Books Stephen King Recommends: 14 Great Reads The Master Of Horror Loves

Stephen King is one of the most famous authors of all time, having written more than 60 novels and sold millions of copies all around the world.

Books Stephen King Recommends: 14 Great Reads The Master Of Horror Loves

Responsible for some of the most popular horror stories of all time, such as “It” and “The Shining”, it’s fair to say that Stephen King knows what makes a compelling read.

As a result, it’s worth looking at the brilliant author’s book recommendations! It’s a wonder that he has time to read as much as he does, given how many books he’s able to write, but King is a reading fanatic and devours novels regularly.

Better yet, when he loves a book, he’s always happy to share the love with other readers – singing its praises publicly and explaining what he loves most about it.

In our handy guide below, we’ve got 14 books that Stephen King recommends. If you love Stephen King, you’ll surely love his taste in books, and this list will give you plenty of new books to get lost in. Read on!

About Stephen King

Stephen King is probably a name that every reader will have heard of. Incredibly prolific, Stephen King has been publishing novels for almost fifty years, and currently has 65 novels to his name and more than 200 short stories.

His career began with “Carrie”, one of the most famous horror novels ever, and one that was adapted into an equally-iconic film.

Similarly, his next two novels, “Salem’s Lot” and “The Shining”, also left massive imprints on the cultural landscape – and were also both adapted into famous horror movies.

The point we’re making here is that straight from the start, Stephen King had a knack not only for weaving a chilling, engaging book, but also a talent for writing stories that stick in the public consciousness and stand the test of time.

For this reason, Stephen King has been one of the most successful writers ever, and almost a genre unto himself.

Though he’s primarily known for horror, having penned some of the most iconic horror books of all time, he’s also been very successful in other genres.

For example, he wrote the famous crime stories of “The Green Mile” and “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”.

Books Stephen King Recommends

The Mars Room By Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room: A Novel

We’re starting our list with a chilling novel that particularly resonated with Stephen King.

His praise was all-encompassing, describing the novel as both “horrible” and “compassionate”, as well as “jarring” and “funny”. For him, it’s a book that will stand the test of time, with a story that endures.

As you can see, King believed that this was a book that almost defies simple explanation, because it manages to have so many contradictory qualities. Horrible AND compassionate?

Life life, the novel brings out all kinds of opposed emotions, which makes it even more engaging and exciting. In terms of the story, “The Mars Room” is all about a woman named Romy Hall.

In 2003, Hall is about to begin two consecutive life sentences at a women’s prison, meaning that the rest of her life is essentially going to be behind bars.

This is a difficult enough fact to stomach, but it’s made especially harder by the fact that she’s got a young son named Jackson.

Inside the correctional facility, she’ll find that the world is very different from the expansive freedom of San Francisco that she grew up in.

In the harsh climate of prison, it’s every woman for themselves, with women hustling and scrabbling just to get the essentials that they need to live.

On top of that, it’s a violent place, with both the guards and the inmates casually committing acts of violence on a daily basis just to assert their positions and get by.

Adjusting to prison life is going to be tough for Romy Hall, and Rachel Kushner’s book offers an unsentimental, compelling, and realistic view of institutional living.

All the injustices are laid bare to the reader, as Kushner details the ups and downs of America’s unbalanced jail system.


  • A difficult and heart-breaking novel.
  • Exposes the real-world injustice and flaws of the prison system.
  • Elicits all kinds of emotions: horror, humor, compassion, sorrow.


  • This isn’t an easy read – the subject matter can be upsetting.
  • The humor is very bleak, understandably.

Savages By Don Winslow

Savages: A Novel

Our next recommendation from Stephen King is “Savages”, a book by famous crime author Don Winslow.

King made a positive comparison to the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, due to the story’s central threesome of two men and a woman, but suggested that this was a leaner, meaner tale – one “on autoload”.

King particularly loved the “stripped-down” prose that Winslow writes with, which helps to make this an especially compelling read.

The story of “Savages” revolves around two friends, an ex-mercenary named Chon and a philanthropist named Ben.

The two of them run a successful marijuana business out of Laguna Beach, and the pair have done very well to serve a base of loyal, lucrative customers. However, these businesses are never without competition.

