The best gothic tales of houses

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved novels and stories in which houses have a strong presence, beginning with Nathanial Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the Houses of Usher, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. In tales like these, the family home — whether a birthright or an accidental place of abode — not only provides a shivery, Gothic atmosphere but also stands as a metaphor for the sicknesses that can sometimes fester in families -- paranoia, isolation, emotional incest. Belle Reve, Blanche, and Stella's decaying and sold-off ancestral home, hovers over “A Streetcar Named Desire.” My favorite house-themed books begin with two works by the incomparable Shirley Jackson.


I wrote...

Blanche: The Life and Times of Tennessee Williams's Greatest Creation

By Nancy Schoenberger,

Book cover of Blanche: The Life and Times of Tennessee Williams's Greatest Creation

What is my book about?

Ever since Jessica Tandy glided onto the stage in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 1947, Blanche DuBois has fascinated generations of audiences worldwide and secured a place in the history of literature, theater, and film.

Blanche bedazzled, amused, and broke the hearts of generations of audiences. Before the Covid pandemic, the stage classic was performed somewhere in the world every hour. It has been adapted into a ballet and an opera, and it was satirized in an episode of The Simpsons. The final twelve words Blanche utters at the play’s end—“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”—have taken on a life of their own. Endlessly fascinating, this indelible figment of one of America’s greatest midcentury playwrights garners nearly universal interest—but why?
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Haunting of Hill House

Nancy Schoenberger Why did I love this book?

Published in 1959, this is a chilling tale of a group of strangers who take part in a psychological study into psychic phenomena by agreeing to spend the summer in Hill House, reputed to be haunted. The story’s narrator is Eleanor Vance, a shy, fragile woman damaged by 11 years of nursing her sick mother through a fatal illness. Free at last, she’s eager to embrace life, but instead finds herself prey to the dark pull of the decaying old mansion, which finally claims her in the end. 

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

30 authors picked The Haunting of Hill House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part of a new six-volume series of the best in classic horror, selected by Academy Award-winning director of The Shape of Water Guillermo del Toro

Filmmaker and longtime horror literature fan Guillermo del Toro serves as the curator for the Penguin Horror series, a new collection of classic tales and poems by masters of the genre. Included here are some of del Toro's favorites, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Ray Russell's short story "Sardonicus," considered by Stephen King to be "perhaps the finest example of the modern Gothic ever written," to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and stories…


Book cover of We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Nancy Schoenberger Why did I love this book?

Shirley Jackson’s last book, a novella, is considered by many to be her masterpiece. I never forgot first reading it as a young teenager, riveted by the unreliable narrator, Mary Catherine Blackwood (“Merricat”), and her practice of weaving magic spells around the house to keep the remains of her family safe from the prying eyes and hostilities of the townsfolk. A murder mystery lies at the core—half of her family were poisoned by arsenic put into the sugar bowland only she, her Uncle Julian, and her sister Constance survived. The tale ends with a conflagration set by Merricat, nearly burning the house to the ground.

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked We Have Always Lived in the Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister, Constance, and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn't leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.


Book cover of Rebecca

Nancy Schoenberger Why did I love this book?

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” famously begins du Maurier’s novel of a country estate that guards its secrets from the young, unnamed narrator who comes there as the innocent bride of mysterious Maxim de Winter. Out of her depth, she’s terrified by the imposing mansion, the specter of de Winter’s deceased first wife, and the creepy housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who urges her to commit suicide by jumping from a window. Gothic in tone, the unnamed heroine survives revelation after revelation, but the house itself—Manderleyis finally burned to the ground, leaving nothing but ruins. 

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

39 authors picked Rebecca as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* 'The greatest psychological thriller of all time' ERIN KELLY
* 'One of the most influential novels of the twentieth century' SARAH WATERS
* 'It's the book every writer wishes they'd written' CLARE MACKINTOSH

'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .'

Working as a lady's companion, our heroine's outlook is bleak until, on a trip to the south of France, she meets a handsome widower whose proposal takes her by surprise. She accepts but, whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory…


Book cover of Great Granny Webster

Nancy Schoenberger Why did I love this book?

