Stephen King is one of literature’s best-known writers. Over the course of his career, King’s name has become synonymous with the horror genre due to his countless, critically acclaimed contributions to the genre. King has over fifty books to his name, which is undeniably impressive but can leave new readers unsure of where to start delving into his suspenseful, skin-crawling world of horror. Read on to learn the best reading order for King’s novel, both by individual series and genre.
When asked why he chose to start writing, King famously stated that it was what he was made to do and that he could never imagine any other career path. It’s hard to argue with him, given that he’s sold over 350 million copies of his novels worldwide and is the most adapted writer in history. Over the years, sixty of King’s novels and short stories have been adapted into films, becoming some of the most culturally beloved horror films to date.
In addition to penning horror novels, King has also written hundreds of short stories and has recently started to write crime thrillers as well. Praised for his ability to immerse readers in truly unique and terrifying worlds whilst keeping them on the edge of their seats, King has become a staple of modern literature. His talent was recognized in 2015 when he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts from the United States National Endowment of the Arts.
To delve into the captivating narratives of King’s various series, it is best to read them in the publication order, however, when it comes to King’s standalone novels, readers have the freedom to choose whichever novel interests them the most!
All Stephen King Books in Order – Reading Guide
A legendary debut, King’s first novel follows Carrie White, a girl who succumbs to the call of her deadly powers after being pushed to the extreme by the unthinkable cruelty of her classmates.
Her extraordinary gift becomes a tool for revenge and destruction in the heart-pounding plot of Carrie.
‘Salem’s Lot (1975)
Ben Mears returns to ‘Salem’s Lot in the hopes of investigating Marsten House and finding inspiration for his next novel. But when a young boy dies after venturing into the local woods, Ben realizes there are sinister forces converging on his beloved hometown.
A deeply unsettling tale that fell out of publication due to its controversial subject matter, Rage only recently became available again as part of a collection of the Bachman stories.
The Stand (1978)
After a patient escapes a biological testing facility carrying a mutated strain of a deadly super-flu, the world falls into chaos as 99% of the population is killed in a matter of weeks. Following the original fallout, two leaders emerge promoting drastically different ideologies.
The Stand reveals the fate of the human race in its final days as it chooses between the two leaders.
The Long Walk (1979)
In this deeply insightful commentary on American society and the value attributed to teenage life, King introduces readers to a grueling competition that decides the fate of a hundred teenagers. With the promise of whatever they want for the rest of their lives, the boys must commit to The Long Walk, only stopping when they physically can’t go on.
The Dead Zone (1979)
Upon waking from a five-year coma, Johnny discovers that he can see people’s pasts and futures simply by touching them. Considered by many to be a gift, Johnny feels cursed as he is burdened with unspeakable knowledge.
When he shakes the hand of an amoral politician, Johnny must make a drastic decision that could alter the future of the world in the tense plot of The Dead Zone.
Partaking in the experiments of a clandestine government organization known as The Shop, Andy and Vicky unlock their psychic talents. However, neither The Shop nor its test subjects predicted that Andy and Vicky would fall in love and have a child with her own extraordinary powers.
When Charlie is revealed to have pyrokinetic abilities, The Shop is desperate to get her in their grasp to discover the genetic secrets behind her powers. But their pursuit will only lead to destruction as Charlie unlocks the full potential of her abilities in the unforgettable narrative of Firestarter.
When Bart’s hometown is scheduled to be destroyed to pave way for the city’s Highway 784 extension, something starts to happen in Bart’s head. Unable to watch the hometown and the life he’d built within it be destroyed, Bart formulates a plot that sees him turning to increasingly violent means in Roadwork.
Cujo, a two-hundred-pound Saint Bernard, was the best friend Brett Camber could ever ask for. Until he chased a rabbit into a bat-infested cave and emerged as an entirely different beast. Cujo begins to hunt the locals, dismantling the newly built life of the Trentons and rapidly devolving from man’s best friend into a savage monster.
Cujo will make even the most devoted dog lover nervous as they get lost in King’s nail-biting horror.
