Stephen King is a prolific author with millions of books sold, but what are the top Stephen King best-selling books? This guide explores that question.
Few authors have made an impact on the horror genre in quite the same way as Stephen King. The master of suspense has an estimated 350 million books sold, and he continues to publish best-sellers to add to his list of over 50 titles.
But among King’s books, which are the best? Based on sales figures, which are the top books you should add to your list if you are a fan of this author? This is a breakdown of Stephen King’s best-selling books. If you are looking for one to add to your list, these are worth considering.
- Picking The Best-Selling- Stephen King Books
- 1. The Shining
- 2. Carrie
- 3. Salem’s Lot
- 4. Misery
- 5. Pet Sematary
- 6. The Stand
- 7. IT
- 8. The Gunslinger
- 9. The Green Mile
- 10. Under the Dome
- 11. Lisey’s Story
- 12. The Dead Zone
- 13. Mr. Mercedes
- 14. Cujo
- 15. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
- 16. 11.22.63
- A Final Word on Stephen King Best Selling Books
- FAQs About Stephen King Best Selling Books
- Further Reading
Picking The Best-Selling- Stephen King Books
With almost 75 titles to his name, Stephen King is a prolific modern horror writer. Yet, some of his works truly stand out because of their masterful use of suspense. These books have become so popular that some have been made into major motion pictures. When a movie comes out based on a book, the film often drives increased book sales.
That said, figuring out the total number of books sold for any given title is difficult, and exact sales figures are unavailable. These are some of the top sellers that have become some of his most popular works:
1. The Shining
The Shining launched in 1977, and over its four decades of circulation, it has sold between 500,000 and 700,000 copies to date. In 1980, it became a motion picture of the same name starring Jack Nicholson.
The book follows Jack Torrance as he becomes the off-season caretaker of an old hotel, the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. As Torrance starts to fear something sinister happening in the hotel, he must turn to Danny Torrance, his five-year-old son, for help.
“Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in.”Stephen King
Carrie hit the shelves in 1974, making it his first novel. It follows a teenage outcast, Carrie White, who uses telekinesis to exact her revenge on her high school classmates.
This book also became a movie and remains one of the most shocking and terrifying books in American literature. Carrie may feel tame compared to many modern novels, but that does not negate its impact on the horror and terror genre.
“People don’t get better, they just get smarter. When you get smarter you don’t stop pulling the wings off flies, you just think of better reasons for doing it.”Stephen King
3. Salem’s Lot
Salem’s Lot is King’s second novel. In it, the main character Ben Mears heads to Jerusalem’s Lot to explore a historic old house in a quaint small town. However, he observes the aftermath of a deadly event involving two young boys.
This launches a harrowing tale of something evil in a New England town. The idyllic setting makes for the perfect background for an American horror tale.
“The basis of all human fears, he thought. A closed door, slightly ajar.”Stephen King
When bestselling novelist Paul Sheldon is in a serious car accident, he meets his biggest fan, Annie Wilkes. Wilkes takes care of him as his nurse.
Yet as Misery unfolds, readers find that she is much more than just a healthcare provider. Wilkes has something far more cryptic in mind for the author she adores.
“I am in trouble here. This woman is not right.”Stephen King
5. Pet Sematary
When the Creed family moves into a home in Maine, their life seems perfect. However, there’s something sinister lurking in the woods.
As the family explores their new home, they encounter the graves of the pets of the town’s children. Yet are the animals truly gone? This is the underlying question in Pet Sematary, considered one of his most chilling books.
“And the most terrifying question of all may be just how much horror the human mind can stand and still maintain a wakeful, staring, unrelenting sanity.”Stephen King
6. The Stand
When a mutant strain of the flu wipes out nearly all humanity, the survivors need a leader. Mother Abagail and Randall Flagg struggle to see who will be that leader. One is peaceful, and the other is a violent man.
This leads to an epic clash between good and evil. Though the plot seems different from other Stephen King books, The Stand still embraces the horror and science fiction genre well.
