“Ask a Priest: Is It OK to Read Stephen King Novels?”

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Q: Just wondering if it is advisable to read any books by author and writer Stephen King! My college-age daughter came home this weekend with a book by him, and I seem to recall that it’s not good to read his books. Thank you for your assistance. – C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: From my limited knowledge of Stephen King’s works, I don’t think they would ever be catalogued in the spiritual-reading section of any library.

Book plots that involve the occult, etc., are not likely conducive for the spiritual life. However, observers have noted certain Christian sensibilities in some of Mr. King’s work. One of his novels reportedly was based on an interpretation of a line from the First Letter of John. I’ll leave it to others to offer insightful critiques of the novels. In any rate, all of us should avoid reading things that would be undercut our faith or otherwise be a source of sin.

The other issue is what you should do about your daughter’s choice of books. Here, you would want to be prudent. (I’m assuming that your daughter is an adult and probably getting accustomed to making her own decisions.)

Certainly you could suggest more-uplifting books. But be aware that she might or might not appreciate being told what she should and shouldn’t read. She is coming of age and trying to establish her own identity. This is a natural process and, yes, it involves risks.

Like many popular and secular authors, Mr. King’s books can be enjoyable and entertaining for people who like eerie stories. So instead of confronting your daughter and trying to “outlaw” his books, you might find it fruitful to use her reading that book as a launch pad for conversation. What is that book about? What do you like about that author? How does reading that book make you feel about yourself? One of my favorite novels is XYZ, and every time I read it I really find myself inspired because ….

These kinds of conversations can be interesting for both of you, as you share your personal experiences and thoughts. Conversations like that can build bridges and deepen your relationship, and that is valuable for both of you as you continue your life journey.

Perhaps, too, this is a moment for you as a mom to intensify your prayers for your daughter, and ask the Holy Spirit for the wisdom to say the right thing at the right moment.

And don’t despair if your daughter shrugs off any critical comments about her reading material. She might be going through a phase. The key thing is that she senses your love for her.

As a practical hint, you might aim to have lots of interesting books sitting around your house (be sure to read them yourself). This could open up lots of possibilities.


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