House of Leaves

House of Leaves

4.3 246
by Mark Z. Danielewski

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Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo

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Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

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Editorial Reviews
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
House of Leaves is a multilayered intersection of wild ideas, ten years in the making, from Mark Danielewski. It is also the story of a seemingly normal house gone wild. The novel intertwines the narratives of two haunted individuals: Zampano, a blind man whose strange manuscript is found in his apartment when he dies, and Johnny Truant, the tome's discoverer and narrator of House of Leaves.

Zampano's manuscript is a critique of a documentary film called "The Navidson Record," by Pulitzer Prize-winning filmmaker Will Navidson. The filmmaker had just moved his family into a house on Ash Tree Lane and hadn't even had the chance to unpack before the strangeness began. Navidson discovered what at first seemed like an odd prank perpetrated by a psychotic carpenter: Behind a closet door, a hallway with smooth black walls had suddenly appeared. This prompted Navidson, ever the pragmatist, to do some measurements. He learned that the inside of the house was larger than the outside. And the hallway did not just remain a hallway—it was growing rapidly, and there was a deep growl emanating from the darkness that was unlike anything he'd ever heard. Partly out of habit, but also sensing that nobody would ever believe his story, Navidson captured everything on film.

Realizing that he was out of his league, Navidson assembled a team of professional hunters and explorers, four fearless men who could navigate any terrain and deal with any physical hardship. Armed with the best high-tech equipment, cameras, and plenty of supplies, they ventured into the dreamlike interior of the house. The discovered that the house was mutating, spawning a web of incredibly complex, pitch-black passageways and cavernous spaces. Dimension and space shifted constantly, becoming fluid and dangerous. The house humbled the team, rendered their equipment useless, and turned them against each other.

Danielewski's descriptions of the explorations of the interior are amazing (think Into Thin Air in a surreal dreamscape). As the house mutates, so does Zampano's manuscript; the text takes on a life of its own, and the layout responds. The film critique is heavily and amazingly footnoted in a way that blurs the line between artifice and reality. The house is completely baffling, Johnny is sliding into madness, and there is something evil that haunted Zampano and the house on Ash Tree Lane and now stalks Johnny. His transformation is also extraordinary: He goes from being an apathetic, hedonistic, eviction-dodging tattoo shop apprentice to a physically wasted, haunted shadow of his former self.

House of Leaves is an incredible blend of mystery, madness, and terror that makes the reader uncomfortable in an entirely new and fascinating way. The novel asks an important question: What are we afraid of? It goes after the deeper origins of fear and stays with us—in our thoughts and dreams—long after we've turned the last page.

Sophie Cottrell

Bleak House

Can a book be a labyrinth? Or, to follow the premise of Mark Z. Danielewski's genre-bending debut, can a book about a book about a film be anything else? House of Leaves is both vast and claustrophobic, crammed with minutiae (footnotes, appendices, poems and letters, and layout trickery) yet cored by a deep, absorbing emptiness, a deliberate void that accommodates, even incorporates, each character's—perhaps even each reader's—expectations, quirks, and fears.

At the novel's heart is "The Navidson Record," a documentary collage made by Will Navidson, prizewinning photographer, of his attempts to explore the impossible. A bizarre hallway—dark, cold, and haunted by a menacing growl—has suddenly appeared in his new home, and within its darkness lies an ominous architecture that mutates, viruslike, with every trip inside, offering a deadly threat to Navidson's wife, Karen, and their young children; to his brother Tom, whose loyalty Navidson abuses; to his friends who become involved in the quest; and finally and most directly, to himself. For Navidson cannot stop his explorations; he can't stop wanting to see.

House of Leaves is also the "book," painstakingly compiled by a strange old man named Zampanò, acquired after his death by Johnny Truant, an apathetic slacker mired in drugs and sad sex. Johnny's obsessive immersion in the manuscript echoes the black-hole threat of the hallway to Navidson; both are caught then consumed by the need to go deeper than safety, or sanity, can support; both will risk their lives in pursuit of the secret of the hallway, and both will be damaged by the experience in ways they cannot anticipate or escape.

