Stephen King has published more than 80 novels since 1974, making him one of the most prolific authors in history, as well as arguably the most popular. With that many books under his belt, not every one has been a hit but he’s got a pretty solid batting average, especially with readers.
We’ve looked through King’s incredible career, as of 2019, and ranked his best books, based on an average score from readers at Goodreads and Amazon. Along with his full-length novels, we included King’s many short-story collections and nonfiction works in our search. Here are what King’s readers consider to be his best pieces of literature.
25. ‘Carrie’ (1974)
Like most authors, it took Stephen King a while to get his first novel in print but he did just that with “Carrie” in 1974. Nearly 50 years after it hit bookstores, “Carrie” remains a favorite among readers. It tells the story of a teen girl who is abused by her mother at home and by her classmates at school until she discovers telekinetic powers that she uses to get revenge on her tormenters. Goodreads readers were a little softer on this one than Amazon readers but the average score of 3.95 out of five that they gave is still solid.
24. ‘Everything’s Eventual’ (2002)
King’s seventh collection of short stories, “Everything’s Eventual,” scored better than most of the others with his readers. This tome includes stories that were originally published from 1994-2001. Among its stories is the pioneering “Riding the Bullet,” which was published as the world’s first mass-market e-book in 2000. It also includes the story “1408,” which was made into a film in 2007.
23. ‘Full Dark, No Stars’ (2010)
Another collection of shorter works — his ninth — 2010’s “Full Dark, No Stars” is comprised of four novellas. The collection won King a Bram Stoker Award for horror writing and earned solid reviews across the board, especially from readers, earning better than a four-star grade at both Goodreads and Amazon. Three of its stories have been made into screen adaptations, including “1922” and “A Good Marriage.”
22. ‘Pet Sematary’ (1983)
By the time “Pet Sematary” came out in 1983, King was already a giant in the publishing world, cranking out hit after hit for nearly a decade. This novel was genuinely one of his creepiest stories, following a family that finds a way to bring their dead child back to life with shocking results. The book has been adapted twice for the big screen, first in 1989 and most recently in 2019, becoming a hit with audiences each time. The book remains highly rated by readers for its balance of chills and humanity.
21. ‘Night Shift’ (1978)
In 1978, King released his first collection of short stories and it’s full of some of his most famous abbreviated works. “Night Shift” is packed with stories that were originally published from 1968 to 1977, making it a must-read for people who want to see King’s earliest stuff. Among its stories are immortals like “Children of the Corn,” “Graveyard Shift” and “Sometimes They Come Back.” Overall, “Night Shift” includes 20 stories in less than 350 pages.
20. ‘The Talisman’ (1984)
Co-written with Peter Straub, “The Talisman” represents a meeting of the minds of two of the best horror authors ever. It’s almost more of a fantasy tale, telling the story of a boy who tries to save his mother from cancer by undertaking a mystical journey to find the titular artifact. It sounds far out but readers have praised it as one of the highlights of King’s early career. It’s also one of King’s longest books, proving that sometimes there can’t be too much of a good thing.
19. ”Salem’s Lot’ (1975)
After the success of “Carrie,” King upped the ante with his second book. “‘Salem’s Lot” was more than twice the length of his debut novel and has earned even better reviews from readers. It’s about a writer who goes back to his small hometown in Maine to discover that the residents are becoming vampires. In 2005, an illustrated edition of the book was released to great acclaim, packed with chilling photography and extra material that was cut from the original version.
18. ‘Finders Keepers’ (2015)
In recent years, King has expanded from horror to write a trilogy of crime novels that follow a detective named Bill Hodges. The series has been well received by readers, including “Finders Keepers,” which was the second installment after 2014’s “Mr. Mercedes.” This book is about the murder of a reclusive writer and an obsessed reader. It’s familiar territory for King but reviews at Goodreads and Amazon were both stellar, averaging at 4.04 and 4.5, respectively, as of October 2019.
