Stephen King is one of the most prolific authors of our time, often referred to as the "Master of Horror" thanks to his immensely successful horror novels like Carrie, Salem's Lot, and The Stand. However, people often forget about his (just as successful) non-horror work. So, to remedy this, here are 10 of his non-horror novels you should absolutely read.
One of the short stories included in King's anthology book Different Seasons, "The Body" finds a group of young kids wandering the train tracks of their small town in order to look for the reported body of a kid supposedly hit by a train. Along the way, they confront the local bully, and learn more about each other. If this sounds familiar at all, it's because it was made into the movie Stand By Me.
One of the many novels King published under pen-name Richard Bachman, this is easily one of his most controversial. Rage is a story about a high school kid who, when confronted by his peers about his bad attitude, gets a gun from his locker, shoots his teacher, and takes his class hostage. Controversial subject matter even in its day, the book achieved notoriety thanks to being found in the possession of several kids who actually committed real-life school shootings. It's a hard read and King has allowed it to go out of print, but it's also incredibly effective.
The Green Mile
Death row supervisor Paul Edgecombe is surprised to find that one of the inmates, John Coffey, is not only a gentle soul, but also seems to have mysterious empathetic and healing abilities. The novel won several awards, but is probably best known for its film adaptation, starring Tom Hanks and the late Michael Clarke Duncan in the lead roles.
The Eyes of the Dragon
Set in the world of the Dark Tower novels but not tied to them, The Eyes of the Dragon sees King turning the characters of Roland, Peter and Flagg into the cast of a children's fantasy story. Written by King for his kids and initially derided by fans, it's grown in popularity over the years thanks to being a great read for those who want to see the master of horror take on something more tame.
The Colorado Kid
King decided to branch out from horror in a pretty serious way in 2005, publishing this hard-boiled crime novel for publisher Hard Crime Case. It's a story of a grad student and local newspaper reporter in a small town in Maine (of course) who have to work together to solve the murder of a mysterious body that washed up onshore. While it doesn't have any of King's horror staples, it's no less great a read, and was popular enough to be adapted to the TV show Haven.
These next few books are incredible...
King's followup to The Colorado Kid for Hard Crime Case is one of his best non-horror works to date. It does border on horror though; the setting is a haunted amusement park funhouse after all. However, King frames the ordeal as more of a murder mystery, as a young employee must figure out the murder behind the ghost that haunts the park. Great stuff.
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
Coming from the same anthology book as "The Body," this story follows banker Andy Dufresne as he's framed for the murder of his wife, and plans for his escape from Shawshank Prison over the span of decades. Of course, people probably know this story best from its movie adaptation, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, which is often considered one of the best films of all time. The story is just as good, and you should absolutely read it.
The Running Man
Another Richard Bachman novel, The Running Man was his take on a dystopian future that seems almost too realistic now. In the year 2025, America is crumbling and many are destitute. Protagonist Ben Richards agrees to perform on the deadly reality show The Running Man in order to earn enough money to treat his ill daughter and save his wife from prostitution, but becomes an enemy of the state in the process. In short, it's nothing like the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie it spawned.
The Dark Tower Saga
A sprawling, epic fantasy series that King conceived as "The Lord of the Rings meets The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," The Dark Tower Saga began in 1982 with The Gunslinger and ultimately ended in 2012 with The Wind Through The Keyhole. The story of gunslinger Roland Deschain, the last in a line of knights who searches for the titular Dark Tower, it's a series that, while a little inconsistent, works out to be an interesting and different take on both fantasy and westerns.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Half autobiography and half guide to how to write well, if you've ever wanted to get a glimpse into the mind of the man himself, this is the best way to do so. His recounting of his life is fascinating, and his writing tips, while maybe not for everybody, lay a solid foundation for aspiring writers to build off of. If you want to follow in King's footsteps, this is an absolute must.