Misery: A Novel

Misery: A Novel

by Stephen King


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The #1 national bestseller about a famous novelist held hostage by his “number one fan” and suffering a frightening case of writer’s block—that could prove fatal. One of “Stephen King’s best…genuinely scary” (USA TODAY).

Paul Sheldon is a bestselling novelist who has finally met his number one fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes, and she is more than a rabid reader—she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also furious that the author has killed off her favorite character in his latest book. Annie becomes his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.

Annie wants Paul to write a book that brings Misery back to life—just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an axe. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty.

“Terrifying” (San Francisco Chronicle), “dazzlingly well-written” (The Indianapolis Star), and “truly gripping” (Publishers Weekly), Misery is “classic Stephen King...full of twists and turns and mounting suspense” (The Boston Globe).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501143106
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 01/05/2016
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 1,487
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than sixty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Institute, Elevation, The Outsider, Sleeping Beauties (cowritten with his son Owen King), and the Bill Hodges trilogy, End of Watch, Finders Keepers, and Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and an AT&T Audience Network original television series). His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic works The Dark Tower and It are the basis for major motion pictures, with It now the highest grossing horror film of all time. He is the recipient of the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the 2014 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.


Bangor, Maine

Date of Birth:

September 21, 1947

Place of Birth:

Portland, Maine


B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Misery includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

A famous novelist is held hostage by his “number one fan” while suffering a frightening case of writer’s block—how could things get worse? Stephen King finds a way as bestselling novelist Paul Sheldon matches wits with the deranged Annie Wilkes. As Annie nurses Paul after an automobile accident, she discovers that her beloved author has killed off her favorite character in his latest book. Annie then becomes Paul’s captor, insisting that Paul write a book that brings Misery back to life—just for Annie, or else. Annie has a lot of ways to inspire Paul. One is a needle. Another is an axe. Misery is “classic Stephen King . . . full of twists and turns and mounting suspense” (The Boston Globe).

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Part I begins with the Friedrich Nietzsche quote “When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” How does this quote set the stage for the “Annie” section of the novel and for Annie Wilkes herself?

2. Think of other characters like Annie in literature, such as Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. What do these women have in common? Why are they so intimidating and frightening?

3. Though Paul has “spent most of his adult life thinking the word writer was the most important definition of himself” (page 31), he despises Misery, his own creation and his most popular work. What does this tell the reader about Paul?

4. Paul often recalls episodes from his childhood that parallel his current circumstances. The African bird from a visit to the zoo with his mother, for instance. Why does Paul associate himself with the African bird (page 62)?

5. Why is Annie so insistent on Misery’s Return being fair (page 116)? Why does Paul ultimately agree with her criticism?

6. King includes several passages from Misery’s Return throughout Misery itself, even with the missing letters from the typewriter and then in cursive when Paul begins writing longhand. Are these passages necessary? How do they affect the novel as a whole?

7. In the Uncle Remus stories, when Brer Rabbit leads his would-be captors to his “laughin’ place,” it turns out to be a cavern of bees. How is Annie’s “Laughing Place” (page 179) like Brer Rabbit’s?

8. There are references to other King novels in Misery, such as when Annie describes The Overlook Hotel from The Shining on page 219. Some authors create fictional worlds for themselves in this manner, like William Faulkner and his Yoknapatawpha County. What does an author achieve with these references and fictional worlds that span many stories?

9. Discuss the many different kinds of “gotta” (pages 249 and 284) found in Misery. How is each character driven by his or her gottas?

10. Why is Paul also Scheherazade to himself (page 246)? Why does it take him such a long time to realize this?

11. Think of Humbert Humbert in Lolita and Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick, obsessives who lose touch with reality, much like Annie. Why is obsession such fertile ground for unsettling and terrifying characters?

12. The four parts of Misery are titled “Annie,” “Misery,” “Paul,” and “Goddess.” Why is the novel structured this way? How do these section names reflect Paul’s experiences?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Watch the 1990 film adaptation of Misery starring Kathy Bates and James Caan. Discuss the similarities and differences between the book and the movie. Misery has also been adapted for the stage. What do you think makes the story work visually?

