Before 2021, I had never read a single Stephen King novel. The only Stephen King work I had read was “On Writing,” which was required reading in the same college creative writing classes I took which told us if you write genre fiction (like King) you are sellout trash. (I’m paraphrasing of course).
Every October, however, I indulge in a month-long binge of horror movies, and in 2020 I watched all adaptations of Stephen King novels, wondering to myself why I’d never read a single one even though I knew I enjoyed the movies. (This year, notably, I watched the entire Friday the 13th series and did not come close to enjoying them all.) The answer, of course, is that it was hammered into me that commercial fiction like King’s wasn’t worth my time.
Of course that’s a ridiculous notion. Commercial fiction is successful for a reason – people like it! People read it! I dismissed silly things like romance novels as having no literary merit, forgetting the fact that my favorite author of all time – John Updike – wrote some highly pornographic shit. Just because it’s Pulitzer porn doesn’t make it any less porn. King is arguably the most successful commercial author of my lifetime, and for the first time I felt like I was missing out on something, so I decided to spend the year reading as many Stephen King novels as I could – helped by the fact that my public library had pretty much all of them for free.
I read 19 (and a half – I’m nearly halfway through the 3rd book in the Dark Tower Series) Stephen King novels in 2021 – and here are my drawn conclusions:
- My favorite: 11/22/63. It was the most compelling story for me, and I loved watching it all unfold.
- Honorable mentions: The Stand, The Outsider, and The Dead Zone. Yes, I listened to all 47 hours of the newest mega-edition of The Stand.
- My least favorite: Gerald’s Game. I’m glad she survived and all, but fuck that book.
- Dishonorable mentions: Rose Madder and The Long Walk
- Every woman in King’s books has to have perfect boobs because in the real world, women don’t have perfect boobs.
- I bristled at hearing the N word used so often, but it just goes to show how recently that kind of speech wasn’t a big deal in commercial fiction.
I’ve also made a point to discard another indoctrination from my college days – if I don’t enjoy a book, I will no longer power through and finish it. Life is too short to feel read things I don’t like. If I don’t want to keep reading after 100 pages, I don’t.
Outside of Stephen King, I read 55 books and had a goal of only 35. My top 5, in no particular order, were:
- Hollow by Owen Egerton
- 11/22/63 by Stephen King
- The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver
- Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
- House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
- Self Care by Leigh Stein
Here’s my 2021 Goodreads reading challenge, in case you’re curious.
My goal for 2022 is to read 60 books, and hopefully none of them are my own, because I am tired of reading it! And I will keep working my way through Stephen King’s backlist, even if I hate the way he talks about every woman having perfect boobs, because his work still has a great deal of literary merit (not Gerald’s Game, though).