.  Within King's canon, only Pet Sematary (and possibly "1922") is grimmer.  But grim can be compelling, and it's certainly compelling here. 
  
  
#22 -- Dolores Claiborne (1992)
  
  
  
  
In 1992, King released a one-two punch of novels featuring female protagonists whose husbands were utter shits.  Of the two, I think Dolores Claiborne is the more successful, and I think the titular heroine remains one of King's best characters to this day.
  
King's prose is on point here, too, as the novel consists of a single unbroken chapter in which Dolores relates the tale to a couple of policemen.  King clearly knew Dolores's voice backwards and forward, and something tells me that if he needed to do so, he could probably sit down on a moment's notice and find it again.  
  
Either way, this is a damn fine novel.
  
  
#21 -- Bag of Bones (1998)
  
  
  
  
A big, haunted, haunting novel of lost love, unexpectedly-found love, writer's block, vengeance from beyond the grave, vengeance from people not yet in the grave, rock-chucking, road-safety awareness, unexpected adoption, and small-town gossip.  Deeply good, although your overall response is likely to be colored by how you feel about one or two of those just-mentioned points of interest.
  
  
#20 -- Hearts In Atlantis (1999)
  
  
  
  
From my 2013 rankings:
  
Is it a novel?  A collection?
  
Does it matter?  Not at all.
  
The structure is interesting for that reason, and the mix of the supernatural with the completely mundane is perhaps even more interesting, but either way, this is strong stuff.  It's also required reading  for Dark Tower fans, who ought to treat this -- along with Insomnia and Black House -- as unofficial entries in the series.
  
By the way, the book is supposedly incomplete: according to King, one tale -- "The House on Value Street" -- remains to be written.  Well, that's tantalizing as hell...
  
  
#19 -- Duma Key (2008)
  
  
  
  
Here's another blast from the past quotation by me of me:
  
Edgar is a great King character, and there were a couple of times when I felt genuinely nervous for what was about to happen.  This haunting, horrifying character piece is long but not overlong, with an entirely successful setting, and a great ghost-story premise; a great novel, and a great refutation of any claims that latter-career King has lost his touch.  Part of me wants to put it in the top ten, but since I've only read it once, I'm going to defer to some others with which I am more familiar.
  
I know at least one reputable King fan who thinks this might be King's very best novel, and my memory of it indicates that that is an opinion well worth taking seriously.
  
I've only read it the once, though, so I'm opting to be somewhat conservative in my assessment of it for this post.  That single read, though, was one that found me unable to turn the pages quickly enough; I devoured that novel, although there were times when I scarcely wanted to know what was going to happen next, for fear that it was going to be awful.
  
As, indeed, it frequently was.  But what else would you expect from a story that begins with the main character's arm getting mashed off?  It's a novel that plays for keeps, and it's a winning approach.
  
And now, for something different!
  
We've reached the number 19 in our rankings, and this is the spot where I predetermined I was going to do something a bit unusual for The Truth Inside The Lie: an advertisement!  Specifically, an unpaid and unsolicited advertisement:
  
  
  
  
I heard about these guys from the Stephen King Cast, and decided to check 'em out.  From them, I obtained this:
  
  
https://www.ka-tet19.net/collections/mens/products/copy-of-blaine-is-a-pain-tee-the-dark-tower-1
  
Which is a fuckin' beaut, man.  I will wear this shirt every time I was the movie this August; rely on that.
  
Here are a few others from their site that caught my eye:
  
  
https://www.ka-tet19.net/collections/mens/products/crosswalk-tee-mens-the-dark-tower

https://www.ka-tet19.net/collections/mens/products/copy-of-kalifornia-shardik-tee-mens-the-dark-tower

https://www.ka-tet19.net/collections/mens/products/nozz-a-la-tee-mens-the-dark-tower
  
I'd like to get all three of those eventually, along with a number of others they have available.  I don't normally do any kind of advertising here, because this just isn't that kind of place; but in this case, I figured that you're probably want to know such a shop exists online.
  
So give 'em a look, if'n you're inclined to do so; I can tell you without hesitation that they have great customer service, and the one tee I've gotten so far fit wonderfully and was very comfortable.
  
And with that, we move past 19 to...
  
  
#18 -- The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (2004)
  
  
  
  
...arguably the 19iest novel of them all, the grand finale to The Dark Tower.  
  
It remains a controversial novel among Towerphiles to this day, with some arguing that it's a deflating an anticlimactic dud and others arguing that it's a mind-blowing, universe-expanding triumph.
  
I lean closer to the latter.  I do have problems with the novel, but they are eclipsed for me by the sheer excellence -- and sheer number of -- of the major setpieces.
  
But in the end, it's all about the characters for me, and they are uniformly well-served here (with the possible exception of one major villain and the definite exception of a different major villain).  If you get to this point in the series and don't experience Mariah Carey levels of emotion, then you are made of sterner stuff than I.  You may, in fact, be a gunslinger of sorts yourself.
  
One of these days, I'll write at length -- lengthy, lengthy length -- about this entire series.  When that happens, rest assured that I will have plenty to say about this novel.  It won't all be positive; and some of it will of the "I wish __________ had happened instead" variety.
  
But the vast majority of it will be the equivalent of me bowing in King's general directions, shouting "huzzah" and/or "bravo," and doing that thing where you put both sets of fingertips to your lips and then fling smooches outward with a vocalized "mmmmm-AHHH."  Or, if you prefer, a tip of the cap followed by eighteen more.
  
The point is, I love this novel, warts and all.  To return to my previous lost-pet analogy, this one might be said to be missing the full ear rather than just the tip; but, mysteriously, it's also had a bath and has a shiny new collar around its neck.  It was happy to see you before, it's happy to see you now, and it's going to be happy to see you again later.
  
Good times, guys; very, very good times.
  
  
#17 -- Carrie (1974)
  
  
  
  
We've officially reached the point in the rankings where I kind of just want to throw my hands up and say, "Fuck it, put the rest of these in whatever order you want to."  Except maybe for the top two; those, I feel pretty strongly about.
  
But otherwise, honestly: what's the difference between having Carrie here or farther up?  I had it just outside the top ten last time, and kind of wanted to squeeze it into the top ten this time.  But I can't make myself actually do it.
  
This is not a reflection of Carrie so much as it is a reflection on the next fourteen or so books, though.  Because Carrie is pretty damn great in my opinion.  The older I get, the better it seems; the older it gets, the more I seem to think about it.  It probably crosses my mind as often as any book or story in King's canon, and that's saying something.  Specifically, it's saying that Carrie has staying power.
  
I think part of what makes it such an evergreen -- ever-red? -- novel is that it rarely takes the easy way out.  Its ostensible antagonist can also be said to be its protagonist: Carrie is wicked AND innocent, misunderstood but also malicious.  Sue, its ostensible protagonist, can also be said to be its antagonist: if not for her well-meant but misguided actions, none of the final act would have taken place.  This creates some real frisson of emotion, not merely upon first read, or second, or third, but tenth.
  
The novel does have a few deficiencies, but measured against its virtues, I think they are negligible.  This is a great novel, and it's likely to remain so for quite some time to come.
  
