Stephen King: The Chart of Darkness

In 2009, I published a chapbook with Cemetery Dance titled Chart of Darkness, which chronicled Stephen King's long and fascinating relationship with the bestseller lists. The chapbook was distributed as an incentive for readers who purchased other books at CD. It is currently out of print, but plans are in the works for that to change. Time will out!

As a bonus to the text, I also included an actual chart at the back of the book, The Chart of Darkness. Below, I have reproduced that chart as sort of a taste of the history behind King's interesting bestseller history. I've also included some interesting facts to go along with the figures below; some stuff is too fun not to share!

All figures come from the New York Times Bestseller List. A - means the book did not chart. All titles are hyperlinks back to the corresponding review page, and all #1s are indicated with red shading and a bold white typeface. Enjoy the chart!

Release DateTitleHardcoverPaperback
04/05/1974 Carrie - 3
10/17/1975 'Salem's Lot - 1
03/01/1977 The Shining 8 3
09/13/1977 Rage - -
02/12/1978 Night Shift - 9
11/28/1978 The Stand 13 2
08/30/1979 The Dead Zone 12 1
07/08/1979 The Long Walk - -
09/29/1980 Firestarter 1 1
04/05/1981 Roadwork - -
05/03/1981 Danse Macabre 7 -
09/08/1981 Cujo 1 1
05/23/1982 The Running Man - -
06/10/1982 The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger - 1
07/18/1982 Creepshow - -
08/27/1982 Different Seasons 1 2
04/29/1983 Christine 2 1
11/14/1983 Pet Sematary 1 1
12/03/1983 Cycle of the Werewolf - 5
10/08/1984 The Talisman (with Peter Straub) 1 1
11/19/1984 Thinner 1 1
12/02/1984 The Eyes of the Dragon 1 1
06/21/1985 Skeleton Crew 1 1
10/04/1985 The Bachman Books 10 3
11/12/1985 Silver Bullet - -
09/15/1986 It 1 1
05/01/1987 The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three - 1
06/08/1987 Misery 1 1
11/10/1987 The Tommyknockers 1 1
10/02/1989 The Dark Half 1 1
05/01/1990 The Stand: Complete & Uncut 1 1
09/03/1990 Four Past Midnight 1 1
08/06/1991 The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands - 1
10/04/1991 Needful Things 2 3
06/30/1992 Gerald's Game 1 5
11/17/1992 Dolores Claiborne 1 1
10/13/1993 Nightmares & Dreamscapes 2 3
10/01/1994 Insomnia 1 1
07/01/1995 Rose Madder 2 3
03/28/1996 The Green Mile: The Two Dead Girls - 1
04/25/1996 The Green Mile: The Mouse on the Mile - 1
05/30/1996 The Green Mile: Coffey's Hands - 1
06/27/1996 The Green Mile: The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix - 1
07/25/1996 The Green Mile: Night Journey - 1
08/29/1996 The Green Mile: Coffey on the Mile - 1
09/24/1996 Desperation 1 1
09/24/1996 The Regulators 2 5
04/15/1997 Six Stories - -
05/05/1997 The Green Mile (Compiled) - 2
08/08/1997 The Dark Tower IV: Wizard & Glass 12 1
09/22/1998 Bag of Bones 1 1
02/01/1999 Storm of the Century - 7
04/06/1999 The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon 1 2
09/14/1999 Hearts In Atlantis 4 1
06/05/2000 The Plant, Part One: Zenith Rising - -
10/03/2000 On Writing 2 4
10/03/2000 Secret Windows - -
03/20/2001 Dreamcatcher 1 1
09/15/2001 Black House (with Peter Straub) 1 2
03/19/2002 Everything's Eventual 1 3
09/24/2002 From a Buick 8 1 6
11/04/2003 The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla 2 -
06/08/2004 The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah 1 -
09/21/2004 The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower 1 -
12/02/04 Faithful (with Stewart O'Nan) 3 -
10/04/2005 The Colorado Kid - 5
01/04/2006 Cell 1 2
10/24/2006 Lisey's Story 1 4
06/12/2007 Blaze 2 5
10/16/2007 The Mist - 9
01/22/2008 Duma Key 1 5
11/30/2008 Just After Sunset 2 5
11/10/2009 Under the Dome 1 4
04/20/2010 Blockade Billy 9 -
11/09/2010 Full Dark, No Stars 2 5
11/27/11 11/22/63 1 5
04/24/12 The Wind Through the Keyhole 1 -
June 2013 Joyland - 1
09/24/13 Doctor Sleep 1 9
06/22/14 Mr. Mercedes 1 9
11/30/14 Revival 1 8
6/21/15 Finders Keepers 1 2
11/03/15 The Bazaar of Bad Dreams 1 -
06/07/16 End of Watch 1 -

Fun Facts and Trivia

Joyland broke King's streak of the longest time between #1s. Following 2001's Black House, no King paperback charted at #1 until 2013. Cell came close, at #2, and there was a whole slew of #5s, but nothing in the top slot until Joyland broke the streak.

