Wil Wheaton's Reviews > House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
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it was amazing
bookshelves: horror

If you want a really good, insightful review of House of Leaves (that I didn't write), go read this one from Aerin.

If you want to read mine, here you go:

House of Leaves isn't one of those tidy little things that holds your hand and wipes your bottom and tells you that you're special. It makes you work, and what you get out of it depends largely on how much work you're willing to do. House of Leaves is difficult at times, incredibly complex, occasionally pretentious, and (view spoiler).

When I finished it, I thought I was unsatisfied with (view spoiler), but it lived in me long after I closed the book. I could not stop thinking about the characters, the puzzles, my various theories about the nature of the story and (view spoiler)

Here's the thing about House of Leaves: you can enjoy it simply as a horrifying story that could possibly be true. You could enjoy it as a love story on a number of different levels. You can enjoy it as a whole bunch of puzzles and codes and ciphers. You can enjoy it as a unique reading experience that will make you fall back in love with actual paper books.

But however you choose to enjoy it, you've got to just commit to it. Let the book's reality capture you, and ride it out until you finish the book. When you're done, you'll probably find that the House has taken up some space inside you, and you'll wonder if the nightmares will actually come, assuming they haven't already.

You'll go back to the beginning, and you'll reread sections large and small. You'll take a magnifying glass to the pictures and you'll spend a long time reading message boards that haven't been updated since 2004. You'll grab that copy of Poe's Haunted that you bought before you knew House of Leaves existed, and you'll listen to it again in an entirely new way.

You'll discover that you live at the end of a five and a half minute hallway.


Or maybe you won't. Maybe it won't live in you the way it lives in me... but it's worth your time to find out.
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Reading Progress

December 28, 2012 – Started Reading
December 28, 2012 – Shelved
December 28, 2012 – Shelved as: horror
December 28, 2012 –
page 50
7.05% "I know I'm *way* late to the party on this, but it's worth the wait. I started it last night, and I can already tell it's going to be a book I pretty much read straight through until it's done."
December 28, 2012 –
page 69
9.73% "Slowed down and got rambly for a good long while, but seems to have picked back up in the last few pages. This is doing very well on my "one hour or 50 pages" test."
December 30, 2012 –
page 109
15.37% "Things are getting weird."
December 30, 2012 –
page 143
20.17% "I've spent over an hour reading the last dozen pages. I've felt dizzy, lost, disoriented. Occasionally, I've found my way, only to get lost again among the footnotes and appendices. \n \n It's glorious."
January 3, 2013 –
page 313
44.15% "Johnny Truant is going insane, the house is killing people, and the next chapter is titled THE MINOTAUR."
January 4, 2013 –
page 349
49.22% "While reading last night, I got scared. Like, look-under-the-bed-and-in-the-closet scared. I guess I've given myself over to the reality within this book."
January 6, 2013 –
page 394
55.57% "A theory, which will likely be wrong: there is no Zampano. There is no house. Truant invented them, for reasons yet revealed."
January 6, 2013 –
page 417
58.82% "Um. Wow. Okay, back to being freaked out."
January 6, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 50 (50 new)

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Amanda While this book was very hard to read, I think it was totally worth it. I love it! His sister, the musician Poe, wrote an album that coinsides with the book. It happens to be one of my favorite albums.
Hope you enjoy the book!

message 2: by Sasha (new)

Sasha Is this scarier than The Road or Hyperion? I had to sleep with a night light while reading those.

Amanda Sasha wrote: "Is this scarier than The Road or Hyperion? I had to sleep with a night light while reading those."
Sasha, I haven't read The Road but I suspect it is scarier than Hyperion. i think it depends on what you find frightening. The Shrike in Hyperion didn't haunt me...whereas there's not a bad guy in House of Leaves. When you read HoL, it's like you're reading somebody's thoughts while they go insane. You see inside their head. And the house will haunt you long after you put the book down.

message 4: by Wil (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wil Wheaton Sasha: I haven't read The Road (I tried; couldn't get past the prose) but I have read Hyperion. I didn't find Hyperion to be frightening, but if you did, I suspect that you'll find House of Leaves to be absolutely terrifying.

Sunny Love the review! I'm not caught up to you yet, but the book's great so far, and it's definitely 'in me.' :)

Kymmee I had this book checked out from the library a while back, and after almost a week of waking up screaming from the weirdest nightmares ever, the husband convinced me to return it, if only so he could sleep through the night without the adrenalin rush of my sudden and loud waking. I now own the book, but have yet to venture back in, but perhaps this review has done it. I may pick it up after I finish my current read, and give it another go.

message 7: by Karen (new)

Karen By the end of that book I felt it was more cheesy horror than spooky tale, and the nested frames started to wear me out. I cared less and less about Johnny and was unsatisfied with the way the plot ended for Will Navidson and his family.

BUT, I was in a Dread game in which we played the Navidson clan, and that was insanely creepy. If you aren't familiar with the rpg, please do check it out!

