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Discover Stephen King’s most popular books, which every fan should read. You’ll learn about favorites and hidden gems for yourself or as a gift. Below I share helpful information about these important books and their long cultural impact through their words and iconic films.

You’ll walk away with the best of all the Stephen King books to start with for the ultimate reading experience. Let’s uncover the top 10 bestselling Stephen King books that have made him one of the most famous authors of all time.

STEPHEN KING’S TOP SELLERS

#1 The Shining: With millions of copies sold worldwide and an iconic Stanley Kubrick film adaptation, the haunting atmosphere of the Overlook Hotel is the best Stephen King horror book.

#2 IT: With elements of horror, fear, and the nostalgia of childhood, this story of terror caused by a shape-shifting entity in a small town is also a fan favorite that has sold millions of copies and inspired popular film adaptations.

#3 The Stand: A post-apocalyptic novel that pits good against evil after a plague decimates the world’s population, this epic book has also sold millions of copies, with sales being by its re-release as a complete and uncut edition in 1990.

books by stephen king on bookshelves.
Most Popular Stephen King Books

Below is a quick list of the top 10 most popular Stephen King books ranked in order, beginning with the #1 bestseller.

  1. The Shining (the best Stephen King horror book)
  2. IT
  3. The Stand
  4. Carrie
  5. Misery
  6. Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger
  7. Pet Sematary
  8. 11/22/63 (the best Stephen King book that’s not horror)
  9. Salem’s Lot
  10. The Green Mile

Why These Are Stephen King’s Top Rated Works

This list is an objective, data-driven post about the most popular Stephen King books. Popularity is about numbers, so to create this list, I relied primarily on numerical data from GoodReads and Wikipedia, which estimated Stephen King’s total book sales to be between 300 million and 400 million.

Learn more about each of these scary books below. You’ll learn about the book cover, awards, short descriptions, publication dates, sales data, cultural significance, iconic characters, film adaptations, and more.

#1 The Shining

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • One of Time Magazine’s 100 Best Mystery and Thriller Books of All Time
  • Inspired the classic 1980 horror film adaptation
  • Inspired the 2013 sequel, Doctor Sleep

Publication Date: 1977

With millions of copies sold worldwide and an iconic Stanley Kubrick movie adaptation starring Jack Nicholson, the haunting atmosphere of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining is King’s seminal work according to fans.

Jack Torrance takes a new job as the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric Overlook Hotel, where he is looking forward to a fresh start.  He plans to reconnect with his family and work on his writing.

But, as the harsh weather arrives and isolates them in this classic winter novel, the Hotel feels increasingly more sinister.  Strangely, Jack’s uniquely gifted five-year-old son, Danny Torrance, notices this.

In this psychologically thrilling battle within the haunted halls, the family must confront their deepest fears and the ghosts of their past. Here’s Johnny!


#2 IT

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • The inspiration for several film adaptations

Publication Date: 1986

With elements of horror, psychological fear, and the nostalgia of childhood, IT‘s story of terror caused by a shape-shifting entity in a small town has also sold millions of copies and inspired numerous popular film adaptations, making it a classic Fall novel.

In IT, Derry, Maine, (a popular fictional setting for King) is a small city… a haunted small city. 

Seven teenagers first stumbled on a horror years earlier. But now they are adults, and the promise they made as teens reunites them. It brings them back to the place where they once battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children.

Their repressed memories rise to the surface when children are murdered.  They must prepare once again to battle the monster for revenge in this Fall thriller.


#3 The Stand

  • #1 bestseller
  • Also a limited series on CBS All Access

Publication Date: 1978

A post-apocalyptic novel that pits good against evil after a plague decimates the world’s population, The Stand has also sold millions of copies, with sales being boosted by its re-release as a complete and uncut edition in 1990.

The world ends with an abrupt computer error in a Defense Department laboratory, and a million contacts forming a chain letter of death.

The day after offers a bleak new world, devoid of both its institutions and 99 percent of its people.  The 1 percent are panicked and choose sides.  “Good” rides on the shoulders of 108-year-old Mother Abigail, while evil is embodied in a lethal, powerful, and dark man named Randall Flagg.  

It’s an epic tale of moral complexity and survival.