2. Play a game of Can You? (page 124) like Paul did as a child. After the game, discuss whether it was easier or harder than you thought and what

Customer Reviews

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Misery 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 522 reviews.
MyReviewsMatter More than 1 year ago
I can't type fast enough to explain why people should read this book. I made this account just to comment on Misery. First off, Annie is one crazy psycho chick..and Stehpen makes her seem so...real. I got chills reading about how she tormented Paul because it seemed like Annie was right there with me with a sledgehammer in her hands or something. For those who would rather watch the movie first, it wouldn't affect their decision because they are both epicly rad...excuse my language. Misery is just...I can't eplain it. You'll just have to read it for yourself and decide if you want it or not because you've got the reciept; if you don't like it, take it back and don't waste your time writing a bad review about this faultless book...or Annie will find you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have ever read! Its filled with intensity and suspense! The "hobbling" scene left me with nightmares for days! A MUST READ!!!!
Leasara More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've read by Stephen King, and I loved it. I enjoyed the story so thoroughly I pressed on through the ridiculous amount of typographical errors I found in the eBook version I downloaded from B&N. I think this was likely due to the process of converting the book to an electronic edition, as most of the errors could be attributed to OCR inaccuracies, punctuation and numbers thrown in at random where scanning software mistook imperfections in the printed page for relevant data.
bobeanie More than 1 year ago
Misery is one of Stephen King’s older books, and it could easily be considered one of his best works. Misery only has two characters, Paul Sheldon, a best-selling author and Annie Wilkes, a former nurse. The story takes place within the confines of Annie Wilkes house, in the colorado mountains. Paul, the author of famous books that include his character Misery, has just finished his last book in the series, proud of himself for finally killing Misery off in the end. To celebrate him finishing the book, he drinks and drunkenly gets into his car in the middle of a snowstorm. When he wakes up, his legs are badly broken, but he was rescued from death by Annie Wilkes. By coincidence she is a devoted fan of his books. She is such a big fan that she refuses to allow Paul to kill Misery off in his book. Through drugs and torture, she forces Paul to rewrite his book, resurrecting Misery. Anybody who has read a King book will enjoy the gruesome nature of their relationship. It leaves the audience questioning if the author will live? Will he escape? The book is built on the bias of those questions and hangs there for most of its time. Misery is not as scary as It, or even Pet Sematary, but King dives into the psychology of fears. Paul is constantly left in a position where he can not tell if Annie is caring for him in light of good intentions, or if she is helping him to get what she wants. We see the entire story from Paul’s perspective. We follow him as he searches for a way out of his problems, we see how Annie Wilkes alternates from being a mad-woman to a woman with childlike glee in a matter of seconds from his eyes only. Annie is not a successful villain in terms of the character who will make us keep the light on until we’ve finished the book. Overall, Misery isn’t the best book to go to if you want to be kept up at night. However, Misery does a good job of pulling you in, just like most of King’s works, and is a very likeable book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I usually just kind of liked the tales from King but this one has to be the most scary; because it could actually happen. Instead of a monster dog or ghosts or raging car, its just Annie. And she, without a doubt, is one of the scariest villians I've read in a long time. However, I feel that Annie is far more interesting than the main character, Paul. He seems quite one sided in the start of the novel, just a subject for Annie's torture. But as it progresses, and the story moves on, you start to get into the world he's in, and root for him to survive. The sections with the Misery novels are fun, too! It was written in a different style, as it should due to Paul writing it, and I found myself excited to read those as well. Paul even had typewriter mistakes and it made it seem all the more real. However, there are a variety of errors and typos throughout the ebook version that I found quite distracting. These were outside of Paul's writing and where it was supposed to be written correctly - in the actual novel. It took me out of the world of the novel to realize that "surely" was mispelled and that the name Annie isn't spelled with one N. Overall, great story and a quick read! Its 400 or so ebook flips but it goes by so quickly!
Selina_Kyle More than 1 year ago
Okay, so to start off with, I LOVED this book. It was well written and kept me on the edge of my seat. Stephen King is truly one of the best horror writers out there. Now for the bad part. The only problem I had with this book was the Nook formatting. It was HORRIBLE. Words were missing letters, there were sometimes numbers in the middle of words, many things were misspelled, and there were random periods in the middle of sentences. If it only happened a couple of times it could be easily ignored but this was a constant staple throughout the whole book, it became very distracting. Like I said, this book was really good and I enjoyed it, I just wish the formatting had been a little better. If you're going to buy this book, I'd go with paperback until they fix all the bugs.
Rose_of_Turbansk More than 1 year ago
