Stephen King is indisputably a master of horror, and he’s understandably a touchpoint for many readers diving into the genre. But there are so many more scares out there.
This list is intended for new-to-horror readers and for those who find themselves as tour guides for readers fresh to the genre. No matter the reason, if you’re looking for specific readalikes for your favorite King books, give these a shot.
Disclaimer: This list doesn’t include all of King’s novels, and not even all of his horror works. There are too many — and I’m not paid by the word. But please feel free to put your own recommendations in the comments. I’d love to see them!
If you like The Shining, read Wonderland by Zoje Stage
Never move to the countryside in the winter. Just don’t. It’s a bad time. Stage’s follow-up to the demented Baby Teeth is more of a slow burn than The Shining, but the two works share some key characteristics. Recently retired ballet dancer Orla and her husband Shaw move their family of four to an upstate New York fixer-upper. Shaw wants to follow his artistic dreams and is drawn to the natural setting. You could say he finds inspiration… Toss in a supernaturally inclined tyke, and events do take on a certain Overlook Hotel vibe.
If you like Misery, read The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun
Admittedly, these are tonally different books. But a quick glance at this South Korean bestseller’s plot will sound familiar. A car accident killed Ogi’s wife and left him paralyzed. He’s being tended to by his grieving mother-in-law, though there’s very little care in her caretaking. As Ogi’s world becomes his own head and his universe the room he inhabits, he notices his mother-in-law digging large holes in the garden. The Hole offers a more introspective kind of suspense, but the setup is as fraught and tense as King’s Misery.
If you like IT, read The Boys of Summer by Richard Cox
Cox’s coming-of-age novel reads like the lovechild of IT and Stranger Things. In 1979, a tornado devastates Wichita Falls, Texas, and puts young Todd Willis in a coma, of sorts. After four years of existing in a hazy, dreamlike state, Todd awakens, changed. Todd becomes friends with a group of boys, and they spend the summer on a strange, violent escalation path. Years later, the boys — now men — return to confront their actions and what really happened that summer.
If you like The Outsider, read I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
If you like sprawling supernatural detective thrillers where the impossible is the only possibility, put this Icelandic novel on your to-read list. Multiple threads weave together in a ghostly generational mystery. A defaced schoolroom is linked to the death by suicide of an older woman. The supernatural run-ins of three friends renovating a remote home are tied to a detective’s investigation into the suicide. Multilayered, mind-blowing, and perfect for anyone who inhaled the recent HBO adaptation of The Outsider.
If you like Pet Sematary, read Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
Earlier, I advised you never to move your home to the country in the winter. I’d like to revise that statement: just never move. Much like the unfortunate Creed family in Pet Sematary, Kate and her son, Christopher, have arrived recently in a new town when mysterious and troubling things start to happen. Most notably, Christopher goes missing in the woods for six days. He returns apparently unharmed but entirely transformed, recruiting his new school friends on a mission to build a treehouse in those same woods.
If You Like The Mist, read The Keeper by Sarah Langan
What’s most frightening in The Mist for me is not the supernatural horrors. Instead, it’s human nature, and, in particular, the natures of all those Bridgton, Maine, residents in that supermarket. Langan’s novel is also very much about the people of her own spooky small Maine town: Bedford. There are otherworldly horrors at play here — predominantly tied to the tragic life of eccentric town beauty Susan Marley — but this decaying mill town’s past and present provide their own scares.
If You Like Carrie, read Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
Hanna Järvinen is not Carrie White. Carrie longs to be normal; Hanna takes pride in her abnormalities. Both are misunderstood, and both have lived through hardships. But where Carrie’s peers are figurative monsters, Hanna walks the streets of Portero, Texas, and sees the real deal. The two inhabit absurdly different novels, but I recommend Bleeding Violet for Carrie fans because both works take their teenage protagonists seriously. Too often, the emotions and inner lives of teen girls are treated as trivial; here, the horrors these girls experience is real.
If You Like 11/22/63, read The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Okay, this is half a joke, but the books do share a lot of plot points. The difference is this: The Shining Girls is like if you replaced all of 11/22/63’s “Lindy hop” references with “murder.” Beukes’s novel is, I think, one of the closest modern readalikes to King’s entire catalog. Harper Curtis found a house with a wormhole and has used it to become a time-traveling serial killer. The person who may just catch him? One of his would-be victims.