#4 Carrie

  • #1 bestseller
  • Inspired the Oscar-nominated 1976 film adaptation starring Sissy Spacek

Publication Date: 1974

In Carrie, an unpopular high school student named Carrie White struggles with her mother’s religious fanaticism. But she’s hiding a big secret: she can move things with her mind. 

This can be both powerful and problematic. After she receives an act of kindness, she feels normal. But then a cruel prank turns her gift into a weapon of horrific destruction in the town.

As the suspense builds to an epic climax, the town is left forever changed.


#5 Misery

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • Inspired the 1990 Oscar-winning film adaptation starring James Caan and Kathy Bates

Publication Date: 1987

In Misery, bestselling novelist Paul Sheldon feels free of his popular romance protagonist Misery Chastain, whom he has “killed off” to expand his creative horizons. But there are consequences. 

When a car accident leaves him, quite literally, broken, a woman named Annie Wilkes nurses him back to health. She proclaims herself to be his biggest fan and wants nothing more than for Misery to return in his newest novel. 

In an isolated location, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get her way. It’s a suspenseful tale that explores themes of captivity and obsession.

Related Post: Verity Read-a-Likes (thrillers involving writers)


#6 Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

  • #1 national bestseller
  • Inspired the 2017 blockbuster film starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey and produced by Ron Howard

Publication Date: 1981

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger is the first installment of King’s most popular series of books, The Dark Tower series.

Roland Deschain is the last of a mystical order of gunslingers. He embarks on a quest across a desolate world to find the Dark Tower that holds together the universe. His journey is filled with danger, alliances, and encounters with the supernatural.

Together with the young Jake Chambers, a boy from New York with a mysterious connection to Roland’s quest, they navigate a landscape that is both eerily familiar and hauntingly different.

This book blends fantasy, horror, and Western elements that set the stage for an epic larger tale of determination and sacrifice.


#7 Pet Sematary

  • Stephen King’s #1 New York Times bestseller
  • Now a major motion picture

Publication Date: 1983

In Pet Sematary, Dr. Louis Creed takes a job in rural Maine and moves his family there.

But, an undercurrent of danger exists.  For one thing, the trucks drive too quickly. This is evidenced by the graveyard in the nearby woods where generations have buried their beloved pets.

Then, there are the warnings of another burial ground beyond the borders.  The truth hidden there is more terrifying and powerful than death itself. It’s a chilling narrative of grief, loss, and the supernatural.


#8 11/22/63

  • One of the Ten Best Books of The New York Times Book Review
  • Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
  • Now a miniseries from Hulu starring James Franco

Publication Date: 2011

11/22/63 is the best Stephen King book that’s not horror. Rather, it’s a historical narrative fiction book with elements of time travel centered on the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Maine, gets the opportunity to travel back in time to prevent the killing. The portal to the past, hidden in a local diner, transports Jake into the late 1950s and early 1960s. There, he attempts to alter history.

He finds unexpected love and faces dilemmas surrounding the alteration of history. Ultimately, this beloved novel explores the question of whether the past should be disturbed, even with the best intentions.


#9 Salem’s Lot

  • #1 bestseller
  • Inspired a film adaptation and miniseries

Publication Date: 1975

In Salem’s Lot, writer Ben Mears has returned to his hometown, Jerusalem’s Lot. There, he hopes to explore the history of the Marsten House, an old mansion that has been the subject of rumors.

But when two boys head into the woods and only one comes out alive, he realizes that dark forces exist there and he must contain them. 

Together with a small group of allies, he battles the growing threat of vampires in a widespread fight for survival. This chilling novel explores evil, community, and the power of belief.


#10 The Green Mile

  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • Inspired the 1999 Oscar-nominated film starring Tom Hanks

Publication Date: 1996

In The Green Mile Paul Edgecombe recounts his experiences as the head guard of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary’s death row during the Great Depression.

John Coffey, a gentle giant convicted of a heinous crime, brings with him mysterious healing abilities. This challenges the guards’ notions of justice, punishment, and human nature.

Ultimately, Paul confronts the moral complexities of his role and the implications of Coffey’s powers. Here, King’s poignant narrative explores redemption, the impact of actions, and the realities of mortality.

Quick Biography of Stephen King

about

headshot of author stephen king.