  
#16 -- The Stand (1978/1990)
  
  

  
  
I toyed with the idea of ranking these two editions separately (as would be completely fair game in my opinion), and while I opted not to, I reserve the right to do so at some future point down the line.
  
What hangs me up from doing so is being unable to figure out which I would rank as the superior version.  Conventional wisdom says the expanded version is the way to go; in fact, I believe it's the only version in print.  And I love the longer version, so if I had to pick one to read, that'd be the one.
  
But is it actually the better of the two?  There's something to be said for the relative concision of the original edition.  Also, while King revised the text to bring the expanded edition forward in time, he left in a good number of anachronisms that make that version problematic.  I doubt that will bother most people, and it only bothers me a little; but it does bother me at least a little, and that would have to be taken into consideration.
  
So ultimately, I just didn't feel like wrestling with the issue.
  
And anyways, this is a pretty great piece of work no matter which version you read.  It's not the first book by King I read, but it was the one that made me a fan for what I assume will be the rest of my life.  It sunk its hooks into me as deep as book ever has before or since, and while in the intervening years I've come to find certain aspects of it problematic, that doesn't alter the fact that the section of my brain marked THE STAND is perpetually shooting off fireworks.  Do I have problems with the novel?  Sure.  Do they matter?  Nope.
  
  
#15 -- 11/22/63 (2011)
  
  
   
  
From my 2013 rankings:
  
When this novel was released, King was in his 37th year as a professional novelist.  In a way, it would be perfectly acceptable for him to have long since succumbed to the lure of laziness and decided to simply toss out variations on the "psychic kid is terrorized by haunted __________" theme.  He wouldn't be the first bestselling author to eventually take the past of least resistance.
  
Hard to blame writers for selling out, to be honest.  Why would you leave all that money on the table?  If you don't grab it up, somebody else is going to grab it.  Nah, I don't fault sellouts at all; they're doing what I'd probably be doing if I had the opportunity.
  
This is what makes King's continued refusal to rest on his laurels so laudable.  If you're that guy, you've got to wonder whether your audience has any interest in reading a romantic time-travel epic.  "What the fuck is this shit?!?" your hypothetical readers grunt.  "No man-eating dogs or psychic clowns AGAIN?!?"  
  
You might even field questions from your publishers along those lines.  "Are you sure you want to write a trilogy of crime thrillers?" they might cautiously wonder.  Me?  I probably say, nah, not really, and write Firestarter IV: The Embers at World's End or some stupid shit like that.  Stephen King?  He does what he feels like doing, and just assumes it'll work out.  And it pretty much always does.
  
It really worked out with 11/22/63.  This is invigorating, dynamic stuff, with great characters and a fresh-seeming approach to the hoary old trope of a time traveler trying to prevent a well-known tragedy.  The sonofabitchin' thing is even a brief midquel to It for a few pages!

  
#14 -- The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (1997)
  
  
  
  
I mentioned earlier that Wolves of the Calla might be the novel that I had the most pre-release excitement for out of any in my life.  And I think it probably takes that prize, but Wizard and Glass is nipping at its heels; photo finish, baby, no doubt about it.
  
I won't spoil anything for potential readers who are still unfamiliar with the Dark Tower series, but I feel okay about saying that Book III ends on a massive cliffhanger.  Ginormous, y'all; colossal, even.  I don't mean to sing the Song Of The Old Fart (aka "In my day, it was like __________") yet again, but boy howdy, I've got to say, the six-year gap between Book III and Book IV was excruciating.  But it was, in retrospect, a truly magical sort of excruciation, one that I wouldn't trade away lightly.  If you'd given 1991 Bryant the opportunity to charge right into the next novel, he'd have done so.  Obviously!  But 2017 Bryant thinks it's pretty rad that 1991 Bryant had to wait all the way until 1997, because the countdown to the eventual release day was just wonderful.
  
Anticipation is a great thing, guys.  At least, it can be.  Granted, you sometimes end up with a movie starring Jar Jar Binks in that process, but at other times, the movie/book/etc. is every bit as good as you hoped it could be.
  
That was my experience with Wizard and Glass.  I mean, seriously, why do I not have this in my top ten?  I did last time.  But my top ten needs about fifteen spots, as we've already established, and I guess maybe I've been moderately swayed by some of those folks who think this novel is a big fat waste of time.
  
Not very swayed, though.  The fact is, I love this novel top to bottom.  The resolution of the cliffhanger left over from Book III?  Perfect.  The progressively weirder and weirder (and more metafictive) steps toward the Tower?  Perfect.  The flashbacks to the adventures of young Roland and his ka-tet?  Perfect.  
  
If this sucker had been 14,000 pages long, I'd have been just as onboard as I remain today: 100%.
  
  
#13 -- The Green Mile (1996)
  
  
  
  
Once again I sing the Song Of The Old Fart:
  
God dang, it was great to be there for the original publication of The Green Mile.  One installment per month for six straight months, meaning that for half of the year 1996, you got to go to the bookstore of your choice, walk in with a smile and a few bucks, and walk out with a bigger smile and a new Stephen King book.  (Oh, and by the way, King had us addicts covered once the sixth and final installment came out: a month later -- JUST A FUCKING MONTH LATER!!! -- he released two novels [Desperation and The Regulators] on the same day, with a page count totaling 1163.  King was not about to make his readers go cold turkey.)
  
Things were definitely not always better in the old days; in many ways, the old days sucked ass.  But a lot of great things happened back then -- and before that, and before THAT, and even further back, if you can believe it -- and woe unto he who can't look back on those things and take enormous pleasure at having been present and accounted for at the time.
  
Golly gee, y'all; I almost can't believe how lucky King fans got to be for those seven months of '96.  Glorious; absolutely glorious!
  
And that would probably be true even if the books weren't super great.  I mean, I like Desperation and The Regulators, but neither is a favorite.  And if the six-part serial novel had been only as good as them, or maybe even a bit less good, I think that would still have been cause to do a fist-pump of glee at the luck of the King fan at the time.
  
The fact that the six-part serial novel is freaking The Green Mile is astonishing.  This was the novelist equivalent of Evel Knievel actually getting to try to jump the Grand Canyon, and then sailing over it with a few hundred feet to spare.  The odds weren't good; but doggone if King didn't get the job done.
  
I'm eternally grateful to have been there to see it.
  
  
#12 -- The Long Walk (1979)
  
  
  
  
Here's another one where I'm simply aghast at my own decision to not have this in the top ten.  Shit, man, how?!?  Why?!?  
  
Carrie is routinely referred to as King's first novel, but the fact is that he says it was his fifth.  It was the first to be published, but he'd written four prior to that.  They are as follows:
  
  • The Long Walk (1967, published 1979)
  • Sword in the Darkness (1970, never published)
  • Getting It On (1971, eventually published as Rage)
  • The Running Man (1972, published 1982)
  
Let's allow that to sink in for a bit.  In his freshman year of college, Stephen King wrote The Long Walk.  Most college freshmen can't be trusted to get out of bed and make it to class on time, and here this guy is writing a novel people are still talking about fifty years later.
  
Granted, the 1979 publication likely had the benefit of revisions from a more seasoned King; but still, you've got to take your hat off to the guy.
  
