Long been revered as a pioneer and leader of the horror genre of fiction novels, Stephen King has quite a few novels to sift through. Some are certainly scarier than others, even if the level of fear inspired by a book is a subjective matter. I’m a giant Stephen King fan myself, and I can say that he has several novels that stand out for how terrifying they truly are.

The Shining

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There’s nothing quite as scary as a man’s descent into madness (and the people in his life having to pay for it), as we get to read about in great detail in The Shining. Even upon multiple rereads, the novel still fills you with dread and suspense. The eerie setting of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado only cements the fear you’ll feel reading this work of King’s. The Shining is a masterpiece of presenting isolation as horror in itself before you even reach the more fantastical elements in the novel, and I probably won’t ever forget many of the harrowing scenes.


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Tone will carry a novel pretty far, and this is especially true with horror. King’s Revival gives the reader a sense of bone-chilling hopelessness all the way to the end. While the mix of mundane and grand elements juxtapose themselves in Revival, the real horror lies in how far our lives can veer off-course (as well as how they may end). It also tackles consequences that sometimes can’t be undone. There’s real horror in knowing you’ve caused damage (especially to those close to you) that can never be repaired.

Pet Sematary

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Not all horror has to be jump scares and creepy monsters lurking around corners. Sometimes it’s depressing stories and twists of fate that can scare us the most. Pet Sematary does just that, making the characters regret their actions in a way that hits close to home for many of us. The central theme of Pet Sematary is that death comes for us all, and you can’t cheat your way out of it (at least without encountering gruesome consequences). What’s scarier than that?

The Stand

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Let’s get the obvious out of the way on this one — The Stand is a very long novel. This may ward off some readers from ever checking it out, but that’s one of the things that makes it so scary. When the world’s population is being rapidly decimated, the survivors try to rebuild, and evil comes to challenge the world, you feel like you are right there with the characters. Immersion is a powerful tool in horror, and The Stand is one of King’s best novels in this aspect. You feel like you’re genuinely in the world with them, which raises the already high stakes that much higher.


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Even if you aren’t afraid of dogs, Cujo has a way of getting under your skin. You nearly feel suffocated in many instances while characters hide from the terrorizing dog on their heels. Not only does the tense atmosphere keep you on your toes, but you’ll also be constantly reminded that Cujo is one of Stephen King’s least far-fetched stories. Nothing supernatural happens throughout Cujo, meaning you can place yourself in the character’s shoes much more easily.

The Library Policeman

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The idea of there being a shadowy group of policemen who work for libraries to terrorize those who mishandle books may sound like a goofy concept at first glance. But The Library Policeman (part of the collection of short stories called Four Past Midnight) will prove you very, very wrong in that assumption. I won’t give too much of the story away but know that the deeper horror of this novella comes from what lies at the root of our more outlandish fears. Just note that there is a heavy scene involving child abuse if you find that sort of content too disturbing to read.

Salem’s Lot

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While vampires are often used at the center of paranormal stories, it’s rare to find them as the true antagonists in a full-out horror novel. Not only does Salem’s Lot successfully reawaken my fear of the dark, but it also leaves me with a sense of unease that I can’t shake no matter how hard I try. And that’s before all of the violence and gore of the novel is factored in. More than anything, Salem’s Lot will make you reconsider who you really trust in your community when the sun goes down.

The Jaunt

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The Jaunt is technically not one of Stephen King’s novels, but rather a short story he published for The Twilight Zone Magazine in 1981 (also featured in the short story collection Skeleton Crew). Still, The Jaunt is so scary that it has to be included. At the heart of the story is the petrifying process of teleportation travel called “jaunting” that exists in the universe’s distant future. The scariest part of The Jaunt is not what we read about but rather the unknown and what it may do to the human mind and soul.


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A story about obsession and control, Misery is a psychological horror more than anything. It’s another one of Stephen King’s works that stays surprisingly grounded and makes for a dreadfully amazing experience. Whether you fear the limits of your own infatuations or you’re deathly afraid of confinement and loss of power, Misery has something on either end to make you lose sleep. Even with very little violence within the pages, Misery still captures the true scares that come with torture and psychological manipulation.


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Have you ever lost some sleep before? What if it never came again and even made you begin to question reality? That’s what King’s Insomnia explores with protagonist Ralph Roberts. There is something about the lack of sleep from Ralph that you can just feel as a reader. You begin to feel equally disoriented and terrified as Insomnia descends further and further into madness. While the second half of the story becomes a bit less frightening and more sci-fi-oriented, I found myself unable to shake the horror that comes with a break from reality.

By mrtrv