Top 10 Stephen King Short Stories

 

By no means is this a definitive list, but these are some of the stories I return to time after time.

 

10. The Running Man

If you’ve only seen the movie version, do yourself a favor and pick this up. So much better the total of what that film was. Is the film a guilty pleasure? Sure. But it took from what was a great idea and story (which is completely different from the film) and turned it into an Ahn-uld vehicle. A great vision of the future that was way ahead of its time.

 

9. The End of the Whole Mess

I feel like the makers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes read this short before they wrote their script. A story of a cure, a genius, and the end of everything we know. Not so much a horror story as it is a tragic piece.

 

8. The Raft

I wanted to put this higher, but I couldn’t. But this is nothing more or less than a straight monster story. You don’t know what it is, you don’t know why it does what it does, and it features probably one of the most grotesque death’s I’ve ever read or seen.

 

7.1922

One of King’s newest shorts in his last collection ‘Full Dark, No Stars’ is one of his best in years. The best tale in the book and a terrifying story of guilt without redemption. This story features some amazing description and really feels like a mix between Poe and Lovecraft. Definitely a good read on a stormy night.

 

6. Gramma

I don’t know what it is about this story. The story of a boy left alone with his sick grandmother, who’s appearance alone causes him nightmares. And what happens when she dies. And what happens when she comes back. Definitely guaranteed to send chills up your spine and racing toward the closest phone to set up a retirement center visit for your folks.

 

5. Jerusalem’s Lot

Jerusalem’s Lot is the prequel of sorts to Salem’s Lot. Kind of a view of the curse on the town. This is King channeling Lovecraft in the best way possible. Written in a series of letters detailing the horror of this town, any fans of the Old Ones will eat this up.

 

4. Survivor Type

A doctor. Stuck on an island. With loads of drugs. Nothing to eat. Fill in the blanks and you get a gore-filled story to make you squirm.

 

 

3. The Road Virus Heads North

This story reminded me so much of one of my favorite episodes of Night Gallery. This is King writing fast and loose and still holding the reader in his grip the whole time. It was made into a terrible short during the Nightmares and Dreamscapes miniseries. Don’t watch it. Just read it

 

2. The Long Walk

I wanted to put this at number one. I really did. But I just couldn’t bring myself to it. But that by no means says you shouldn’t read this novella right away. A story of a terrible game featuring children. This is a story I’ve read countless times and it never fails to have the same impact on me. Not only one of the best shorts by King, but one of his greatest pieces of writing ever. Don’t look for spoilers just get into the book and you will probably read it all at once.

 

   1. The Mist

This was one of the first shorts of King’s that I read.  And it spoke to everything that I love about horror. It has monsters, claustrophobia, mysterious events, FOG, religious fervor, did I mention monsters from another dimension? This story is features everything great about horror and at the same time can be read into as well. It’s pulp horror at its absolute best. If you get the chance check out the movie and the audio-drama. This is a must read for any King fan.

 

Honorable Mentions: Children of the Corn, The Monkey, The 10 ‘o Clock People, The Jaunt, All that you Love will be Carried Away, Suffer the Children, Rainy Season, and too many more to name

Let me know some of your favorites and why!

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Top 10 Stephen King Short Stories

  1. Hmmm… couple on there I haven’t read, the newer ones. Coz I fell out with him on The Dark Tower – I didn’t take kindly to his ranting in the author’s note!

    I completely agree with The Mist at No.1 – superb short… well, long short.

    I also want to give a shout out to 1408. Ace.

    • That didn’t bother me much, but honestly check some of his new stuff out. Under the Dome or Full Dark No Stars. I think he’s really hit his new stride.
      With the DT, he should have left that part out and just given the ending regardless. I think he was scared of what people would think and felt the need to interject. My only real quip with the last book was the Crimson King part. Other than that, I think the ending was perfect and totally fit the ideas and themes of the novels.

  2. Good article. Liked every one of these, and can think of at least ten other great ones:

    Home Delivery–maybe the best piece of short zombie fiction I’ve ever read.

    Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut—I love King playing around with those alternate worlds that he establishes in the Dark Tower universe, and here it’s in a really subtle, creepy way that also just develops into a lovely story. I always felt like this one was bringing together many disparate pieces of his style into one wonderful thing.

    Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption—yes, it was a great story even before Frank Darabont got a hold of it. Throw The Body into this section as well, although these are both technically novellas.

    Head Down—sure, it’s a short non-fiction piece for The New Yorker, but it might be one of the single most brilliant things he’s ever written, as it evokes the experience and what it should be so well, that I’m riveted every time I read it. Amazingly effective writing that.

    The Little Sisters of Eluria—because it’s Dark Tower related and it’s a good, creative story in its own right. I was fascinated by the idea of the doctor bugs.

    The Man in the Black Suit—I love this story. It’s creepy and effective and delivers a really existential sort of chill underneath it all. Reminds me of Flannery O’Connor crossed with Nathaniel Hawthorne.

    The Last Rung on the Ladder—Haunting, simple and very powerful story that doesn’t feature even a pinch of the supernatural. Excellent writing.

    Fair Extensions—Only King would write a lengthy short story about a man making a deal with the devil that removes the ‘morality tale’ reprecussions. Thoughtful and moody and darkly comical.

    The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet—A really odd and compelling—mostly comedic take—about writing and madness. One of the better ‘this is another story about telling stories’ King concoction. And watch out for the Fromits.

    Crouch End—just a great combo of Twilight Zone and Lovecraft. So creepy and feels much like something H.P. would have actually written himself. I find myself returning to this one often.

    • All of those are great choices. I didn’t include Shawshank and the Body (although both some of my favorites) as I tried not to include stuff from the bigger novella books lilke Different Seasons, Four Past Midnight, ect

    • I had a very similar reaction to Man in the Black Suit. And with Crouch End also being one of my favorites I wonder what it is that King taps into when he’s writing in the style of someone else? Or is that just naked talent at work?

      • I think that’s the truth. If you go from him to say Dean Koontz or (ugh) Dan Brown you realize just how dense his prose is and how fully realized his characters are. The guy is the real deal. I remember once getting on a bus and I was reading It. A guy to the left of me is reading another Four Past Midnight. I keep walking back and I see this goth chick and I think she’s reading The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I make it to the back seat and there’s an older woman reading Misery and I’m like “Damn, this guy is COMMUNICATING.”

        I’m a theatre artist. I have a dream of adapting Survivor Type into a play. Grand Guignol style with a puppet I think.

      • that’s amazing! I’d love to see that play. He knows how to tell a story, how to make a character, to pull you into his world.

  3. Crouch End in Nightmares and Dreamscapes is simply the flat out scariest short story I’ve ever read. I read it out loud to my girlfriend once and she hadn’t said anything or moved for a while and I thought she might be asleep. I said “Jamie?” She says, “Am I scared? Yes.” and I kept reading.

    I Am the Doorway — I don’t know. I’ve just always loved this super horrifying story. It has a way of making you imagine what it would be like to be living in those really awful circumstances.

    Grey Matter — Eeeeewwww

    Trucks/The Mangler — When I first started reading Stephen King, I was eleven years old. And the first one I read was Night Shift. And when I got to stories like Trucks and The Mangler I’m like “this is not what horror stories are about”. Man, was I wrong.

    You Know They Got a Hell of a Band kind of fits along those lines. A horror story about all the rock stars who died early? Good luck with that. And some how King manages to find just the right details to gross/creep/freak you out.

    One For the Road — After Trucks, Battleground, The Mangler and I Am the Doorway, One for the Road seemed downright traditional but I loved it.

    I was really glad you included Survivor Type. I actually don’t think most people can fill in the blanks. That’s why we turn to Stephen King. What a story.

    • love all those you mentioned as well. Crouch End is wonderful. Just reread it not long ago. I would say it is just talent. he doesn’t get the credit he deserves

  4. Good top ten, survivor type is especially good. I feel The Boogeyman has a place on this list, it brilliantly plays upon the fears of both childhood and adulthood.

  5. Just read Crouch End again and loved it (again), 1408 is awesome, Mrs Todd’s Shortcut, The Jaunt scared me a lot (because it was so good and I have a son that age). Big Driver (awesome to feel the revenge), Mile 81 (freaky and scary) are two great ones that are more recent.

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