Also, if you liked the way that House of Leaves played with the visual medium of text, you'd probably enjoy The Raw Shark Texts.

Tanya I read this book several years go, and I still feel like it's sort of haunting me. When I was done, I did go grab my "Haunted" CD, read the liner notes carefully, and looked up all the page numbers & references contained there. Then was creeped out anew. Such a great book, I really feel I want to reread it now....

Amanda Karen wrote: "By the end of that book I felt it was more cheesy horror than spooky tale, and the nested frames started to wear me out. I cared less and less about Johnny and was unsatisfied with the way the plo..."

I LOVED Raw Shark Texts!!! I totally thought the same thing.

Amanda Tanya wrote: "I read this book several years go, and I still feel like it's sort of haunting me. When I was done, I did go grab my "Haunted" CD, read the liner notes carefully, and looked up all the page numbers..."

"Haunted" is my favorite album. i love the interconnectednessn(s?) of the two. I'm with you. I want to read it again.

message 11: by Stuart (new) - added it

Stuart Updegrave Wil wrote: "Sasha: I haven't read The Road (I tried; couldn't get past the prose) ..."

Interesting! I had that experience randomly opening and perusing Blood Meridian (after reading rave reviews). Decided to start elsewhere in his catalog, so I read No Country For Old Men (liked it) then The Road (very much liked it). After those, I tried Blood Meridian again and loved it. As in, blew me away beautiful.

message 12: by Kaylee (new)

Kaylee This remains one of my favorite books. It set the bar SO HIGH for what I expect out of MZD that, unfortunately, I haven't loved this other work as much. I've appreciated it all, and taken out of the context of HoL, it's wonderful. But HoL is just a monumental work.

It stuck with me, too; still does, 11 years after I read it for the first time.

Susan I haven't written a review of HoL, but if I did it would be suspiciously close to this one. When I first finished the book, I threw it down in disgust. But I couldn't stop thinking about it, which led to rereading, pondering and spending a lot of time on message boards.

Now, over a decade later, I still don't know if I love or hate this book, but I'm often reminded of it and much of it is still vivid in my mind. Which, to me, is far better than it just being a book I "liked."

Alice This book was the first to give me nightmares. I dreamed about being stuck in that hallway so many times. I read the book in 2002, and it's still with me.

message 15: by Alice (last edited Jan 08, 2013 04:26PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alice For those wondering upthread, the Haunted/House of Leaves connection is that Poe and Danielewski are sister and brother. Their father passed away, leaving them some old recordings that sparked some memories. Independently of one another, they wrote their projects; she wrote an album, and he wrote a book. When they talked to each other about what they were working on, they were rather surprised at the similarities.

The only obvious collaboration is the remix version of "Hey Pretty." But the thematic elements and echoes within them are eerie.

Dream Outside of all the (mind) games and linguistic wordplay, this is just a well-written book. There are some really touching scenes, especially with the kids and Karen.

message 17: by Lynn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lynn Reynolds Read it ages ago and it STILL lives in me. Like you, I thought I was disappointed at the end, but I still find myself randomly remembering moments from the book and contemplating them at unlikely times. I should probably read it again, now that you mention it.

Aerin Wow, I am flattered! Thanks for the plug!

 Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri This is an incredible review! I have the book on reserve from the State Library system; but you've convinced me-I'll have to buy it, own it, and apparently, devour it.:)

message 20: by Sasha (last edited Jan 18, 2013 04:23PM) (new)

Sasha Alice: Hyperion gave me nightmares. I had a dream that I was hanging out with a coworker and he turned into the Shrike! I woke myself up shouting and from that point forward I needed a light on in the room when I read it. I will give this book a read but I will probably get scared and blame Wil for it since his review of the book made me want to read it.

 Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri I ordered it this morning, and MZ's "The Whalestone Letters." Indeed, all Wil's doing.:)

message 22: by Dave (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Karen wrote: "By the end of that book I felt it was more cheesy horror than spooky tale, and the nested frames started to wear me out. I cared less and less about Johnny and was unsatisfied with the way the plo..."

Okay, I could not agree with this more.

In addition, I already have a scenario planned out for my next Dread game, but this is definitely going on the back burner.

Vanessa Frymier I read this book a few years ago. I just started watching Doctor Who this past December and it just occurred to me that the house was bigger on the inside just like a Tardis AND had a creepy monster stored in it. Otherwise I really don't remember much of what happened in the book, except a lot of sex and drugs.

message 24: by Carlton (new) - added it

Carlton Wil, I'm curious what you mean by hard work? I literally just started the book this morning, and i think i can see what you mean, but as I'm only 25 pages in, I'm very curious about what sorts of puzzles await me!