This is the most terrifying book I've ever read. The scariest part was that Annie was a character you felt sympathy for at times, and then all of a sudden she would go completely insane. Stephen King really outdid himself with this one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was GREAT! I love the horror genre. Perhaps a little too much. Felt like every other page I was laughing and saying "This b**** is f***ing CRAZY!" The end was quite satisfying. Now I need to see the film! I wonder how it compares. I'm told it's quite good as well! :)
nancybout More than 1 year ago
Paul Sheldon,a writer gets into an accident and Annie his #1 FAN happily goes to rescue him.She is strong,stocky,and worse of all a complete sick psychopath. She keeps him prisoner,and through that many things happen to Paul that made this novel captivating and a great read. I read this AFTER watching the movie,(a few years ago),i must say the book is 100 times better!! Stephen King..you did it again.Hands down,one of most favorite authors:)
1louise1 More than 1 year ago
I don't usually go for these "FRIGHT TALES", but...WOW! A writer becomes a victim of obsession, "chained" to his work, add a mean psychotic woman and being held prisoner...OH! MY WORST NIGHTMARE!
kingpita More than 1 year ago
If you want to read a great book by the King but don't have the patience for one of his longer ones, read Misery. It's not long, but a hell of a lot of fun. King never dissapoints.
mandadanyele More than 1 year ago
This is a classic Stephen King book. I have read of a few of his books so far and this is by far my favorite SK book at the moment. It's very thrilling and you never know what is going to happen next. Highly Recommnd this book.
songcatchers More than 1 year ago
If you've ever wondered what it might be like to be held captive and tortured by an extremely unbalanced ex-nurse then you should read Misery. Even if you've never wondered what it would be like you should still read Misery. I was kept on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what awful torment Annie would visit upon poor Paul next. Misery is a good movie and an even better book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TheLiteraryPhoenix More than 1 year ago
Reading Misery was a rollercoaster of cringing and discomfort. It is an amazingly well-written book. The pace is slow, but that only adds to the tension. The writing is deliberate and careful. The blurb on the cover says this is King at his best, and I'm inclined to agree. There's no unnecessary detail and idle chatter - every object in this story, every word spoken is agonizingly deliberate. Everything adds to the possibilities. Everything adds to the tension. It's fantastic. Paul Sheldon is kidnapped by his Number One Fan, Annie Wilkes, who both nurses him back to health and breaks him more. She forces him to resurrect her favorite book character and write her a sequel. The story is Paul's only escape and he walks a tightrope of trying to please her so she won't hurt him, and trying to plot an escape. Because of his imagination, Paul is a slightly unreliable narrator. He makes you doubt the horrifying realities and keep flipping pages, hoping that the unspeakable hadn't really happened. This was a book I couldn't put down. I didn't enjoy it in usual sense - but I did enjoy it for the way it wrapped me up. It's an incredible psychological thriller, and should be read by any fan of King's work or the genre.
TheLiveSoundGuy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I thought the movie was done quite nicely, I think the book painted a much more plausible scenario for me. The images provoked in King's words just seemed to come to life as it were. This also about the same time he began to write more books so fast I was unable to keep up.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Misery is a nice, taut horror story, unusual for King but very well done. A romance author who has decided to kill off the character who has made him famous is kidnapped and held hostage by his number-one fan until he brings his character Misery back from the dead. The suspense ramps up to the almost unbearable level, and the scene where Annie makes him burn his "real" novel is truly excruciating to any creator.
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would like to rate this novel higher because it is very well written (in terms of syntax, symbolism, narrative structure, etc.), but it's just so gruesome. It's not a pleasant read because of this, although it does get you hooked and you won't want to put it down. If you're a fan of horror fiction, then I'd recommend this title. If not, then like me, you might be less than overly enthusiastic about it.
5hrdrive on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To me this is still the scariest of all - and maybe King's best.
JEldredge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Simply put, this was the novel that started me on that long, dark road through the mind of Stephen King. And years later, it is still my favorite.
israfel13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Better than the movie, and in this case that's saying allot. There's a good number of reviews already posted on this one so I'll spare you the details but if you thought the "hobbling scene" in the movie was crazy just wait till you read the book.
booklover3258 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best of Stephen King's works. I enjoyed how far she went with her obsession.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As with many of King's works, I find his books that deal with real people to be far scarier and more entertaining than the books that involve supernatural (and many times silly) monsters and beings. Gerald's Game, Dolores Claiborne, The Shining, Misery are terrifying without being ridiculous.
buffalogr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Suspenseful story of an author trapped by a wacko. What I thought might be a self-licking ice cream cone became much fun to listen.