Stephen King named 96 essential books all writers must read

Stephen King is one of the most recognizable writers alive today, having created a body of work revered by fans around the world. An indispensable part of popular culture, King is considered one of the foremost practitioners of horror fiction, as his literary research has shaped modern horror in more ways than one.

King’s presence in popular culture frames has also grown due to the many adaptations of his stories. While acclaimed filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick and Brian De Palma have worked on King’s material in the past, streaming platforms like Netflix are also currently working on new adaptations.

Due to his notoriety, many aspiring writers regularly seek inspiration from King’s novels as well as his online interviews where he shares valuable advice for young artists. He often reminded emerging writers to focus on their artistic sensibilities instead of worrying about audience expectations.

One of the main activities that King always advocates is reading. He once said, “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are those you learn yourself. To help young writers, he often curates reading lists of books that have influenced his own journey.

Writing the afterword to his book On Writing: A Memoir of Craftsmanship, King created an essential reading list of 96 books that played a major role in the development of his own style. Speaking of the selection, he added, “In one way or another, I suspect every book on the list had an influence on the books I’ve written.”

This eclectic list contains a wide range of writers, including William Faulkner, Charles Dickens, JK Rowling and Raymond Carver among many others. This is certainly a solid collection of novels and should be a good start for anyone looking for an interesting summer reading list.

King provided a disclaimer: “As you go through this list, remember that I am not Oprah and this is not my book club. These are the ones that worked for me, this is everything. But you could do worse, and many of them could show you new ways to do your job. Even if they don’t, they’re likely to entertain you. They certainly entertained me.”

Check out the list below.

Stephen King Essential Reading List:

  • Peter Abrahams, A perfect crime
  • Peter Abrahams, Curfew
  • Peter Abrahams, The pressure drop
  • Peter AbrahamsRevolution #9
  • James Agee, A death in the family
  • Kirsten Bakis, The life of monster dogs
  • Pat Barker, Regeneration
  • Pat Barker, The eye in the door
  • Pat Barker, The ghost road
  • Richard Bausch, In the night season
  • Pierre Blauner, the intruder
  • Paul Bowles, The sheltered sky
  • T. Coraghessan Boyle, The tortilla curtain
  • Bill Bryson, A walk in the woods
  • Christopher Buckley, Thanks for smoking
  • Raymond Carver, where i call from
  • Michael Chabon, Werewolves in their youth
  • Windsor Chorlton, zero latitude
  • Michael Connelly, The poet
  • Joseph Conrad, heart of darkness
  • KC Constantin, Family values
  • Don DeLillo, underworld
  • Nelson DeMille, cathedral
  • Nelson DeMille, The gold Coast
  • Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
  • Stephen Dobyns, common carnage
  • Stephen Dobyns, The Church of the Dead Maidens
  • Roddy Doyle, The woman who entered the doors
  • Stanley Elkin, The Dick Gibson Show
  • William Faulkner, As I died
  • Alex Garland, The beach
  • Elizabeth George, Deception in his mind
  • Tess Gerritsen, Gravity
  • William Golding, lord of the flies
  • Muriel Grey, furnace
  • Graham Green, A gun for sale (a.k.a This gun for hire)
  • Graham Green, Our man in Havana
  • David Halberstam, The 50s
  • Pete Hamil, Why Sinatra Matters
  • Thomas Harris, Hannibal
  • Kent Harouf, Plainsong
  • Pierre Hoeg, Smilla’s Meaning of Snow
  • Stephane Hunter, dirty white boys
  • David Ignatius, A shooting infraction
  • John Irving, A widow for a year
  • Graham Joyce, The little smile
  • Alan Judd, The Devil’s Own Work
  • Roger Kahn, good enough to dream
  • Mary Karr, The Liars Club
  • Jack Ketchum, Right to life
  • Tabita King, Survivor
  • Tabita King, The sky in the water
  • Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
  • Jon Krakauer, In the air
  • Harper Lee, Kill a mockingbird
  • Bernard Lefkowitz, Our guys
  • Bentley Little, the ignored
  • Norman Maclean, A river flows there and other stories
  • W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence
  • Cormac McCarthy, Plain towns
  • Cormac McCarthy, The passage
  • Frank McCourt, Angela’s ashes
  • Alice McDermott, Billy Charming
  • Jack McDevitt, ancient shores
  • Ian McEwan, lasting love
  • Ian McEwan, The cement garden
  • Larry McMurtry, walk of the dead
  • Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana Zeke and Ned
  • Walter M. Miller, A hymn for Leibowitz
  • Joyce Carol Oates Zombie
  • Tim O’Brien, In the lake of the woods
  • Stewart O’Nan, The queen of speed
  • Michel Ondaatje, The English Patient
  • Richard North Patterson, No safe place
  • Richard Price, freedomland
  • Annie Proulx, Close Range: Stories from Wyoming
  • Annie Proulx, Expedition news
  • Anna Quindlen, A true thing
  • Ruth Rendel, A pleasure for the eyes
  • Frank M. Robinson, Expect
  • JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • JK RowlingHarry Potter at the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Richard Russo, Mohawk
  • John Burnham Schwartz, Reservation route
  • Vikram Seth, A decent boy
  • Irwin Shaw, Young Lions
  • Richard Slotkin, The crater
  • Dini Smith, the illusionist
  • Scott Spencer, men in black
  • Wallace Stegner, Joe Hill
  • Donna Tartt, The secret story
  • Anne Tyler, A patchwork planet
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus
  • Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead revisited
  • Donald Westlake, The axe

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