Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Which I Recommend

Ever since I finished my King Quest last week, people have been asking me what my favorites were. That question is very difficult for me to answer, considering all the time I put into it, and I haven't been able to really give an honest reply to any of those who asked. I owe it as much to myself as I do to the people who ask to come up with a few of my favorites, and that's what this post is all about. My top five favorite Stephen King books, and why.

1) The Stand - This book is thought by many King fans to be his best work, short of the Dark Tower series. I read this fairly early on in my Quest (the expanded edition, that is), and this book is what sealed the deal for me. I had enjoyed what I had read of his up until that point, but this book changed everything. I was blown away by how he wove dozens of characters and plots and back-stories together to make something as elemental as the fight between good and evil so utterly believable. He had me so emotionally invested in the characters in a way I had never experienced before. The way he describes how the Super-Flu spreads across America still gives me the chills.

2) Bag Of Bones - This book stands as one of the very few that actually scared me. I could relate to so much of the location and scenery not just because I had memories of them, but because at the time I was living in a town very much like TR90, in a house on a lake that I felt might have been (at least a little) haunted. This scene in the basement cost me a few sleepless nights, and it was through reading this book that I learned it is often best to read King by daylight.

3) Misery - I just could not put this book down. His portrayal of Annie Wilkes as Paul Sheldon's "biggest fan" and her descent from slightly disturbed to bat-shit crazy was awesome to watch. I regret having seen the movie before reading the book, but there was so much in the book that the movie leaves out. The thumb-candle, for one, and how she really hobbles Paul, for another. It was a very fast read, and it was just the right length. Sure, there is more you want to know when the book is over, but I couldn't ever remember feeling like he was drawing things out.

4) The Green Mile - I'll be frank with you: This book made me cry. I had my doubts about it when I first started reading, as it started off pretty slow. I was used to this, as this is par for the course for a lot of King novels. Right from the start we know that John Coffey is innocent, and what got the ol' waterworks churning was his decision to take the electric chair in the end. I didn't want that for him, but King shows us that it's for the best by the last few pages.

5) On Writing - As the only non-fiction book in my top five, this book holds a special place. It is a wonderful book, one that just about everyone (at some point) has asked me if I've read it when I mention I like Stephen King. It provides wonderful insight to the person behind all of these wonderful stories, and some priceless information for someone who aspires to one day write something of worth.


Out of all that I read, picking just five is tough. There are so many others that I enjoyed reading and could recommend at a moment's notice, but I had to pick the ones that I have an emotional connection with. Conversely, there are a few that, while I appreciate them for what they are, weren't that great at all (The Dark Half, Rose Madder, Gerald's Game, to name a few). For someone as prolific as King, I would expect there to be a few sour lemons.

Some of you may be wondering why none of the Dark Tower series made the top five. I certainly enjoyed the series, there is no doubting that, but I couldn't just recommend one out of the seven. To fully appreciate the breadth and sheer immensity of all that it is and encompasses and means, you have to read them all. Picking just one or two out of the series just wouldn't do it justice.

Feel free to ask me for other recommendations, if you've been thinking on reading some King. Regardless of tastes and preferences and tolerability of the scarier things one can imagine, I'd be glad to talk with you and make some personalized suggestions. Just leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

P.S. The mosaic above is made up of all of King's fiction book covers. Click the full image to see a high-resolution version of it.


One Blonde Girl said...

The Stand, On Writing, and Bag of Bones are a few of my favorites as well. While I appreciate his fist works, I'm not such a big fan of most of them. Bag of Bones, I think, is my favorite, and I can't explain why. It scares the crap out of me every time I read it and gives me the most f*ed up dreams. Yet I continue to read it. Great selections, and congratulations on completing the quest!

Aaron said...

One of my life goals is to read all of King's work. At some point I decided I wanted to read everything in order of publication. I've gotten through The Stand (which I agree was incredible), so I've still got a very long way to go. But it's a journey I'm looking forward to. Congrats on finishing.

Ed said...

For me, the one that scared the bejeebers out of me was Cujo. Just the picture on the front of the book gave me nightmares when I read it as a young kid.

I agree with your list of emotional connected favorites. The two that I would add to your list if it were my list are "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" and "It". The latter also scared the bejeebers out of me.

nova said...

Of course, The Stand. My favorite Stephen King story is a short story called The Long Walk. If you didn't read it, you should. It's CRAZY.

becca said...

cool post

Moonspun said...

Well you know that you and I share the a love of Stephen King. We did a joint review a couple years ago, right?
Of course I first read his books long before you were born...yikes! Back then, the extended version of the Stand was not an option. I've read the Stand, oh, well more than a handful of times over the years. It is by far his best, I concur. And I agree with on "On Writing" I just saw that on my bookshelf and thought that it was time to read it again.
One of the scariest short stories of his (or novella I guess) is The Mist. Holy moly is that a good one.
I love the pictures of King...nice!

Kirby said...

I long thought The Stand was one of my favorite books and I loved The Green Mile (Misery was good too - quick read). Now I'll have to read Bag of Bones based on your review.

kristina said...

Awesome Mosaic!!

Badass Geek said...

One Blonde Girl: There is rumor of a movie based on Bag of Bones.

Aaron: Thanks! I originally wanted to read everything in order, but that would have required me starting from the beginning originally.

Ed: Shawshank was a great one.

Nova: Read it. And yeah, crazy.

Becca: Thanks!

Moonspun: The Mist was pretty good.

Kirby: Let me know what you think!

Kristina: Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I know this post is old(er) but I'm new to your blog. First, amen brotha! The Stand is my end-all, be-all favorite King book.
Second, you are really a great writer. And I think I might admire you a little bit. (Yes, I recently stalked that post). Have a good weekend. :)

That One Chick With The Face said...

I'm also awkward and forgot to sign in. Man I'm lame...

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