Jason Nickey Great review Wil. This book stuck with me for a long time after reading it as well. I also went back and listened to Poe's 'Haunted'. I got that album in high school and had no idea until I finished the book that it was connected. I suspect that the sound effect at the end of the track 'House Of Leaves' is the sound that they heard while in the hallway.

Alice Much of the audio in the background of Haunted is from found recordings of Poe and Danielewski's father. They recovered the recordings after his death, and both were independently inspired to express what they got out of hearing their father's voice.

Which makes me REALLY wonder about their childhood.

message 27: by Nashly (new) - added it

Nashly My friend and I will be reading this together in October. We are so excited. We are up for the challenge. :)

message 28: by Etah (new) - added it

Etah I absolutely loved this review. I can't wait to read it next month.

Karen Love your review. Now I am even more curious about this book and extremely excited to read it.

September I feel that Danielewski emulated the experimental poetry of e.e. Cummings too much (the average reader, having no experience of Cummings will not see how much Danielewski depends on Cummings), and does not innovate far beyond where Dhalgren (by Delany) has already made a strong mark.

All in all, it's a good book, emulative but good, and it's not genius.

Brian Wil-
User Aerin seems to have disappeared. I loved your review but was hoping to read hers...

Wondering if you are creating footnotes like Mr. Danielewski?

Feeling the need to put aluminum foil on your windows lately? ;)

Rachel This book changed everything and turned it sideways.
I was perusing the pages of reviews on different books when I thought of this book. Over a year ago I moved and haven't unpacked my 12/13 boxes of books.
I said to myself "ooh I'd love to read this again and brain fuck myself".
I looked at all the boxes and had no idea where it was. But I picked one box. I opened it and behind one other book, there it sat. Waiting. Unreal....I could've picked any box, but luck has it it wanted to be re-found.THAT is the house of leaves...it never leaves you.

Marilyn Wow. Your review feels like you plucked it right out of my head. I loved this book so much and recommend it to everyone, but I warn them that if they start it they HAVE to finish it. I grabbed my copy of Haunted too when I finished the book, which was like listening to it for the first time

Cherie  Cunningham Wow ... Glad I read your review it gives me hope because so far i just started reading it and I'm like wth I'm all over the place with it! But I will give it a chance because of your review and I am intrigue to read it! Thank you for your honesty and your feedback!

Thomas I agree completely with your review. It took me a long to read and my mental health wasn't at its best when I started. Bad idea ... But now--at this very moment--I have finished reading the book. I loved it! And it will live with me for a long time, I'm sure.

Michael Simcoe Shut up Wesley ! JK excellent review, My brain is currently kindled with ideas spawned form this book.

Briana M. great review

message 38: by Adam (new)

Adam McLaughlin Ladies and Gentlement, the President of the Federation has spoken. Buy this book now!

message 39: by Kristin (new) - added it

Kristin This book will give you the creeps big time. It's so good, but I had to take a break and I haven't gotten up the nerve to finish it yet. Hope to make it till the end one day!

September I still think the book is nothing important. Garbled computer generated passages are bullshit. Delany and cummings did much better. Wil is making money from his review.

Jenna Moquin I like you Wil Wheaton, but I'll have to disagree with your rating of this book. Although reading House of Leaves is like a rite of passage for horror fans, it does not deserve 5 stars in my humble opinion. A good story makes you care about the characters, and I just didn’t care about any of them, especially Johnny Truant. I give credit to the author for doing something unique, but he lacks the storyteller’s guile of truly engaging the reader into another world. (On a side note, I thought Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was far superior, in fact I liked it so much that I read two more of his books. I will not be reading anything else by Mark Danielewski.)

Irina Kebreau While i am only at the earliest part of the book, i have this unsettling feeling that the style reminds me of Gaddis’s JR. There is definitely nothing there is a story; just something haunting in a way the story is being told... did any of you got that feeling too? I at first thought of the Infinite Jest but quickly rejected it - too different styles... but i even opened JR at random and, stylistically, the two books felt similar... odd. But i was glad to catch your review as the books does feel very much like I’d only get out of it what i am willing to put it. Indeed!

message 43: by Mike (new)

Mike Johnny dear, don't be afraid... In this house, this house of.... Poe

message 44: by Mel (new) - added it

Mel H I’m struggling with this one.. should I continue reading?

Jacob Mchaney Finally got a copy and I am hook line and sinker

message 46: by Dave (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave "You'll grab that copy of Poe's Haunted that you bought before you knew House of Leaves existed, and you'll listen to it again in an entirely new way."

message 47: by Sean (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sean Archived copy of Aerin's review (it's definitely worth the read):


message 48: by Mabel Wong (new)

Mabel Wong your prety good at finding books and this is way good .
please excuse my brother who rated some childrens books

message 49: by Mabel Wong (new)

Mabel Wong hi this book is awsome allthough i am only 9 i think this book is scary too!

Rebecca Chambers This book scared me!! In a wonderful way!
I’ve never read anything like it before. It took me almost a year to get through it... but it was totally worth it

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