The Running Man (1982)
In this dark vision of the future, civilians can earn millions of dollars by partaking in the sadistic entertainment of the rich and famous. Consumed by the desperation that any parent will recognize, Ben decides to participate in the nation’s most dangerous game, The Running Man. For thirty days, Ben must survive life on the run as the nation’s most wanted man to win a billion dollars. More than enough money to save the life of his critically ill daughter.
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (1982)
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is the best-selling novella that inspired the Academy Award-winning film starring Morgan Freeman. The narrative details convict Andy Dufresne’s hunger for revenge after he has been unjustly imprisoned.
A 1958 Plymouth Fury whose history is littered with corpses and a nerdy teenager who falls in love with his most recent purchase is a combination fated for disaster. Dennis strives to save Arnold’s life from his bloodthirsty new car in the twisted plot of Christine.
Pet Sematary (1983)
The Creeds’ move to the rural town of Ludlow seems too good to be true until Louis Creed starts to peer beneath the surface of Ludlow’s picturesque image. As Louis receives warnings in both the waking world and his dreams, he quickly realizes that some things are better off dead.
Pet Sematary will have readers on the edge of their seats as Louis’ world is unraveled by an unbearable haunting.
Attorney Billy Halleck is an affluent man who rarely has to face the consequences of his actions. But he finds himself scrambling for redemption when he rapidly begins to waste away after being cursed by the relative of his latest victim. Thinner follows a man driven to extremes by his own folly.
One of King’s best-known novels and the inspiration for the acclaimed film of the same name, It follows the lives of seven adults who must return to their hometown to face the terrifying creature from their youth before it can claim the lives of more children.
The Eyes of the Dragon (1987)
In this fantasy tale, the destinies of the two royal brothers are forever altered as the struggle for absolute power and dark magic claims control of their lives. The Eyes of the Dragon is a thrilling story of deception, sorcery, and the deadly cost of secrets.
Outraged by the death of her favorite character in Paul Sheldon’s latest novel, Annie kidnaps Sheldon and holds him as her captive. She is determined to persuade Sheldon to rewrite Misery’s fate by any means necessary. Misery reveals the dangers of obsession.
The Tommyknockers (1987)
In The Tommyknockers, a chance discovery unleashes inhuman powers and devastation on the small town of Haven. This otherworldly force is devoid of mercy and sense, leaving the fate of Haven in its bloodthirsty hands.
The Langoliers (1989)
An ordinary flight goes drastically wrong when ten passengers wake up only to find that everyone else has disappeared, including the pilots. When they reach safety, they discover a world in which nothing is as it should be.
Originally a short story, The Langoliers was rereleased as a novella that readers won’t be able to put down.
The Dark Half (1989)
After years of publishing violent thrillers under the name George Stark, Thad is happy to retire the pseudonym and start writing under his own name. But a string of murders in the local area force Thad to question his innocence and the presence of The Dark Half of his mind.
Needful Things (1991)
When Needful Things opens in Castle Rock, every resident can buy their heart’s desire from the curio shop. But while the items do not bear price tags, they come at an extreme cost. All ignoring the warning that buyers should beware when they are tempted to make a purchase, the town’s folk trade away more than they bargained for.
Gerald’s Game (1992)
After a thrilling sexual tryst with her husband goes wrong, Jessie finds herself trapped in their summer home as she is haunted by the voices that plague her mind.
Gerald’s Game is King at his darkest as he forces readers to question Jessie’s sanity as well as their own.
Dolores Claiborne (1992)
The death of Vera Donovan sees Dolores Claiborne accused of murder for the second time in her life. Unwilling to be cowed by small-town gossip and abuse, Dolores Claiborne unravels the twisted, harrowing tale of her life.
As the months following his wife’s death pass him by in a blur, Ralph finds himself sleeping less and less. His late-night walks reveal a world of supernatural horror as he desperately attempts to distinguish between reality and hallucinations in Insomnia.
Rose Madder (1995)
Fleeing her abusive husband and his unhinged obsessions, Rose escapes to a nearby city. But when her husband pursues her and devolves into a rageful murderer, Rose must undergo her own transformation for the sake of her survival in Rose Madder.
The small town of Desperation is cut off from the rest of the world, allowing strange occurrences and otherworldly beings to go unnoticed.