Stephen King (alternate pen name: Richard Bachman) is one of the bestselling authors of all-time with more than 350 million books sold. His catalog is vast, but he is best known for his horror stories.

King received numerous writing awards, including the 2003 The National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the 2014 National Medal of Arts. He has won over a dozen Bram Stoker Awards and Edgar Allan Poe Awards combined.

Stephen King writes both nonfiction and fiction books. He is known most for novels in the genres of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, crime, mystery, psychological thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, and science fiction fantasy.

The publishers of Stephen King’s most popular books include Scribner, Viking Press, and Hodder & Stoughton.

The most successful Stephen King adaptations include the movies The Shawshank Redemption (based on the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption), IT, and The Green Mile, as well as the TV series Under the Dome and Castle Rock.

King currently resides in Maine and Florida with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Common Themes and Motifs Readers Love

Stephen King’s writing style has made a historical impact given these common themes and motifs readers crave. They include:

  • good vs. evil
  • the supernatural
  • the everyday horror of human existence
  • blending horror with psychology

Latest Book Release to Devour

Stephen King’s new book is You Like It Darker, a short story collection published on May 21, 2024.

Where to Buy the Best Stephen King Books

Given the vast number of Stephen King books that have been and continue to be sold, the highest-selling ones are not hard to come by. You can always buy them from large retailers like Amazon and Target, as well as independent bookstores.

The library is a great resource for popular authors like King. But, since they are so popular, you should reserve new titles as early as possible. Used book sales and thrift stores like ThriftBooks often have his books, but again, given their collectibility, they can sell quickly.

stephen king book list.

FULL STEPHEN KING BOOK LIST

Get instant access to a printable PDF Stephen King book list when you subscribe to The Literary Lifestyle’s free email newsletter community.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered Stephen King’s scariest book?

Pet Sematary is often considered Stephen King’s scariest book, particularly for its exploration of grief and the terrifying consequences of disturbing the natural order of life and death.

What is the most successful Stephen King book?

The Shining is Stephen King’s most successful book, with millions of copies sold worldwide and an iconic Stanley Kubrick film adaptation starring Jack Nicholson.

What is the best selling Stephen King book?

The Shining is considered to be Stephen King’s best selling book. Centered on psychological horror at the Overlook Hotel, its success has been amplified by Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film adaptation, making it both a cornerstone of horror literature and a popular commercial success.

What are the most popular Stephen King books?

Stephen King’s most popular books are The Shining, IT, and The Stand. These novels have each sold millions of copies and left a lasting mark on both the horror genre and pop culture. They have achieved widespread acclaim and enduring popularity, through both their original words and successful film adaptations.

Which is the most popular character in Stephen King’s novels?

Pennywise, the Clown from IT, is Stephen King’s most popular character. This sinister entity, which terrorizes the children of Derry, Maine, has become an iconic pop culture figure, due in part to its haunting portrayal in successful film adaptations, which is replicated in Halloween costumes each year.

Conclusion

Stephen King’s most popular books showcase his longstanding talent for both horror and storytelling. Whether you’re a King fan or a newbie, his bestsellers promise disturbing literary adventures. They have terrified and resonated with hundreds of millions of readers worldwide.

SHOP THE 3 MOST POPULAR STEPHEN KING BOOKS BASED ON THE NUMBERS:

Keep the discussion going! Share your thoughts on these reader favorites in the comments below.

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2 Comments

  1. The Gunslinger isn’t even the best book in the Dark Tower cannon much less top 10 lol. Please, you really shouldn’t do a list of bests based off sales or popularity readings have you even read all these books? I mean there’s others too that I disagree with but I think objectively Gunslinger was the worst call and I think most would agree Drawing of the Three probably even the third book was better. Yeesh. I thought you guys had to do research to post crap like this…. Trolling number lists on book sites isn’t hitting it.

    1. I love the passion of King fans! I think we can all likely select a different “best” list with a catalog as vast as his. For this post, the focus was the most popular (i.e., bestselling) books so that’s why it’s totally based on numbers and data versus a critical analysis of his works. The purpose is to help newer readers or those shopping for a gift pick what’s been most popular with readers generally, which can be a good way for newbies to get into reading the works of a popular author with a lot to choose from.