3. The Stand (Novel)

Original publication date: 1978

At 823 pages, The Stand is a massive tome that’s as dense as it is insightful. But, really, its plot is easily dictated: It’s the ultimate battle of good versus evil, or, if you’re the religious type, God versus Satan. A pandemic wipes out 99.4% of the world’s population, leaving a small collective of survivors who all seek out answers and guidance. Some follow Mother Abigail, a prophet of God in a kind old woman’s body, while the rest of the living pledge allegiance to the Lucifer-like Randall Flagg.

Seamlessly handling upwards of 20 characters throughout the novel, King fleshes each of his many protagonists and antagonists out with divvied out care, so that the final showdown between Abigail’s positive supporters and Flagg’s negative minions is the rare battle in which all casualties leave an emotional mark on the reader. Unlike the 1994 made-for-TV adaptation that did absolutely nothing right except for stay in focus.