“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
A ‘New York Times’-bestselling novelist who made his name in the horror and fantasy genres with books like ‘Carrie,’ ‘The Shining’ and ‘IT. ‘ Much of his work has been adapted for film and TV. He is none other than Stephen King.
Stephen King has written over a hundred books and novellas including The Stand, Bag of Bones, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and Just After Sunset. Many of his stories have been turned into classic films including Misery, Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption. He is winner of America’s prestigious National Book Award and was voted Grand Master in the 2007 Edgar Allen Poe awards.
Ranking the best Stephen King books becomes a kind of Rorschach test. What people reveal as their favorites inevitably shows you something about who they are—and what they fear most. The things that scare or unsettle us are a road map to what we care about, what we value, what we love.
After four decades of publishing, King’s stories have been a rite of passage for generations. For many, they’re parts of growing up, and stealing through his pages at a young age often felt like an act of daring and defiance. The stories that were part of that coming-of-age tend to rank a little higher.
King worked as an English teacher starting in 1971. He made $6,400 per year, about $40,000 in 2017.
Another challenge to quantifying King is that the best and worst are obvious to the point of predictability. The Stand, It, and The Shining jockey for number one like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman competing for best DC Superhero. The clunky ones are also evident, even to King, who seems to hold his nose when Dreamcatcher or The Tommyknockers comes up.
The real debate over the Best of King begins once you move past those classic novels, his near-perfect memoir On Writing, and the serialized Dark Tower books, the best of which (The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Land) frankly feel inscrutable without the others. Let’s also set aside his collaborations, such as The Talisman and Black House with Peter Straub, Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and Gwendy’s Button Box with Richard Chizmar. I’m also going to leave out the short story collections, but keep the novellas.
King is an extremely fast and prolific writer: His 304-page book, The Running Man, was completed in only ten days. He called it “a book written by a young man who was angry, energetic, and infatuated with the art and the craft of writing.”
In addition to forty-three novels, King has written eight collections of short stories, eleven screenplays, and two books on the craft of writing, and he is a co-author with Stewart O’Nan of Faithful, a day-by-day account of the Red Sox’s 2004 championship season. Virtually all of his novels and most of his short stories have been adapted for film or television. Although he was dismissed by critics for much of his career—one New York Times review called King “a writer of fairly engaging and preposterous claptrap”—his writing has received greater recognition in recent years, and in 2003 he won the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. King has also been honored for his devoted efforts to support and promote the work of other authors. In 1997 he received the Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers magazine, and he was recently selected to edit the 2007 edition of Best American Short Stories.
In person, King has a gracious, funny, sincere manner and speaks with great enthusiasm and candor. He is also a generous host. Halfway through the interview he served lunch: a roasted chicken—which he proceeded to hack at with a frighteningly sharp knife—potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni salad, and, for dessert, key lime pie. When asked what he was currently working on, he stood up and led the way to the beach that runs along his property. He explained that two other houses once stood at the end of the key. One of them collapsed during a storm five years earlier, and bits of wall, furniture, and personal effects still wash ashore at high tide. King is setting his next novel in the other house. It is still standing, though it is abandoned and, undoubtedly, haunted.
Despite the fact that he enjoys most of the film adaptations of his work, King was famously unhappy with Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining. King feels that the film’s Wendy Torrance was merely a “screaming dish rag” instead of a fleshed-out character, and he didn’t like Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance. When asked by Rolling Stone what he thought about the huge fanbase surrounding the film, King simply replied, “I don’t get it.”
King has the Guinness World Record for the most motion picture adaptations from a living author.
King has over 17,000 books in his personal library. He’s read them all except for a handful of the newest ones.
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