Comparisons with The Blair Witch Project will occur to some; others will be reminded of Thomas Pynchon or David Foster Wallace. But Danielewski has done something different: He has remade the haunted house story into a metaphor for dread itself: its smothering darkness, its infinite expansion, the way it takes hold within us, where we think we are most at home. He makes palpable the animal weight of the unknown, terrifying in its formlessness, defined by its ability to morph; he uses perception as a tool to mystify, the building blocks of text to make a structure without walls.

This is definitely not a novel for everyone; the casual reader will find his or her patience strained by the narrative shifts, the heavy footnoting, and the typographic landscape itself. But for readers willing to commit themselves to a skewed adventure, House of Leaves offers an experience of darkness, a walk into Nothing with a camera in our hands.

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.95(w) x 9.17(h) x 1.35(d)

What People are saying about this

Jonathan Lethem
This demonically brilliant book is impossible to ignore, put down, or persuasively conclude reading. In fact, when you purchase your copy you may reach a certain page and find me there, reduced in size like Vincent Price in The Fly, still trapped in the web of its malicious, beautiful pages.
—(Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn)
Gregory Maguire
House of Leaves actually gave me nightmares: I had to stop reading it before bedtime. I'm sure klasons will be set blaring around it and klieg lights will be trained on it, and so they should. Its secrets are rich and obscure. Danielewski's textured novel is about apprehensions, in all senses of the word: to anticipate with dread, to seize, to understand. If you can imagine that Peter Pan's enemy is not Captain Hook but Neverland itself, or that the whale that swallows Jonah is Moby-Dick, you'll begin to appreciate what this book is about. Anticipate it with dread, seize, and understand. A riveting reading experience.
—(Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West)
Bret Easton Ellis
A great novel. A phenomenal debut. Thrillingly alive, sublimely creepy, distressingly scary, breathtakingly intelligent -- it renders most other fiction meaningless. One can imaging Thomas Pynchon, J. G. Ballrad, Stephen King, and David Foster Wallace bowing at Danielewski's feet, choking with astonishment, surprise, laughter, awe.
—(Bret Easton Ellis)

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House of Leaves 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 246 reviews.
FocoProject More than 1 year ago
Though I was warned, by reading the sleeve, that this would be experimental reading, nothing could have prepared me for the trip this book took me in. By far, this is the most fun I have had reading a book, literally. And when they used the word experimental to describe it, they were not using it lightly, I have read nothing like it in my life.

The story is actually a series of embedded stories, told by the person, who writes the introduction to the book, named Johnny Truant, who finds the actual book, written by Zampano, which is the body of the work. So essentially, you are reading a story about a man reading a story and following the two in tandem. But its a bit more complicated than that, because the story Johnny has found which is written by Zampano, is actually an over the top, study of a film which does not exist, which in `Blair Witch-esqe¿ fashion, tells the story of a family that moves into a house, only to find out that the house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Much bigger.

The complexity of the stories is further multiplied by the fact that half of it is the work you are reading, and the other half told through foot notes, which in turn have their own foot notes, apendixes, drawings and exhibits which they reference. In a most unusual way, through poetry and prose, you are taken in a bizarre ride through the most unusual house you ever heard of. The study providing so much detail about this movie that you essentially feel like you have watched the movie yourself¿oh, and I should probably mention, Zampano is blind. It begs the question, how did he see the movie to begin with? Or was it even a movie?

Prepare yourself to tear this book apart and truly interact with this book. This book reads in pages, columns, spirals, upside down, single words, geometrical and asymmetrical arrangements, footnotes, poetry, letters, sideways, on diagonals¿upside down on diagonals and hanging. You will find yourself going from page seven to page four hundred and back only to be forced to go back to the end before you can continue with the beginning. It is a book that covers so many writing styles and approaches it actually may test some people¿s patience, but it pays off in the richness of its characters and the thrill the actual story provides, at some points forcing you to do your own detective work and not leave a single foot note unscratched regardless of how unimportant it may seem.

