The best haunted house books where setting is a character

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by haunted houses and the lore behind them ever since childhood. I spent my summers walking our neighborhood cemetery and devouring novels by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Shirley Jackson. It was only natural, then, that my debut novel had to be a haunted house story—my own love letter to the genre. Having lived in a haunted house myself, the experiences I had within those walls did little to discourage my fascination with the paranormal. While I may have left my ghosts behind me, you can still sense their lingering presence inside Parting the Veil.

I wrote...

Book cover of Parting the Veil

What is my book about?

When Eliza Sullivan inherits an estate from a recently deceased aunt, she leaves behind a grievous and guilt-ridden past in New Orleans for rural England and a fresh start. Eliza arrives at her new home and finds herself falling for the mysterious lord of Havenwood, Malcolm Winfield. Despite the sinister rumors that surround him, Eliza is drawn to his melancholy charm and his crumbling, once-beautiful mansion. With enough love, she thinks, both man and manor could be repaired.

Not long into their marriage, Eliza fears that she should have listened to the locals. There’s something terribly wrong at Havenwood Manor. And Malcolm’s threatening moods, as changeable as night and day. As Eliza delves deeper into Malcolm’s troubling history, the dark secrets she unearths gain a frightening power. 
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of It Will Just Be Us

Paulette Kennedy Why did I love this book?

There’s no place like home, especially when it’s Wakefield Manor, where ghosts and memories are trapped in an endless loop. When the introverted, quirky protagonist Sam (who reminded me of my favorite Shirley Jackson character—Merricat Blackwood) is forced to welcome her estranged, pregnant sister back to the decaying family manor, Sam’s already-frayed nerves are pushed to the limit. But when her sister’s arrival becomes the catalyst for disturbing visions of a faceless boy with a penchant for cruelty, Sam seeks answers in the claustrophobic halls of her ancestral home. Who is this monstrous, cruel boy? What does he want? Seething with tumultuous family dynamics and a plot as complex as it is unsettling, the atmosphere of It Will Just Be Us had me enraptured from the very first pages and didn’t let go until the gasp-inducing ending. 

By Jo Kaplan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It Will Just Be Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A terrifying new gothic horror novel about two sisters and a haunted house that never sleeps, perfect for fans of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

They say there's a door in Wakefield that never opens...

Sam Wakefield's ancestral home, a decaying mansion built on the edge of a swamp, isn't a place for children. Its labyrinthine halls, built by her mad ancestors, are filled with echoes of the past: ghosts and memories knotted together as one. In the presence of phantoms, it's all Sam can do to disentangle past from present in her daily life.


Book cover of White Smoke

Paulette Kennedy Why did I love this book?

If you’re looking for a modern haunted house story that will keep you up well past your bedtime, here’s the ticket. From the moment Marigold and her family arrive at their new, too-good-to-be-true home, she senses that something is off. Is it the unfriendly neighbors? The way the workmen abruptly drop their tools and leave at 5:35 every day? Or is it the creepy noises only Mari seems to hear at night? And what is that smell? The sense of dread is so keen within these pages that I found my anxiety ratcheting up with every scene. Not only is White Smoke viscerally scary, it’s also a smart, incisive look at the perils of gentrification, systemic racism, and the tensions within a blended family. Jackson seamlessly weaves social commentary and mental health representation into the threads of this thrilling haunted house story. I read it in one sitting. 

By Tiffany D. Jackson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked White Smoke as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Haunting of Hill House meets Get Out in this chilling YA psychological thriller and modern take on the classic haunted house story from New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson!

Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her…

Book cover of Priory

Paulette Kennedy Why did I love this book?

I love a classic, gothic haunted house story with an unexpected twist, and Priory delivers. When Oliver Hardacre returns to his namesake home, located outside the gloriously atmospheric Yorkshire town of Whitby, he opens the door to his past. The narrative is told from Oliver’s modern perspective and his mother’s point of view in the 1970s, when Oliver and his brother were children at Hardacre Priory. Replete with dark, twisted secrets and multi-layered, complex characters, Wright’s sentient, menacing estate comes alive under her masterful touch. This is a short read, easily finished in one sitting. Crack it open on a foggy morning, with a spot of tea and a blanket to cut the chill.