In the past, though, Chon has always used his former mercenary skills to get rid of the threats. Some threats are too big, however, because now the Mexican Baja Cartel wants a slice of the boys’ action.

When the pair refuse to let the all-powerful cartel in on their business, the cartel retaliates by kidnapping Ophelia, also known as “O”.

Ophelia is the playmate of the boys, as well as their confidante, and the three have a sort of love and lust triangle going.

Naturally, Chon and Ben can’t let her be kidnapped, so must set off on a journey of high-stakes negotiations, violence, plot twists, and more in order to rescue her.

Provocative and thrilling, this is a story about the dark side of America’s drug war, and the perils of young business people standing up to powerful organizations.


  • A gritty, provocative story about drugs and business.
  • Full of gripping plot twists.
  • Winslow’s style is stripped-back.
  • The story moves fast.


  • The characters can be a bit of a stretch.
  • It deliberately leans into clichés.
  • It’s full of texting acronyms and strange references that older readers may struggle with.

Case Histories By Kate Atkinson

Case Histories: A Novel

This next recommendation by Stephen King was praised as the best novel he had read that year.

Not only that, though, King also believed it to be the best mystery written that decade, suggesting that it has an incredibly involving, twisty story that totally engages readers and leaves them guessing at every turn.

Even better, this is the first book in a series of mystery novels featuring private investigator Jackson Brodie. So, if you end up loving this book as much as Stephen King did, you can enjoy an entire series of equally-enthralling stories!

Jackson Brodie used to be a police inspector, but now he’s working as a private investigator, solving cases on his own.

Overwhelmed by the increasing number of missing persons cases, and unresolved crimes, it’s always a difficult job for Brodie.

Then add into a mix a family tragedy that’s been haunting him, and life isn’t easy for this private detective. This book sees Brodie trying to solve three apparently-unconnected case histories.

The first case involves a little girl who went missing one night. The second case, meanwhile, regards a beautiful young office worker who was killed in the (apparently) random attack of a maniac.

The third and final case, on the other hand, involves a new mother who had been struggling with a needy baby and a demanding husband, until it all became too much and culminated in a bloody escape.

Jackson Brodie investigates each of three disparate cases, but soon finds that all is not as it seems, and these case histories may be connected…


  • The three cases are delicately woven together.
  • The characters are well-drawn.
  • The mystery is engrossing and shocking.
  • The crimes are detailed and surprising.


  • Some readers find the conclusion disappointing.
  • It can be a depressing read.
  • The actual detective work isn’t as fleshed-out as other crime novels – this is more about being a story. 

We Are Not Ourselves By Matthew Thomas

We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel

When this novel came out, it was the best book that Stephen King had read all year, which is quite the recommendation!

King particularly loved the “deep emotional resonance” of the story, and thought the novel was a classic example of an old-fashioned page-turner.

An epic, the book begins in 1941 in Queens, New York City. Eileen Tumulty has just been born, and she’s going to be raised in an apartment full of both hilarity and heartbreak.

Whichever is the case will depend on how much alcohol her Irish immigrant parents have been drinking, and it’s for this reason that Eileen spends most of her early years wishing that she lived somewhere else.

So, Eileen Tumutly pictures her American Dream and decides that she will live in the upper class area of Bronxville, NY. To facilitate this dream, an older Eileen falls for Ed leary, a young scientist with good looks.

The two begin a family, but as the years go by, Eileen tries to encourage Ed to wish for more: a better occupation, a better place to live, and so on. He resists every time.

It appears that Ed’s reluctance to strive for more is part of a deep, psychological shift within him, and life then becomes very difficult for the family.

Eileen, Ed, and their child Connel, must all try to keep together as a family – as well as stay invested in a unified vision of a rosy future.


  • This is a long, epic book.
  • The story is very moving.
  • The characters are vivid.


  • The story goes to upsetting, difficult places.
  • There are some overlong descriptive passages that don’t add to the story much.

The Lie By Hesh Kestin

The Lie: A Novel

The next recommendation from Stephen King was described by the author as a “page-turner” which will engage both your emotions and your mind “in a way few novels do”.

