Stephen King named 96 essential books all writers must read

Stephen King is among the most recognisable writers living today, having created a body of work that is revered by fans all over the world. An indispensable part of popular culture, King is considered to be one of the greatest practitioners of horror fiction because his literary investigations have shaped modern horror in more ways than one.


King’s presence within the frameworks of popular culture has also increased due to the numerous 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 prominence, many aspiring writers regularly search for inspiration from King’s novels as well as his online interviews where he shares invaluable advice for young artists. He has often reminded emerging writers to focus on their artistic sensibilities instead of worrying about audience expectations.

One of the major 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 the ones you teach yourself.” To help young writers out, he often curates reading lists containing books that have influenced his own journey.

While writing the afterword to his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King created an essential reading list of 96 books that played a major part in the development of his own style. Talking about the selection, he added: “In some way or other, I suspect each book in the list had an influence on the books I wrote.”

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

King provided a disclaimer: “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. But you could do worse, and a good many of these might show you some new ways of doing your work. Even if they don’t, they’re apt to entertain you. They certainly entertained me.”

Check out the list below.

Stephen King’s essential reading list:

  • Peter Abrahams, A Perfect Crime
  • Peter Abrahams, Lights Out
  • Peter Abrahams, Pressure Drop
  • Peter AbrahamsRevolution #9
  • James Age, A Death in the Family
  • Kirsten Bakis, Lives of the Monster Dogs
  • Pat Barker, Regeneration
  • Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door
  • Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
  • Richard Bausch, In the Night Season
  • Peter Blauner, The Intruder
  • Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
  • T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain
  • Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods
  • Christopher Buckley, Thank You for Smoking
  • Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From
  • Michael Chabon, Werewolves in Their Youth
  • Windsor Chorlton, Latitude Zero
  • Michael Connelly, The Poet
  • Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • KC Constantine, 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 Dead Girls
  • Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors
  • Stanley Elkin, The Dick Gibson Show
  • William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
  • Alex Garland, The Beach
  • Elizabeth George, Deception on His Mind
  • Tess Gerritsen, Gravity
  • William Golding, Lord of the Flies
  • Muriel Gray, Furnace
  • Graham Greene, A Gun for Sale (aka This Gun for Hire)
  • Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana
  • David Halberstam, The Fifties
  • pete hamill, Why Sinatra Matters
  • Thomas Harris, Hannibal
  • Kent Haruf, Plainsong
  • Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow
  • Stephen Hunter, Dirty White Boys
  • David Ignatius, A Firing Office
  • John Irving, A Widow for One Year
  • Graham Joyce, The Tooth Fairy
  • Alan Judd, The Devil’s Own Work
  • Roger Kahn, Good Enough to Dream
  • Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club
  • Jack Ketchum, Right to Life
  • tabitha king, Survivor
  • tabitha king, The Sky in the Water
  • Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
  • Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
  • Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Bernard Lefkowitz, Our Guys
  • Bentley Little, The Ignored
  • Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
  • W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence
  • Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain
  • Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
  • Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
  • Alice McDermott, Charming Billy
  • Jack McDevitt, Ancient Shores
  • Ian McEwan, Enduring Love
  • Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden
  • Larry McMurtry, Dead Man’s Walk
  • Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Zeke and Ned
  • Walter M. Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz
  • Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie
  • Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods
  • Stewart O’Nan, The Speed ​​Queen
  • Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
  • Richard North Patterson, No Safe Place
  • Richard Price, Freedomland
  • Annie Proulx, Close Range: Wyoming Stories
  • Annie Proulx, The Shipping News
  • Anna Quindlen, One True Thing
  • Ruth Rendell, A Sight for Sore Eyes
  • Frank M. Robinson, Waiting
  • J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Richard Russo, Mohawk
  • John Burnham Schwartz, Reservation Road
  • Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
  • Irwin Shaw, The Young Lions
  • Richard Slotkin, The Crater
  • Dinitia Smith, The Illusionist
  • Scott Spencer, Men in Black
  • Wallace Stegner, Joe Hill
  • Donna Tartt, The Secret History
  • Anne Tyler, A Patchwork Planet
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus
  • Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
  • Donald Westlake, The Ax

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