Regardless of any issues like that, I think this is one of King's great works.  It's an unlikely scenario, but King the writer invests in it fully, which allows the reader to invest in it just as fully.  And, doing so, the reader encounters a nightmare scenario that seems plausible while it's happening.  Maybe when you put it down you think, "This is something that nobody would ever actually sign up for," but while you are in King's clutches, you know better.
  
College freshman, y'all.
  
Wow.
  
  
#11 -- 'salem's Lot (1975)
  
  
  
  
Legend has it that there came a point in time when King had to choose what his followup novel to Carrie would be.  His two choices were Blaze (a Steinbeck-y crime novel that would eventually be published as a Bachman book) and Second Coming, a novel about a small town run to seed by a vampiric invasion.
  
King was apparently warned that it might make sense to go with Blaze, because after all, if he put out two horror novels in a row, he might get a reputation he would then be unable to shake.
  
Well, we all know how that one turned out.
  
I think it was the right decision, and I doubt many people would disagree with me.  'salem's Lot -- as Second Coming eventually became known -- is regarded as a classic today, and while it does indeed seem to have permanently typecast King as a horror writer, King has never seemed to resent the designation, and has proven to be more than capable of working in other genres as he sees fit.
  
I think part of that is obviously due to his command of character and tone, attributes which are effective no matter what sort of fiction one is writing.  With 'salem's Lot, both are on display in copious quantities.  Sure, a few of the novel's leads are a bit dull and underdeveloped; but that is more than made up for by the colorful cast of subordinate characters.  King's facility with them allows his main characters permission to be a bit dull and underdeveloped, and so I'd argue that the overall novel doesn't suffer a bit.
  
  
#10 -- On Writing (2000)
  
  
  
  
"It is the tale, not he who tells it," reads a keystone above a fireplace in the Club at 249B.  (We'll speak more about that Club in a bit).
  
It's a marvelous saying, but I've never entirely agreed with it.  I think it is the tale AND he who tells it; I think a story and its teller are in many ways one and the same, and I'd argue that Stephen King's career proves it.  That career is a long, ever-evolving autobiography; one not of incident but of thought and feeling, philosophy and dream.
  
Nowhere is that more evident than in On Writing, which is likely the closest we will ever get to an actual autobiography from King.  It's every bit as readable as one of his novels, which is how I also feel about Danse Macabre, and I don't think this is in any way a mistake.  I think when we read a King book -- fiction or nonfiction alike -- we have a direct link to King's brain.  He's invited us in so he can spill its contents out to us for a while, and ask us to use the opportunity to reflect upon our own brain's contents.  "See how similar they are?" he asks us, not merely in On Writing, but in Wizard and Glass, or Lisey's Story, or Christine, etc.  Maybe some of these sessions are more successful than others, but it's fundamentally the same process.
  
On Writing contains not merely a lot of good advice (and philosophy) on the subject of how to effectively write, but it also contains a harrowing account of King's 1999 near-miss with the Grim Reaper.  Want to know what happened on that day he got hit by a van?  You will find out here.  Boy, will you.  
  
But you will also journey back in time to find out a bit of what young Stephen King was like, and you'll even get to read a couple of short stories he wrote as a young child.  
  
In some writers' hands, a book like this might be the literary equivalent of Toto pulling back the curtain to show us that the Wizard is actually just a weird old liar.  On Writing -- assuming we can take it at King's word (and I feel as if we can) -- instead pulls back the curtain to show us exactly the same Stephen King we expected to be there.  "Oh!" we might exclaim, "I just knew it'd be you!  You know, I've been reading your books since forever!  I've been wondering what you might be like ever since, and I'll be damned if you don't fit it to a T!"
  
Or maybe that's just me.  I don't think so, though; I think it would be damn near impossible for somebody who's written as many books and stories as King has done to not have his personality end up embedded forever in the resulting bibliography.  If you read all the books of James Michener, odds are good that you have met James Michener.  He might not recognize you if you met on the street, but would recognize him?  Yeah, I bet you would.
  
The tale and the teller are forever intertwined, and for the additional peeks On Writing gives us at this particular teller of tales, it is invaluable.
  
  
#9 -- The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (1987)
  
  
  
  
The second volume in King's magnum-opus series of novels is a firecracker, opening with a monster-movie sort of setpiece that changes a great deal of what you might think you know about what will happen going forward.  This in turn sets up the entry of two of the series' main characters, Eddie and Susannah, both of whom are riveting.
  
Several of my favorite scenes in the entire series -- and in all of King's body of work (and, therefore, in all of fiction [the fiction I've read, at least]) -- take place here.  That opening scene, for one; Eddie's delayed debarkation from the plane; the shootout at Balazar's; the first appearance of Detta Walker in Mid-World; and, perhaps above all, Roland's inhabitation of the mind of Jack Mort, especially the scenes in which he goes shopping at the gun store and the pharmacy.
  
Man, what a novel!  I could sit down and begin reading it again right now and be perfectly happy.
  
  
#8 -- Pet Sematary (1983)
  
  
  
  
I spent a lot of time hanging out at my mother's workplace while school wasn't in when I was a kid.  This went on even through much of high school, and I had a sort of volunteer position in the office, where I'd ferry mail from one place to another, or help unload freight trucks, etc.  But it wasn't an actual job (though it would turn into one in college), and so I'd also spend a lot of time goofing off, roaming the building, or shooting the shit with various workers, or sitting around reading.
  
Sometimes, I'd go for walks around the area, including frequent -- damn-near daily -- ones to The Book Rack, a nearby used-book store.  It was here that I found the battered old paperback copy of The Stand that set me on my lifelong exploration of the works of Stephen King.  I devoured it whole, and returned to The Book Rack over and over again that summer (the summer of 1990), getting a new copy of a King book every time I finished one.
  
My mother's boss was a big reader, too, and was always interested in what I was reading.  I'm sure he'd heard of King, but had never read anything by him, so his interest was piqued by my newfound fascination with the author.  He asked if he could borrow one, and ended up with Pet Sematary.
  
The next day, when I saw him, he told me he'd stayed up all night reading it ... and, when he got to the end, had to fight down the urge to fling it out the nearest window.  The only thing preventing him from doing it, he said, was the fact that it was my book.  So he handed it back to me, and went to his office, and he never borrowed a book from me again.  None of this was contentious, though; he knew he had stepped outside his area of reading comfort, and did not for one second criticize me for liking a novel he'd disliked.  He -- and all the people who worked in that office -- were instrumental in the development of my personality and worldview, in part because they implicitly encouraged me to develop it for myself.  They didn't push me; they offered potential paths and let me choose for myself.
  
I think of that more and more frequently these days, and that aspect of my life is forever intertwined by with the development of my King fandom.  I think of those novels, and I think of who I was when I first read them.  Is this part of the reason why Stephen King means so much to me?  Almost certainly, and that's just fine by me.
  
I marvel a bit at the complete lack of judgment my mother's boss had for me, despite his severe reaction to it.  Given some of the book's content, there are other outcomes that could have resulted: maybe he goes to my mother and tells her about the sort of stuff her fifteen-year-old son is reading, and she doesn't like the sound of it, and it becomes A Big Thing.  Who knows what happens from there?  Or -- maybe worse -- some other version of him tells some other version of me that reading books like that will rot my brain, and that version of me turns defensive and offended.
  
