The best thriller and horror books with “House” in the title

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a lifelong fascination with houses and the sway they hold over us. Coming from a family that moved pretty frequently, I’ve experienced the way a house can feel like a true home, or like an unwelcoming space. Unlike the characters in The Wonder State, I don’t break into places to explore (not even abandoned spaces!). But I always take notice of the homes and structures in every neighborhood and city I visit, wondering what the residents’ lives are like and how their houses affect them. I’m a novelist who focuses on the speculative, and all three of my novels feature weird houses in some capacity.

I wrote...

Book cover of The Wonder State

What is my book about?

In 1999, a group of misfit friends discover mysterious houses scattered around their Arkansas Ozarks town. Although ordinary from the outside, these houses hold strange powers once you step inside: bestowing incredible luck, forcing people to tell the truth, or making time move differently. One house is rumored to lead to another world entirely. The six teens throw themselves into finding the houses, but the magical quest ends in tragedy and betrayal.

In 2015, the friends, now adults, return to the town they swore never to visit again. One member of their group is missing, and the secrets they left behind might have something to do with her disappearance. The friends aren’t sure whether they’re back in the Ozarks for a reunion, or for revenge. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Haunting of Hill House

Sara Flannery Murphy Why did I love this book?

In the real estate market of haunted houses, Hill House remains a hot property decades after the book’s publication in 1959.

Shirley Jackson is queen of slow-burn Gothic suspense, and her premise is incredible: a group of strangers arrive at an eerie mansion as part of a scientific project to find evidence of the paranormal.

Jackson doesn’t use flashy jump scares, but rather spins a subtle dread that makes even quiet scenes feel unbearably tense.

Haunting of Hill House remains my top recommendation for scary novels. It’s rare for a book to have me leaving the lights on at night, but after one key scene, I had trouble sleeping for weeks. I don’t hide the fact that I’m a Jackson superfan, and this is one of her best works.

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

31 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 Catherine House

Sara Flannery Murphy Why did I love this book?

You are in the house and the house is in the woods.
You are in the house and the house is in you.

If these words don’t send a tingle down your spine, or don’t make you suddenly aware of the house surrounding you, then we aren’t the same. Thomas’ feverish debut is the perfect example of “dark academia” done right.

Catherine House is not a home. It’s a mysterious school. Every student seems to have something odd hidden in the past. Students are encouraged to cultivate school spirit that goes well beyond the usual measures. They become one with Catherine House, submitting to cryptic experiments, cutting off contact with the outside world. 

I love the way Thomas explores the ways an institution can exploit while pretending to protect.

By Elisabeth Thomas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“[A] delicious literary Gothic debut.” –THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, EDITORS' CHOICE

“Moody and evocative as a fever dream, Catherine House is the sort of book that wraps itself around your brain, drawing you closer with each hypnotic step.” – THE WASHINGTON POST

A Most Anticipated Novel by Entertainment Weekly • New York magazine • Cosmopolitan • The Atlantic • Forbes • Good Housekeeping • Parade • Better Homes and Gardens • HuffPost • Buzzfeed • Newsweek • Harper’s Bazaar • Ms. Magazine • Woman's Day • PopSugar • and more!

A gothic-infused debut of literary suspense, set within…

Book cover of House of Leaves

Sara Flannery Murphy Why did I love this book?

If you’ve ever explored an abandoned building, you know what it feels like to approach House of Leaves. This book clocks in at over 700 pages, and it took me a while to work up the courage to dive in.

Danielewski’s groundbreaking horror novel strips away the safety of just reading a story by dragging you right across the book’s threshold. 
House of Leaves is a difficult book to summarize, but one of the chief plotlines follows The Navidson Record, a documentary about a family’s increasingly strange experiences in their house. The structure has dimensions that don’t add up, including ominous hallways and staircases.

Just like the house in the book takes on unexpected shapes, the book in your hands also defies expectations. For me, this created a deeply unnerving, immersive reading experience.