I read all of Blackwood’s novels and stories when researching my first biography, on the life of Caroline Blackwood. This is the one that stayed with me, Blackwood’s semi-autobiographical novella of Dunmartin Manor, housing three generations of Websters and Dunmartins. From the cold cruelty of the narrator’s great grandmother, to the fairy-like madness of her grandmother, and the tragedy of her fun-loving but suicidal Aunt Lavinia, all seem like extensions of the mansion—a decaying, grand old house, freezing in the winter, sweltering in the summer, and given to flooding. Like the house itself, the characters are trapped by the weight of their own Anglo-Irish, aristocratic history. No conflagration here, except for the cremation of Great Granny Webster.

By Caroline Blackwood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Great Granny Webster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A “shocking, brilliant, and wickedly funny” novel that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of eccentric aristocrats (Jonathan Raban, author of Bad Land)

Great Granny Webster is Caroline Blackwood’s masterpiece. Heiress to the Guinness fortune, Blackwood was celebrated as a great beauty and dazzling raconteur long before she made her name as a strikingly original writer. This macabre, mordantly funny, partly auto-biographical novel reveals the gothic craziness behind the scenes in the great houses of the aristocracy, as witnessed through the unsparing eyes of an orphaned teenage girl. Great Granny Webster herself is a fabulous monster, the chilliest of…


Book cover of The Fall of the House of Usher

Nancy Schoenberger Why did I love this book?

Another unnamed narrator visits Roderick Usher, an old friend, in yet another decaying mansion that houses an isolated, disturbed familyRoderick and his twin sister, Madeline. They are the last of the Ushers, but she has fallen into a cataleptic stateone of Poe’s treasured themes! The manse itself is surrounded by a lake, and a crack runs the length of the house. Roderick tells his friend that the house is alive and entwined with his and Madeline’s fate. Madeline dies and is entombed in the family vault, but Roderick fears that she’s not really dead. During a cataclysmic storm, Madeline has indeed clawed her way out of her tomb and she attacks her brother. The narrator flees into the night, looking back to see the house split in two and crumble into fragments, becoming the final tomb for Roderick and his sister. Dark!  

By Edgar Allan Poe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fall of the House of Usher as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The eerie tales of Edgar Allan Poe remain among the most brilliant and influential works in American literature. Some of the celebrated tales contained in this unique volume include: the world's finest two detective stories - "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Purloined Letter"; and three stories sure to make a reader's hair stand on end - "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Tell-Tlae Heart," and "The Masque of the Red Death."


* Includes a New Introduction by Stephen Marlowe, author of The Memoirs of Christopher Columbus and The Lighthouse at the End of the World
* The Signet…


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The Good Woman's Guide to Making Better Choices

By Liz Foster,

Book cover of The Good Woman's Guide to Making Better Choices

Liz Foster Author Of The Good Woman's Guide to Making Better Choices

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved reading and its ability to take you far away to a distant time and place and lift you up. As a kid, I never left the house without a book, and the ones that made me laugh were my go-to's. I believe the ability to make people laugh is a truly special talent, especially while making the text relatable, so the reader’s always asking, wow, what would I do in that situation? My readers often tell me that my writing sounds just like me, which is wonderful because there’s no need to pretend. You will always know what you’ll get with me!

Liz's book list on make you laugh and leave you smiling

What is my book about?

A heart-warming and hilarious novel about the highs and lows of marriage, fraud, and goat’s cheese.

Libby Popovic is a country girl who’s now living a golden life in Bondi with her confident financier husband Ludo, and their two children. When Ludo is jailed for financial fraud, and Libby’s friends and family lose tens of thousands of dollars as a result, she feels agonisingly complicit.

Matters go from atrocious to worse when her possessions and home are repossessed, Libby is sacked, and a priceless family heirloom is wrecked. While camping out at the family goat farm, Libby must re-evaluate her life choices. How will she crawl out of financial ruin? Can she make amends? And can she save her family from falling apart?

The Good Woman's Guide to Making Better Choices

By Liz Foster,


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