Are you considering reading this book or just looking to make sense of what you just read? Here’s a House of Leaves review!
House of Leaves Review
House of Leaves
Mark Z. Danielewski
March 7, 2000
Why I Picked It Up
I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time. It came out my freshman year in high school so I’m not quite sure when I learned of its existence but I’m thinking it was in college. It quickly got added to my list but its size daunted me or I just forgot about it.
It took me 5 months due to library waiting lists, not finishing in my three-week allotments and having to return it and wait for my turn again. Rinse. Repeat.
It took a pandemic, my library closing, and me luckily having it when they did close to finally finish.
Famous First Words
“This book is not for you.”
Book Description from Goodreads
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.
My Thoughts & Takeaways
What I wrote on Instagram right away: It’s likely one of my favorite books now. And that I want to re-read but not sure when.
I’m not sure what to think. I know I definitely missed some things.
House of Leaves is messy and confusing and, at times, infuriating. Many times, it will straight up feel like a job to read it. Its complexity and puzzles have lived in my brain ever since finishing it. The story, characters, theories, and other peoples’ takes on it have weighed on my mind.
It may give you whiplash trying to read it. It may sculpt your muscles trying to hold the book as you stay up all night reading. You may get to the end and want to throw the book out the window.
I definitely won’t try to explain the plot because I honestly don’t know that I can and there are plenty of reviews out there that do that.
If you’re not ready to put in the time and work and possibly your sanity, then perhaps this book really is not for you.
What I Liked
The straight-up uniqueness. I’ve never read anything like this and I don’t expect I ever will.
The aftershock. To me, a book or a movie gets more points if I’m left thinking about it over and over again afterward. I tend to like a lot of deeper, slower movies that others seem to hate for this reason. Same for books. This is one of those to add to the list.
What I Didn’t Like
It’s frustrating. I actually wouldn’t say I disliked this. The challenge is part of the reason why I liked it, but I’m including it because there were many times that I about quit reading it when I was frustrated.
Favorite House of Leaves Quotes
“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.”
“We all create stories to protect ourselves.”
“I think that’s what finally stopped me. I slid right to the edge. My legs were hanging over. And I could feel it too. I don’t know how. There was no wind, no sound, no change of temperature. There was just this terrible emptiness reaching up for me.”
“Come morning I found the day as I have found every other day–without relief or explanation.”
“Of course real horror does not depend upon the melodrama of shadows or even the conspiracies of night.”
How to Read House of Leaves
I’m 99% sure that there is no House of Leaves audiobook because it would be practically impossible to do an audiobook for it.
Additionally, it is meant to be read on actual paper. The layout and typography are a large part of the experience and shouldn’t be missed.
There are conversations on how to read House of Leaves. Some say to read the main body of text by chapter. At the end of that chapter, go back and read the annotations for that chapter in order. That’s not how I did it though.
I naturally read it as it was presented. So, I read the footnotes as they are noted which meant going back and forth, yes.
I would have easily forgotten what the footnote was for if I didn’t read it that second.
You should definitely read the referenced appendices (which I also read as they were mentioned in the main body of the text) because they give the characters more depth that you don’t get merely from reading the main text.
Also, I will be purchasing the book before re-reading. i rarely buy books anymore, but I regret not being able to write notes in this as I was reading.