It is well documented here on Off the Shelf that I am a Stephen King fanatic. Exhibit A, B, and C. I will read anything he writes—and anything he recommends. And he recommends a lot! Just as he is a prolific writer, so too is he a voracious reader. His reading tastes are varied, from mystery to graphic novels to literary fiction to memoir. When he loves a book, he isn’t shy about telling the world and using his influence to help spread the word about great writers. Here are 14 amazing books from Stephen King’s reading list to dive into.
“The best book I’ve read so far this year is WE ARE NOT OURSELVES, by Matthew Thomas. An old-fashioned page turner. Deep emotional resonance. . . . Hope he’s writing a new one.”
Born to Irish immigrant parents in 1941 Queens, Eileen Tumulty always wished of living in upper-class Bronxville and having a better life. She marries and begins a family with Ed Leary, a handsome young scientist, and pushes him to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house. But when an inescapable darkness enters their lives, Eileen and Ed and their son must try desperately to preserve, against long odds, the dream they have cherished of the future.
The promise and tragedy of post-war America is charted in this riveting portrait of an Irish-American family as they chase the American Dream. It is at once expansive and exquisitely detailed, but what readers will remember most is the huge heart at its core. It heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction and is destined to be an American classic.
“The best graphic novel I’ve ever read.”
In this engrossing, socially relevant, and humorous graphic novel, Yorick Brown is the only human survivor of a worldwide plague that instantaneously killed every mammal with a Y chromosome. Accompanied by a mysterious government agent, a brilliant young geneticist, and his pet monkey, Ampersand, Yorick travels the world in search of his lost love and the answer to why he’s the last man on earth.
“Most literary fiction doesn’t last very long. This is going to be around. It’s the real deal. Jarring, horrible, compassionate, funny. BTW, Kushner reads the audio, and knocks it out of the park.”
Romy Hall is about to start two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in California’s central valley. She must adjust from her old life with her young son to her new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living.
FEATURING ORIGINAL MUSIC BY SONIC YOUTH’S KIM GORDON!
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • TIME’S NUMBER ONE FICTION TITLE OF THE YEAR • NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018
FINALIST for the MAN BOOKER PRIZE and LONGLISTED for the ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL
“Gritty, empathetic, finely rendered, no sugary toppings, and a lot of punches, none of them pulled.” —Margaret Atwood via Twitter
“A page turner…one of those books that enrage you even as they break your heart.” —The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
“Brilliant and devastating…a heartbreaking, true, and nearly flawless novel.” —NPR
“With her richly textured third novel, Kushner certifies her place as one of the great American novelists of the twenty-first century.” —Entertainment Weekly
From twice National Book Award–nominated Rachel Kushner, whose Flamethrowers was called “the best, most brazen, most interesting book of the year” (Kathryn Schulz, New York magazine), comes a spectacularly compelling, heart-stopping novel about a life gone off the rails in contemporary America.
It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.
Stunning and unsentimental, The Mars Room demonstrates new levels of mastery and depth in Kushner’s work. It is audacious and tragic, propulsive and yet beautifully refined. As James Wood said in The New Yorker, her fiction “succeeds because it is so full of vibrantly different stories and histories, all of them particular, all of them brilliantly alive.”
“Every aspect of Ruth Rendell’s dark art is splendidly showcased in Dark Corners. One can’t say she saved the best for last, because a great many books by Ms. Rendell and her alter ego Barbara Vine are so splendid, but it’s among the best. You won’t put it down. I loved it.”
In need of cash after his father’s death, Carl Martin rents his upstairs room to the first person he interviews, Dermot McKinnon. Then Carl sells some of his father’s stash of controversial diet pills to a friend, who is soon found dead. Dermot begins to blackmail Carl, whose life begins a downward spiral into a dark place of desperation—and murder.
“A spectacularly creepy and macabre tale” (Entertainment Weekly) of blackmail, murders both accidental and opportunistic, and of one life’s fateful unraveling—from Ruth Rendell, “one of the most remarkable novelists of her generation” (People), writing at her most mesmerizing. Rendell completed Dark Corners shortly before her death in 2015.
When his father dies, Carl Martin inherits a house in an increasingly rich and trendy London neighborhood. Cash poor, Carl rents the upstairs room and kitchen to the first person he interviews, Dermot McKinnon. That is mistake number one. Mistake number two is keeping the bizarre collection of homeopathic and alternative “cures” that his father left in the medicine cabinet, including a stash of controversial diet pills. Mistake number three is selling fifty of those diet pills to a friend, who is then found dead.
Dermot seizes a nefarious opportunity and begins to blackmail Carl, refusing to pay rent, and creepily invading Carl’s space. Ingeniously weaving together two storylines that finally merge in a shocking turn, Ruth Rendell describes one man’s spiral into darkness—and murder—as he falls victim to a diabolical foe he cannot escape.