By Mark Z. Danielewski,

Why should I read it?

19 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,…

Book cover of House of Cotton

Sara Flannery Murphy Why did I love this book?

When Magnolia’s grandmother dies, the nineteen-year-old protagonist of Brashear’s sultry novel experiences another kind of loss as well. Her predatory landlord turns Magnolia’s home into a hostile space, quite literally forcing her out of the protection her grandmother left behind. 

I love the way fairytales take center stage… Magnolia often imagines herself as part of iconic fables. I devoured fairytales as a child, so I felt particularly drawn into this obsession. 

Without her own house, Magnolia seeks shelter with a mysterious artist named Cotton. But as always happens in such tales, nothing comes without a cost. Magnolia agrees to pose as mourners’ lost loved ones. Just like her house is no longer her own, even Magnolia’s own body doesn’t fully belong to her.

This book is smart, weird, and thought-provoking.  

By Monica Brashears,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An enchanting Black Southern gothic debut, perfect for readers of Mexican Gothic... "Fresh, haunting...In her roller-coaster ride of a gothic debut novel, Monica Brashears upends expectations at every turn." ―The New York Times

“Every page, every scene, every sentence of Monica Brashears’s debut novel House of Cotton dazzles and surprises. An intense, enthralling, and deeply satisfying read!” ―Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

"A new, dazzling, and essential American voice." ―George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo

Magnolia Brown is nineteen years old, broke, and effectively an orphan. She feels stuck and haunted: by her…

Book cover of The House in the Pines

Sara Flannery Murphy Why did I love this book?

The house referenced in the title of this atmospheric thriller is no ordinary home, but I had to take quite a journey before understanding what makes this place so sinister.

In Reyes’ thriller, Maya is haunted by the seemingly inexplicable death of her friend. She suspects that the death has something to do with Frank, the mysterious man who created a rift between Maya and her friend. But Maya can’t prove anything… until she sees Frank connected to yet another woman’s bizarre death.

Without any spoilers, this particular house is unlike the others on the list, and Reyes plays with reality and perception in a fresh and intriguing way. Good luck guessing what’s going on in this eerie house in the woods… I certainly couldn’t anticipate the twists.

By Ana Reyes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Reese Witherspoon (Reese's Book Club Jan '23 Pick)

Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of The House Across the Lake

The Times

Lisa Gardner, Sunday Times bestselling author of One Step Too Far

M. W. Craven, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Botanist

Andrea Bartz, author of Reese's pick We Were Never Here

This is the story of a house. The cabin lies deep in…

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A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

Book cover of A Diary in the Age of Water

Nina Munteanu Author Of Darwin's Paradox

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Ecologist Mother Teacher Explorer

Nina's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This climate fiction novel follows four generations of women and their battles against a global giant that controls and manipulates Earth’s water. Told mostly through a diary and drawing on scientific observation and personal reflection, Lynna’s story unfolds incrementally, like climate change itself. Her gritty memoir describes a near-future Toronto in the grips of severe water scarcity.

Single mother and limnologist Lynna witnesses disturbing events as she works for the powerful international utility CanadaCorp. Fearing for the welfare of her rebellious teenage daughter, Lynna sets in motion a series of events that tumble out of her control with calamitous consequence. The novel explores identity, relationship, and our concept of what is “normal”—as a nation and an individual—in a world that is rapidly and incomprehensibly changing.

A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

What is this book about?

Centuries from now, in a post-climate change dying boreal forest of what used to be northern Canada, Kyo, a young acolyte called to service in the Exodus, discovers a diary that may provide her with the answers to her yearning for Earth’s past—to the Age of Water, when the “Water Twins” destroyed humanity in hatred—events that have plagued her nightly in dreams. Looking for answers to this holocaust—and disturbed by her macabre longing for connection to the Water Twins—Kyo is led to the diary of a limnologist from the time just prior to the destruction. This gritty memoir describes a…

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