As it happened, though, what I took away from it was this: he didn't like it, but he stayed up all night so he could finish it.  He had to know what happened despite the fact that he didn't like it once he got there!  What that told me was this: I could handle it, and he couldn't.
  
The more I think about, the more of an impact I think that had on me.  I was a very timid, extremely fearful child; the fact is that I related to the adults in this office more than I related to kids my own age.  I'm on the fence as to whether this was a good thing or a bad thing in terms of my overall development -- on the whole, I lean toward thinking it was a bad thing -- but either way, it is an integral part of who I am.  For better or for worse, the me that I am today is the logical outcome of the me that made all those walks to The Book Rack in the summer of 1990, the me who took back his copy of Pet Sematary and felt like he'd somehow managed to do something that even his mother's boss -- perhaps the most respectable person he knew -- couldn't do.
  
I didn't have much confidence in anything, but now, I had confidence in books.
  
Without that, who would I be today?  Impossible to say, but whether I'd be homeless in a ditch or living in a penthouse someplace, I would not be the me who I am right here and now.
  
That's not why I've got Pet Sematary ranked where it is -- it's in this spot because it is a creepy masterpiece full of great scenes and great characters, plus one of the very best central concepts in all of King's fiction -- but it is a thing I think of sometimes when this novel floats into my mind.
  
  
#7 -- The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (1991)
  
  
  
  
I'll spare you the origin story of my first time reading this novel, mainly because I wrote a whole post about it already.  Plus, I've probably spent whatever credit I had with you on that subject.
  
So instead, I'll just briefly mention that I feel this is one of the best books King has ever written.  If you think it's his best, I won't argue with you.  I'll just throw an arm around your shoulder, and we'll go off into the sunset, tra-la-lalling about the wonder of Oy and Shardik and Blaine and Gasher and Aunt Talitha and the Tick-Tock Man and the Dutch Hill Mansion and the Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind and "Velcro Fly."
  
We'll have plenty to palaver about, you and I.
  
  
#6 -- Misery (1987)
  
  
  
  
Two of the list's top ten novels came out in 1987.  Consider that.  AND #39 on the list is from that year, as well!
  
You will never have that good a year in your entire life.  Neither will I.  Very few people will, I'd wager.
  
Anyways, Misery is a hell of a novel, and while you'd think I'd have something more to say about it than that, it's kind of all I've got.  If you haven't read it, read it; these are words I would say to virtually anyone, King fan or not.  Hard to recommend a book much more highly than that, isn't it?
  
  
#5 -- The Shining (1977)
  
  
   
  
Who can doubt that this is still one of the most potent of all of King's novels?  Is there anyone who does doubt it?  I'm not sure there is, at least among King fans.
  
What a concept!  Three-person family goes to spend the winter by themselves in a huge hotel.  Turns out, the hotel is haunted.
  
I mean, come on.  I could live to be nine hundred years old and I doubt I'd come up with an idea for a novel that good.  And even if I did, I doubt I'd be able to capitalize on it the way King did.  He only has a few characters to work with, but those central three are each among his very best.
  
It's one of the King novels that seems certain to survive for hundreds of years to come; there'll be folks living on Mars reading about the woes of ol' Jack Torrance, and Danny's efforts to survive them.  They'll hear some strange Martian wind wailing outside, and they'll think, just how alone am I here?
  
In your heart, you know this to be true; and if you're anything like me, it puts a smile on your face.
  
  
#4 -- The Dead Zone (1979)
  
  
  
  
I'll do us all the courtesy of not mentioning the way in which this novel has become sort of a hot-button title in the King canon circa 2017.  It's a bummer of a topic, and one can only hope it doesn't become more of a bummer before it's all said and done.
  
The fact is, this is a great novel.  There's no need for us to talk about anything beyond that.  John Smith is one of King's very best characters, and his story is one of King's very best stories.  His prose is on point, and his philosophies come shining though clear as day.  It's scary at times, and it's touching at times, and it's haunting even after you've finished.  Maybe especially after you've finished.
  
No argument for this not being in the top five, as far as I can see.
  
  
#3 -- Different Seasons (1982)
  
  
  
  
This is the fourth time since 2011 that I've written a version of these rankings, and 2017 marks the first time that Different Seasons has failed to come in at #1.
  
That bums me out a little, but it's the only thing about Different Seasons that does.  This book comprises four novellas that, ranked individually, would almost certainly each be in contention for the top twenty.  I thank my lucky stars that I don't have to do that, because I don't know what I'd push out of the way to make room for them, and I don't even have a clue what sort of disarray might result in the top ten.
  
"Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" begins the book, and what a humdinger it is.  I think most people have overwritten it in favor of the movie, and maybe that's okay, but the movie could only be what it is because the novella is what it is.
  
"Apt Pupil" remains one of the most horrifying pieces in all of King's canon.  If you ever needed to prove to somebody that King can creep you out without the supernatural, look no further.
  
"The Body" is a charming, melancholy piece that is every bit as iconic as most of the iconic novels King has written.  The main characters are among his best, and it's also probably his funniest piece of fiction.
  
And then there's "The Breathing Method," which, believe it or not, is my favorite of the four.  The idea of the Club at 249B lingers in my mind with a great deal of presence.  That idea just ... has something.  The rest of the novella is great, too; the story the one old guy tells about the woman giving birth under what might be called odd circumstances is a corker.  But for me, it's all about the Club, which for me ranks as one of King's most intriguing creations.
  
Now, all of those novellas are terrific individually.  Taken as a whole, however, they -- in a manner not unlike, but even (I would argue) stronger than, The Bachman Books -- somehow gain in stature by feeding off one.  All four novellas are very much about the telling of tales; what it can mean, what it must mean, what it should never mean, what it meant.  A great deal of King's books are metafictive in one way or another, and this is perhaps his most graceful work on the subject.
  
  
#2 -- It (1986)
   
  
   
  
Next year (2018), it will be 28 years since I first read this novel.  Those of you who have also read it will likely nod sagely at that.  Will I read it again next year to commemorate the occasion?
  
You bet I will.  The idea had not occurred to me until just now, but now that it has, you can rely on it.
  
I have yet to write at length about the novel, so maybe I'll do that, too.  Seems like a good idea.
  
And boy, am I going to have a lot to say.  This is, hands down, one of my favorite novels by any author.  From start to finish, it is one excellence-filled chapter after another.  Minor characters walk on for a few pages on occasion and manage to be more fully-formed than the main characters of many authors' novels.  Who can do that?
  
Who can sustain it over the course of 1100 pages?
  
King, that's who.  And, of course, this book's main characters are also all wonderful.  The titular monster is King's best baddie of them all, and probably by a considerable margin.  This makes sense; "it" was conceived as a sort of master's-thesis that encompassed everything there is to fear.  That's a heck of a chunk to bite off, and the fact that King actually managed to succeed is a genuine marvel.
  
So many things to say about this one.  For now, let's settle for this: the magic exists. 

   
#1 -- The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1982/2003)
  
  
original edition

  
  
Let's begin with a quotation of something I wrote about this book way back in 2012:
  
Technically, this is a short-story collection, as it gathers together the various stories King published in the magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Even more technically, it's actually a novel, since those stories form a consistent and unified whole.  Do you care about semantic distinctions like that one?  Probably not, and good on ya for it, mate, 'cause that sort of thing has been known to keep yours truly up at night.  (For the record, here is the answer to the question of which it is, a novel or a story collection: it's both, dummy.  Same would be true years later of Hearts In Atlantis.)

