Every Single Stephen King Novel Ranked By How Likely They Are To Make You Sleep With The Lights On

Whether you're a horror buff or just need a little mystery in your life, Stephen King has it.

Best Stephen King Books Ranked By How Scary They Are unsplash

I am a self-proclaimed horror junkie. And as that junkie, I am embarrassed to say I have not read a single one of Stephen King’s books. (Shame on me!) I assumed the task of ranking his novels from spooky to sinister, would prove to be an easy task — wrong! It wasn’t the length of the list (49 books) that threw me off, it was the variety — one who finds aliens frightening may not have nightmares over psychological thrillers. Therefore, I have ranked the books in genres.


Between research and taking daily breaks to avoid King-like dreams (true story!) This project has become the most kick-butt book report I have ever done.

Psychological Thriller



The Long Walk

A simple premise; think the Slasher of Hunger Games. The deeply dark novel describes physical pain while the characters descend into madness as they struggle to outlive each other. You can feel the words in this book.


A twisted psychopath holds her favorite author hostage, causing him a tortured misery. A tale of passion and obsession — pretty sure it’ll make your spine tingle.

The Dark Half

Stephen King frequently used an alias while writing, which makes this disturbing tale of a pseudonym finding independence and becoming far eviler than its creator intended, that much more of a psychological thriller.


A man resisting change slips into madness we may possibly relate to. Sans monsters; Roadwork is another King novel that taps into primal forces, delivering a terrifying mood.


Lisey’s Story

A dark love story with a promising premise of a widow facing her deceased husband’s demons. Expect heartbreak and chills.

Dolores Claiborne

This book is high on my personal list, not because of its likelihood to scare me, but rather for its ode to strong female characters. This book disregards chapters completely and reads like a monologue as the main character tells the story of her life; murder, motherhood, and disintegration of her marriage.

RELATED: The 12 Best-Selling Books Of 2017 To Read In 2018




Pet Sematary

This is so much more than a tale of zombie pets. Read this creepy novel and scare the crap out of yourself.


A childhood nightmare brought to life by King himself. Twisted isn’t a good enough word — yet, I’ll use it. it’s suspenseful, evil and dark. I believe most of us can relate to the whole, psycho-clown storyline.

Needful Things

How far would you go to get your most desired possession? This story explores those answers in a dark and twisty way. King appears to be brilliant at using our own human flaws against us to create the horror we are craving.

Bag Of Bones

A widowed man faces his horrific dreams in hopes of finding closure; he finds a dark truth instead. A chilling mystery, reasonably high on the spooky scale.


Duma Key

A beautifully written, creepy, tragic tale about an artist creating nefarious paintings. From forced suicide to a serial killer, it’s deep and sinister.


Abducted victims fight for their lives and freedom in the loneliest place on earth — it’s gruesome and graphic, which ranks high on the scary radar.


Mirroring the dark truth of our modern society, an overweight man is cursed and is now quickly losing weight — the fright is found when we see how far he’ll go to remain alive.


Our minds are inescapable, and King knows how to penetrate that. A novel that touches on topics such as abortion and mental illness, it’s been described as weird — and I personally love me some weirdness. Read the Dark Tower series first so you can fangirl over all the connections.



Simply put: a rabid dog, hunting and killing an entire town — it sounds rather silly, but it’s King, and only King could turn an eye-rolling plot into something gruesome and horrific.

RELATED: The 10 Must-Read, Most Popular Fiction Books Of 2017

Supernatural Fiction

The Shining

Arguably Stephen King’s most notable work and for a legitimate reason. On a horror scale of 1 to 10, it’s an over-the-top 10. It’s horrific, it’s thrilling and it’s a kick-butt classic.



We all know the story; bullied teenage girl, psychic abilities and prom night. King’s classic thriller is still scary.

The Dead Zone

With terrifying visions involving an unstable politician, this book from 1980 seems to mirror society today. Odd, weird, and creepy.


A Supernatural car that goes on a killing spree, woven together with threads of high school horror that we can all relate to. Only King could rock that one.

Salem’s Lot

This is on the top of my reading list. Seductive vampires with vintage flare found in the classic vampire stories that make my heart sing — you know, before Edward and Bella.


A little girl develops horrifying forces in a thrilling novel, well written and full of twists, making it not at all as cliché as it sounds.


Cycle of the Werewolf

A King-style werewolf terrorizing a town over the course of a year (a chapter per month). What’s even better? There are pictures in this one.