This is brilliant psychological suspense that gets under your skin. As Stephen King says, “No one surpasses Ruth Rendell when it comes to stories of obsession, instability, and malignant coincidence.” Dark Corners, her last book, “ranks among her best” (The Washington Post).
“The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best.”
In this tale that is LORD OF THE FLIES meets 28 DAYS LATER, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads his troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for their annual weekend camping trip. But when a stranger—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—stumbles into their camp carrying a deadly bioengineered nightmare, the trip becomes a desperate struggle to survive the disease, the elements . . . and one another.
Every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip. But when an unexpected intruder stumbles upon their campsite, Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror: the human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare.
“A brilliant blending of crime, mystery, and American history (Atlanta, just after WWII). Terrific entertainment.”
In 1940s Atlanta, the police department is forced to hire its first black officers, including war veterans Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, who are met with deep hostility. When a woman turns up dead, Boggs and Smith suspect white cops are behind it. Among shady moonshiners, duplicitous madams, crooked lawmen, and the constant restrictions of Jim Crow, Boggs and Smith will risk their new jobs, and their lives, to get to the truth.
“A revelation . . . This is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on autoload.”
Ben, Chon, and O are twentysomething best friends who have made a small fortune producing premium-grade marijuana, a product so potent that the Mexican Baja Cartel demands a cut. When Ben and Chon refuse, the cartel kidnaps O, igniting a dizzying array of high-octane negotiations and stunning plot twists as they risk everything to free her.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Cartel, The Force, and The Border
A New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Chicago Sun-Times Favorite Book of the Year
“A revelation…This is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on autoload.” —Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
“Startling…Stylish…Mega-cool.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Ben, Chon, and O are twentysomething best friends living the dream in Southern California. Together they have made a small fortune producing premium grade marijuana, a product so potent that the Mexican Baja Cartel demands a cut. When Ben and Chon refuse to back down, the cartel kidnaps O, igniting a dizzying array of high-octane negotiations and stunning plot twists as they risk everything to free her. The result is a provocative, sexy, and darkly engrossing thrill ride, an ultracontemporary love story that will leave you breathless.
“A spellbinding tour de force that is utterly impossible to put down.” —Christopher Reich
“This is the story of love’s costs—and the acceptance of whatever that cost entails.” —Randy Michael Signor, Chicago Sun-Times
“A wickedly funny and smart novel.” —Janet Evanovich
“Winslow’s marvelous, adrenaline-juiced roller coaster of a novel…is both a departure and a culmination, pyrotechnic braggadocio and deep meditation on contemporary American culture.” —Sarah Weinman, Los Angeles Times
“A brilliant fusion of fact and fiction, Jayne Anne Phillips has written the novel of the year.”
In 1931 Chicago, a desperate widow named Asta Eicher begins receiving letters from a chivalrous, elegant man named Harry Powers, who offers to marry her and care for her three children. Weeks later, Asta and all of her children are dead. Emily Thornhill, one of the few women journalists in Chicago, is determined to figure out what happened, and with the help of a charming and unconventional photographer, sets out to make sure Powers is brought to justice.
A female journalist in 1930s Chicago investigates the sudden deaths of a woman and her three children. Is the charming man who promised to marry her and provide for her and her children involved? Based on the crimes of a real con man, Phillips crafts a mesmerizing and moving hunt for justice.
“Abigail Thomas is the Emily Dickinson of memoirists, and so much of this book’s wisdom is between the lines and in the white spaces. It may only take you two days to read, but the impact will stay with you for a long, long time. Abigail Thomas fills memory with living breath.”
In this moving memoir about friendship, family, creativity, tragedy, and the richness of life, Abigail Thomas grapples with questions like: What comes after the death of a spouse? What form does a lifelong friendship take after deepest betrayal? How does a mother cope with her child’s dire illness? Or the death of a cherished dog? And how does one accept, appreciate, and find solace and joy in the midst of the tragedies of life?
The New York Times bestseller from the beloved author of A Three Dog Life—an exhilarating, superbly written memoir on friendship, family, creativity, tragedy, and the richness of life: “If you only read one book this year, make it this one” (Ann Patchett).
In her bestselling memoir A Three Dog Life, Abigail Thomas wrote about the devastating loss of her husband. In What Comes Next and How to Like It, “a keenly observed memoir…Thomas writes of the changes aging brings us all and of coping through love: of family, dogs, a well-turned phrase. She is superb company” (People).
Thomas was startled to overhear herself described as “a nice old lady with a tattoo,” because she thinks of herself as not nice, not old, nor a lady. But she has wondered: what comes next? What comes after the death of a spouse? What form does a lifelong friendship take after deepest betrayal? How does a mother cope with her child’s dire illness? Or the death of a cherished dog?