  • Stephen King is only the second person ever to have a book at the #1 and #2 spots on the Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers List, achieving this in 1996 with Desperation and The Regulators. The first was Robert James Waller, who did so with Bridges Over Madison County and Slow Waltz In Cedar Bend.

  • Neither the initial hardcover or paperback printings of Carrie generated much chart attention; only when Brian DePalma's film became a hit did King's novel peak at an impressive #3, in January of 1977.

  • King's second book, 'Salem's Lot, actually hit the paperback bestseller lists before his first (due to the aforementioned movie tie-in business). 'Salem's Lot also holds the distinction of being the first book of King's to hit #1 on any chart.

  • The Dead Zone is the first Stephen King book to hit #1 on both the hardcover and paperback charts.

  • Stephen King has never had a nonfiction book reach #1 on the Hardcover chart. On Writing came the closest, at #2, followed by Faithful at #3 and Danse Macabre at a relatively minor #7.

  • Other than Thinner, which was released mere months before the revelation that Bachman was King, no Bachman book has ever hit the #1 spot. All of the original four Bachman books - Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man (all paperback originals) - failed to chart at all. The compilation hardcover, The Bachman Books fared better, reaching #3 on the paperback chart (but not placing at all on the hardcover chart). Both subsequent Bachman hardcovers - The Regulators and Blaze - did well, but still stalled at #2.

  • In 1991, a whole bunch of bestselling writers released new novels around the same time, including King with Needful Things. None of them reached #1, due to the unprecedented success of the Gone With the Wind sequel, Scarlett. Needful Things halted at #2.

  • If the chart performance of Hearts In Atlantis seems oddly poor, here's the reason: it was up against the first three volumes of the Harry Potter series. The New York Times subsequently banished the Harry Potter novels to a new, kids-only chart, thereby freeing up space again for the adult books. Ergo, Dreamcatcher at #1.

  • Because The Green Mile was released in six seperate parts over the spring and summer of 1996, I decided to track the volumes' chart performances individually. A year later, the book came out in a compilation volume, first in paperback and then in hardcover. The paperback charted at a remarkably high #2, whereas the hardcover failed to chart at all.

  • The seemingly low chart performance of The Mist at #9 is actually a bit miraculous. The novella had been available to the public since 1979, and was included in Skeleton Crew - a #1 book - in 1985. So a story that had been part of the most popular book in the country at one point was now, by itself, making the Top 10 over two decades later.

  • The Dark Tower books have a frustrating chart history. The first four books (The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, and Wizard & Glass) were published by Donald M. Grant, a specialty publisher, as limited editions. The demand, as well as the print runs, grew higher with each subsequent book, so much so that Wizard & Glass was sold in retail stores, as well as through Grant directly; this is how that book managed to make it to the relatively lofty position of #12. When Wolves of the Calla was released, it was done so via an unprecedented joint venture between Grant and Scribner, guaranteeing higher-than-ever print runs. This is how Wolves got to #2.

    Which is actually kind of a lie. See, because of the whole Green Mile debacle about charting series' books as one title, what really went to #2 was "The Dark Tower, Volumes 1-5. It's safe to assume, however, that because the chart dates correspond with Wolves of the Calla's release date, that's the book we should be talking about.

    Someone in the chart department seemed to wise up to the ludicrousness of the concept, and both Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower had solo chart runs, both topping at #1. One has to wonder what would have happened if Wolves had been allowed to stand alone.

  • Speaking of The Dark Tower: perhaps because of the wide availability of the hardcovers, the paperback counterparts of the final three Dark Tower novels failed to chart at all. The preceding four had each gone to #1.

  • King has published two only full-length screenplays, Silver Bullet and Storm of the Century. For whatever reason, Silver Bullet failed to chart at all (perhaps in part because much of the book was a reprint of Cycle of the Werewolf, which had been published years before). Storm of the Century made it to #7 on the Paperback charts ... which might not seem like very high, but considering that screenplays aren't generally mass-market material, I'd say #7 is pretty high!

  • A surprising number of King paperbacks have stalled at #5 on the charts: Blaze, The Regulators, Cycle of the Werewolf, Gerald's Game, The Colorado Kid, Duma Key, and Just After Sunset all belong to the Stephen King #5 Paperback Book Club.

  • Several King paperbacks didn't reach their peaks until after the movie adaptations were released. Carrie didn't chart at all during its initial publication, but placed at #3 when the movie was released. The paperbacks for the Uncut version of The Stand, Hearts In Atlantis, and Dreamcatcher only went to #1 after the theatrical or television adaptation debuted. Even books that had originally done well on the charts, like It and Misery, enjoyed healthy secondary chart runs in conjunction with the film release.