Like the best books, this is clearly a gripping read and one that’s incredibly emotionally resonant and thought-provoking.

The novel focuses on Dahlia Barr, a no-nonsense Israeli attorney who typically defends Palestinians that have been accused of terrorism. She’s a shrewd woman and a devoted mother.

She’ll also be divorced soon, but is the lover of an American TV correspondent. One day, Dahlia is blindsided by an offer to join the Israeli security establishment.

Essentially, this would be a job where she would get to decide which hard methods of interrogation are employed.

Naturally, Barr has no interest in torturous interrogation methods, but she’s intrigued that the role could give her a chance to change the establishment from within.

However, no sooner has Barr settled into the new job, her adult son is kidnapped by the Hezbol-lah political party and taken across the border to Lebanon.

The only man who could help Barr get her son back isn’t talking, and also has a complicated past with Dahlia. What will she do? Will she use the interrogation methods she strived to change?


  • It’s short and has a great pace to it.
  • It expresses a lot of morally difficult situations and ethical dilemmas – nothing is black and white.
  • Fascinating real-world political angles.


  • Some readers found it hard to follow.
  • Some of the characters lack depth.

Broken Monsters By Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters (Reading Group Guide)

A deft blend of crime and horror, it’s no wonder that Stephen King loves this next book!

The master author described it as “scary as hell”, as well as being hypnotic and difficult to put down. It’s a book with plenty of suspense, creepiness, crime, and thrills.

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot while working in Detroit. However, a new criminal mastermind is leaving behind violent tableaux the likes of which she never could have imagined, splicing bodies in a horrific, terrifying way.

The trail begins when the police find a fusion of a deer and a boy, and the cases get stranger from there on. In a city terrified by this crazed killer, each citizen deals in their own way.

For Versado’s daughter, Layla, she’ll deliberately flirt with a potential predator online. For the homeless Thomas Keen, he’ll do anything he can to keep his family safe, trying to find the criminal.

And for Jonno, a freelance journalist desperate for the exclusive scoop, he’ll go to great lengths. Beukes writes a powerful blend of horror story and crime story, effectively bringing to life a portrait of a city that’s broken.


  • A great mix of horror and crime.
  • It’s a frightening read.
  • It’s driven by a great cast of characters.


  • The murder descriptions are very gruesome.
  • Some subplots are stronger than others.

Y: The Last Man, Vol: 1: Unmanned By Brian K. Vaughan

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned

Our next recommendation from Stephen King is something a bit different because this is a graphic novel rather than a traditional book.

However, it isn’t just any graphic novel, because this is “the best graphic novel I’ve ever read” according to King. High praise!

This critically-acclaimed graphic novel is written by Brian K. Vaughan, with artwork by Pia Guerra, and it tells the story of Yorick Brown.

Yorick is the only human survivor after a plague has ravaged his planet, killing off every single mammal that possesses a Y chromosome. In other words, every male. This is a heavy weight to carry, but thankfully Yorick has company.

Traveling with him are a mysterious government agent, a young geneticist, and the geneticist’s pet monkey. Together, the group travels the world to find the answer of what happened – and why Yorrick was the only man left.

If you love this graphic novel, there are more entries in the series, and the story was even adapted into a television show.


  • A great sci-fi concept.
  • Great writing paired with vibrant illustrations.
  • Filled with fun characters.
  • Filled with pop culture references.


  • Some readers believe the series gets better in later entries.

Darktown By Thomas Mullen

Darktown: A Novel (1) (The Darktown Series)

The next book recommendation from Stephen King is an incendiary hard-boiled crime novel, which King described as a brilliant blend of American history, crime, and mystery.

It’s clearly an engaging read, and “terrific entertainment” in the words of King.

The title of the novel refers to the side of Atlanta in 1948 where the African-Americans live, a section of the city which is guarded by Atlanta’s first black police force – a force comprising just eight men.

On the other side of town, on the other side of the tracks, you’ve got the white neighborhoods that are full of rich Caucasians.