Set in an odd quasi-Western environment, The Gunslinger was nothing like what the author was, at the time of its publication, known for writing; due to this, the book was originally published only as a limited edition, which quickly sold out and became an object of much speculation, envy, and consternation amongst devoted '80s-era King fans.  (If you want to read a great history of that book's publication, check out Bev Vincent's The Road to the Dark Tower.  You'll be glad you did.)


I am somewhat unusual among Towerphiles in that this is my favorite of the books.  And yes, in fact, I do prefer the original to the revised version.  I have no problems with the revised version, and I love the changes, but there is a sort of rawness about the book -- present in both versions, but even more palpable in the original -- that just utterly captivates me.  In some ways, this feels very much like a Richard Bachman novel, which means only that it feels like exactly what it is: early Stephen King, unpolished and ragged but frequently finding the jugular in memorable ways; a powerful talent in search of the proper avenue in which to express itself.

I love the direction Roland's tale eventually took, but I am enough of a masochist that part of me wishes King had never written any further than this first novel.  I can distinctly recall reading the book for the first time, and feeling positively epic feelings about who Roland was and what his quest meant and how it would all turn out ... and knowing that really, in all the vital ways, I could never know those things.  This was a novel of questions, not of answers; I wanted to know the answers, but in a way, I wanted to never know them.  I love that sort of dark, majestic, unresolvable mystery, and as much as I also love King's later resolutions, I still yearn to be that young man devastated by the thought of Roland sitting on that beach, the Tower distant beyond all hope of approach.

Actually, that's really not masochism at all, is it?  That's just a yearning for the complex pleasure that is mystery.
  
As with The Stand, I considered ranking both version of the novel -- the 1982 collection of the original stories and the revised 2003 edition -- separately.  They are fundamentally the same novel, but they are also different in key ways.  But, again, I opted not to.
  
In this case, though, it's not because I don't have a favorite between the two: as the above quotation shows, I certainly do.
  
No matter which version we're talking about, though, this novel has several of my favorite scenes in all of fiction: the shootout in Tull; the journey through the land of the slow mutants; Jack's remembrance of his own death; Roland's challenge of Cort; the demon in the Speaking Ring; the Man In Black's palaver with Roland; and, of course, the final moments of Roland sitting on a beach, pondering the future.
  
I love it, beginning to end.  Breaks my heart for it not to be #1.
  
Which brings a question to mind: why don't I have it at #1?  Until that last sentence right there, I was writing all of that from the standpoint of having the novel ranked at #5.  But as I was reflecting upon it just now, I realized the truth I expressed moments ago: that it causes me actual mental distress to say this is not my favorite King novel.  I've felt that way about several others on the list, but in terms of feeling bad for them not to be in the top ten.  With this one, there's a voice inside crying out that it needs to be all the way at the top.
  
And so, I have listened to that voice.  I think it's the right thing to do.  The fact is that The Gunslinger fired my imagination in a way only one or two other novels -- by ANY author -- have ever done.  Frank Herbert's Dune did it for sure; maybe Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings did it.  Lonesome Dove fired my emotions in a similar manner, too.  It is on roughly the same level, and with that, I believe I have just established -- in no particular order -- my top five novels.
  
The Stephen King of The Gunslinger is a slightly different one than the King of most of his other works; it's almost as if he's taken a step back, a step beyond himself, to try to get at something more elemental.  The Dark Tower saga would go on to encompass more or less his entire body of work (if not his entire worldview in general), and the seeds of it are all right here.  But, for me, the implication that the true answers may never be found are also here; and that was an aspect that I responded to in 1990 as well as in 2017, and in every year in between.
  
The fact is that this novel has never left my mind.
  
And I hope it never will.
  
So for me, yeah, this is my #1.  I'm surprised it took me so many versions of this list -- this is the fourth -- to come to that conclusion, but I finally have, and it feels like a lock has been keyed into its proper position.
  
Roland would say, "Ka."  To which Eddie might very well answer, "Kaka," and if you are in Eddie's camp in that regard, feel free to let me know about it.
  
Me, though...?  
  
I think we've ended up where we were always meant to be.
  
*****
  
I've got another post already in the works: the hypothesized and occasionally-suggested attempt to craft a suggested table of contents for a volume of essential King nonfiction.
  
See you then!

40 comments:

  1. so happy you wrote this new list! I am very happy about the positions of Thinner (which I always thought was terrific), Revival, Pet sematary and The long walk. I am not the biggest fan of the Dark Tower, but I love your reasoning for every choice.
    This made me want to reread so many of these books, too.
    Thanks for the inspiration, and I am leaving you with this which made me laugh/cry outloud: http://madness-and-gods.tumblr.com/post/146702427221/no

    Mircalla

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    1. Hah! That's great. Poor Martin; I don't think he's ever going to finish those books. That'll be a colossal shame.

      "Thinner" is indeed terrific. What an ending!

      Thanks a lot for reading this highly-subjective bunch of silliness! It was a lot of fun to write; and it made ME want to reread a lot of the books, too.

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  2. Great list, as always I enjoy reading your thoughts on all things King-related. Regarding The Stand, I think the original version is far superior, although I do like the scenes that bookend the expanded edition. Other than that, most of the additions don't improve the book, in my view. And the additional length only makes the slightly underwhelming climax that much more underwhelming.

    I can't fathom how someone as talented as King could have thought that "The Kid" would be a worthy addition.

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    1. I don't mind The Kid too bad. I see what King was going for. It's a messed-up vignette; but it does help illustrate the notion that without the normal systems in place to prevent such things -- or maybe even with them -- guys like Trashcan Man are bound to get exploited in horrific ways.

      But yeah, I kind of lean toward agreeing with you that the additions serve to unfocus the novel and make its resolution seem even less satisfying.

      Someday, maybe I'll sit down with the two versions and do an extensive analysis of how I feel the additions impact the novel overall. That'd be a project worth the doing.

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    2. Absolutely, I'd love to read that.

      If I went back and compared the two versions, I'm sure I would find other, smaller additions that I like. The extra time spent with Fran's mom is probably helpful, as any additional character development for her is welcome, IMO. I do also like the final paragraph of Flagg's introduction in the expanded version, with him levitating briefly.

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    3. It really is an interesting case. For me, I find that both versions are worthy. My plan is to perpetually be reading my way through King's books and stories for the rest of my life, and I'm going to do so in a more or less chronological order -- and I'll just read each version in their respective spots! Same with "The Gunslinger." That way, I get both experiences.

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    4. I love the Kid. I didn't know he wasn't part of the original. But creating a character that made Trashcan Man look stable and well-adjusted was pretty disturbing. I assume that was what he was going for. One of the elements that I thought worked best was the random smattering of survivors - the saintly Mother Abigail, the absolute dregs of society, and everything in between.

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    5. The Kid also serves to make Flagg look comparatively appealing, which is a nice trick.

