Should You Read Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ Books Before Seeing the Movie?

Here's what you need to know about The Dark Tower. It's a lot.
Brian Linder
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The Dark Tower, the epic fantasy western which author Stephen King calls his magnum opus, is finally coming to the big screen this August. The movie stars Idris Elba as the Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and Matthew McConaughey as the evil Man in Black. The movie is actually a sequel to King’s epic 8-book saga, taking place after the events of The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower. If you haven’t read the novels, you’re probably asking yourself…

Should I read The Dark Tower books before seeing the movie?

If you're just looking to enjoy the Dark Tower movie -- maybe you're a big Idris Elba or Matthew McConaughey fan who's only mildly curious about the plot -- it isn't essential that you read the books.

The Dark Tower movie, directed and co-written by Nikolaj Arcel, combines elements from several novels in the eight-volume series, taking place partly in modern-day New York City and partly in Mid-World, Roland's Old West-style parallel universe.

The official plot synopsis is really all you need to know going into the movie:

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

Want to know more? Then we recommend reading The Dark Tower books.

If that's piqued your interest, and you want to know more, then you'll definitely enjoy reading the books.

The Dark Tower is a fascinating saga set in an incredibly detailed universe. The series was penned by King over the course of 42 years! So, we recommend starting, like, now. But don't worry, we're here to help.

The main series consists of eight novels, numbered I-VII. But there's also a standalone novel and a prequel novella. If that sounds confusing, don't worry, we're here to help.

Here's how to read The Dark Tower books in chronological order:

  1. The Little Sisters of Eluria from Everything's Eventual (2002)
  2. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (1982)
  3. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (1987)
  4. The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (1991)
  5. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (1997)
  6. The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012)
  7. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2003)
  8. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah (2004)
  9. The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (2004)

Complete that reading list in the recommended order, and you'll know everything there is to know about The Dark Tower saga. Maybe. It's a pretty dense series, so if you need even more help there's actually an encyclopedic-style Dark Tower Concordance which is endorsed by King.

If you're not a fast reader and you want to get totally up to speed on the series before the movie comes out, we recommend the excellent audiobook versions masterfully narrated by George Guidall and Frank Muller. They're all available on Audible and iTunes.

That's not all. There are Dark Tower comics, too.

In 2007, Marvel released the first in a series of seven comic stories overseen by King and written by Robin Furth and Peter David. Each has been released as a number of comics and then as a hardcover collection. Each of them tells the story of what happened leading up to the events of the novels.

There are also comic adaptations of the novels themselves like The Battle of Tull, The Way Station and The Man in Black.

Additionally, there's a single-issue comic, The Dark Tower: The Sorcerer, which focuses on the story's main villain.

None of these are essential to the story, but if you're craving more Dark Tower and you enjoy comics, you won't want to miss the narrative additions and the awe-inspiring art.

Want to know even more about The Dark Tower? There's the Dark Tower Wiki.

the dark tower man in black

The Dark Tower saga can be a seemingly endless rabbit hole. The mythology that King's created around the narrative is Tolkien-level deep.

Don't believe us? He even wrote himself into the story. Yes, Stephen King is a character in The Dark Tower novels. And if that's not enough to convince you to go down The Dark Tower rabbit hole we don't know what is. You can read all about that and more over on the excellent Dark Tower Wiki.

The Dark Tower movie hits theaters on August 4, 2017.

Brian Linder
Brian Linder is Sr. Entertainment Editor at FANDOM. He's been on the fan-media scene since dial-up. Arriving at FANDOM from IGN, Brian was a founding editor at early Star Wars fansite TheForce.net and co-creator of the movie site, FilmForce, acquired in 2006. He's into space operas and superheroes.