17. ‘End of Watch’ (2016)
The third and final chapter in the Bill Hodges trilogy has the highest grades from readers of any of them. “End of Watch” finds a retired Hodges staring down a cancer diagnosis and trying to connect the dots among a series of suicides that seem to be related. At almost 500 pages, “End of Watch” was also the longest of the Hodges series. The trilogy has been adapted into a TV series on Audience Network called “Mr. Mercedes.”
16. ‘Doctor Sleep’ (2013)
In general, King hasn’t been huge on writing sequels but, in 2013, he revisited one of his most classic works for a new story. “Doctor Sleep” was a direct followup to 1977’s classic “The Shining” and readers have given it more love than many sequels often get. “Doctor Sleep” followed Danny Torrance as an adult who is battling personal problems and the fallout from his troubled childhood. A movie adaptation was made in 2019.
15. ‘It’ (1986)
A true epic, “It” was the longest book King had ever published when it hit shelves in 1986. The 1,100-page novel told a grand, terrifying story about a group of teens who teamed up to battle a mythical, shape-shifting monster before reuniting as adults and doing it again. “It” was controversial because of some of its graphic imagery involving the adolescent characters but it remains one of King’s best-reviewed books by readers and critics. It’s been made into a TV miniseries and two popular movies since its publication.
14. ‘The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole’ (2012)
Eight years after he finished his epic The Dark Tower series, King revisited it to write this mid-quel of sorts. “The Wind Through the Keyhole” was the eighth book written in the series but its plot was set between the fourth and fifth books. Reviews have said it’s more like a collection of novellas than a full story of its own but, regardless of what it is, “The Wind Through the Keyhole” earned high scores from readers, which is par for the course from The Dark Tower series, as you’ll see.
13. ‘Misery’ (1987)
Another of King’s beloved ’80s novels, “Misery” features one of his favorite recurring themes: obsessed readers. It tells the story of a writer who becomes a prisoner of an obsessed fan after he crashes his car. The book became the first to ever win the Bram Stoker Award for best horror novel upon its release and it remains one of King’s most chilling and claustrophobic stories. The 1990 film version is also one of the most acclaimed adaptations of his many books, winning Kathy Bates an Oscar for her performance as the crazed admirer.
12. ‘The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower’ (2004)
The concluding chapter in King’s then-seven-book series actually has the highest average score of the entire saga on Goodreads, earning a 4.28 as of October 2019. The book saw Roland, Jake, Eddie and the other beloved characters reaching the end of the long story and finally making it to the mysterious Dark Tower. “The Dark Tower” had a bit of a controversial ending, depending upon whom you ask, bringing the events of the epic series full circle. At 845 pages, it was the longest in the franchise.
11. ‘The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla’ (2003)
King kept readers waiting six years for the fifth entry of The Dark Tower and they were apparently fine with that. “Wolves of the Calla” has an outstanding 4.6-star average grade at Amazon and readers love the fact that it connected the series further into King’s own mythology. This book had many connections with “‘Salem’s Lot,” including the introduction of the character of Father Callahan into the world of The Dark Tower.
10. ‘The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three’ (1987)
You won’t find the initial Dark Tower book, “The Gunslinger,” on this list but its 1987 sequel is clearly a favorite of King’s readers. It came in at nearly twice the length of the original novel and greatly expanded the world of the story, making it beloved by fantasy fans. Important characters like Eddie Dean and Susannah Dean were first introduced in “The Drawing of the Three.” The writer was on fire in 1987, releasing three novels, two of which appear on this list of his best books.
9. ‘The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands’ (1991)
For as much as readers loved “The Drawing of the Three,” they seem to love its sequel even more. The third Dark Tower book was the first of the saga to weigh in at more than 500 pages and the extra detail was apparently appreciated. “The Waste Lands” took the world-bending journey even deeper, seeing Roland and his gang take on a new companion in Oy, who would become a fan favorite. The action of this book was included in the 2017 screen adaptation, “The Dark Tower,” which was not nearly as beloved as its text versions.
