Several years ago I undertook a challenge: to read every book by two of the biggest American authors of our time. The authors? John Grisham and Stephen King.
As of the writing of this post, I’m about halfway through both of their bibliographies.
And since it’s pretty cold here in Louisville this morning (fall weather!) I’m going to talk a little about Stephen King’s books that I’ve read so far.
Now, I’ve only read 21 of his books, so I’ll be focusing just on those in this post. They’ve taken me from Carrie to Insomnia. I’m still just a hundred pages shy of Rose Madder now. I’ll be frank with you: You might be disappointed in many of my summaries because I didn’t think to jot down my thoughts after reading the books over the last five years, so many of my recollections of the books may be a bit hazy, especially with the books I wanted more than anything to just be over.
- Carrie. 4.5 Stars. I remember feeling so bad for Carrie. This book was more of a tragedy than anything else. Being among the earliest works I read from King, I was shocked that it was scary at all, or even attempt to be. I can see how, after this little book, audiences wanted more from this up and coming writer.
- ‘Salem’s Lot. 2 Stars. Like Dracula, the story as a whole did not draw me in. Sure, some scenes were creepy, Bram Stroker’s early work, but over all, it did not leave much of an impression with me. I know that’s a super unpopular opinion, because people tend to really like this book.
- The Shining. 2 Stars. Speaking of unpopular, I know The Shining is to Stephen King as E.T. is to Stephen Spielberg. But this book was so dry! It was the first Stephen King book I’d ever read, and I expected it to be scary, and it just wasn’t. The movie, though? Not bad. But here’s the thing, I do plan on going back and giving this book another try now that I know what to expect and what not to expect. I blame my boredom of this book purely on made-up expectations.
- The Stand. 3.5 Stars. I love – I just love a good apocalypse story. Especially all of the events leading up to the apocalypse, where we as the audience get to observe, through the teller’s eyes, how the population would react to the end times and their coming doom. And this book – this gigantic book – delivered on my insatiable desire to read how it could all come to an end. I connected to the characters, their plights, their fears and struggles, but the book lost a whole star because of the anticlimactic ending. I’m fine with anticlimactic endings so long as the rest of the story is overflowing with tension (War of the Worlds, anyone?), but the way this story was told, everything hung on that ending which just didn’t deliver, nor did it seem to attempt to.
- The Long Walk. 4 Stars. To walk until you die, that is the goal. I love the concept, I love the execution, I love this book. It is rich with phycology, and brimming with a Hunger Games type of suspense.
- The Dead Zone. 2.5 Stars. I don’t remember much from this book, but I know one of the characters crosses over into Needful Things to become a main protagonist. Even though this book didn’t stick with me long-term, I remember still liking it when I read it, and I was deeply moved by the character’s tragic end (???). Another one I’ll have to go back to a re-read.
- Firestarter. 4.5 Stars. Like Carrie, this one’s another tragedy with explosive results. I must connect with misfit girls going through puberty.
- Cujo. 5 Stars. Yeah, this book got the 5-star rating from me. I loved loved loved this book! I’m a sucker for man vs. animal storylines. This one has a very Jaws-like feel to it, only instead of a shark, it’s a rabid Saint Bernard, and instead of the Orca, the victims are trapped in Ford Pinto.
- The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. 1 Star. Stephen King sucks at fantasy, as proven by this book. Pass. I refuse to read another Dark Tower book. Sorry.
- Christine. 3. A teen adventure/drama about a killer car coming to life. Righteous! This would be like if a kid from The Breakfast Club discovered Megadon instead of Bumblebee and the kid’s whole life goes to shit because of it.
- Pet Cemetery. 3.5 Stars. Don’t let the cover of this book fool you, it’s not about a cat. But it’s still a supremely fun and engaging read about a cemetery that brings people – and animals – back to life. And that’s not always a good thing now, is it?
- The Talisman. -1 Star. Again, Stephen King cannot write fantasy, or whatever the crap this was. I couldn’t tell you one word that was written in this awfully boring and dry book. A Chemistry textbook would have been more enjoyable, and I hate science.
- It. 5 Stars. A book so good I read it twice! This enjoyable and engaging work promotes Stephen King’s finest character developments to date. As cool as all the clown stuff is, it’s really the characters that make this such a supremely great read. Along with Cujo, this book is considered King’s pinnacle of storytelling. No wonder there’s been thee movies made about this book.
- The Eye of the Dragon. 3 Stars. I know, I know, “Stephen King can’t write fantasy.” I’m not so sure he wrote this one, though. That, or he reverted to his child self and wrote a simple little fairy tale. That’s what this book is: a simple little fairy tale that you could read to your children. It was a nice change of pace.
- Misery. 4.5 Stars. A simple story about being stuck. Or trapped. Or kidnapped. You’ve seen the Kathy Bates/James Caan movie. The book is just as good.
- The Tommyknockers. 1 Star. Here’s me reading this book: Nice start…cool…huh?…what?…the fuck?…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
- The Dark Half. 1.5 Stars. Like The Dead Zone, I know I read this book. I also know I didn’t hate this book, but I just don’t remember anything about it. So I gave it a .5 because I know I didn’t hate it.
- Needful Things. 3.5 Stars. Perhaps a bit longer than it needed to be, but I felt like this book was probably King’s most focussed of works. Usually I feel like he abruptly stumbles upon his endings, but with this one, he really had to map it all out in order to lead directly to a very specific showdown. The tension really does get cranked up for the first 78% of this book.
- Gerald’s Game. 4 Stars. For a book featuring basically one character, and hardly any dialogue at all, this was highly suspenseful. It’s a lot like 127 Hours, except instead of a mountain biker trapped inside a crevice in the earth, this is about a scantly-clad woman handcuffed to her bedposts.
- Dolores Claiborne. 3.5 Stars. An enjoyable read that I didn’t expect to get sucked into. It’s one of King’s shorter books, and by the end, you really do come to love Dolores Claiborne. She reminds me of Francis McDormand’s character in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
- Insomnia. 2 Stars. This book was a chore. First off, insomnia is simply a cause to take place for the rest of the story. And the rest of the story was boooorring. After the halfway point, I was tempted many times to put the book down and move on with my life (something I’ve done less than five times). The problem I had with it was that it all became so damned supernatural, something Stephen King can really botch up if he’s not careful with it. And man, did he botch it up in this book.
So there you have it. I’ll be doing a follow-up to this post in about five years when I finish King’s library of works. Wanna rank and talk King with me? Leave your thoughts and comments down below!