If you are tired of reading books from cover to cover, if you ever really wanted to engross yourself in a book, this is the book for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have ever read. This book was recommended to me as 'the scariest book I'll ever read' - there are indeed some parts that are creepy, but this is definitely no easy-reading thriller, and the book goes way beyond just trying to scare you. The opening warns you about the possibility of nightmares if you keep reading, and while I did not exactly experience nightmares, there were a few times I woke up from sleep after a late-night read realizing in near delirium that I am deliberating the contents and meaning of the book in my sleep. A must read, but not while you have important business to take care of. This book will affect you.
Veronica23 More than 1 year ago
House of Leaves is a book for those who truly love to think and read. As the novel progresses, there are times when the reader has to figure out how they will go about reading. I loved having to figure out that I needed a mirror to read certain texts. I felt proud of myself when I figured out that I had to read certain parts of the book in a different order to understand what it meant. The story itself is fascinating, even without the puzzle-like presentation. The idea of an ever-growing house that becomes a character itself reminds me a little of The Fall of the House of Usher and House of the Seven Gables. While I love reading longer novels, I know many would find the length and effort to decipher some of the text off-putting. It does take a while to read, so if it was for a book club I'm not sure people would have time to read it within shorter periods. Too long for a rainy day, as well. Overall, it has become one of my favorite books, and I certainly recommend it to anyone who listens.
SRSC More than 1 year ago
Danielewski's opus elliptically savors of H.P. Lovecraft - an interdimensional cavort into incomprehensible space and time. The horror here reflects like a spike of blue in a chamber of obsidian mirrors. At times ponderous, this genre-defying book - part horror, part literary, part romance, part suspense - possesses a dark luminescence that vindicates the long journey. As stated in a poem by Zapano, the putative narrator of one part of the book: "This great blue world of ours / seems a house of leaves / moments before the wind."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The way this book is written makes it hard to follow at times, but it also helps draw you into the story more completely. The concept behind the plot is great and the characters are well thought out and easily related to. It is quite long and will take a while to get through, but if you read it you will feel for the characters and get a real sense of what they felt when they were encountering the relentless hallways.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can just see Danielewski sitting in Starbuck's with his laptop, letting people watch him write this book. That's just the kind of writing this is - it's meant to be observed by people who are into any kind of new and striking fad. What I can't believe is the amount of paper something like this wastes. I'm not saying that just to be cruel - it consists of probably one-third blank space. I get the metaphor, but this seems ridiculous, to say the least. I was excited when I read everyone's reviews - it sounded intriguing and fun and new. What I got was a bunch of convoluted tripe that didn't amount to much of anything. I won't lie - I can't possibly make myself finish this book. I don't care about any of the characters, I don't sympathize with anyone, and the plot is so slow just to catch up with the book cover that any hope it had for suspense is gone. The concept of a place that is bigger inside than out was brilliantly mastered in the 80's by the creators of Dr. Who, and it didn't need any additions, certainly not by someone who thinks that analytical essays make for good fiction. I am completely bummed out.
Meemojo More than 1 year ago
This book began in a very interesting way & slowly morphed into a mass of confusion. It seems that this should be TWO separate books. Also, at times, one gets the idea that the writer was on some sort of drug! ( As in acid trip! Seriously, the book had to be turned upside down to read some of the pages & some of the writting was done in spirals for no apparent reason) I have yet to finish the book- only read about half of it before putting it down in frustration. Too much "extras"! While the story of the expanding house was fascinating, the writting style was just too odd for my taste. I will most likely go back & finish it eventually, just to see how the family ends up. However, I would have enjoyed this so much more had it been written in a normal way!
arcticocean84 More than 1 year ago
