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Stephen King: Master of Horror, Prolific Writer, Cameo Actor, and...Voracious Reader

By Beth Clark • October 15, 2018

Stephen King and Nightmares

If you've ever wondered what gives Stephen King nightmares (we have, and yes, it's possible), then take a peek at his latest book recommendations. It turns out that the guy who's made most of us at least temporarily afraid, if not permanently terrified, of the dark at some point has a sense of fear that's alive and well. (He also sleeps with a light on…to "keep the monsters away.") Thankfully, none of the novels on his list involve clowns, but there is one that he warns against reading after dark, so take heed. Each synopsis starts out with King's comments, and no matter which one you pick first, you're in for a good read.

10 of Stephen King's Recent Favorite Books

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

"Loving Laura Lippman's new novel, Sunburn. Suspenseful as hell, and she writes like a dream."

Bestselling author Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals…and cold-blooded murder. Something—or someone—has to give. Which one will it be?

The Mars Room: A Novel by Rachel Kushner

"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."

From National Book Award-nominated Rachel Kushner, whose The Flamethrowers was called "the best, most brazen, most interesting book of the year" by Kathryn Schulz in New York magazine, comes a spectacularly compelling, heart-stopping novel about a life gone off the rails in contemporary America. 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.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

"Want to read a great whodunit? Anthony Horowitz has one for you: Magpie Murders. It's as good as an Agatha Christie. Better, in some ways. Cleverer."

From the bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, this fiendishly brilliant, riveting thriller weaves a classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery. Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective.

The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George

"I want the T-shirt mentioned in author Elizabeth George's excellent The Punishment She Deserves. The front of it reads I'M NOT LAUGHING AT YOU, I'M JUST OFF MY MEDS."

The cozy, bucolic town of Ludlow is stunned when one of its most revered and respected citizens—Ian Druitt, the local deacon—is accused of a serious crime. Then, while in police custody, Ian is found dead. Did he kill himself? Or was he murdered?

A masterful work of suspense, The Punishment She Deserves sets Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers and Inspector Thomas Lynley against one of their most intricate cases. Series fans will love the characters from George's previous novels, and new readers will quickly see why she's one of the most popular and acclaimed writers of our time. Both a page-turner and a deeply complex story about the lies we tell, the lies we believe, and the redemption we need, this novel is one of her best.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

"Deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down, not recommended reading after dark."

The Hunger is a tense and gripping reimagining of one of America's most fascinating historical moments: the Donner Party with a supernatural twist. Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere. As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains...and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.

Effortlessly combining the supernatural and the historical, The Hunger is an eerie, thrilling look at the volatility of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.

Strange Weather by Joe Hill

"This is a really good book. I'd say the same if I wasn't related to the guy."

A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill.

  • "Snapshot" is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by "The Phoenician," a tattooed thug with a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.
  • A young man takes to the skies for his first parachute jump...and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero's island of roiling vapor seemingly animated by a mind of its own in "Aloft."
  • On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not under cover. "Rain" explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge spreads around the world.
  • In "Loaded," a coastal Florida town mall security guard courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it.

Paul Simon: The Life by Robert Hilburn

"Every now and then—rarely!—a book casts a little light on the creative development of a gifted artist. Paul Simon: The Life is one of those few. Read it if you like Simon; read it if you want to discover how talent unfolds itself."

For over 50 years, Paul Simon has spoken to us in songs about alienation, doubt, resilience, and empathy in ways that have established him as one of the most beloved artists in American pop music history. Songs like "The Sound of Silence," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and "Graceland" have moved beyond the sales charts and into our cultural consciousness. But Simon is a deeply private person who refused to talk to previous biographers. Finally, he opened up—for over a hundred hours of interviews—to Robert Hilburn, whose compelling biography of Johnny Cash was both deeply human and definitive.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

"It appears police have caught the Golden State Killer. Go get Michelle McNamara's excellent book about the case, I'll Be Gone in the Dark."

For over a decade, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California, then moved south and perpetrated ten sadistic murders. After that, he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and the best detectives in the area.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of the wreckage left behind by a criminal mastermind. It is also a portrait of a woman's obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic – one which fulfilled Michelle's dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

"Amazing book."

American Pastoral is the story of a fortunate American's rise and fall—a strong, confident master-of-social-equilibrium overwhelmed by the forces of disorder. Seymour "Swede" Levov—a legendary high school athlete, devoted family man, hard worker, and prosperous inheritor of his father's Newark glove factory—comes of age in thriving, triumphant postwar America. But everything he loves is lost when the country begins to run amok in the turbulent 1960s. With vigorous realism, Roth takes us back to the conflicts and violent transitions of the time. This is a book about loving—and hating—America and wanting to belong—but refusing to belong—to America. It sets the desire for an American pastoral—a respectable life of space, calm, order, optimism, and achievement—against the indigenous American Berserk.

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

"Rereading The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood. If there has been a better mystery-suspense story written in this decade, I can't think of it."

When a child goes missing at an opulent house party, it makes international news. But what really happened behind those closed doors? Twelve years ago, Mila Jackson's three-year-old half-sister Coco disappeared during their father's 50th birthday celebration, leaving her identical twin Ruby as the only witness. The girls' father, Sean, was wealthy and influential, as were the friends gathered at their seaside vacation home for the weekend's debauchery. The case ignited a media frenzy and forever changed the lives of everyone involved.

Now, Sean Jackson is dead, and the people who were present that terrible night must gather once more for a funeral that will reveal that the secrets of the past can never stay hidden. Perfectly paced all the way through its devastating conclusion, The Darkest Secret is one that fans of Gillian Flynn and Liane Moriarty won't be able to put down.

Read more by Beth Clark

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