This guy read everything by Stephen King. You won’t believe what happened next!
Sometimes, I come up with strange ideas.
Case in point: two years ago 2016 was drawing to a close. My “to be read pile” was woefully empty, and I was thinking about what I wanted to read next. My wife and daughter were reading “Little Women” together, and that got me thinking that I’d surprisingly never read “the Shining” before. (Yes, I was a fan of “Friends” back in the 90s, I’m not ashamed to admit it.) We were also getting ready to take a trip up to Lake Tahoe in a couple of days, to let the kids play in the snow. And then I figured, well what the heck. What better book to take along with me for a few days in a cabin in the snow with my family than “the Shining”?
I took a quick trip out to my friendly local book store, and was able to score a copy of the book with no effort at all. And while I was there, I started looking over all the other Stephen King books, because why not? As I was looking, I realized that while I’d never considered myself a “fan” of King, I’d read a ton of his books over the years. I think the first books of his I’d read were Pet Sematary, Cujo, and Christine, back in the mid-80s when I was in High School. The Stand and Cell I read in the early 2000s. And after getting laid off from a shitty job about ten years ago, I read the entire Dark Tower series back-to-back.
It suddenly occurred to me that while I didn’t consider myself a “fan,” I’d read more words written by Stephen King than any of my other favorite authors. So I had an idea. “What if,” I said to myself, “I read all of King’s stuff?”
I mean, why not, right? I’m constantly reading. I never go anywhere without a book. I knew that the next couple of years, I’d be reading books back to back anyway. So why not all the Stephen King books?
Why not indeed?
So I came up with a plan. The plan was fairly simple, and easy to sort out thanks to the miracle of Wikipedia, and a few other resources. To be able to actually do this, however, I had to restrict myself a little bit.
Read everything by Stephen King, in order of publication.
Skip any books which I’d read in the past ten years (because I’d just read “It", “the Stand,” and the entire “Dark Tower” series in recent memory
Only read the books currently available in paperback. I don’t remember why I made this one of the restrictions, but I love paperback books, they just feel comfortable to me.
And that’s what I did. I started with “Carrie” in the few days before the snow trip, and then was on to “the Shining”. “The Dead Zone” followed, and then “Cujo”. As mentioned above, I’d read “Cujo” back around the time it was originally released. But hadn’t read the “Dead Zone” ever, and was amused to note the threads from one book to the other.
One after the other, only skipping a very few books, I read the entire King Ouvre. It all took just over two years to complete, quite literally ending last night when I read his collaboration with Richard Chizmar in “Gwendy’s Button Box” (a marvelous book, with echoes of the best of the fairytale type stories of Bradbury and Matheson).
The books were great, pretty much across the board. Great mix of novels, short stories, novellas. Anything you can imagine a book could be, King can write it. Some of the stories were gory, in your face horror. Some of the best were reflections on life and loss (I’m looking at you, “Insomnia”).
And in a stunning moment of synchronicity, I plowed through his book “On Writing” just at the exact moment I needed to read those words. A copywriting contract I’d had the year before had blossomed into a request to write a horror novel and a graphic novel for that same company. I was wrapped up with anxiety, worried if I could do the work. And King’s “On Writing” gave me the encouragement to take the bull by the horns and bring that book to life.
In the time of this project, I’ve become not just a casual reader of King, but a fan, and even something of an evangelist of his work. I’ve bent the ears of friends as I read through the books, finding connections, or coming up with theories and questions. (E.G.: I’m pretty much convinced that the Shop from “Firestarter” is working to create kids with psychic ability and train them to become Breakers for Randall Flagg.)
The project ended last night, though he’s published another couple of books already. “The Outsider” and “Elevation” are on my list and I’ll be giving them an enthusiastic read as soon as they’re out in paperback.
So, as I said up above, sometimes I come up with strange ideas. This epic read-through was one of my better ones. I learned a ton about the craft of writing, and was enthusiastically entertained throughout. And honestly, there are a number of books I read through this project that I’m already looking forward to reading again sometime.