Greetings, fellow book lovers!
Let me start by saying I understand there are only four books in the above photo. Sometimes I make the mistake of lending people my books and never see them again. I could write a whole blog post about the topic of book lending. I’ll file that idea away for the future.
Anyway. I’ve read pretty much every King book minus Firestarter and a couple others I’m not able to think of. It’s hard to pick favorites. Since he’s run the gamut from one end of the Gothic genre to the other as well as dabbled in crime and fantasy, it’s easy to fall in love with a lot of his books for different reasons. The way I judge “favorites” is by whether I’d see it as worth rereading. Like many book lovers I’m in a constant battle with myself not to buy more books before I get to all the other ones I plan to read and already have. I could read every waking moment for the rest of my life and still have so much more to go. As such I’ve never been much for rereading, but occasionally I’ll be in the mood to revisit something– 75% of the time it’s a King book.
Here are the 5 books from my collection that I’ve either already reread or would like to, because they are really just that damn good.
1. Bag of Bones. I’ve always loved a good ghost story, and this is as intense as they get. This book actually resonated way more the second time I read it (which upon first reading at the age of eighteen I really didn’t think was possible.) The narrator is Mike Noonan who is, like many of King’s protagonists, a writer. Noonan has just lost his wife unexpectedly and what I like most about the book is the way King focuses on the agony of trying to get on with one’s life after such a loss. How do you interpret what you’ve been left with that the person is not around to explain? How do you deal with finding out secrets they may have been keeping? How do you move on romantically? These were all effective the first time I read the book but I had not personally experienced anything like it. Then when I was twenty-three one of my closest friends died after a year-long battle with esophageal cancer, and when I revisited the book a few months ago I was struck significantly harder by the parts about the emotional aftermath of a loved one’s death. There’s a lot more to the book than that, but the strongest feeling it left me with both times is that people who have died can still remain very much alive through their connections to those who still live.
2. Desperation. This book has a little bit of a different reasoning behind its selection. I actually wouldn’t want to reread it as it is actually a highly unpleasant book to read. But that’s what’s great about it: it scared me. Like, really scared me. I remember being down the Cape in the summer and reading it in the living room in the dark when everyone else was asleep. I remember being engrossed and suddenly looking up thinking that I shouldn’t have gotten so absorbed because now something was obviously standing in front of me waiting to kill me. Nothing was there, of course, but damn did this book have me on edge. The premise is basically that an evil demon spirit is inhabiting a dusty desert town and keeps possessing people (for the first portion of the book the victim is the town Sheriff.) The possession turns them into warped, disgusting versions of themselves that murder other people in the most brutal ways possible, children not excluded. If I’m ever stopped on a desert road by someone in a Sheriff’s outfit, I’m going to have a lot of trouble not flooring the gas because of this book.
3. The Talisman. Dark fantasy meets horror in this collaboration between King and fellow horror master Peter Straub. King does a lot of work with parallel universes; some examples include Rose Madder and the entire Dark Tower series. The Talisman is also a foray into fantasy dimensions, and follows a little boy named Jack Sawyer who is one of King’s younger protagonists. I enjoy a younger hero in fantasy books; children are yet to understand so many things about the world (although sometimes not as many as we think) and this is part of what makes Fantasy, even Young Adult Fantasy, so popular among full-grown adults. Fantasy is just more effective through the eyes of a child. However this is no YA novel; this pair of authors does anything but keep things PG-13 when they put Jack face to face with a barrage of absolutely vile and detestable villains. It’s good stuff.
4. Finders Keepers. This is actually the second book in a recent crime trilogy King came out with. The first and third are also very enjoyable, but it was the middle that I really liked most because it departed from the story established in first book while still maintaining a strong enough connection to it that the third book was an effortless tie-in rather than an awkward reintroduction. Finders Keepers centers on a hardened criminal and a young man both obsessed with the same author and who encounter one another over some long-lost copies of the author’s final works. What separates his crime novels from others is that he doesn’t drag the reader through and suspend their “AHA!” moment until the end along with the characters. King likes to write his stories in a way that the reader usually knows exactly what’s going on and is along for the ride while the characters try to figure it out. He uses his multiple POV’s to show a full picture of the situation from all sides, and these books are classic King in that way. You know what’s going on now but not what’s going to happen next, and for the amount of information he gives you it’s surprising how often you end up biting your nails in suspense anyway. His storytelling style really lends itself well to the mystery novel, and while he moves back toward his usual theme of supernatural happenings in the third book, this series is largely about realistic human behavior in the face of evil and depravity.
5. Under The Dome. Finally, we come to the Ultimate. My favorite King book of all time (so far, anyway. He’s still churning out gold and he could still surprise me again!) I was in a different world while I was reading this book. I was not in West Roxbury, the most suburban of the Boston neighborhoods. I was in Maine in a quiet little town called Chester’s Mill, stuck inside a mysterious giant dome with an increasingly psychotic police force made up of delinquents and rapidly depleting resources. I was in the diner eating with the main characters hoping for the owner Rose to make cinnamon buns. I was in an abandoned building smoking crystal meth with some psychos hoarding much-needed generator fuel stolen from the town supply by the despicably corrupt mayor. I was every terrified townsperson fleeing from the mayor’s sick, twisted son being turned into a murderous monster by a brain tumor no one knows he has. Constantly shifting points-of-view keep the reader on edge as people are wiped out left and right in ways that are very up close and personal. There are some books, such as Finders Keepers and its counterparts in the series, where King backs off from death scenes and leaves some of the happenings to the imagination. This is not one of them. This is pure horror, and the scariest part about it is that there is nothing supernatural at play. Every horrible thing that happens is the result of human behavior when a town is run by corrupt people with too much power and suddenly, nobody is able to leave. Shut off from the outside world, people begin to realize that the traditional rules no longer apply when there’s no one to answer to anymore except those in power who will do anything to keep that power for themselves.
Well, there you have it. My favorites. I’m actually considering rereading Under The Dome now. I very much would like to continue chipping away at my new book pile, but I’ve been plugging away at it all summer and perhaps I should allow myself a rereading period. I always advocate reading what you actually want to read; what’s reading for pleasure if you feel obligated to do it? There’s nothing wrong with switching books and taking breaks. Some books I never finish and that’s okay. Read what you enjoy, and enjoy your reading!
Want to share your favorite King book? Got any suggestions for other horror or dark fantasy novels you think I should try? Comment away! I’d love to hear from you.