“She couldn’t be on his wavelength all the time. That’s all. When you could recognize that and deal with it, you were on your way to an adult relationship.”Stephen King
A clown living in a sewer and enticing teenagers using a red balloon is the basis of this haunting tale. However, when those teenagers grow up, they are inexplicably drawn to Derry, Maine, the town where it all happened, and the evil that has no name.
Like other Stephen King novels, It keeps the reader guessing about what evil truly is. As the characters return to their hometown, they confront their childhood nightmare and confront Pennywise the clown, a terrifying personification of their childhood nightmares. This book is best read with the lights on.
“Eddie discovered one of his childhood’s great truths. Grownups are the real monsters, he thought.”Stephen King
8. The Gunslinger
The Gunslinger is the story of Roland of Gilead, a man who is both a loner and a hero. In the story, which takes place on a planet that is remarkably like ours, he pursues The Man in Black and meets a colorful cast of characters along the way. The Gunslinger is the first in the Dark Tower Series. Other Dark Tower books include:
- The Drawing of the Three
- The Waste Lands
- Wizard and Glass
- The Wind Through the Keyhole
- Wolves of the Calla
- Song of Susannah
- The Dark Tower
“First comes smiles, then lies. Last is gunfire.-Roland Deschain, of Gilead”Stephen King
9. The Green Mile
The Green Mile takes readers to Cold Mountain Penitentiary, where the men of E Block wait for their turn in the electric chair. It tells of Paul Edgecombe, a correctional officer, and John Coffey, an inmate who may not be guilty of the crime he is charged with.
This book, like most Stephen King stories, has unexpected twists. However, the goal here is to make you think about the character rather than merely shock you with a horror story. Originally published in serial form, it has since been released as a standalone novel.
“Sometimes there is absolutely no difference at all between salvation and damnation.”Stephen King
10. Under the Dome
Under the Dome gained attention when it became a television series in 2013. The book explores what happens when an invisible force field falls on the town of Chester’s Mill, cutting it off from the rest of the world.
This is a work of sci-fi genius. Unlike other King novels, the main evil in Under the Dome is not a person but rather the dome itself.
“If you don’t control your temper, your temper will control you.”Stephen King
11. Lisey’s Story
When her husband, Scott, dies, Lisey Debusher must venture into his private place. While sorting through the reality of her award-winning novelist spouse, she stumbles upon a type of madness that plagued her former love.
Lisey’s Story is not as much of a horror story as it explores what love and affection look like, even from beyond the grave.
“There was a lot they didn’t tell you about death, she had discovered, and one of the biggies was how long it took the ones you loved most to die in your heart.”Stephen King
12. The Dead Zone
Johnny Smith is a lucky young man. He survived a skateboarding accident as a child and another as a young adult, only to find himself in a coma in the town of Castle Rock, Maine, after a car crash.
When he awakens, Johnny finds he can see people’s futures simply by touching their hands. The Dead Zone explores whether this is a gift or a curse and what Johnny can do about it.
“We all do what we can, and it has to be good enough, and if it isn’t good enough, it has to do.”Stephen King
13. Mr. Mercedes
Mr. Mercedes is the first of the Bill Hodges trilogy. In this story, Investigator Hodges finds himself struggling to find the guilty party when a killer plows over some people in a stolen Mercedes.
Through the story, readers learn the identity o the killer and his burning desire to kill again. Only if Hodges can identify him in time can he avoid another tragedy. The sequels, Finders Keepers 1501100122 and End of Watch 1501134132, are also popular books.
“Creepy as hell. You ever see that TV movie about the clown in the sewer?”Stephen King
Once again set in Maine, Cujo is the story of a massive Saint Bernard and Brett Camber, his owner. Sadly in this horror novel, Cujo is the source of violent evil when he gets bitten by a bat and contracts rabies.
As Cujo turns into a monster, neighbours Vic and Donna Trenton fight to keep their marriage together. Several vicious conflicts between these characters and the dog unfold as the story reaches a violent climax.
“The world was full of monsters, and they were all allowed to bite the innocent and the unwary”Stephen King
15. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
The Shawshank Redemption is a major motion picture based on King’s novella entitled “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.” The novella originally appeared in one of King’s short story collections called Different Seasons.