The Regulators (1996)
Possessed by a supernatural force of evil, the once-innocent Seth Garin becomes a puppet for destruction. The tranquil suburbia of Popular Street will never be the same again as King unravels the thrilling plot of The Regulators.
The Green Mile (1996)
Originally published as a monthly serial, The Green Mile recounts the heartbreaking relationship between prison guard, Paul Edgecombe, and inmate John Coffey. After years of working on the mile, Edgecombe thought he’d seen everything, but as he learns more about Coffey his beliefs are repeatedly challenged.
Bag of Bones (1998)
Returning to King’s Castle Rock, Bag of Bones chronicles Mike’s struggles to battle his inner demons as he becomes embroiled in the lives of a young mother and her daughter. Other forces at play have their own interest in Mike.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
When a young girl gets lost in the woods, she only has the voice of her favorite pitcher to see her through the night. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a truly unique novel that will set readers on edge from the first page.
As young boys, four friends committed an act that forever changed them in ways they could not quite understand. In Dreamcatcher, their annual return to their hometown sees a stranger wandering into their tradition and drastically changing the stakes of the game.
From a Buick 8 (2002)
Consumed by a burning curiosity about the mysterious, seemingly deadly car that sits in Shed B, both Curt and his son, Ned, will stop at nothing to find answers. King explores the extremes of human curiosity in From a Buick 8 as he reveals that some questions are better left unanswered.
The Colorado Kid (2005)
The Colorado Kid follows the investigation into the identity and murder of a body that washes up on an island off the coast of Maine in a deeply twisted and gruesome plot.
Things seem to be looking up for Clay until he becomes one of the few humans on the planet not affected by the devastating phenomenon known as The Pulse. Cell follows Clay and a band of desperate survivors as they fight against humanity’s evolution into a deadly horror.
Lisey’s Story (2006)
Following the death of her husband, Lisey tries to document and understand the world he disappeared into to fuel the plots of his critically acclaimed novels. A complicated tale of grief, Lisey’s Story is unlike any other King novel.
A thrilling story about a crime gone wrong and its deadly consequences, readers won’t be able to put Blaze down.
Duma Key (2008)
Discovering a new talent for painting after moving to Duma Key, Edgar begins to peel back the secrets of the town and unravel a history that is eager to claim the present for itself. Haunted by the idea the town has been waiting for him, Edgar can only dig deeper into its twisted history.
Under the Dome (2009)
The town of Chester’s Mill is sealed off from the rest of civilization when it is inexplicably trapped Under the Dome. As a politician battles to retain power and his son withholds a dark secret, ordinary citizens must fight for the survival of their town.
In this tale of alternate history, Jake is sent back in time to prevent the tragic events of 11/23/63 and forever change the course of life as we know it.
Working as a carny at Joyland, Devin’s life is changed forever when he is forced to confront the legacy of a brutal murder and the death of a young child.
Revival spans five decades as it chronicles the tragedy that befell the Jacobs family and Jamie Morton’s twisted, fanatical relationship with Reverend Charles Jacobs.
Sleeping Beauties (2017)
The world descends into savage chaos when women are transported to a harmonious, otherworldly place while men succumb to their violent, primal urges. Written in collaboration with King’s son, Sleeping Beauties is a hauntingly relevant tale.
The Outsider (2018)
In a narrative that questions if you can ever really trust appearances, The Outsider follows the investigation into a child’s murder. As the police gather more evidence, the town’s local hero and beloved father, Terry Maitland is slowly unmasked.
The Institute (2019)
As more and more children are stolen from their homes by The Institute, a sinister organization dedicated to extracting the children’s powers, Luke is desperate to escape and liberate his fellow captives.
Cautioned by his mother to conceal his supernatural abilities, when Jamie ignores her urges he finds himself drawn into the pursuit of a killer. Later explores the unavoidable loss of childhood innocence and the wavering boundaries of morality.
Billy Summers (2021)
A hitman eager to seek redemption after completing his last job, Billy Summers finds himself on a mission in which everything goes wrong. Battling against losing odds, Summers works to avenge the crimes of an unthinkingly evil man.
