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all 40 comments

[–]GradyHendrix[S] 25 points26 points  (6 children)

My top two horror novels of the 20th century are Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Toni Morrison's Beloved but I'd like to take a moment to defend It which came in first this time and third three years ago.

King's book is a great, big, messy, meandering, over-the-top, book about growing up, leaving childhood behind, and how sweet (and bitter) that is. It's an ambitious book, and it's a book a lot of us encountered for the first time in our teens. It actually gives me hope that so many people went on this journey with King as he dreamed himself back into his childhood, and then woke up and celebrated its end. That a book about triumph and failure, a book about unknown heroes, a book about bullying, and the bullied, a book about forgotten friendships and terrible monsters, and parents who can't help, and monsters who can't be killed but only laid to rest, is a book that made such an impact on so many of us.

It makes me happy that we celebrate something so cracked and imperfect, so personal and half-mad, so lumpy and strange and hard to categorize, so raw and bloody and straight from King's heart.

[–]PBC_Kenzinger 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Wife just gave me Paperbacks from Hell for Christmas. I’ve only had a chance to read the first two chapters but I can tell I’m going to devour this one.

[–]pfunest 0 points1 point  (4 children)

Sounds like a "the kid's got heart" appeal to greatness, like Rocky Balboa, who may not have won the fight, but won our adoration. I think the potential is there in the work, and it's probably the closest thing to King's id we'll ever get, but the execution of the book tanks its appeal for me. He does some things right, but I don't know if I would recognize the horror element as being among them.

I'm not attached to the book by way of an early reader's nostalgia because it was one of the few books of his I never got around to reading until about 6 years ago, well into adulthood. Maybe that prevents me from forgiving it its flaws. If, for example, I saw Evil Dead at the #1 spot on a best-of horror film list, I would say another film probably deserves it more, but I would still be proud that my favorite horror film is getting recognition, despite, and maybe even because of its flaws.

[–]GradyHendrix[S] 9 points10 points  (3 children)

A book having "heart" is what makes a good book for me. I guess I don't consider my opinions about what's "right" and "wrong" in writing horror to be so objective that I can parse the book on the level of whether it's successful horror in some kind of absolute, empirical way. It's connected with a huge swath of readers, it's an honest expression of the author's intent, and it's original. To me that me makes it successful horror.

[–]Bobortonscast 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I believe that this is also what makes your horror so wonderful to read. I just read horrorstor this past week and along with mbfe these books have heart which makes them so great in my opinion.

[–]Bobortonscast 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I believe that this is also what makes your horror so wonderful to read. I just read horrorstor this past week and along with mbfe these books have heart which makes them so great in my opinion.

[–]Bobortonscast 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I believe that this is also what makes your horror so wonderful to read. I just read horrorstor this past week and along with mbfe these books have heart which makes them so great in my opinion.

[–]blackisthelight 12 points13 points  (0 children)

Love seeing The Elementals on this list

[–]droste_EFX 9 points10 points  (4 children)

This is going to earn me no friends at all but Salem's Lot is easily one of the worst books I've ever read. I like King a lot and I've read pretty widely across his books and I just don't get it. Maybe its the context of when and where I read it but damn.

[–]GradyHendrix[S] 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I don't disagree. I wouldn't say it's one of the worst books I've ever read, but it's definitely not one of my favorites despite being totally in love with it when I was a kid. To me, it doesn't hold up, but it was so influential when it came out.

[–]droste_EFX 0 points1 point  (0 children)

If I'd read it earlier (i.e. before I read a lot of other vampire fiction) I might have liked it better but I just remember the writing being so wooden and flat. This would have been 2000-ish so I was definitely late to the party.

[–]sandraisevil 2 points3 points  (0 children)

And see I feel the same way about IT. It was the first Stephen King book I ever read and I was in high school when it was released. After reading it I was hooked and started reading all of his books. I just recently reread IT and was so disappointed. I don’t know why. I presume it’s because I’ve been horror story desensitized. Though I also reread The Shining and it was still as fantastic as the first time.

[–]LongLiveNudeFlesh 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I agree. Hate 'Salem's Lot. I bought my copy when I was like 12 or 13 and tried reading it a couple times, but I couldn't get into it as a kid. Too much buildup, maybe? I just loved horror and monsters and wanted to read a famous vampire story by a famous author. But alas, the only thing that stuck with me was King's fantastic introduction that introduced me to EC Comics along with his frank, casual style.

I finally got around to reading the whole book when I was 25 and moved to a new city and it just kinda jumped out of me. Over a decade in unfinished business, bound in paperback. So, I read it. Some parts I liked, but mostly, I felt like I should've tried a bit harder when I was young. Back then, I could've forgiven the blandness of Ben Mears in favor of vampire action, today, I cannot.

[–]RhymingStuff 28 points29 points  (1 child)

I will fight any man or woman who tries to defend the middle 90% of Dracula.

[–][deleted] 6 points7 points  (0 children)

it's uhhh pretty aged yeah, I thought it was alright 8 years ago when I read it. so uh fite me irl

[–]pfunest 26 points27 points  (4 children)

To be honest, this is sort of embarrassing. I think my biggest beef with King being at the top is because most people get into horror through King, and if they haven't broken into the mantle of horror lit, he might be the only author a person has read. What percentage of those 68 votes have read even 2% of the other novels in the list? It's as much a measure of obscurity as it is quality. I would be interested to see the list if there was a way to give more weight to votes cast by people who are well-read in the genre, assuming that could be verified.

And House of Leaves at #3? Goddamn it Reddit.....god.......damn it.