In the story, Andy Dufresne faces accusations of the double murder of his wife and her lover. The story unfolds his attempts to break free, eventually bringing a friend with him. This story breaks out of the horror book mold and offers something unique from the writer.
“It always comes down to just two choices. Get busy living, or get busy dying.”Stephen King
11.22.63 is a popular modern Stephen King book. It recounts the tale of Jape Epping who travels back in time to stop one of the defining events of the 20th century: the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The book is a good example of popular speculative fiction by King. It was turned into a television mini series in 2016.
Finally, Firestarter rounds out the list of books that King fans adore. This book follows Vicky Tomlinson and Andy McGee, two former college students who were test subjects in a secret government test program. When the two get married later, they give birth to a daughter, Charlie, who has an interesting and uncontrollable power.
The story follows Charlie as the government agents who tested her parents and seek to harness the power she has for themselves. It comes to an explosive end that many readers appreciate.
“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.”Stephen King
A Final Word on Stephen King Best Selling Books
So what are the best Stephen King books? The answer depends on where you look. Accurate sales figures are hard to calculate, but the books that sell the best are often the ones adapted into movies or shows.
King’s genius as an author remains in his ability to tell intense horror stories that keep the reader guessing from the first page. Through short stories like Shawshank Redemption, he also shows he can think outside the box.
If you are looking for an engaging read and want to be kept on your toes throughout the story, pick up a Stephen King book. However, know that you may be a little scared and jumpy after reading it, so consider something different for your before-bed reading.
FAQs About Stephen King Best Selling Books
What is Stephen King’s Best Selling Novel?
According to The Manual, The Shining is the best-selling Stephen King book. If you’ve already read it, consider the sequel, Doctor Sleep, which looks at what happened to Danny.
How many best-selling books does Stephen King have?
Stephen King has had over 30 books that landed on the New York Times best-sellers list.
Are old Stephen King books worth anything?
What Stephen King books are worth money?
The most valuable Stephen King books are usually signed and either limited or first editions. Amongst the most valuable are a signed first edition of Carrie and a signed first edition of The Stand.
In what order should I read Stephen King books?
The Shining is Stephen King’s top-selling book, and it is also his top-rated book on Goodreads. Therefore, it is a strong contender for the Stephen King book you should read first. The Shining was first published in 1977, with its sequel, Dr Sleep, published in 2013.
What Stephen King books take place in Maine?
Stephen King has written 11 books set in Maine. They include Carrie, Pet Cemetery and Salem’s Lot. King’s hometown is Bangor in, Maine.
Are Stephen King books based on a true story?
Although most of Stephen King’s books are fiction, the author takes inspiration from his life. For instance, there are reports that Carrie was inspired by two girls King went to school with. It has also been reported that the Shining was born out of King’s reaction to The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.
What books does Stephen King recommend on Writing?
Stephen King recommends 96 books in On Writing. A complete list of the titles is available here. Before recommending these books, King gives the reader the following preamble: “As you scan this list, please remember that I’m not Oprah and this isn’t my book club. These are the ones that worked for me, that’s all”.
Are Stephen King books ok for 12-year-olds?
Stephen King is renowned for writing books about dark themes, with most of his books falling into the horror genre. In fact, it has been reported that he wrote The Eyes of The Dragon in response to his daughter Naoimi arguing that it would be good if you could write something for children like me”.
Are Stephen King’s books scary?
King is renowned for writing some of the most iconic horror novels ever. CBR ranked It as his scariest novel ever, with Salem’s Lot second.
What Stephen King books have been turned into movies?
Over 50 stories by Stephen King have been turned into movies. However, despite the prolific nature of moviemakers adapting King’s works, only one of his movies has won an Oscar. That was Misery, where Kathy Bates won the gong for her performance in the adaptation.
Which Stephen King books are not horror?
Stephen King’s most famous non-horror book is Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. This novella became even more popular after the 1994 movie The Shawshank Redemption. The film, which starred Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins was nominated for seven Oscars.
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