Top Three Books – Stephen King

Whenever I read a book that I really like I search out others books by the same author. I doubt if I’m alone in that respect. Obviously over the years some authors have built up a huge body of work. I’m hoping that this blog – Top Three Books – will become an ongoing feature where I list and concisely describe my top three picks from selected authors that I enjoy.

For my first pick I’ve chosen a big hitter. Stephen King is one of the biggest selling authors in the world, having sold over 350 million books. His wife and two of his children are also best selling authors, although I haven’t read any of their books. A quick Google search for the best books by Stephen King listed hundreds of entries. I don’t care; this is my top three, and I would be very surprised if you didn’t disagree with my choice, which is absolutely fine. I’m sure if I look back at this blog in a few years I will disagree with my choices.

First up, and not in any particular order, is The Stand.

the stand

A pandemic rips through the world, but unlike Covid-19, the mortality rate is over 99%. Society falls apart and chaos reigns. Behind all this the survivors start having dreams where they are drawn towards two opposing factions; good and evil for want of a better terminology. The walking dude, who epitomizes evil, draws his follows to Las Vegas, while an old lady represents the good in all of us.

The story is huge, and unlike my oft criticism of King where some of his books go on a bit too long, The Stand needs to be of this length. A few years after the original was released, an extended version was released, a directors cut, if you like. Soon I will go back and re-read the extended version. In short, a long epic end of the world story.

My second choice is The Long Walk, although technically this was written by Richard Bachman, a pseudonym used by Stephen King in his early career. I’ve written about this book before when I blogged about my favourite books about running (read the review here).

the long walk

As the title suggests it’s all about a walk, and a very long walk it is. The premise is that every year 100 boys between 15 and 17 years old walk until they can walk no more. If you drop below a certain pace three times in one hour, you are shot and killed. The ultimate last man standing competition. Each chapter has a quote from a different TV quiz show presenter, and some of them are quite dark. In fact the whole book is quite dark. A dystopian future if ever there was one. I’ve also recently found out that a film version of the book is in production and apparently Stephen King likes the screenplay, which is encouraging, knowing just how many really bad adaptations of his work there are.

Finally, and a more recent book, I have picked Dr Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. This might be slightly contentious considering how iconic both the book and the film of The Shining are. My original review of Dr Sleep can be found here.

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Dan Torrance, the young boy from The Shining, has grown up, he’s a drunk and a druggie, and hits rock bottom. In a small town he meets a man who has faith in him and turns him from around. He also starts communicating via writing on a blackboard with a young girl, Abra, who also has ‘the shining’.

In the midst of all this is Rose the Hat and her followers called the True Knot, an unusual bunch who all have different shining abilities. They are not a good bunch as they feed off people who have the shining, known to them as ‘steam’. Children have the best shining, and the more pain inflicted as they are murdered the better the ‘steam’ is. They discover Abra and it’s up to Dan to save her, and hopefully himself in the process.

It has been many years since I read The Shining and I’m always wary of sequels, but this follows on nicely and has just the right amount of intrigue and suspense, while the new characters fit in well.

Now onto the films. I wasn’t a big fan of film version of The Shining, mainly because Dan’s mentor, the chef from the Overlook Hotel, died in the film, but lived in the book. This creates a problem for the film of Doctor Sleep, which they nicely overcome. I won’t give too much away as you might want to watch the film or read the book. Another problem for the film is that Shelley Duvall is such an iconic actress, that whoever has to play her character is never going to look or feel like her. Ewan McGregor however, is absolutely fantastic as a grown up Dan. In the ending of the film Doctor Sleep they bring back Jack Torrance, and again no one can look or act like Jack Nicholson, and it actually feels wrong, as if the director is trying too hard to link back to the original film. In the end, the film did work well, although my beautiful wife left early as there was a particularly nasty scene where the True Knot killed a young boy. The film had a 15 rating, which I’m not sure about. The reviews have also been very mixed.

Here ends my first attempt at a top three books, and moments after I clicked publish I realised that I forgotten about The Dead Zone. Should I have included it instead of The Stand? The film starring Christopher Walken is also very good, although the TV series is worth avoiding. I can see that my top three books is going to be challenging. I would be interested to know what your favourite Stephen King books are.