ARC Review: Reading Stephen King edited by Brian James Freeman

Image of book cover from GoodReads
Image of book cover from GoodReads

Title: Reading Stephen King

Editor: Brian James Freeman

Category: Nonfiction Essay Collection

Publisher/Date: Cemetery Dance/November 2017

Edition: ARC


Cemetery Dance:

Stephen King has inspired millions of readers with his writing for more than four decades , and this special volume of essays gathers together some of his high-profile fans to discuss why they love reading the works of Stephen King.

Many of these fans are acclaimed authors of fiction in their own right. Some of them have written insightful books about Stephen King’s work, exploring how King’s natural storytelling gift has allowed him to create stories that reach people in every language around the world. A few of them have even written, produced, and directed movie adaptations of King’s most acclaimed works.

In this book you will join Clive Barker, Stewart O’Nan, Richard Chizmar, Frank Darabont, Stephen Spignesi, Justin Brooks, Tony Magistrale, Michael R. Collings, Rocky Wood, Robin Furth, Kevin Quigley, Hans-Ake Lilja, Billy Chizmar, Jack Ketchum, Bev Vincent, Mick Garris, and Jay Franco as they discuss their love of reading Stephen King…

I read an ARC of this book before it released, but I also pre-ordered a copy before I knew I was getting an ARC, and then I ended up with another copy from a grab bag box. So now I have an ARC, a signed hardcover, and a regular hardcover. Oops.

How has Stephen King affected your life? For me, he first dropped into it when my partner sent me this photo back in high school:

A pile of approximately 45 various Stephen King books.

I distinctly remembered replying to that text with “0.o That’s a lot of Stephen King books…” He had ended up with his mother’s collection, and by doing so he brought King into both of our lives. We went from that one pile to almost two full sets of King’s novels (my collection is a bit bigger, but we’re more than happy to share with each other so we can buddy read the ones we both have or pass back and forth the ones we don’t). We’re still working our way through them; he’s going through The Dark Tower series, and I’m going to be reading Under the Dome next. These books, both the ones we like and the ones we don’t, have led to some of our stranger conversations, and we’ve bonded over them.

Questions like this one are the kinds of questions that the essays in Reading Stephen King were based on. Each essay tells the story of a writer’s own interactions with King and his work, and I loved reading all of them. A few highlights:

  • “Sometimes You Go Back” by Stewart O’Nan opens the collection by bringing in the feeling of nostalgia from a person’s first King books, and as someone who clearly relates to this I felt like this was an excellent way to open up the book.
  • “Disappearing Down That Rabbit Hole” by Justin Brooks starts with the line “Let’s get it all out there in the open: collectors are a weird bunch.” After reading this essay, I’m more than a little inclined to agree. This is a look into the world of collecting King’s work from a variety of perspectives; with all of the smaller pieces and lost work that’s out there in the world, it’s not as easy as you might think at first. My eyes kept getting wider and wider as I read this, and after I finished this essay I had to stare off into space a bit to digest all of the complexities involved.
  • “Reading the Lost Works of Stephen King” by Rocky Wood discusses a bit more narrowly that notion of reading all of King’s work by focusing on a few certain pieces that are unavailable to the general public and yet not entirely unattainable. Another excellent look at reading deeper into King’s work.
  • “Being a Non-US Stephen King Fan” by Hans-Áke Lilja was probably my favorite essay in the whole collection because while many other essays focused on work that wasn’t generally readable by people, this essay focused on just how hard it can be to get ahold of books when you’re not in the country the author lives in or you can’t read in English, and it involves a lot of waiting. This is something that gets forgotten far too often, and reading Lilja’s perspective was something I greatly appreciated.

I loved this essay collection overall, and I think it’s a wonderful treat for any King fan.

Final rating: 5 of 5 stars

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