Like many others, I was warned by friends and the book jacket that reading this book would be... different. I was STILL baffled at the complexity and reward this book offered with each new confusing page. The best advice for tackling this beast: 1) Keep a dictionary and a glass of water on hand. The language is complex, and the first half of the book is D-R-Y. 2) PLOW THROUGH THE DRY FIRST HALF. The second half is incredibly compelling, confusing, and rich with imagery. 3) Allow yourself to get lost in the footnotes. It's part of the experience! Mark Z. Danielewski took 10 years to write this book so dive in and give it the time it deserves. I promise that when you finish, you'll happily wait another 10 years for something else that even comes close.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ten years in the making, the dual stories of Will Navidson and his house that's larger on the inside than the outside, and Johnny Truant with his descent into madness while organizing the scraps of The Navidson Record, are simply amazing. Textual layouts designed in ways to mirror the events occurring within the pages, hidden codes throughout the story give birth to possibilities you might overlook otherwise '' homie at all''. House of Leaves is a monumental achievement of modern literature, and a book that everyone should take the time to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
House of Leaves takes you on a trip past the easily comprehensible fears that are found in most horror books: death, crime, terror, and brings you to a place where the unknown isn't just one thing. It twists into many, shifting and changing like the subject of this book itself. Layered with complexity, House of Leaves is built upon a totally different and new idea. The author brilliantly uses many different presentations to the reader to convey what soon becomes an almost overwhelmingly confusing and new idea of horror. This book does not just change your perception of what a terrifying book should be...It may even change your view of life. I've said enough- if you enjoy a challenging read, you should give House of Leaves a try. But, as the first line of the book says, 'This is not for you.' Take may be true.
Guest More than 1 year ago
a lot of people view the style and subject matter to be daunting, even boring from some i've spoken to. although the first 8 chapters seem to be all scientific facts and theories, the navidson report, and even johnny truant's story were engaging, and almost the whole time very frightening. it's a book that plays the idea of solitude, nyctophobia, and even claustrophobia to extremes, and the ideas of being hunted by that which you cannot see. some may see the book as trying too hard to be overly artistic in its representation, but mind you that some of the greatest writers, and directors of our time had ideas and views that a majority of people thought as unconventional. definitely give it a try.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is from someone who reads mainly classics: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc. I don't remember how I found out about House of Leaves, but I thank god I did. There is really no good way to describe the book. It's a book about a book about a book about a film that never existed...I think. I told my son about it when he was in 8th grade. He read it 'the longest book he'd ever read' and is now reading it for the second or third time. I have read it at least 3 times, and am heading for the fourth. The big question is, what is there about the book that grabs us so much? I'm not sure. Obviously, for a Jane Austen fan, Johnny Truant is an odd hero. But the book is an incredible roller coaster you simply don't want to get off. Give it a try, you WON'T be sorry. P.S. I also love Poe, but I found her after the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book, I stopped reading it in the PM. Shook me up and made me socially disfunctional for a few days. Nuts. Read this when you know your not going to do anything of importance. Not for the light heart because of the total pshycological effects of the new fear of closets. Recommended to adults not a child's book in the least.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the single best book I have ever read. It was disturbing arousing frighteneing and never boring. This is the sort of book that never loses its charm.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best, and most haunting novels I have ever read. I cannot praise this book highly enough, but dare not write too much more for fear of spoiling this amazing novel. The novel is a peice of experimental fiction. The author wrote it following the death of his father. His sister, Songwriter and performer Poe simaltaneously wrote her sophmore CD, 'Haunted.' Though Haunted stands on its own as a CD chronocling a girl's turmoil following the death of her father, it was also written to correspond to the book. It works on two levels, and so does the book. The book, a horror story written as a review of a film that was never made is humoress, gripping, and terrifiying. The book starts by indicating that it is a work of fiction, but that this does not matter, the effects would be the same. True.
Guest More than 1 year ago