Fairy Tale (2022)
Upon inheriting a key that opens a door to a parallel dimension, Charlie finds himself caught in a war between good and evil. Returning to the violence and gore of the Grimm tales, Fairy Tale is a legend for the modern ages.
In King’s latest novel, Holly is pitted against her most ruthless adversaries yet as she tries to locate Penny Dahl’s missing daughter. With a child’s fate in her hands, Holly must use every skill and piece of experience she has amassed to reveal the truth behind this shocking crime.
The Dark Tower Series
The Gunslinger (1982)
The Gunslinger is the first installment in King’s thrilling fantasy series. It follows Roland of Gilead on his spellbinding journey through a world caught between the powers of good and evil.
The Drawing of Three (1987)
In The Drawing of Three, Roland is drawn into the twentieth century and finds himself thrust into a society consumed by drugs and crime.
The Waste Lands (1991)
Along with his companions, Susannah and Eddie, Roland must cross the desert of damnation. As they venture through The Waste Lands, they put themselves in the sights of their foes in the Dark Tower.
Wizard and Glass (1997)
Roland unveils the secrets of his youth and the tragic loss of his first love in Wizard and Glass.
The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012)
A thrilling narrative that recounts a story within a story, King returns readers to the days of Roland’s youth and his first mission in The Wind Through the Keyhole.
Wolves of the Calla (2003)
Traveling closer to the Dark Tower, King’s team of rogues must prepare for battle against the infamous Wolves of the Calla.
Songs of Susannah (2004)
As Jake struggles to free Susannah from demonic possession with the assistance of Father Callahan and Oy, Roland and Eddie are transported to Maine in the summer of 1977. The sixth installment of the Dark Tower series, Songs of Susannah is unmissable.
The Dark Tower (2004)
The final confrontation with Roland’s adversaries forces him to bear unprecedented losses as he finally faces the evil forces within The Dark Tower.
The Shining Series
The Shining (1977)
With a new job and a chance to spend more time with his family, Jack Torrance thinks he’s found the perfect opportunity for a fresh start. But as the winter weather makes the hotel ever more remote, five-year-old Danny begins to notice the odd and horrifying forces that collect in the Overlook.
The Shining is one of King’s best-known works and for good reason.
Doctor Sleep (2013)
After years of struggling to hold his sanity together, Dan Torrance has finally found some peace working in a hospice and easing patients through their last days. Until he meets Abra Stone, a child with gifts that surpass his own. Together they must survive the pursuit of the ruthless True Knot tribe in Doctor Sleep.
The Talisman Series
The Talisman (1984)
The Talisman is a thrilling collaboration between King and Peter Straub that follows Jack Sawyer as he embarks on an epic quest into other dimensions to save his mother’s life.
Black House (2001)
Twenty years after he first ventured into another dimension, King and Straub reintroduce readers to Jack after he has retired from a successful career in the police force. As a brutal killer begins to amass a terrifying body count, Jack is drawn back into the world of homicide and is compelled to question whether there are other forces at play in the murders.
Black House will grip readers from the first page as they are pulled into Jack’s world for the second time.
The Bill Hodges Trilogy
Mr. Mercedes (2014)
Haunted by a horrific unsolved crime, Bill Hodges wakes from his slump when the killer sends him a crazed letter warning of another attack. Partnering with two unlikely allies, Hodges must race against time to uncover the unhinged Mr. Mercedes before he can kill again.
Finders Keepers (2015)
Returning to the notion of readers and their deadly obsessions King first explored in Misery, Finders Keepers chronicles Hodges’ battle against a deranged criminal who’s seeking revenge against a teenage boy.
End of Watch (2016)
Hodges finds himself at the center of Mr. Mercedes’s plot for revenge as the killer wreaks havoc from his hospital bed. Everyone might think the murderer is in a vegetative state, but the experimental drugs he’s been pumped full of have unlocked new powers and the opportunity for even more chaos in End of Watch.
The Button Box Series
Gwendy’s Button Box (2017)
Collaborating with Richard Chizmar, King returns to Castle Rock to chronicle Gwendy’s strange introduction to a man who will come to haunt her dreams. Gwendy’s Button Box is a chilling novella that will grip readers from start to finish.