By Becky Wright,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book 1 in The Ghosts of Hardacre series.

Memories are like ghosts. They linger in doorways, whisper with the howling wind when lightning strikes. They are the dark phantoms of my youth. My mind buried my memories for good reason, and I spent forty years believing I could escape them.

Until with one phone call, I found myself in my childhood home: Hardacre Priory.

I knew from the first step through the door that it was all over. The forgotten events of 1979 leapt to the surface and screamed their truths. Everything I thought to be true was a lie.…

Book cover of And the Trees Crept In

Paulette Kennedy Why did I love this book?

Hoping for a better life, Silla and her little sister Nori escape their abusive childhood home and journey to their aunt’s eccentric mansion, ensconced in a cloyingly dark forest. But despite their Aunt Cath’s warm, maternal welcome, something isn’t quite right at La Baume. The looming trees seem to draw closer every day, Nori’s new imaginary friend is a strange, faceless man in the woods, and Aunt Cath’s quirky, odd behavior quickly devolves into madness. Not to mention that strange creeaaking night and day, that sets Silla’s teeth (and nerves) on edge. This was my most recent read, which I chose to enjoy as an audiobook, where the excellent production quality brings Kurtagich’s prose alive with creepy sounds, music, and Polly Lee’s brilliant narration. Truly an immersive experience!

By Dawn Kurtagich,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked And the Trees Crept In as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt's home, it's immediately clear that the "blood manor" is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too--the questions that Silla can't ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that's appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?
Filled with just as many twists and turns as The Dead House, and with…

Book cover of House of Leaves

Paulette Kennedy Why did I love this book?

I couldn’t finish this list without including a modern horror classic. After purposefully avoiding reviews, I finally read House of Leaves last summer. It took me almost a month. It was worth it. Part puzzle, part story, this is a book that both maddens and mesmerizes. The haunted house at the center of the story is an unassuming farmhouse on the outside—one like you’d see on any dusty one-lane road in America. But inside, a Stygian labyrinth of doors-to-nowhere, endless staircases, and shifting walls has Danielewski’s characters questioning their sanity. With its mixed-media format, copious footnotes, and the docudrama feel of the main storyline, House of Leaves blurs the lines between reality and fiction. The author calls his bestselling masterpiece a love story. I must agree. It’s a love story for the ages—to horror fiction and its fans. Unforgettable. 

By Mark Z. Danielewski,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked House of Leaves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A novelistic mosaic that simultaneously reads like a thriller and like a strange, dreamlike excursion into the subconscious.” —The New York Times

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,…

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Book cover of Dulcinea

Ana Veciana-Suarez Author Of Dulcinea

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated with 16th-century and 17th-century Europe after reading Don Quixote many years ago. Since then, every novel or nonfiction book about that era has felt both ancient and contemporary. I’m always struck by how much our environment has changed—transportation, communication, housing, government—but also how little we as people have changed when it comes to ambition, love, grief, and greed. I doubled down my reading on that time period when I researched my novel, Dulcinea. Many people read in the eras of the Renaissance, World War II, or ancient Greece, so I’m hoping to introduce them to the Baroque Age. 

Ana's book list on bringing to life the forgotten Baroque Age

What is my book about?

Dolça Llull Prat, a wealthy Barcelona woman, is only 15 when she falls in love with an impoverished poet-solder. Theirs is a forbidden relationship, one that overcomes many obstacles until the fledgling writer renders her as the lowly Dulcinea in his bestseller.

By doing so, he unwittingly exposes his muse to gossip. But when Dolça receives his deathbed note asking to see her, she races across Spain with the intention of unburdening herself of an old secret.

On the journey, she encounters bandits, the Inquisition, illness, and the choices she's made. At its heart, Dulcinea is about how we betray the people we love, what happens when we succumb to convention, and why we squander the few chances we get to change our lives.

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