10 Best Non-Horror Stephen King Stories You Must Read

Scaring you isn't enough. Grab a hanky, too.

Stephen King
AP

Stephen King is known as the King of Horror for a reason - he can be pretty bloody scary when he wants to be.

What he doesn't have a reputation for, at least among mainstream audiences, is being damn funny or insightful, warm or profound. But he's equally adept at spinning tales about loss, hope, the morality of crime, and childhood, as horror. In fact, those themes appear again and again in his large body of work. No doubt you'll look at some of the entries on this list and think, 'He wrote that? Really?!'

His diversity makes sense when you think about it: his horror is so effective because he takes time and care fleshing out his characters, making us identify with them, care about them, so that when the proverbial does hit the fan, we're shook to our core. Or he just conjures up some wonderfully gruesome imagery. Whatever works.

Whilst some of the stories in this list might contain horror elements - a ghost here, a dash of the supernatural there - to classify them as part of the horror genre would be inaccurate. A drama isn't a comedy because it includes a few jokes, and a crime thriller isn't a science fiction tale because it might use futuristic technology. Likewise, these stories aren't predominantly horror stories, even though they might leave you a little chilled.

10. The Last Rung On The Ladder

Blaze Stephen King
NEScom

In 1978, Stephen King published his first short story collection - Night Shift. It contained what was expected, to an extent - tales of horror that would keep you up well into the night despite the fact you're an adult, proving King was a master of the short story as well as novels that could double as paperweights. What wasn't expected were a few dramatic tales revealing a knack for being able to pull on his readers' heartstrings.

One of these stories was The Last Rung on the Ladder, which also continued to highlight King's gift for writing from the perspective of children.

Here, Larry, now a grown man, talks about a dangerous game he used to play in his childhood with his sister, Katrina. When their parents weren't home, they'd go into the family barn, climb a ladder into the barn's loft, then jump off and land in a pile of hay whilst one of them watched from below. Katrina - now a grown woman estranged from him - would do a swan dive when jumping off during her turn.

But one time whilst playing this game, the ladder broke when Katrina was climbing it, and before she could reach the top. She clung on by her arms, legs kicking at nothing. Larry desperately piled the hay to save his sister's life before she fell. Thankfully, when she did, the hay had been piled deep enough to prevent the end of her short life.

Now, years later, Larry is guilt-ridden. He's read in a newspaper that his sister has committed suicide by jumping off a building. She'd tried to contact him via letter prior to this, but he hadn't told his sister he'd moved house, so didn't receive her letters soon enough. He hadn't been there to save her this time.

According to the newspaper article, Katrina had performed a swan dive as she jumped.

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