Doctor Sleep

A sequel to the shining. Psychic abilities reemerge for Danny, now a sobered up alcoholic, and he spends his time comforting the dying. Meeting a young fellow psychic girl, he enters the war of good versus evil. It doesn’t unnerve me, though it does peak up my eerie heart.

From A Buick 8

Another supernatural car that, according to the book sleeve, “is a novel about our fascination with deadly things.” Sounds promising right? Unfortunately, the reviews claim it falls short.



A father-son story in a world of humans-turned-zombie by a global cellular network. Doesn’t necessarily call out ‘scary,' though it is relatable, as our cell phones can turn us rather zombie-like. The darkness of our present is always unsettling.

The Green Mile

An African-American man with healing-type abilities has been wrongly prosecuted for the murder of two white girls, and now awaits the electric chair. This book examines racial issues, and while it might not make you feel afraid, it absolutely will make you feel.

RELATED: 20 Best Young Adult Books To Read In 2018




The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

This book works its suspense using our own primal fear. Stranded alone in the forest, being followed by something unknown. Not horrific but suspenseful indeed.


A little too close to reality, Stephen King halted the publication of this tragic high school tale. If you can get a copy, the alarming relevance will add to the fear.


There’s no monsters nor gore — but this taps into a basic phobia of mine: kidnapping. While the main character is hearing voices, the reader is experiencing empathy in fear.

Mr. Mercedes/Finders Keepers/End Of Watch (Bill Hodges Series)

A crime trilogy of a serial killer taunting a retired cop, wrapping up in an unexpected way. “The truth is darkness, and the only thing that matters is making a statement before one enters the shadow of the void”



A mystery involving a young college girl, carnies, murder and the death of a baby. Compelling, yet most likely won’t prompt you to leave your lights on.

The Colorado Kid

A murder mystery full of dead ends. It may not scare you, however, it will defeat you with all the unknowns.

RELATED: 9 Books That'll Hold Your Attention Til The Last Page-Turning SECOND

Sci-fi & Fantasy

Sleeping Beauties

Women sleeping in a cocoon-like state who, if awakened, transform into something vile and vicious. Titillating and thrilling.

The Running Man


This hair-raising novel takes place in the future yet reads like the present. A reality game show in which the contestants are hunted, the one who remains alive, wins the prize. It begs the question: just how desperate could we become without healthcare?


Written by King after surviving a near-fatal accident, it has vicious aliens, body horror, and suspense. The story of four lifelong friends that become haunted by a childhood decision. The viciousness and dark past make it a harrowing narrative.

The Stand

A post-apocalyptic tale of good vs evil; a man-made disease destroys most of the population, the survivors must now pick a side. Murder and darkness create a story which may turn you cynical.


The Tommyknockers

An odd object transforms people into alien-like beings. King has admitted to writing this while high af. I am not a fan of aliens, however, I am a fan of drug-fueled tales, therefore, I personally cannot wait to read this one.

Rose Madder

Domestic abuse survivor on the run from her from her homicidal husband. With a sci-fi twist, Stephen King declares that he tried too hard. Nonetheless, the plot appears considerably intense.

The Eyes of the Dragon

Good vs evil with a medieval twist, all tied together with magical fantasy. If you’re a fan of The Dark Tower series, you’ll enjoy this one.

Under the Dome

Not nightmarish, but imaginative. The Simpsons even borrowed the promise for their feature film. The story focuses on multiple characters in a town that’s been cut off from the world – by a dome.



Stephen King rewrites the Kennedy assassination using an English teacher and time travel. While not a horrifying story, it is suspenseful and powerful. This has been said to hold some of King’s best writing.


I left these out of the ranks completely, not because I doubt it’s fear factor, more because it is a world all on its own. This is science fiction though it concerns many genres, including western and dark fantasy. The eight book series itself seems fascinating. It is described as an encompassing epic quest with well-imagined characters and multi-dimensional plots.

So, that’s my hair-raising list, and I’m sticking to it (until I read them all). What I’ve learned throughout all of this; Stephen King’s books are never as one would imagine. From graphic gore to twisted thoughts, he keeps his readers fascinated. Pick a book and descend down his rabbit hole. His new novel The Outsider is scheduled to be released this May — I’ll just add it to my reading list now.


RELATED: 11 Best Horror Movies On Netflix

Melissa Kreutz is a student and a stay at home mom. She adores yoga, cold brew, and horror. Find out more on her blog.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.