House of Leaves is the best book I have ever read, hands down! No other book has ever made me so excited to keep turning the pages. I was aroused, anxious, terrified, and nervous all at the same time. I enjoyed every page. I was able to interact with the book because of the way the words were written on each page. I was never bored with it. In one word: EXTRAORDINARY!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, a psychotic madman, rooms and halls that change shape in the blink of an eye. And this is just half the entree. This book is so packed with symbolism and encryptions that footnotes abound. The author has further brought you into the realm of madness by changing fonts and typing in reverse or upside down. You'll get a different perspective every time it's read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I've ever read, but it's not for the easily confused or weak minded. There are so many layers to this book you could re-read it 10 times in a row and it will feel like a different book every time. What if the physical world was mutable, undependible. What if you could venture through darkness itself. What if you got lost. This book is as much about the darkness in each persons soul as it is about the never ending room found in the navidson house. Absolutely brilliant. Just thinking about it makes me shiver
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading all of the glowing reviews on this site, I couldn't wait to read 'House of Leaves'. I have to say that I am very disappointed. Not once was I scared. I love scary books, I was looking forward to the chills and nightmares you all promised. Were we reading different books? The whole thing is weird for the sake of being weird, which is very tiresome, even for a gen-xer like myself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The most interesting read I have had in a while. At first it looks like a gimmick novel, until you realize how integral this 'gimmick' is to the reading and pacing of the action.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The comparison of this book to the Blair Witch Project is not inaccurate, in that it tries to be innovative and creative but fails horribly, and only ends up being rather empty and unsatisfying. To begin with, the idea of a fictional study based on make-believe tapes of the Navidson record, is new and interesting. Execution of it, however, falls far far short of good story telling. The meat of the story takes up only a small portion of the book. The rest of the space in the book is filled with journal type entries of a character called Johnny Truant (nothing to do with the house), and intermissions of junk that have again, nothing to do with the story. Danielewski wants you to know that he's capable of quoting Jung, Freud, Homer, and in different languages, too. Most people who tell me they've read the book and liked it, have enjoyed it because it's an innovative and 'hip', bauhaus attempt at presenting a story. They also like it because of the superfluous material. Sort of like, 'if it's hard to understand, it must be good'. However, this book isn't so hard to understand. It's simply tedious to read. It never picks up, never gets scary or creepy, and never fills the hunger a discerning reader feels when s/he picks up a book. If anything, the subplots distract like hell, and Danielewski's 'gimmick' attempts at creating certain effects, like clever text placement, upside words, mirror-imaged paragraphs, annoy more than anything else. Now if I can just find that receipt so I can return it...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was absolutely maddening. I picked it up because someone told me that they enjoyed it, and they thought i did. When I read it, i was seriously sucked into the sickness. I thought i was going to go insane, only by reading my way through this 'documentary', with footnoted from another reader, Johnny Truant. He also gradually was going insane reading this. A wonderful concept, incredibly written. Great Book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Explaining this book is like describing a funhouse full of mirrors to a person who has never had sight. 'House Of Leaves' is an extrardinary, complex commentary on relationships. Relationships between men and women, between siblings, parents and children, and ultimately spacial relationships where what you see is not exactly what you get. The book is a demanding commentary on a non-existent documentary film based on a family of four that moves into a country house that apparently expands and contracts at will, adding doors and black hallways, staircases and the like, leaving it's owners amused, perplexed and ultimately terrified. The home rips at the very fibre of which this family exist, threatening at first their relationships with each other, their mental well being, and ultimately, their very existance. At times baffling, funny, and ultimately tragic and disturbing, this is one title that will be interpreted differently by virtually everyone that picks it up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Style and structure aside, a novel must have something to say. It should at least make a point. This novel says nothing, and is pointless.
Guest More than 1 year ago
How can I even begin to describe the depth and breadth of this novel? It touches on so many different topics that writing a review is almost as difficult as describing the book as a whole! A complex, dark, humerous and frightening novel that will linger with you for years! You won't be able to put it down or separate yourself from the characters......then you'll understand why 'This is not for you.' Pick it up NOW!