The two demographics rarely mix, and the powerful white police forces limit what the lone black police force is able to do. They aren’t allowed to drive squad cars and they aren’t allowed to arrest any white suspects.

However, when a black woman is murdered in Darktown, and she was last seen traveling in a rich white man’s car, too few people seem to care.

However, two black cops, Boggs and Smith, do care – and they’re determined to find out what happened to the poor woman.

In a case that will take them up against old-school cops, the trust of the communities, and plenty of shady figures, these two cops will risk both their lives and their jobs in an effort to navigate a prejudiced world – and a world on the cusp of change.


  • Fascinating historical and political angle.
  • An important reminder of a prejudiced past.
  • Filled with excellent characters.


  • The mystery itself could do with more intrigue.

Last Night At The Lobster By Stewart O’Nan

Last Night at the Lobster

This next novel was described by Stephen King as “deeply moving” and a great example of a novel that “embodies what’s best in us”.

To King, it’s a book about how we all live, work, and keep the motivation to get to the next day with our spirits still whole.

The book has a unique concept, set at a Red Lobster restaurant in a mall. However, the restaurant is closing down due to lack of failing numbers.

Yet, before its doors can close, the manager and his staff will need to survive one final shift – taking place four days before Christmas.

As a result, there’s a blizzard raging outside, and plenty of the final customers are swept up in the spirit of the season.

Dealing with such customers is already difficult, but it’s especially difficult when you all know you’re losing your jobs, and so the manager (Manny DeLeon) has to command a mutinous staff.

On top of that, Manny has his own problems. For one, he’s got a pregnant girlfriend to provide for. Secondly, he’s in love with one of the waitresses.

A poignant tale of working class struggles during the supposedly festive period, the book offers drama and high-stakes situations, as well as humor and frankness.


  • Filled with decent, good characters who put up with a lot.
  • A tight, dramatic read with high-stakes situations.
  • An inspiring tale of working class struggles against corporations.


  • Readers wanted it to be longer.
  • It can be difficult to keep on top of all the characters.

Dark Corners By Ruth Randell

Dark Corners: A Novel

Stephen King’s next recommendation is a psychological suspense novel by Ruth Randell. King believes that this is an author who is unsurpassed when it comes to tales of “obsession, instability, and malignant coincidence”.

After the passing of his father, Carl Martin inherits a house in an expensive area of London. In desperate need of money, Carl doesn’t sell the house, but does decide to rent the upstairs room and the kitchen.

He organizes interviews, but simply gives it to the very first candidate, Dermot McKinnon. This is where the problems begin for Carl, because Dermot is soon revealed to not be the kind of person you would want living in your home.

How so? Well, Carl discovers his father’s collection of homeopathic medicines, including some dangerous diet pills.

Still desperate for money, Carl sells fifty of the diet pills to a friend, only for the friend to then be found dead. So far, so bad, but now Dermot has material with which to blackmail Carl.

On top of that, Dermot becomes the housemate from hell, pointedly not paying his rent and regularly invading Carl’s space. 

Ruth Randell skillfully weaves two storylines, which may connect with shocking repercussions, and delivers a novel that is full of psychological mind games and suspense. It’s a macabre book of murder, blackmail, and obsession.


  • A thrilling story.
  • Suspenseful.
  • Filled with creepiness that gets under your skin.


  • It ends abruptly – potentially because of Ruth Randell’s unfortunate passing.

Quiet Dell By Jayne Anne Phillips

Quiet Dell: A Novel

This next recommendation from Stephen King is another one where he proclaims it to be the best novel of the year in which it was published.

A riveting crime novel which takes inspiration from a real life case, King praises the “brilliant fusion of fact and fiction”.

Set in Chicago in 1931, the novel begins with the recent widow Asta Eicher, a lonely woman left to look after her three children after the unexpected death of her husband.

However, she soon starts receiving mysterious and seductive letters from a man named Harry Powers.

In the letters, he promises to look after Asta and her three children, hoping to marry her and help raise the family. However, Asta and all three children are found dead just weeks later.

The story comes to the attention of one of the few female journalists in the Chicago press, Emily Thornhill.

Intrigued, she’s desperate to understand what happened to this poor family, especially when it comes to the precocious young Annabel.