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  3. I'm pleased to see that I own your top ten--well, sort of, since I only own the original version of THE GUNSLINGER. I haven't yet read all of them, though; I started working my way through the DARK TOWER series earlier this year, and since I'm using your "The Essentials, Expanded Version" list as my guide, I'm skipping titles here and there. I'm also leapfrogging titles that I've already read; for example, I tackled THE STAND last summer, and I felt no need to go back and reread it so soon. I'm currently a couple hundred pages into NEEDFUL THINGS (and enjoying it so far), so I'm chugging right along. Once I finish the series, I'll gradually go back and fill in the blanks of the titles that I've been skipping.

    As an aside, your DARK TOWER list is how I discovered this blog. I knew that King incorporated elements of the TOWER mythos into some of his other works (and vice-versa), so when I decided to finally tackle that series a few months ago, I searched for a good list of titles that I should read to get a good idea of the big picture. Your post was one of the top results, it looked good to me, and I've been a lurker ever since. I've gone back into the archives and read some of your past posts, and I've liked what I've read. It's nice to finally have an excuse to leave a comment.

    I also like your shout-out to the Stephen King Cast, since I coincidentally discovered that one recently (only listening to the episodes covering stuff I've read, obviously).

    At any rate, I wouldn't say that I'm a Constant Reader--I'd reckon that there are more King titles at this point that I haven't read than there are those that I have, though that ratio is slowly changing over time. I never really made a point of seeking out his work; I'd pick up a collection or a novel here and there and be content. It's only recently that I've made a more concerted effort to devour his canon, but even at that, I often get burned out if I read a bunch of stuff by one author at once, so I've been reading one or two King books, then one or two things by other authors, etc. It'll take me longer, then, to get through the TOWER list (and by extension, the rest of his work), but I think that it'll let me enjoy it all a bit more overall if I pace myself that way.

    If I were to address this worst-to-best list itself, I'd have to say that I agree with THE DARK MAN being so low. As cool as it is to get a taste of proto-Flagg, the poem itself is really nothing to write home about, and the breaking up of the lines misses the entire point of it being a poem. At least have it be a line per page! The artwork is great, though, and they do provide the poem in "pure" form at the end, but I'm glad that I borrowed it from the library rather than paying cover price for it.

    Count me as a fan of THE GUNSLINGER. I'm a lover of both westerns and fantasy, though, so a book like that is right up my alley.

    The King clunkers that I've come across so far have mostly been from his collections--I was less than impressed with "Bad Little Kid," for instance, though that was mostly because I guessed the ending almost immediately, so it didn't feel as suspenseful as it probably should have for me. As far as his novels go, I enjoyed THE TALISMAN well enough, though I do understand your objections, and THE EYES OF THE DRAGON was satisfactory for what it is, though I won't be clamoring for a reread anytime soon. I haven't heard many good things about ROSE MADDER, and the reactions to INSOMNIA that I've seen have been mixed; I'm curious as to what I'll think when I get to those.

    I apologize for the door-stopper of a comment. Great post. Great blog. I look forward to future entries.

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    1. No apologies necessary! I appreciate the thoughts, as always.

      "I often get burned out if I read a bunch of stuff by one author at once, so I've been reading one or two King books, then one or two things by other authors, etc." -- That makes sense. It's been a while since I went on a long multi-book King binge; as I recall, I'd occasionally get burnt out, too. Not so much on reading King, but on missing out on the other things I was giving up in order to find that time. It's hard to find time to be a dedicated reader AND a television watcher AND a movie watcher, which are the three media I care most about.

      "I haven't heard many good things about ROSE MADDER, and the reactions to INSOMNIA that I've seen have been mixed; I'm curious as to what I'll think when I get to those." -- Both have their fans, and both have their detractors. That's true of pretty much every book on this list, though. So you may indeed end up loving both, or hating both; or maybe it'll be a split decision. Only one way to find out!

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  4. I picked up Revival on sale a few months ago, and its been sitting on my bookshelf ever since. I had no shortage of books to read before this, and I didn't anticipate much from it honestly, just sort of expanding on my modern day King collection more out of principle than anything. Seeing it rank #26 came as quite the surprise, and I've now moved it up to my next read. Really looking forward to it, and your list has once again helped motivate my reading efforts so thank you as always :)

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    1. I hope I haven't overhyped it for you. You might have some of the same problems I had with it, and if you do -- and then in turn if the other elements don't work as strongly for you as they did for me -- then you might end up very disappointed in it.

      Hopefully not, though! Feel free to keep me updated on how you like it, I'd love to know!

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  5. Totally worth the wait! I've read almost all of his books since the last list and I agree more with this ranking than any one you've done yet. Happy to see Revival enter high and Misery shoot up the list!

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    1. This might be lame, but I'm always excited to see where my rankings end up in comparison to previous ones. One could make the argument that a list like this one is totally useless to anyone except myself ... but I'd make the argument that that's okay, because I find it to be extremely useful as a sort of diary of my own obsessions. Plus, I really do learn things about myself while I'm doing it -- it took me by literal surprise to discover that "The Gunslinger" is in actuality my favorite King book.

      I appreciate you reading this, and I also appreciate you giving me a kick in the pants to get me to start working on it. Don't be a stranger! Come back any time.

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  6. Re: Your comments on Finders Keepers.

    YESSS!!! I screamed at the book when that happened! '80s King would have never let that character survive. Never.

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    1. RIGHT?!?

      It struck me as being wildly incongruous, and not just that, but implausible. So it's an error on top of an error. Not that I wanted or needed her to die; it's just ... why even feint in that direction and then not, in fact, play for keeps?

      Good novel, but that struck a massively false note for me.

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    2. Yup, I totally agree. If it weren't for that, Finders Keepers would be in my top 10. No joke. That's how much I love everything else about it. But that one moment spoils it.

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    3. I remember reading the novel and thinking it was much better than "Mr. Mercedes" and then that moment knocking the wind out of my sails. So I get where you're coming from for sure.

      What did you think of "End of Watch"?

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    4. I agree with you on EOW--I didn't like it. I recall some scenes, such as Brady sharpening his skills in his hospital room, having real power and feeling reminiscent of vintage King. But overall, it's a mess. As Donald Trump would say, King wasn't winning with that one.

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    5. RE: Finders Keepers lady shot.
      I don't read detective/mystery novels so I just assumed Steve was doing something that's done in those novels.
      He also pulled a "he didnt get out of the cockadoodie car" in End of Watch when he led you to believe the sister was killed by the car.
      I thought End of Watch was ok, surprsied at all the hate but I think detective/cop/mystery stuff is just as silly as telepathy and about as real. I loved the part explaining Brady pulling out all the wires in the doctors' brain. I thought that was genius.
      -mikeC

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  7. Great read. I actually opened up your 2013 one while reading this so I could see how things shifted. Some nice lateral movement for Pet Sematary (and I love the biographical stuff in this entry - the past came alive for me, there, your past specifically, but it was like watching a movie, so well done) and Duma Key. Which, of course, makes me happy. And Revival, too! That's the run of revising rankings/ opinions re-examined. It's like re-arranging the bookshelves or something. The contents don't change, but the light hits different things different ways and it's a pleasant process to examine. Nostalgia/critical-faculties massage or something.

    Anyway! Tommyknockers drops to #39! Quel dommage. We'll see where it lands a few years down the stretch...

