Author Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers in the genres of horror and supernatural fiction. King has published 64 novels and sold more than 350 million copies, embedding his writing in American culture in a way that few other writers in the genre have. A recent YouGov poll finds that half of Americans have read at least one of his books, and most people who've read one have gone back for more. Among the most widely read King books are those that have been adapted into films, including Carrie, The Shining, Pet Sematary, and IT. The favorite among Americans who've read multiple King books, however, is one that has stayed on the small screen: The Stand.
How many Americans have read a book by Stephen King?
Half of Americans (52%) say they've read at least one book by King, including 34% of Americans who say they've read more than one. American adults under 30 have read fewer King books (only 20% have read more than one), though this could just be a result of having had fewer years of literate life. Men and women are about equally likely to have read one or multiple books by King.
Which of King's novels are most widely read?
To develop a list of King's most popular books, in an earlier poll we asked Americans who'd ever read King to tell us in their own words which book was their favorite. Based on responses to this question, we developed a list of 20 of King's novels, which we asked follow-up questions about in a later poll. Of the 20 polled, the top three novels read by people who've read at least one King book are Carrie (41% of King readers have read), The Shining (41%), and Pet Sematary (40%). About one in three King readers have read IT (33%), Cujo (32%), Christine (31%), The Stand (30%), The Green Mile (30%), and Misery (30%). However, because only 52% of Americans have read at least one King book, the shares of all Americans who have read each of these books is about half as large; for example, only 21% of all American adults read Carrie, compared to 41% of the American adults who have ever read King.
What are Americans' favorite King books?
We asked people who had read more than one of the 20 King novels asked about to tell us which of these is their favorite. The winner, taking 13% of the vote, is The Stand. The Stand was published in 1978 and is King's fifth published novel. Its plot is described as "an apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil." The Shining, which is the third book King wrote, takes second place with 11% of the vote. While King is reportedly not a fan of The Shining's film adaptation, a recent YouGov poll finds that it's the second most beloved horror movie out of 35 asked about. It's not the only King film adaptation to shine: IT, which ranks third in terms of favorite King books — 9% say it's their favorite — also ranks third on our list of Americans' favorite horror films. This ranking includes only readers who have at least two King books to compare, but would be little changed if people who read just one King book were included.
Favorability of Stephen King
Most Americans (57%) say they have a favorable opinion of King, while only one in five (21%) say they have an unfavorable one. People who have read more than one King book are particularly big fans of the author: 78% say they have a favorable opinion of him — including 44% who say they have a very favorable opinion of him — while 19% have an unfavorable of him.
— Carl Bialik and Allen Houston contributed to this article.
This poll was conducted on October 12 - 16, 2022, among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this poll.
Image: Getty (Scott Eisen / Stringer)