I hate the Red Sox, but I love these guys

I’m listening to the book Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season by Stephen King and Stuart O’Nan. It’s essentially a double-entry journal that chronicles the Red Sox for one season. It’s full of traditional journal entries, email exchanges, summaries of phone calls between the two men, and recollections of games they attended alone and together.

Even though I am a Yankees fan, I’m enjoying the book a lot, though I suspect I will enjoy it much less once I reach the postseason entries. By some stroke of genius, King and O’Nan chose to work on this book during the season in which the Red Sox win their first World Series since 1918.

Lucky bastards.

But having grown up in Massachusetts, I spent a lot of time around Red Sox fans, so listening to what King and O’Nan have to say about the team and the game of baseball is a little bit like going home.

I also like both writers a lot.

O’Nan taught at creative writing at Trinity College during my time there, and I was fortunate enough to squeeze in one class with him before he left. I’ve heard him speak a few times since then, and I’ve read several of his books, including most recently LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER. Years ago I read his nonfiction account of the Hartford Circus Fire, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Stephen King has become a bit of a hero to me, for several reasons.

Growing up without very few books in my home, it wasn’t until I was granted my own library card that I really began reading and falling in love with books, and many of those first books were written by Stephen King. NIGHT SHIFT, DIFFERENT SEASONS, THE SHINING, and CUJO were just a few of the novels I read that first summer, and I loved every one of them.

Eventually I would go on to read all of King’s work, including IT, which I have read at least a dozen times, and his Dark Tower series, which I consider a genuine masterpiece.

Two decades later, it would be another one of King’s books, ON WRITING, that would inspire me to continue writing when the possibility of a writing career felt impossible and hopeless. The first half of ON WRITING is an autobiographical account of King’s life as a writer, including his very humble beginnings as a short story writer for men’s magazines.  The image of Stephen King siting in the laundry room of his trailer, shoved against the washing machine, unable to afford medicine for his sick children, sent me back to the laptop ready and willing to conquer the beast.

At the age of ten, Stephen King opened my mind to the world of books and reading, and thirty years later, I have now joined his fraternity. It’s an incredible feeling. Sort of like idolizing a ballplayer as a kid and then finding yourself playing alongside that same player someday.

In reading FAITHFUL, I’ve learned a few things about King that I did not know, specifically in terms of his approach to time management. It turns out that he and I have a lot in common in this regard.

While watching the Red Sox game, King has a book in his lap, and in between innings, he will read. He estimates that he can read about 40 pages during the average baseball game.

I have also been known to do this, in addition to spending commercial breaks listening to audiobooks and podcasts or pounding away at the laptop. From time to time I’ve also been known to listen to an audiobook while watching television, especially when the show is somewhat mindless and predictable.

Even more impressive, King writes about how he will listen to the ballgame on his car radio but switch over to an audiobook in between innings, timing the two minute commercial break with his wrist watch.

Similarly, I can be found at the gym with two sets of headphones when running on the elliptical. One is a wireless pair connected to my iPhone, through which I am undoubtedly listening to an audiobook or podcast. The second pair is attached to the machine so I can listen to the television affixed to it. I will switch between these two headphones during a workout in order to take advantage of commercial breaks, which has caused more than one fellow gym rat to stare at me in confusion. Yesterday, for example, I was watching the replay of the Yankees game from the day before as I worked out, and similar to King, I would switch headphones between innings and listen to my book, which happened to be King and O’Nan discussing the Red Sox “June swoon.”

Fear not, boys. Things will turn around for the Sox soon enough.

I’ve often thought that if Stephen King and I had the chance to get to know one another, we would be fast friends. While this is unlikely to ever happen, I do hope that he reads one of my books someday, which isn’t asking much considering the number of books the man reads on a yearly basis. I wouldn't even need to know if he liked the book or not. Just knowing that the author who inspired a ten year old boy to read and a thirty year old man to write picked up one of my novels would be enough for me.

Ranking Stephen King’s 62 books: Some minor quibbling on my part

Vulture recently ranked Stephen King’s 62 books. Not an easy task, and overall, I think they did a surprisingly good job. I have read all but one of King’s books (see below), and despite the excellence of Vulture’s rankings, I would like to quibble a bit about a few of their decisions. First and foremost, I would have lumped all seven (and now eight) of King’s Dark Tower Series together or (preferably) excluded them from the rankings entirely. Though I admire the attempt to rank each book individually, these novels are inseparable in my mind. Had I been forced to include them on the list, I would have lumped them into one entry and placed them in the first position.


Ideally, however, I would have left the Dark Tower books off the list completely, explaining that they are quite separate from his stand-alone books. Placing them on the list is akin to comparing apples to oranges.

Other, more minor quibbles:

  • I would rate Insomnia and Black Housemuch higher on the list, but this is admittedly because their connections to The Dark Tower series were readily apparent and much appreciated by me.
  • I would rate Duma Key and Christine much lower. Duma Key is the only Stephen King book that failed to hold my interest, and the premise for Christine was just too silly for me to accept (but the movie might have also ruined this book for me).
  • I did not love Rose Madder, but I do not think it is King’s worst novel. I would reserve that position for Cell (you can’t simply turn your derision for cell phones into a novel) or Duma Key.
  • I was happy to see that the short story collections Hearts in Atlantis and Night Shift were placed in the top third of the list. I feel hat they are often overlooked. Both are better than Skeleton Crew, another short story collection which is also excellent but should be ranked below them.
  • I liked From a Buick 8 but it does not belong as high as #16.
  • I did not like Under the Dome. I found the novel to be long and disappointing. I felt it was one of King’s worst books. The ending of the story was a complete letdown. Placing it at #12 is crazy. Vulture’s worst decision.
  • Danse Macabreis an interesting and well written work of nonfiction, but it does not stack up to his best works of fiction. It has no place in the top 20.
  • I have never read Lisey’s Story, which is ranked #10. This is an oversight on my part that I will soon correct.
  • I would have placed The Green Mile in my top 10.
  • I am so happy that It was placed at #3. This is exactly where I would have rated it as well. I freakin’ love that book.


  • I was equally pleased to see the respect given to On Writing, a book that inspired me to continue writing when all hope was seemingly lost. It is a brilliant combination of memoir and inspiration.


  • I think Vulture’s top 5 are ranked perfectly. I think this is the most impressive aspect of their entire list. The wisdom to place It and On Writing along such obvious choices as The Stand and The Shining is impressive.  Misery is ranked #6. I think I would have placed Salem’s Lot at #6, but Misery would have remained in my top 10.