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Every Stephen King Novel Ranked by How Close It Comes to the Horror of Living in Maine

While horror isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it’s hard to think of a living writer who has had a bigger cultural impact than Stephen King. He is one of the most prolific writers of fiction in our time, and his work is destined to be talked about and adapted for decades if not centuries to come.

As a teenager, I was a constant reader of King. I was fascinated by the fact that one man could churn out page-turner after page-turner and I would wonder where his ideas came from. Then, at the age of 20, I moved to a small town in Maine outside of Portland. And I saw.

Like many of Stephen King’s characters, here I am many years later embarking to confront the evils of my past. Here is our definitive ranking of every Stephen King novel ranked by how close they come to conveying the horrors of everyday life in the godless, awful state that is Maine.

64. Lisey’s Story

King has said that this is his favorite of all the novels he’s written, which is why it ranks dead last. Nothing anyone is proud of belongs on a list about Maine.

63. Billy Summers

We haven’t read this one yet, but the jacket says it’s a story of redemption, so it has no place here.

62. Fairy Tale

A boy inherits a key to a magical world where he and his dog need to fight vague evil. Since the evils in question don’t consist of black flies, gas station pizza, and 8-month winters, this one misses the mark on capturing the horror of living in Maine.

61. Duma Key

Many of the books on this list do not take place in Maine, and that has no bearing on their ranking because it was still the trauma of living there that inspired them. This one, however, takes place in Florida, an entirely different place of evil.

60. Holly

This novel features Holly Gibny, a minor character in several other King novels, now as her fully realized best self trying to solve the case of a young girl. The prime suspect – and seemingly normal couple harboring a dark secret. While nothing is more Maine than people harboring dark secrets, no one there is their fully realized best self, so this one ranks low.

59. Rose Madder

A horror/fantasy that draws its fantastical elements from Greek mythology, King himself has described “Rose Madder’ as a “stiff, trying-too-hard” book, which is why it ranks low on our list. No one who chooses to live in Maine tries too hard. They just like, stand there.


Somehow laboring under the delusion that he just hadn’t published enough books, Stephen King dusted off a copy of this pre-Carrie manuscript, tightened it up, and published it in 2007. It centers around Clayton Blaisdell (get it?) and the bond he forms with a baby that he has kidnapped from its millionaire parents. Since it features an adult connecting with a child, it ranks very low on our list of horror found in Maine.

57. The Institute

A shadowy organization is kidnapping kids with psychic abilities, and keeping them imprisoned in a palace known as The Institute for nefarious purposes. It’s a scary premise, but not Maine scary because at least these kids are getting an education.

56. Sleeping Beauties

Stephen King teamed up with his son to spin this tale about a future where women cocoon at night and transport themselves to a better place. It ranks low on our list because it presupposes that sleep can offer an escape to someone living in a state where the number one pastime is Lyme disease.

55. Gwendy’s Button Box

A girl is given a mysterious button box by a stranger who warns her that if she presses any of the box’s buttons bad things will happen. It is here at 55 because unlike most people in Maine at least Gwendy can control something, anything.

54. The Talisman

12-year-old Jack Sawyer walks from New Hampshire to California on a quest to find a Talisman that can save his dying mother. Along the way, Jack finds himself in “The Territories,” a Medieval parallel universe that mirrors our own. While more fantasy than horror, it is clearly inspired by Maine, a place that refuses to acknowledge what year it is. Maine is similar to our world, but everywhere you go people are playing something called Def Leppard from something called a radio, and the Starbucks are all called Dunkin Donuts, and everyone who works there is an old sea captain.

53. Roadwork

A grieving man is pushed over the edge of sanity after a proposed interstate highway threatens to demolish his home. An unstable man with a gun standing his ground in the cold is very “Pine Tree Ttate,” but it ranks low on our list because Maine never updates its infrastructure.

52. If It Bleeds

If It Bleeds is a collection of four novellas. The titular story centers on a TV news anchor with a suspiciously uncanny nose for viewer-grabbing tragic events. Tragic events are bad, but the horrors of Maine are more bleak than newsworthy.

51. The Eyes of the Dragon

This one is more of a full-on fantasy lacking real horror elements. It shares a few threads with the Gunslinger series so everyone talks weird, but they’ve still heard of the letter “R” so the horrors of Maine are not accurately represented.

50. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three

While not the scariest Stephen King novel or even the scariest entry in the Dark Tower series, it features a lot of junkies and racism, giving the reader a reasonably accurate picture of life in Portland.

49. The Dark Half

When a journalist threatens to expose a famous author’s pseudonym, the author decides to get ahead of the story and out himself, but it turns out the alter-persona won’t go out without a fight. It comes to life and commits a series of horrific crimes. This novel perfectly encapsulates Maine’s state slogan: “Keep your nose out of my dark secrets or I will fucking murder you.”

48. The Running Man

In the future of 2025, Ben Richards agrees to be on America’s favorite reality show, The Running Man. If he can elude capture and execution by police and bounty hunters for one month, he’ll get the money he needs to cure his daughter’s terminal illness. Published in 1982 the book is extremely prescient, and the game presented is barbaric, but it is still a form of entertainment so it doesn’t quite represent the horror of Maine.

47. Elevation

Stephen King tackles the divide tearing our nation apart with a good ole “Can’t we all just get along?” It may take place in Castle Rock but spiritually this book is about as far from Maine as you can get.

46. Needful Things

A new antiquities shop opens in Castle Rock that seems to have exactly what everyone desires, and the customers don’t pay with money, they pay with IRONIC TWISTS! Sort of like how when I moved to Maine I thought “At least the lobster rolls will be good” only to find out that their version of it is cold lobster meat and celery mixed with mayo served on stale bread with lettuce. Oh, except that shitty lobster roll cost a lot of money.

45. Gerald’s Game

After a night of kink gone wrong, Jessie Burlingame is left alone handcuffed to her bed. Trapped and alone with her thoughts she is consumed by the demons of her past. I think anyone who lives in a state where it’s almost always winter and everything closes at 9 p.m. can relate to Jessie.

44. Dolores Claiborne

A suspicious death in a Maine island community prompts suspect Dolores Claiborne to confess her life story, a tale of tragedy, injustice, and unspeakable family secrets. Throw in a plate of fiddleheads and you’ve got everything you need to know about New England’s most haunting state.

43. The Green Mile

There is, of course, no one living in Maine with basic compassion, let alone a Christ-like ability to heal people, but if there was they would for sure kill them.

42. Desperation

A group of travelers is lured to a small, dying town and must thwart an ancient evil unearthed by minors. This novel speaks to the deep, yearning desire in the heart of everyone with the misfortune of being born in Maine. For someone, anyone, to come and vanquish the repressive, miserable, intangible ether of misery that haunts the very air they breathe.

41. The Regulators

A terrifying story of a suburban Ohio neighborhood where suddenly all of the houses are transformed into log cabins and no one is allowed to leave their house. The Regulators explores what might happen if Maine were allowed to spread.

40. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

The humble beginnings of what would become The Dark Tower series finds Roland trekking through a wasteland where he tangles with mutants, horny church ladies, and people who talk really weird. It’s sort of a love letter to Bangor.

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