    I like Needful Things (and Tommyknockers, I guess. And Under the Dome) a lot more than ohter King fans.

    I should revisit Wizard and Glass. I'm one of those loved-it fans and think it makes the series what it is. (Well, bks 2-4, I guess. But maybe I should just re-read the whole damn thing...)

    Interesting that we have The Stand in relatively the same spot! Whenever I tell people it's not my #1 I have my spiel down at this point, but I always get the same incredulous reaction (followed by an even more incredulous reaction that I would have my favorite King books mapped out like this, followed by the inevitable backing away slowly.)

    Man, those Ka-tet 19 t-shirts are awesome.

    I like the Wolves of the Calla story, too. I can relate. Not to this specifically but in general. (Anytime I see that cover I feel compelled to trash-talk it. It hits my eyes like a handful of stinkbugs.)

    I re-read Roadwork with an eye of blogging it up when I did my 2016 King's Highway Touch-Up project, and still it sits there in queue, almost-finished but never-finished. I enjoyed it a lot, though, or rather, admired it a lot. Very well-crafted book, I think, even if it'd have made a better 70s movie than a book (arguably). Anyway now my impressions are a little rusty, even though this was less than a year ago. (All the Michener has pushed a lot of other stuff out of the noggin.) To over-use a phrase, I should read it again.

    Thanks as always for the shout-outs! Great list. I hope this one inspires all the great reading in the comments from last time. (Which I'd forgotten about until opening it up again right now - that was one of the more memorable comments sections. This and your Bond blog, though, attract some literate and interesting folks, so it's always an added bonus to see how others react / contribute.)

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    1. "I love the biographical stuff in this entry - the past came alive for me, there, your past specifically, but it was like watching a movie, so well done" -- Thanks! That means a lot. I really enjoyed writing that stuff, unsurprisingly. It's self-indulgent, but so is the very idea of blogs, so I figure I can get away with a bit of it.

      "I like Needful Things (and Tommyknockers, I guess. And Under the Dome) a lot more than ohter King fans. " -- Those three novels to seem to make a solid trilogy of dumped-upon-by-many-fans texts. I love all three; their rankings may not entirely reflect it, but that's more of a reflection on the novels which precede them than on them themselves.

      "Interesting that we have The Stand in relatively the same spot!" -- You know, for most of my King-reading life, that novel has been the presumptive #1 in general consensus. And it would have been my own #1 for many years. But there are too many problems for it to be there for me. Still, great novel -- GREAT novel -- that deserves at least 75% of the wide-scale love it gets.

      "Anytime I see that cover I feel compelled to trash-talk it. It hits my eyes like a handful of stinkbugs." -- I feel like that about most of that book's art. Wrightson was not in peak form with that project. I'll take it over the art for IV or VI, though, and in a no-contest.

      Say, I've been meaning to ask -- did the title "King's Highway" come from "The End" by a certain band I've been listening to lately? I heard that phrase and literally snapped my fingers in an "a-HA!" manner.

      "That's the run of revising rankings/ opinions re-examined. It's like re-arranging the bookshelves or something." -- That's 100% what it's like. Maybe it is no coincidence that I enjoy occasionally rearranging my bookshelves, too. I'm overdue for that, now that you mention it.

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    2. The Dark Tower art is a lot spottier than it should be. Some great stuff mixed in with some baffling stuff, both for how poorly some of it is actually done, or what it fails to get across, rather, particularly conspicuous due to the talent involved, and also for the almost trivial subjects chosen vs. what COULD have been chosen. But: it's the sort of thing one can't be too upset about, I guess, given a) it's kind of all "bonus" material, so let's not be ungrateful for the extra dessert, even if it's not delicious, and b) the good stuff more than justifies the meh stuff.

      Heh, no the King's Highway moniker wasn't inspired (directly anyway) by that line in "The End," or the Tom Petty song, now that I think about it, which I haven't heard in forever but just came into mind. Nor was it inspired by one of the world's most colorfully named highways, the Kancamangus in New Hampshire, which used to be known locally as the Old King's Highway when I was growing up and even still on a few road signs up in that neck of the woods. (Technically, it was/is a separate road than the actual Old King's Highway but I know no one signed on for a lecture in bygone throughways of New Hampshire.) I don't know if I had anything specific in mind, the phrase just occurred to me from mental echoes of all the above.

      The missus never understands the frequency of my rearranging the bookshelves. Which is fine - I never understand her complacency with the same view/ arrangement, so they balance out.

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    3. I suspect most successful marriages are built partially on a foundation of bafflement. "What a weirdo -- I need to spend the rest of my life figuring this dude out," and so forth.

      I agree with you regarding the Dark Tower art. I can remember being actively disappointed by the art in "Wizard and Glass," though. I'd loved all three up books' art prior to that, and was looking forward to not only the new novel but the new art. When I got to the first piece, I was like, "Uhh... what?" And that did not go away. But the novel was good enough that I didn't care.

      The Wrightson pieces in V weren't GREAT, but they were decent enough that I gave 'em a passing grade. Not so much VI, but by then, I'd had the experience of lousy Dark Tower art, so I just shrugged and moved on.

      VII's, of course, is mostly great. But I don't like Whelan's face for Roland at all.

      I'm pretty picky when it comes to art, though, even though -- perhaps especially because -- I have zero artistic ability of my own.

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  8. Mr. Burnette:

    I, for one, would like to read how you came to King fandom. I believe it would be interesting. Who would play you in the movie version?

    I read Storm of the Century not too long ago for the first time, and you're right, it is very readable. I watched the mini-series afterward and actually enjoyed the screenplay better.

    I love the idea of going to Walmart at midnight to grab a new release.

    Very interesting portion on Pet Sematary. I liked it.

    Once again I am thoroughly impressed by the amount of thought and work you put into your blog. I always enjoy it. Thank you.

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    1. Hah! Who would play me in the movie version? If we're talking me now, then it'd likely have to be an unknown -- Hollywood stars tend not to come in size 4X!

      I actually wrote a post about my King-fandom origin story. You can find that here:

      http://thetruthinsidethelie.blogspot.com/2011/08/media-violence-stephen-king-and-you-or_5198.html

      I can totally imagine preferring the screenplay to the finished product on "Storm of the Century." King really the bat to the ball with that one.

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  9. Late 80s John Goodman might an option! Just need a time machine and a few million dollars to finance the film.

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    1. Goodman ... not a bad shout, actually. Except he's incredibly likeable, and I am kind of not. I'm WAY more likeable in prose than in person!

      But he could be an idealized version of me, for sure!

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  10. Very enjoyable reconfiguring. I read it last week in one sitting and it kinda pissed off my Missus, then I forgot to come back and comment. My biggest disagreement is probably that The Running Man, IMO, deserves much better. Don't know when you last read it, but I loved it. I also liked the Bill Hodges trilogy a lot more than you did. I can see why it wouldn't be considered one of the very best, but to me it's pretty impressive that he so seamlessly pulled off what I thought was a well-written crime series. I'd have believed it was written by someone who had spent years doing it. I'm eager to see how the miniseries turns out. More Brendan Gleeson is always a good thing. And From a Buick 8, as far as I'm concerned, is a minor classic.

