10 Extremely Scary Stephen King Books (That You Might Not Have Read Yet)

by Sarah Aswell
Sep 18, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. ET

Living legend Stephen King has published over 60 books during his 50-year career — and most of them are scary as hell. But while you’ve heard of many of the ultimate horror author’s tales (most have been made into movies and television shows) and probably read a big pile as well, there are a good number that have flown under the radar over the years. Sure, we all know stories like ItCarriePet Sematary and Misery, but there are literally dozens more — and some of them are totally awesome. 

After you enjoy It at the movie theater this month or rent The Dark Tower, here are some slightly-less-than-classic King tales that are just as good to read with all the lights on. 

1 /11: 'Firestarter'

1/11 :'Firestarter'

It’s a real shame that some people mistake Firestarter as a poor man’s Carrie when, really, all they have in common is a female protagonist with a special power. Published in 1980, during the initial upward swing of King’s fame, Firestarter follows a father-daughter pair as they run from The Shop, a secret government agency that accidentally gave them special powers during an experiment. Andy has a mind-domination power he calls “The Push,” while his daughter Charlie can (you guessed it) start fires. The book is fast-moving and fun, and we love how it centers on a great father-daughter relationship. 

Or try the movie: One of the reasons why Firestarter is overlooked is that the 1984 movie adaptation, starring a young Drew Barrymore as Charlie, is pretty bad and boring. You’ve got to trust us when we say the book is much, much better. 

2 /11: 'Different Seasons'

2/11 :'Different Seasons'

You may not have heard of Different Seasons, a collection of four Stephen King novellas, but you’ve certainly heard of some of the novellas themselves: The Body was turned into the 1986 movie Stand by Me, and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption was turned into Shawshank Redemption. These four stories, originally published in 1982, seem to lack the horror of King’s other tales at first, but each has a subtle creepiness that we love. Some of the tales are better than others (The Breathing Method is a bit slow), but overall, it’s one of our all-time King favorites. 

Or try the movie: Three out of four of these tales have been made into films: Stand by MeShawshank Redemption, and Apt Pupil. The first two are true film classics (Shawshank was nominated for a Best Film Oscar), but 1998’s Apt Pupil, starring Ian McKellen as a Nazi war criminal hiding out in a quiet suburb, isn’t really worth the watch. 

3 /11: 'The Eyes of the Dragon'

3/11 :'The Eyes of the Dragon'

This 1984 book probably isn’t very well known for two reasons. First, King mixes horror with fantasy, and second, it’s never been adapted to the screen. But this medieval epic tale is not only one of the best stories that King has ever dreamed up, it’s also one of his biggest page-turners. You will stay up all night reading this book, which is a classic story of good versus evil. It also has one of the best escape sequences we’ve ever read. 

Or try the movie: We simply cannot believe that this story has not been made into a movie or miniseries. Although it’s been optioned twice, once in the early 2000s for a $45 million animated film and once for a SyFy television series in 2012, neither panned out. Come on, Hollywood. 

4 /11: 'Dolores Claiborne'

4/11 :'Dolores Claiborne'

A good number of people have heard of Dolores Claiborne because of the Kathy Bates movie adaptation of the same name, but we really don’t think the book gets the credit that it deserves as one of King’s very best novels. The story centers on a woman who lives on a small island in Maine, taking care of a wealthy elderly woman. When the old woman dies under unclear circumstances, Claiborne confesses that she’s murdered someone — it’s just not who the police think it is. 

Or try the movie: You might have heard of this book because of the success of the 1995 film. Starring Bates as Dolores and Jennifer Jason Leigh as her daughter, Selena, we think the movie does a pretty good job of capturing the book, though the novel is still better by far. 

5 /11: 'The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon'

5/11 :'The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon'

When you think of Stephen King books, you might think of huge telephone-book tomes that tip the scales at more than 1,000 pages (looking at you, The Stand). But The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a slim 200-page psychological thriller that you can read in the span of a plane ride. The 1999 novel follows a young girl named Trisha on a harrowing journey after she becomes lost in the woods. As Trisha struggles to get back to her family, she either starts to hallucinate or have supernatural experiences — it’s hard to say. The novel is surprisingly warm and very, very quickly paced. 

Or try the movie: This is another King title that isn’t as well known simply because it’s never hit the silver screen. Although the book was optioned by George A. Romero a few years after it was published, a movie never materialized. 

6 /11: 'From a Buick 8'

6/11 :'From a Buick 8'

In 2002, King published From a Buick 8, and everyone collectively groaned. Was he really publishing another novel about a possessed car after 1984’s Christine? Maybe this is why the book never quite took off and was lost in the larger flood of King’s horror novels. But in truth, From a Buick 8 is not only significantly different from Christine, it's also significantly better. The tale follows a strange car (or something that looks like a car) that is a strange portal into another world. Through a series of connected stories, the history of the car is revealed, and it is a great ride. 

Or try the movie: Just like The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, the rights to From a Buick 8 were bought by a production company and was supposed to have been directed by George Romero. But the movie never came together — yet another reason people haven’t heard of a book that should be a King classic. 

7 /11: 'Cell'

7/11 :'Cell'

King made it a whole lot of decades before he sat down and wrote a novel about zombies. In 2006, he published Cell, an apocalyptic zombie tale about a strange happening that causes anyone who owns a cell phone to go mad. The book is a gripping page-turner that also covers some interesting ground related to technology and society. The book got good reviews, but for some reason, it never gained as much traction as some of King’s more popular works. 

Or try the movie: Cell was made into a movie starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson in 2016, although it did not see wide release in theaters. The reason? It is really, really, really bad. Even though King helped with the screenplay, the movie was almost unanimously panned by critics and moviegoers, which might be part of the reason that not many people have picked up the book. 

8 /11: 'Lisey's Story'

8/11 :'Lisey's Story'

This is Stephen King’s favorite novel, and yet it gets very little attention compared with the rest of his canon. This is more of a psychological horror story (and a love story) about what happens when a famous writer dies, leaving his wife to uncover his dark inner life. King says it’s his favorite pick because it centers on love and marriage — and we love that about it, too. 

Or try the movie: This one has never been made into a movie (which might be why you’ve never heard of it), but King has said he’d love if someone made it into a television series. 

9 /11: '11/22/63'

9/11 :'11/22/63'

This is an epic tale of a man who discovers a strange portal back to 1963 — and decides to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While it has some big aspects of horror, this book is a bit of a departure for King and a gripping, moving story that has everything from suspense to love. It’s also a book that people who don’t normally like King novels will still have a great time reading. 

Or try the mini-series: The book was adapted into an eight-part miniseries on Hulu, produced by J.J. Abrams and James Franco (and starring James Franco as Jake Epping). The series got great reviews and is a great watch, but we still like the book better. 

10 /11: 'Sleeping Beauties'

10/11 :'Sleeping Beauties'

Due to be published at the end of September, Sleeping Beauties is already getting rave reviews from critics. The book, which King wrote with his son, Owen King, takes place in a town containing a women’s prison in West Virginia during the “Aurora Epidemic,” which causes all the women in the world to fall asleep — except one. The book follows several characters and plots, which we are guessing weave together deliciously. 

Or try the movie: The book hasn’t even officially been published yet, but the movie/television rights have already been bought, so look for it (hopefully) in a few years. 

11/11 :Pin it!

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