Gwendy’s Magic Feather (2019)
Set nearly thirty years after Gwendy was handed the button box that would later become her best-kept secret, Gwendy’s Magic Feather follows Gwendy as she is drawn back to Castle Rock after the disappearance of two young girls.
Gwendy’s Final Task (2022)
Now a successful senator, Gwendy must keep the button box, growing ever more dangerous and tempting, from the clutches of evil. Battling otherworldly forces and the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, Gwendy’s Final Task is the thrilling conclusion to King and Chizmar’s trilogy.
All Stephen King Books by Genre
Many of King’s novels sit across several genres, with nearly all of them consisting of some horror tropes, but if you’re eager to dive into a particular genre, the following list broadly outlines King’s work genre by genre.
- 11/22/63 (2011)
- The Gunslinger (1982)
- The Drawing of Three (1987)
- The Tommyknockers (1987)
- The Langoliers (1989)
- The Waste Lands (1991)
- Desperation (1996)
- Wizard and Glass (1997)
- Wolves of Calla (2003)
- Songs of Susannah (2004)
- The Dark Tower (2004)
- Under the Dome (2009)
- The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012)
- The Institute (2019)
- Later (2021)
- Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (1982)
- Dolores Claiborne (1992)
- The Green Mile (1996)
- The Colorado Kid (2005)
- Blaze (2007)
- Joyland (2013)
- Mr. Mercedes (2014)
- Finders Keepers (2015)
- End of Watch (2016)
- The Outsider (2018)
- Billy Summers (2021)
- Holly (2023)
- Carrie (1974)
- The Shining (1977)
- Firestarter (1980)
- Cujo (1981)
- Christine (1983)
- Pet Sematary (1983)
- The Talisman (1984)
- It (1986)
- Insomnia (1994)
- The Regulators (1996)
- Bag of Bones (1998)
- The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
- Dreamcatcher (2001)
- Black House (2001)
- From a Buick 8 (2002)
- Duma Key (2008)
- Doctor Sleep (2013)
- Gwendy’s Button Box (2017)
- Gwendy’s Magic Feather (2019)
- Gwendy’s Final Task (2022)
- The Stand (1978)
- The Long Walk (1979)
- The Running Man (1982)
- Cell (2016)
- The Eyes of the Dragon (1987)
- Sleeping Beauties (2017)
- Fairy Tale (2022)
- ‘Salem’s Lot (1975)
- Rage (1977)
- The Dead Zone (1979)
- Roadwork (1981)
- Thinner (1984)
- Misery (1987)
- The Dark Half (1989)
- Needful Things (1991)
- Gerald’s Game (1992)
- Rose Madder (1995)
- Lisey’s Story (2006)
- Revival (2014)
From cult classics to lesser-known tales, King is undeniably a master storyteller. He has been keeping readers hooked on his narratives of supernatural horrors and the disturbing depths of human depravity for decades with no sign of stopping anytime soon. Whether you want to delve into a world of science fiction populated by gunslingers and alternate realities or explore the human psyche, King has a novel for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Stephen King’s longest novel?
When the unabridged edition of The Stand was released in 1990 as The Complete and Uncut Edition, it became King’s lengthiest novel to date. This version of The Stand is an impressive 1,152 pages.
What made Stephen King famous?
Accredited with reviving the horror genre after decades of decay, King gained notoriety in the late twentieth century after publishing novels including Carrie, The Shining, and Cujo.
What is the best Stephen King book for new readers?
While the best King novel to introduce readers to his work is widely debated, the common contenders include Carrie, The Shining, Pet Sematary, Misery, and ‘Salem’s Lot.
Is every Stephen King book connected?
Many of King’s novels are set in the now-famous towns of Derry and Castle Rock. There are also countless references to the events of other novels in King’s narratives, however, the plots themselves are rarely connected and it is not necessary for readers to have knowledge of the other books.
What is the best Stephen King adaptation?
Another widely debated topic, most fans agree that the 1976 version of Carrie and the 1994 film adaptation of Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption are among the best adaptations of King’s work. Recent works such as the 2017 film version of It have also become favorites among fans.