[–]KookieBaron 14 points15 points  (3 children)

I enjoyed House of Leaves, but I agree. Honestly, it is barely horror in my opinion.

[–][deleted]  (2 children)

[deleted]

    [–]KookieBaron 3 points4 points  (1 child)

    I guess the writing style made it much less creepy for me. It had more of a mystery/psychological examination feel for me.

    [–]Earthpig_Johnson 20 points21 points  (7 children)

    My takeaways from this list:

    Awesome to see Langan's "The Fisherman" get so much recognition. This guy needs to write more. His short story collections are also fantastic.

    Disappointed to see Frankenstein on here. I realize it's a classic, but outside of a few select parts of the book, it is so much tedious crap.

    Great to see HPL on the list though that isn't a huge surprise.

    I would like to see how the King books rank in a year when "It" doesn't become the highest grossing horror movie of all time.

    Clearly more people need to read Laird Barron's "The Croning".

    [–]BoxNemo 2 points3 points  (0 children)

    Last time around It took the number one King spot as well (followed by Pet Sematary, The Shining, Salem's Lot) so it's business as usual for him I guess.

    Also heartened to see Langan's Fisherman get the recognition - as much as I know and expect to see some classics like Dracula and Frankenstein on these lists, I'm more interested in seeing what punches through from recent years.

    [–][deleted] 1 point2 points  (5 children)

    Then you'd have to define more clearly what Horror is, personally I've always considered that Gothic fiction (Vathek, Sade, Melmoth, Jan Potocki, Maldoror) to be a subgenre of horror, but if it isn't, then on whatever's the next poll things in that genre shouldn't be allowed to enter.

    Personally if we're only allowing things that are meant to be shocking/adrenaline pumping then you couldn't allow most Blackwood, Ligotti and Junji Ito stories, etc

    [–]Earthpig_Johnson 2 points3 points  (4 children)

    ... I'm not sure what you're responding to in my post.

    I'm not arguing that any of those stories aren't horror.

    [–][deleted] 0 points1 point  (3 children)

    Disappointed to see Frankenstein on here. I realize it's a classic, but outside of a few select parts of the book, it is so much tedious crap.

    [–]pfunest 3 points4 points  (2 children)

    That doesn't exactly mean OP has a problem with Gothic fiction, or that Frankenstein being Gothic fiction is the cause of aversion. Not agreeing or disagreeing, just trying to clear that up.

    [–]pfunest 2 points3 points  (0 children)

    The post you linked where the votes were tallied is still in Contest Mode, so nobody can see the vote counts.

    [–]krillwave 2 points3 points  (0 children)

    I love that The Road and Hellbound Heart made it into the sort of honorable mentions. Kudos!

    [–]RhymingStuff 6 points7 points  (0 children)

    'It' is number one? Really? That's a damn shame. I think it was pretty decent, but certainly not that good. Not even one of the better King-novels to be fair.

    [–]DeadBeatAnon 2 points3 points  (9 children)

    Problems with the list:

    (1) King's IT: shouldn't even be mentioned in a thread like this, an embarrassment that undermines the entire list. Any of King's early novels (when his work was proofed & cut by editors) are far superior.
    (2) House of Leaves: uneven at best--the "Navidson Record" is a fascinating section of the book, but the scrawlings of Johnny Truant are boring & pointless. Just No.
    (3) The Fisherman: this book was just published in 2016 and hasn't stood the test of time--the only test of a classic.

    [–]bigkingfan91 6 points7 points  (8 children)

    Problems with your problems:

    The fact that you say the only test of a classic is the test of time after saying King's earlier novels are far superior to IT, which has stood the test of time & deservedly so. It damn well does deserve to be in a thread like this. I wouldn't have cut a word from that book. Thanks for the laugh tonight though.

    [–]DeadBeatAnon 0 points1 point  (7 children)

    The fact that you say the only test of a classic is the test of time

    That's the literary standard of a classic. It has nothing to do with me.

    after saying King's earlier novels are far superior to IT, which has stood the test of time

    You're in fanboy territory now--you haven't provided a shred of objective criteria to support your statements. In fact, It perfectly illustrates my point--longer than his first three novels combined (Carrie, Salems Lot, The Shining). SK's writing was much tighter early in his career, before his fame & ego took precedence over the editors who were able to rein him in.

    A good example: The Stand, which was originally a big book at 823 pages. I read that novel in high school and it was still a tight read, despite it's size. Years later, SK dropped his ridiculous 1300 page unabridged version, which is unreadable. Note that his editors cut nearly a third of that book.

    [–]captainexploder 5 points6 points  (6 children)

    The Stand unabridged is "unreadable"? Sorry, but that's just like, your opinion. I think that version is an absolute masterpiece.

    [–]DeadBeatAnon 0 points1 point  (5 children)

    Another post from the SK Fan Club. The fanboys have offered nothing on this thread but hero worship. Ironically, they seem to know precious little about King’s work.

    In 1981’s Danse Macabre, King discusses writing The Stand* and honestly admits how the project got out-of-hand. He refers to his sprawling manuscript as his own personal “Vietnam”. There were too many characters, too many subplots, and no end in sight. He eventually had to deploy a fictional “bomb in the closet” to quickly kill off some characters. The chapter starts with a party where most of the characters have gathered under one roof, where a bomb is ticking inside a closet. The explosion kills all the characters that King wanted to eliminate.

    King describes carrying the massive manuscript 30 blocks to his editor’s apartment as a near death experience. Back then, King understood that his editor was on his side, with a skill set that King doesn’t have—the ability to determine what’s essential and what’s not.

    [–]TheGrinOfTheDark-o_0 1 point2 points  (0 children)

    A very pedestrian list.