Stephen King Creates a List of His 10 Favorite Novels

Image by The USO, via Flickr Com­mons

If you’ve ever had to name your ten favorite of any­thing, you know how much trick­i­er such a list is to com­pose than it sounds. Not because you don’t know of ten books, movies, albums, or what have you, of course, but because you don’t know if the favorites that come to mind today would also come to mind tomor­row. Stephen King, a man appar­ent­ly often asked for top-how­ev­er-many lists (see the relat­ed posts below for more exam­ples), acknowl­edges this truth in his approach to the task, as when he drew up this top-ten-favorite-books list for Goodreads:

“Any list like this is slight­ly ridicu­lous,” King admits. “On anoth­er day, ten dif­fer­ent titles might come to mind, like The Exor­cist, or All the Pret­ty Hors­es in place of Blood Merid­i­an. On anoth­er day I’d be sure to include Light in August or Scott Smith’s superb A Sim­ple PlanThe Sea, the Sea, by Iris Mur­doch. But what the hell, I stand by these. Although Antho­ny Powell’s nov­els should prob­a­bly be here, espe­cial­ly the sub­lime­ly titled Casanova’s Chi­nese Restau­rant and Books Do Fur­nish a Room. And Paul Scott’s Raj Quar­tet. And at least six nov­els by Patri­cia High­smith. What about Patrick O’Bri­an? See how hard this is to let go?”

Thus King, as pro­lif­ic in his appre­ci­a­tion of nov­els as he is in his writ­ing of nov­els, expands his num­ber of selec­tions from ten to at least 28. You can actu­al­ly com­pare this list to one he made on anoth­er day by hav­ing a look at anoth­er “all-time favorite book list” of his we fea­tured a few years ago. The com­mon titles between them include Lord of the FliesBlood Merid­i­an, and 1984. (Light in August and the Raj Quar­tet also made it onto the list prop­er.) We might draw from King’s lists the les­son that we should­n’t sweat tasks like this too much: the impor­tant thing isn’t to nail down an unchang­ing per­son­al canon, but to spread the love across the aes­thet­ic and intel­lec­tu­al spec­trum (how many of us would think to name the likes of Roth, Tolkien, Orwell, and Porter all in one place?) and, even more impor­tant than that, to sim­ply keep read­ing.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Stephen King’s Top 10 All-Time Favorite Books

Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writ­ers

Stephen King Cre­ates a List of 96 Books for Aspir­ing Writ­ers to Read

Stephen King Cre­ates a List of 82 Books for Aspir­ing Writ­ers (to Sup­ple­ment an Ear­li­er List of 96 Rec­om­mend Books)

Stephen King’s 22 Favorite Movies: Full of Hor­ror & Sus­pense

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (3)
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  • Sybilla says:

    Nice read(s) but you linked to the wrong ‘Books do fur­nish a room’ ;)

  • Janet Hammond says:

    I read John­ny Got His Gun in the 60s. I start­ed it one evening and did not put it down until I fin­ished it.

    In the 2010s I thought I would re-read it. Same thing hap­pened. A pow­er­ful book that I have nev­er seen on any list.

    Even though it is a book that is very sus­cep­ti­ble to spoil­ers, know­ing the end­ing did not depre­ci­ate it.

  • Jessann Hahner says:

    I am just a lit­tle unnerved by the fact that it lists The Inivis­i­ble Man’s author as Ralph Elli­son, instead of the clas­sic H.G. Wells. H.G. Wells Invis­i­ble Man was a mas­ter­piece.

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