Top 10 Stephen King Recommended Thriller Books

stephen king recommended thriller books

Stephen King, the mastermind of the thriller and horror genres, has captivated readers for decades with his unique knack for storytelling. When I first held a Stephen King novel in my hands (“The Shining”, in case you’re wondering), I remember being drawn into a world of suspense and terror that sent me scrambling under the covers. Now decades later, I still consider him a leading authority on the thriller genre. That’s why when King recommends a thriller book, we, as fans, sit up and take notice. So, let’s embark on a journey through the dark corridors of the top 10 Stephen King recommended thriller books.

Stephen King’s Approach to Thriller Books

Known for his uncanny ability to bring the unimaginable to life, King has a specific taste in thrillers. The elements that make his books captivating – palpable suspense, psychological depth, and the human struggle with evil – are the same he values in other authors’ works. Like a true dark thriller enthusiast, King isn’t merely about ghostly apparitions and gory murders. It’s the psychological terror that intrigues him the most – the terrors that lurk within the human mind.

Oh, and if you’re searching for a psychological thriller to start reading right away, I recommend you download “Dead and Buried”, the prequel to the bestselling Darkwater Cove series. It’s free.

Our Definitive List of Stephen King Recommended Thriller Books

Delving into King’s recommended reading list gives us a glimpse into the books that meet his high standards. In many cases, you will be familiar with the movie version. But have you read the book? Let’s unravel these gems one by one.

“The Exorcist” by William Peter Blatty

A classic horror tale, “The Exorcist” grapples with the terror of demonic possession. King acknowledged Blatty’s masterpiece in his non-fiction book “Danse Macabre”, calling it a great supernatural thriller. And who can argue with that? The book had me sleeping with the lights on for a week.

“The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris

“The Silence of the Lambs” is a chilling exploration of the mind of a serial killer. King admires how Harris crafts a sinister world that brings the readers face-to-face with pure evil. Having read this one based on King’s recommendation, I can tell you it’s a journey not for the faint-hearted.

I consider the movie version of “The Silence of the Lambs”, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, to be one of the greatest movies of the twentieth century. As difficult as it is to believe, the book is even better.

stephen king thriller books

“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

This book, according to King, is one of the finest horror novels of the mid 20th century. Jackson’s ability to evoke existential horror rather than relying solely on supernatural elements is something that King, as a writer, greatly appreciates. I found this book deeply unsettling, in the best way possible.

Whether you are a writer or a reader, you will appreciate the amazing prose. This is an all-time classic horror novel. And the movies aren’t half bad either.

“Lord of the Flies” by William Golding

King’s fascination with “Lord of the Flies” is evident in his works that explore the theme of innocence corrupted. Golding’s tale of marooned schoolboys turning savages has been a major influence on King’s writing. If you’ve read King’s “Under the Dome”, you’ll spot the parallels.

“The Girl Next Door” by Jack Ketchum

A chilling narrative based on true events, “The Girl Next Door” tells a tale of horrific child abuse. King referred to Ketchum as the scariest guy in America, and once you read this book, you’ll understand why.

In an article I posted many years ago, I called “The Girl Next Door” the most-frightening horror novel I’ve ever encountered. My opinion hasn’t changed.

If you haven’t read the late Jack Ketchum, you’re missing out on pure genius.

“The Woman in Black” by Susan Hill

King has recommended this gothic tale on several occasions. Hill’s ghostly tale impressed King with its classic horror ambiance. This recommendation led me to a thrilling read one rainy weekend, and I was not disappointed.

“The Postman Always Rings Twice” by James M. Cain

An influential noir classic, “The Postman Always Rings Twice” presents a thrilling exploration of crime and passion. In King’s view, Cain’s story was a game-changer for the thriller genre.

crow thriller

“The Ruins” by Scott Smith

Stephen King praised “The Ruins” as the best horror novel of the new century. It’s a page-turner, blending supernatural elements with psychological drama, which seems right up King’s alley. I can personally vouch for its thrill factor!

“Ghost Story” by Peter Straub

King’s admiration for Straub’s work is well known, and “Ghost Story” is often singled out for its intricate narrative and the genuine dread it creates. After reading it on King’s recommendation, it immediately topped my list of best-ever ghost novels.

“Ghost Story” and “The Amityville Horror” remain my two favorite paranormal horror novels. If you love Straub, check out the books he cowrote with Stephen King, including “The Talisman” and “The Black House”.

“The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James

King acknowledges James’ mastery in this classic ghost story. It’s a perfect example of psychological horror that leaves readers questioning the reality of what they just read. An absolute must-read for any fan of the genre.

Why King’s Recommendations Matter

King’s taste in thrillers resonates with his writing style. These books, intense and thought-provoking, often feature ordinary characters trapped in extraordinary circumstances. They reflect how King himself challenges us to face our fears through his stories.

Like in King’s works, these books ring true, bringing us back to real life events we’ve all experienced.

Diving into this definitive list of Stephen King recommended thriller books gives us insight into the brilliant mind of the king of horror. So whether you’re a die-hard King fan like me, or just looking to explore the world of thrillers, these books are bound to leave a lasting impression.

Now it’s Your Turn

I hope you enjoyed this journey through our top 10 Stephen King recommended thriller books. Have you read any of these, or do you have any other favorites recommended by the master of horror?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to include King’s books among your favorites.

Happy reading, fellow thriller fans!


Before you go, don’t forget to download “Dead and Buried”, the FREE prequel to the bestselling Darkwater Cove series. Free nightmares included!

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