Stephen King's 10 favorite books

Stephen King is a Maine native and the prolific author of modern horror classics. The crafter of "Carrie" and "The Shining" contributed this list of his 10 favorite books to J. Peder Zane's compilation 'The Top Ten: Writer's Pick Their Favorite Books.' King's choices reflect that the notion that terrifying fiction lies not in the invention of otherworldly creatures, but in the examination of what is monstrous in human nature. 

1.‘The Golden Argosy,’ edited by Van H. Cartmell and Charles Grayson

'The Golden Argosy' is a compilation of the best short stories in Western literature. Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, Alduous Huxley, and O. Henry are among the beloved writers included in the anthology.

‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’ by Mark Twain

Through faking his own death, young Huckleberry Finn narrowly avoids being swindled by his father or civilized by his town. However, the journey has just begun for Huck as he floats downriver with Jim, a runaway slave. Twain’s novel is not merely a romanticized ride down the Mississippi River, but rather a powerful punch to the human conscience. By exposing ugliness in the antebellum South, the novel criticizes human brutality and moral ignorance. 

'The Satanic Verses,’ by Salman Rushdie

The novel that infamously earned Rushdie both a Whitbread Award and a fatwa is primarily allegorical.  The literal plot is interrupted by dream sequences that toy with Islamic history and identity. The book itself is a comment on immigrant identity, as both of its central characters are Indian expatriates. The two men fall from the sky and land in England after their plane is blown up in a terrorist attack. One becomes a prototypical angel, the other a demon – but even these paradigms aren’t safe from the tinkering of Rushdie’s pen. 

‘McTeague,’ by Frank Norris

In Norris’s grim portrait of human avarice, a decidedly unintelligent dentist loses his practice and descends into poverty.  Although the fortunes of the cast of San Franciscan characters fluctuate throughout the book, their greed is constant. Jealousy or miserliness leads them to – literally – fight over the last drop of water in the desert. 

‘Lord of the Flies,’ by William Golding

In his introduction to the centenary edition of Golding’s novel, Stephen King writes, “It was, so far as I can remember, the first book with hands – strong ones that reached out of the pages and seized me by the throat. It said to me, ‘This is not just entertainment; it’s life-or-death.’ ” In the aftermath of a plane crash, a group of British boys become a microcosm of all that is good and bad in society. Some, like Ralph, rely on utilitarian rules to promote order. Others align with Jack to rely on savagery for survival – with tragic consequences. 

‘Bleak House,’ by Charles Dickens

Like Dickens’ other beloved novels, ‘Bleak House’ revolves around a virtuous child protagonist – Esther.  Esther has never known her parents, and is taken in as a ward to Mr. John Jarndyce. The Jarndyce family is involved in a bitter inheritance dispute, and Dickens uses the proceedings of the suit to skewer the British litigation system.

‘1984,’ by George Orwell

Written in 1948, Orwell’s novel is an eerie portrait of a dystopia ruled by totalitarianism and technology.  Winston works in the government archives of the super-state Oceania, erasing and rewriting history to suit the government’s current agenda. Winston disagrees with the way “Big Brother” infiltrates all aspects of society, but he takes precautions so that his insubordination is indiscoverable by the “thought police.” Orwell’s novel is as timely now as it was when it was written. 

‘The Raj Quartet,’ by Paul Scott

Taken together, Scott’s quartet of novels presents an in-depth portrait of India around the time that the country achieved independence. Historical details are intertwined with stories spinning off from the forbidden affair between an English girl, Daphne, and an Indian boy, Hari. 

‘Light in August,’ by William Faulkner

Faulkner is known for the complexity of his writing style, and this novel is no exception, although it is somewhat less experimental than other Faulkner works.  The story begins with a young woman’s search for her baby’s father, leading her through a brilliantly constructed Southern landscape and across the pathways of a cast of unforgettable characters.  The protagonist of the tale, an outsider questioning his racial background, is both a tormented soul and a moral compass in the novel. 

‘Blood Meridian,’ by Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy’s ghastly novel is based on the existence of The Glanton Gang, a band of 19th-century bounty hunters in the American Southwest. Their “bounty” was the scalps of Apache natives and – when supply ran low – the scalp of anyone that crossed their path. The saga follows a boy known only as the Kid, but the character that ultimately dominates "Blood Meridan" is the gang’s leader – Judge Holden, the epitome of evil. McCarthy’s novel is a disturbingly terrific work of literature.