Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Stephen King books

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is a freebie. Inspired by Katherine's post at I Wish I Lived in a Library for where to start with Agatha Christie, I'm recommending some Stephen King.

I've read Uncle Stevie since I was a teenager. Not all his books are hits, but many, many are. If you haven't read King before, his books are not all gross and scary. There is gross and scary for sure, but he lets your imagination worry about more than he will ever write. There's a List at Librarything called Top 5 Books by Stephen King, where you'll find 22 books that make the top 5 list of his books.

I'd divide his work into 3 types: shorter novels and short stories, big epic stories, and regular books.

Shorter Novels and Short Stories

Night Shift and Everything's Eventual are both superb collections of short stories. Even if you aren't a short story fan, these tidbits of stories would be a great place to get your toes wet in the scary stuff. Not all of them work as well, but you can't read these books and not have some stories stick with you. Not everything is super scary or gross; some stories can be quite sweet.

Different Seasons and Full Dark, No Stars are both books with four or five novellas. (Regular authors might even release them as 'novels'.) Both have stories that have been made into movies, some very good movies.  The Body (movie Stand By Me) and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (movie Shawshank Redemption) are both from Different Seasons, and they are not super scary at all.

Once you have dipped your toes in the water with King, and are ready to get fully immersed in his writing, I'd suggest some epic novels. These are the ones that King is famous for: huge, long, sprawling novels of good and evil. The kind that keep you up late at night; first because you can't put them down, then because they were scary!

The Stand and It are number 2 and 3 on that List at Librarything for a good reason. They are character rich, with plots that are involved and elaborate. The Stand is about a flu that wipes out most of the Earth's population, and the remaining people start to congregate together, for an epic battle of good and evil. It starts with twelve year olds, King's favourite age to write about. A group of kids grow up and are drawn back to their hometown to battle some scary evil stuff. The back and forth between past and present and all the characters makes this unput-downable.

The Talisman might be a good place to start if you are already a fan of fantasy type books. This one has supernatural elements with world-shifting, which is usually not my genre, but The Talisman ended up being one of my favourite books by King. A little boy has to get from here to there and find his mother. He can travel faster in the other world, but it is more dangerous. This was co-written with Peter Straub, and The Black House is a sequel of sorts, but I didn't like it as much. The journey and quest in the Talisman was just enough for me.

Regular Type Novels

These books may not be significantly shorter, but there are fewer characters and less involved plot.
Duma Key, and Misery less involved novels. Duma Key is still a little long, but has supernatural elements and friendships that make it an enjoyable read. Misery is a lot of fun because of the movie and the focus on crazy fans, but in other ways, it is so realistic that is becomes super scary and gross.

For my last recommended book, I chose The Green Mile. I read this in its original serial format, King's homage to Dickens. Six books were released, one every two months for a year. My sister and I bought the books in this way, read and shared them, then waited for the next book. Now, you would get the book in a single edition, so it is probably quite long. I adored this book, for its history of the 1930s, the hint of supernatural, the stand-up characters, and the character of John Coffey. Also a wonderful movie, King pulls the heartstrings in this one.

A few honourable mentions: The Bachman Books were published under a pseudonym and then later released under King's name. When I read the first story, The Long Walk, I put the book down and didn't read any other stories for a long time, because it was so good, I couldn't imagine reading the next story. I finally read the rest and they were also good, but didn't make the impression that The Long Walk did.
Eyes of the Dragon was a fairy tale written for his daughter and I remember really, really liking it.

I didn't even mention The Shining which is the top book listed by most fans. I liked it but it didn't make the impression on me that the other books did. It would fit under Regular Type Novels.