Born on September 21, 1947, Stephen King is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, crime, science-fiction, and fantasy novels. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, and many have been adapted into films, television series, miniseries, and comic books.
In 2003, the National Book Foundation awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He has also received awards for his contribution to literature for his entire bibliographies, such as the 2004 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement and the 2007 Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America.
In 2015, King was awarded a National Medal of Arts from the US National Endowment for the Arts for his contributions to literature. He has been described as the “King of Horror,” a play on his surname and a reference to his pop culture’s high standing.
Furthermore, King, who has also received Bram Stoker Awards, World Fantasy Awards, and British Fantasy Society Awards, has published 61 novels, including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman, and five non-fiction books. He has also written approximately 200 short stories, most of which have been published in book collections. And here’s just a few of the best book he ever wrote:
1. THE STAND
The Stand is a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy novel and his first published novel by Doubleday in 1978.
The plot centers on a pandemic of a weaponized influenza strain that kills almost the entire world population. The few survivors united in groups established a new social system and engaged in a confrontation with each other.
In writing the book, King sought to create an epic in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings that was set in contemporary America. The book was difficult for King to write because of the large number of characters and storylines.
The Stand was highly appreciated by reviewers and is considered one of King’s best novels. It has been included in lists of the best books of all time by Rolling Stone, Time, the Modern Library, Amazon, and the BBC. Reviewers praised the believability of the story, the relevance of the issues raised, and the characters’ liveliness but criticized the protractedness of individual episodes, the plot dualism, and the deliberate denouement.
It is a 1986 horror novel and was his 22nd book.
The story follows seven children’s experiences as they are terrorized by an evil entity that exploits the fears of its victims to disguise itself while hunting its prey. “It” primarily appears in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown to attract its preferred prey of young children.
The novel is told through narratives alternating between two periods and is largely told in the third-person omniscient mode. It deals with themes that eventually became King staples: the power of memory, childhood trauma and its recurrent echoes in adulthood, and overcoming evil through mutual trust and sacrifice.
King has stated that he first conceived the story in 1978 and began writing it in 1981. He finished writing the book in 1985. He also stated that he originally wanted the title character to be a troll-like, the one in the children’s story “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” but who inhabited the local sewer system rather than just the area beneath one bridge. He also wanted the story to interweave the stories of children and the adults they later become.
The novel won the British Fantasy Award in 1987 and received nominations for the Locus and World Fantasy Awards that same year. Publishers Weekly listed It as the best-selling hardcover fiction book in the United States in 1986.
3. THE SHINING
The Shining is a horror novel published in 1977. It is King’s third published novel and first hardback bestseller: the success of the book firmly established King as a preeminent author in the horror genre.
The setting and characters are influenced by King’s personal experiences, including his visit to The Stanley Hotel in 1974 and his struggle with alcoholism. The novel was adapted into a 1980 film of the same name and was later followed by a sequel, Doctor Sleep, published in 2013.
The Shining centers on the life of Jack Torrance, a struggling writer and recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. His family accompanies him on this job, including his young son Danny Torrance, who possesses “the shining,” an array of psychic abilities that allow Danny to see the hotel’s horrific past. Soon, after a winter storm leaves them snowbound, the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel influence Jack’s sanity, leaving his wife and son in incredible danger.
4. ‘SALEM’S LOT
‘Salem’s Lot is a 1975 horror novel and was his second published novel.
The story involves a writer named Ben Mears, who returns to the town of Jerusalem’s Lot (or ‘Salem’s Lot for short) in Maine, where he lived from the age of five through nine, only to discover that the residents are becoming vampires. The town is revisited in the short stories “Jerusalem’s Lot” and “One for the Road,” both from King’s story collection Night Shift.
The novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award in 1976 and the Locus Award for the All-Time Best Fantasy Novel in 1987.
In two separate interviews in the 1980s, King said that, of all his books, ‘Salem’s Lot was his favorite. The book is dedicated to King’s daughter Naomi.
Misery is an American psychological horror thriller novel and King’s first published by Viking Press on June 8, 1987.
The novel’s narrative is based on its two main characters’ relationship – the popular writer Paul Sheldon and his psychotic fan Annie Wilkes. When Paul is seriously injured following a car accident, former nurse Annie brings him to her home, where Paul receives treatment and pain medication doses. Gradually, Paul realizes that he is a prisoner and is forced to indulge his captor’s whims.
The novel’s title carries separate meanings; it is the name carried by Paul’s book series’s central heroine, and King described such a state of emotion during the novel’s writing. King has outlined the creation of Misery in his memoirs and mentioned that the image of Annie Wilkes came to him in a dream.
Misery won the first Bram Stoker Award for Novel in 1987 and was nominated for the 1988 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. The critical reception of Misery was positive. Reviewers praised King for avoiding the fantasy elements of his past works and noted the novel’s parallels with King’s personal life and the successful study of the relationship between celebrities and their fans.