8. ‘The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass’ (1997)
The high point of the Dark Tower series, according to readers, is 1997’s “Wizard and Glass.” The fourth book in the series came a brutal six years after “The Waste Lands” — and 15 years after the first book — but it was every bit as epic, packing in nearly 800 pages of fantasy action. “Wizard and Glass” delighted longtime King fans by tying in with his 1978 classic, “The Stand.” Its combined average score from Goodreads (4.25) and Amazon (4.6) readers puts it at the top of the heap for the long franchise.
7. ‘The Institute’ (2019)
“The Institute” is the newest book to make the list of King’s best. In less than two months since its release, the novel has racked up thousands of great reviews from readers at Goodreads and Amazon. It’s a creepy story about a sinister group that kidnaps gifted children after murdering their parents. The plot deepens as the main character, a 12-year-old boy, realizes that the group is extracting the kids’ powers and apparently tossing the victims away. But there’s one other book from the 2010s that has an even better score from King’s readers.
6. ’11/22/63′ (2011)
Dipping more into sci-fi/historical territory, King scored a major hit with 2011’s “11/22/63.” The ambitious novel is about a time traveler who tries to go back to Nov. 22, 1963 to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was nearly 900 pages long — his lengthiest tome of the 2010s — and readers ate it up. Along with grabbing outstanding reviews from readers at Goodreads and Amazon, “11/22/63” was named one of 2011’s five best fiction books by The New York Times.
5. ‘The Shining’ (1977)
While “Carrie” and “‘Salem’s Lot” announced King as a rising star in horror writing, “The Shining” showed he was an author to be taken seriously. His third novel told the story of a family who work as caretakers of a massive, isolated hotel that has a creepy history. The book became an instant classic in the genre and maintains strong reviews from readers, including a 4.7-star average grade at Amazon. The 1980 film version, while beloved by horror fans, is one of those adaptations that differs heavily from the book.
4. ‘The Stand’ (1978)
After he was already acclaimed as a horror scribe, 1978’s “The Stand” showed the world that King could write epic fantasy just as well. It was his fifth book published overall — the fourth under his own name — and was by far the longest of his career at that point, with more than 800 pages on first edition. It told the story of a group of people left behind after 99 percent of the world’s population was wiped out by disease. In 1990, an expanded edition was released that increased the page count to more than 1,100.
3. ‘Different Seasons’ (1982)
King’s second collection of short stories, 1982’s “Different Seasons,” is the highest-rated such book of his career, according to readers at Goodreads and Amazon. The average grade of 4.35 at Goodreads is the second-highest score on that site of any of King’s work. “Different Seasons” contains four novellas, including “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body,” both of which were made into beloved screen adaptations, “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Stand by Me,” respectively.
2. ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ (2000)
In 1999, King was hit by a car while walking in Maine and suffered serious injuries and pain due to the ordeal. His recuperation process led him to write the nonfiction book, “On Writing,” which is prized as a magnificent memoir by readers. The 2000 book, King’s third foray into nonfiction, has stellar grades of 4.33 on Goodreads and 4.8 on Amazon, the latter of which ties the best mark achieved by any of his books. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly dubbed the book a “new classic” in literature.
1. ‘The Green Mile’ (1996)
If you look at reader reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, no King book has better average scores at either site than “The Green Mile,” earning outstanding grades of 4.44 and 4.8, respectively. Originally written as a six-part serial novel, the entire story was published from March to August 1996 and received wide praise. It had a blend of fantasy and Southern gothic storytelling but not much traditional horror in telling the tale of a man who works on death row in a prison and encounters an inmate who has healing powers. At just over 400 combined pages, “The Green Mile” isn’t King’s longest book but it’s his best, according to readers.