And how to like it? How to accept, appreciate, enjoy? How to find solace and pleasure? How to sustain and be sustained by our most trusted, valuable companions? At its heart, What Comes Next and How to Like It is about the complicated friendship between Thomas and a man she met thirty-five years ago—a rich bond that has lasted through marriages, child-raising, and the vicissitudes and tragedies of life. “After all,” she writes, “there are those people we love, and then there are those we recognize. These are the unbreakable connections.”
Exquisitely observed, lush with sentences you will read over and over again, What Comes Next and How to Like It “is a beautifully felt, deeply moving memoir, the best work yet by a woman who has already done some of the best work in the field. Abigail Thomas is the Emily Dickinson of memoirists, and so much of this book’s wisdom is between the lines and in the white spaces. It may only take you two days to read, but the impact will stay with you for a long, long time” (Stephen King). This is a glorious guide to living imperfectly and exuberantly.
“The Lie is what great fiction is all about.”
Dahlia Barr is a devoted mother, soon-to-be divorced wife, and lover of an American television correspondent. She is also a brash and successful Israeli attorney who is passionate about defending Palestinians accused of terrorism. But her views are tested when her son Ari, a twenty-year-old lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces, is kidnapped by Hezbollah and taken over the border to Lebanon.
A provocative thriller about a dynamic Israeli lawyer—famous for defending accused Palestinians—whose views are tested when her own son is taken captive by Hezbollah: “The Lie is what great fiction is all about” (Stephen King).
Dahlia Barr is a devoted mother, soon-to-be divorced wife, lover of an American television correspondent. She is also a brash and successful Israeli attorney who is passionate about defending Palestinians accused of terrorism. One day, to her astonishment, the Israeli national police approach Dahlia with a tantalizing proposition: Join us, and become the government’s arbiter on when to use the harshest of interrogation methods—what some would call torture. Dahlia is intrigued. She has no intention of permitting torture, but can she change the system from within? She takes the job.
As Dahlia settles into her new role, her son Ari, a twenty-year-old lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces, is kidnapped by Hezbollah and whisked over the border to Lebanon. The one man who may hold the key to Ari’s rescue is locked in a cell in police headquarters. He is an Arab who has a long and complicated history with Dahlia. And he’s not talking. Yet.
A nail-biting thriller that “will stay with you” (The New York Times Book Review), The Lie is an unforgettable story of human beings on both sides of the terror equation whose lives turn out to share more in common than they ever could have imagined. “An utterly riveting thriller that is likely to rank as one of the year’s best…The Lie has everything: memorable characters, a compelling plot, white-knuckle military action, and an economy and clarity of prose that is direct, powerful, and at times beautiful” (Booklist, starred review).
“Terrific novel of escape, sacrifice, and redemption.”
Cora, a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia, seizes the opportunity to escape when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad. In Colson Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop.
“Not just the best novel I read this year, but the best mystery of the decade.”
Case one: A little girl goes missing in the night.
Case two: A beautiful young office worker falls victim to a maniac’s apparently random attack.
Case three: A new mother finds herself trapped in a hell of her own making—with a very needy baby and a very demanding husband—until a fit of rage creates a grisly, bloody escape.
Thirty years after the first incident, as private investigator Jackson Brodie begins investigating all three cases, startling connections and discoveries emerge.
As Private Detective Jackson Brodie investigates three separate deaths, startling connections and discoveries emerge and he becomes Inextricably caught up in his clients grief, joy, and desire as everyone struggles to expose the truth. The evil of the unfeeling, nasty gorgon of a father to the Land girls seeps through the book.
“A deeply moving novel about how we work, how we live, and how we get to the next day with our spirits intact. If there was ever a book that embodies what’s best in us, it’s Stewart O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster.”
Manny DeLeon, manager of a run-down Red Lobster at a New England mall, is working the very last shift before the restaurant is to be permanently shut down. It is just four days before Christmas, in the midst of a fierce blizzard, and he has on his hands a near-mutinous staff and the final onslaught of hungry retirees, lunatics, and holiday office parties. All the while, he’s wondering how to handle the waitress he’s still in love with, his pregnant girlfriend, and where to find the present that will make everything better.
“Scary as Hell and hypnotic. I couldn’t put it down. . . . I’d grab it if I were you.”
Detroit police detective Gabriella Versado is faced with a horrific crime scene: a corpse that is half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, Versado’s teenage daughter, Layla, commences a dangerous online flirtation, freelance journalist Jonno does whatever it takes to get the exclusive on the crimes, and Thomas Keen goes to great lengths to protect his homeless family from the monster stalking the streets.
A terrifying novel that defies genres, BROKEN MONSTERS is a murder mystery where nothing is what it seems. Detroit is sent into a panic when bodies that are half human, half animal begin appearing. Is the paranormal at all involved, or is a truly disturbed serial killer stalking the city of Detroit?