I'm a little bit of a literary snob. I prefer the classics, the American classics anyway, but I've read a lot of Stephen King's work. And I mean a lot. The man is prolific.
His novels are great stories, some absolutely brilliant. IT was the first "real" book I ever read and I must have read it 10 times. 11/22/63 is another of my personal favorites. And while he has (or maybe had, not sure if he still does) the reputation of being a "horror writer" and focused on the supernatural, the heart of his stories are the characters themselves and how they react, bond, and deal with whatever crazy ass situation they've been caught up in. And that is what gets me every time.
I read his book Mr. Mercedes a decade ago, just once, and there is a scene in there about a death of a child, the younger brother of one of the main characters, that has stuck with me. It wasn't gory or shocking, just utterly sad, and it was in the middle of a random, average book that wasn't really noteworthy otherwise. There are few things I've experienced in my life that have made me feel as sad as those three or so pages did. I'm not sure what adjective to use to describe the ability to do that.
That said, Stephen tends to get a bit verbose with his novels. Now, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. That old question that you hear often if you've ever taken a creative writing workshop of "Does it advance the plot?" when editing is really missing the point of reading fiction. After all, that extra stuff is what makes the book better than the movie. But he probably gets a little too tangential and too lengthy. I'm not talking crap. Steinbeck devoted every other chapter of The Grapes of Wrath to some nonsense about a turtle and The Grapes of Wrath is one of the best American novels ever written. But I could have done without the turtle and I could have done without the group sex scene in the tunnel in IT.
Maybe because of that and maybe because he's been pigeonholed into some genre or another, King is not thought of very highly in literary circles. But then again, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett were considered trash in their day too. Who knows what people will think of him in 50 years?
BUT BUT BUT
Stephen King's best work is his short stories. Short stories are underappreciated, probably because they don't sell well. But King has made 100s of millions of dollars and can do what he wants. King has put out 11 collections of short stories/novellas over his career and the form prevents him from falling into his old bad habits.
Buy one of these collections and instead of sitting in front of the TV at night scrolling through Friendbook or whatever the kids call it, take 30 minutes and read one of the stories. You'll be entertained.