    On the other end, I think Misery is a perfect example of the rare occasion I've liked a movie adaptation significantly better than the novel. As far as I'm concerned, the humor in the movie is sorely needed, and lacking in a big way in the book, other than some cockadoodies and other Annie-isms. I probably wouldn't rank that or Salem's Lot as highly as most. But thanks for the good stuff. I'm excited to read your ranking of novellas, because I'm pretty sure I've read most of them except for the Full Dark, No Stars compilation.

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    1. Hmm. Not sure I agree that "Misery" needs humor. It works in the movie, mostly; but I'd argue that the novel works fine without it, too. I mean, it IS titled "Misery," after all.

      Regarding "From a Buick 8," I remember being very impressed by it when I first read it. But I've never reread it, and I just don't remember that much about it. This probably means that when I do revisit it, it will shoot up the rankings. These things are always in motion, after all.

      Heck, a similar thing might even happen with the Bill Hodges books, for all I know. I am beginning to get a feeling that the television version is going to be great, and if so, it might well cause me to reappraise the books. We'll see!

      As for "The Running Man," the last time I read it, I found it to be a little rough around the edges, but essentially good. For the record, I think you're right: I do have it ranked too far down the list. It's certainly superior to "Gwendy's Button Box" (which isn't holding up too well in my memory).

      Now, before I go, I gotta ask: what pissed off Mrs. O? Was it something on my list, or was it you having ignored her while you were reading it? I'm imagining you as Kerim Bey and your wife as that one secretary who is trying to get his attention while he's working.

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  11. Mrs. O was pissed about my abandonment of family duties around bedtime. Nothing more. I had to look up Karim Bey. 007, natch. I figured it was something like that. A series I appreciate but much more casually than many others.

    From a Buick 8 probably infuriates a significant number of readers, but the whole point (as I took it) was that things very frequently don't get a satisfying ending. The mystery doesn't always get solved. As I get older, that has come to ring incredibly true. Hopefully you'll get around to it again sooner than later, and when you do it will be interesting to see whether you come down on my side or the others. If you hated No Country For Old Men, you might be in the other category, and who am I to suggest that those folks don't have a valid point.

    I need to make clear that I'm in no way suggesting that Misery doesn't work as a novel. It works almost too well. I doubt you would disagree that the tone is very different from the movie. I just appreciated the twisted humor that Rob Reiner kept throughout the movie, while still allowing moments that are utterly horrifying. I love when material that's incredibly dark succeeds at conveying humor at the same time. It's an incredibly challenging tightrope for a director or writer to walk, but when it succeeds, there's probably no genre I enjoy more. I get my kicks off of Fargo (the movie and the series), which you'd probably love if you haven't seen it yet. There's actually quite a bit out there in cyberspace about the making of the movie Misery that is fascinating, which I can find some links to if you're interested. For one, there was a lot of hullabaloo about the major change in the hobbling scene, and people coming down on both sides of the argument, and cost multiple directors and lead actors both for and against the much more graphic foot-cutting and cauterizing. A completely faithful adaptation of that novel would be agonizing to watch. Anyhoo, I just happen to come down on the side that ultimately prevailed, and part of the problem may be that I had seen the movie several years before reading the book. But I knew going in that the novel was a lot harsher, and was somewhat prepared for it. Oddly, it was more the thumb getting cut off with an electric knife that got to me. The hobbling, nasty as it was, at least had a clear motivation. King really takes you down to the depths of Paul's despair, which works as his intended metaphor for his own addictions and for the title of the book, as you pointed out. That isn't enough to make me like it, though. If you've ever seen Requiem for a Dream, I'd compare it to that. As a work of art that makes you feel exactly what Darren Aronofsky intended, you'd have to give it four stars. But I never, ever want to see it again, or even think about it too much. Thoughts?

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    1. I don't the mystery not getting solved. I enjoyed "The Colorado Kid" for that very reason. As I recall, it fit "From a Buick 8" like a glove. I'm definitely a "No Country For Old Men" fan, friendo.

      I've seen "Fargo" the series. Well, except for last night's episode; I won't get around to that until next Monday. Good stuff. Season 2 is among the finest seasons of television I know of.

      I agree that some of what is in "Misery" the novel would have been hard to take in a movie. The only way to do that would be to turn it into a literal quasi-comedy of the Troma variety. I'd love to see that, actually.

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    2. I don't *mind* the mystery not getting solved.

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  12. Man, I hate Duma Key. I feel Steve is not-great at writing about artists or art. Something just feels off when he writes from that point of view. It's like a baseball star writing about being a basketball star, some things about being an athlete will be right on, but specifics will be off.
    Great cover art though.

    Steve hates Tommyknockers, he ripped on it again in Hearts in Suspension but it's in my top ten easy. It's a wacked out alien invasion story with some amazing sequences in it. The hologram, the forcefield, the inventions, the kid's magic trick.. Excellent stuff! and Fun! He seems to be lacking in fun these days.
    -mikeC

    Fargo Season 2 was the best thing on tv ever. Season 1 is a close second.
    This season blowwwsssss. So disappointing. I guess that explains why Legion was so good and Fargo is terrible this year.

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    1. Another "Duma Key" hater! Y'all are legion. I don't get it, but since I know nothing whatsoever about art, maybe those deficiencies were lost on me. Your analogy about baseball/basketball is excellent; probably something to that.

      Another "Tommyknockers" fan! Excellent. WAY better than its reputation. Uncle Steve ought to lay offa knocking it.

      I can't agree that this season of "Fargo" blows. It's a step down from the second, but I'm not sure I think it's any less good than season one. Kinda depends on how it wraps up, though.

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  13. King did write the dialogue/continuity in the Creepshow comic. Wrightson based his drawings from the screenplay/movie and send them off to King to script.

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    1. I will update the post accordingly. Thanks!

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  14. Found this countdown from a post in Reddit. So good reading about other people's opinions of something I'm so passionate about. Looks like I found King around the same time as you - early 90's as a young teenager.
    Even if I don't agree with all placements your reasoning for placements were sound.
    I'd have definitely put Firestarter higher. It was my first King novel so it probably clouds my judgement. It's hard not to have extra strong feelings about first - first girlfriend, first car...first Stephen King. Even still I think it's a great novel.
    I also adore The Dark Half. As a teenager this was my favorite for some reason and even on multiple readings it's still a page turner.
    From a Buick 8 though I absolutely hated. It's one of the few I almost didn't finish. So much so I can't remember a thing about the book except it made me angry I read it.
    Duma Key is one of the few King books I haven't read but after your review I might have to bump it up my to read pile.
    I'm actually about to give my 14 year old son his first Stephen King book (Different Seasons) next week as a gift. I'm pretty excited to be able to share something that meant so much to me when I was his age with him. Hope it's the first book on a journey of many.
    Now I've discovered your posts I think I'll have to go read some of your older posts.

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    1. If you do, I hope you find something you like!

      "Different Seasons" is a great book for a 14-year-old. A lot of people would disagree with that, probably, but not me.

      I agree with you that "Firestarter" is great. It's a shame my top ten couldn't have had, like, forty places. Well, that's math for you.

      I've heard other people say they didn't like "From a Buick 8." I don't actually remember that much about it, either, so who knows how I'll feel when I get back to it?

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