As a result, Emily travels to West Virginia to dig deeper into the story and cover the subsequent murder trial. Accompanying her is a charming photographer, who is equally interested in getting to the bottom of this tragedy.

Both determined to see Powers convicted, the pair must investigate this strange case thoroughly, while also battling secrets of their own.


  • The real-life parallels make the story more involving.
  • Brilliantly blends fact with fiction.
  • Brings the trial and the macabre case to life.


  • The story takes some unbelievable turns.
  • It’s a bleak, tough read.

The Underground Railroad By Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad: A Novel

Our next pick is a book that Stephen King called a “terrific novel” all about sacrifice, escape, and redemption. Oh, and it also won the Pulitzer Prize! Naturally, it’s a landmark book and one that everybody should read.

On a cotton plantation in Georgia, during the antebellum era, we meet a slave named Cora. A person on the cusp of becoming a woman, she’s even an outcast among the fellow Africans, making a tough life even tougher.

For this reason, when a new slave named Caesar urges that she joins him on “the Underground Railroad”, she wholeheartedly takes the opportunity to escape.

However, the Underground Railroad isn’t just a metaphor in this book, it’s a fully functioning secret rail network deep beneath the soil of the South.

Using the intricate network, run by conductors and engineers, Cora finds herself on a harrowing journey all across America, from state to state, as she encounters in each an otherworldly, almost-familiar, yet wholly-strange iteration of the world she knows.

A novel with deeply important historical and political meanings, the book manages to recreate the horror of the antebellum period as well as address the broken promises of the current day – leading readers to question just how much has changed.


  • Packed with important discourse on racism.
  • Grand in scope.
  • Fascinating use of history and fiction that brings the present into question.


  • With such heavy themes, it’s not going to be an easy read.

The Troop By Nick Cutter

The Troop: A Novel

Our penultimate recommendation from Stephen King is a book that “scared the hell” out of the esteemed horror author, which is surely no easy feat! King describes the book as “old-school horror” and it’s a great example of that.

Every year, once a year, a troop of young scout boys are led into the Canadian wilderness by their Scoutmaster, Tim Riggs.

In the wilderness, they enjoy a weekend of camping, with all the fun and campsite stories that you would expect from that. However, this year there’s an intruder at the campsite.

When a wildly hungry, thin intruder unexpectedly stumbles into the scout’s campsite, Tim and the boys have no idea what they’re getting into. You see, this is no ordinary hungry man, this is a human carrying a bioengineered nightmare.

The tight, thrilling novel becomes a tale of survival, as the scouts and their leader struggle to survive the wilderness and a strange horror that is all too easily infectious.


  • An original, terrifying story.
  • Filled with tension.
  • Characters that you care about.


  • Some might be put off by the violence and gore.

What Comes Next And How To Like It By Abigail Thomas

What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir

Our final recommendation from Stephen King is a book that King believes will stay with you for long after you’ve finished reading it, and a book that “fills memory with living breath.”

King also praises the novel for the sheer amount of wisdom that is hinted between the lines of prose.

This book stands apart from the other books on this list, because this is a memoir rather than a piece of fiction. As a result, it’s all the more emotionally resonant and truthful.

In beautifully observed writing, Abigail Thomas talks about life after the passing of her husband, and the difficulties of growing old.

Thomas addresses all kinds of questions which are rarely talked about, let alone written about in a candid and beautiful manner, and offers a glorious guide on how to live imperfectly – yet exuberantly.


  • It’ll make you look at life in ways you never did before.
  • Honest, real, and incredibly moving.
  • Filled with fascinating themes.


  • Some readers would like more depth.

Final Thoughts

Stephen King is responsible for some of the most successful and beloved books of all time, which suggests that he has pretty good taste in literature.

This list of fascinating, moving, and engaging books is varied in a way that will leave every type of reader happy.

Whether you like memories, historical fiction, graphic novels, crime fiction, or horror, you’ll find a book you love.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Stephen King’s Best Book?

Everybody has a different answer, and he’s responsible for so many famous works, but many would agree that the massive, ambitious “The Stand” is the best.

Noah Burton