The Haunting of Hill House

By Shirley Jackson,

Book cover of The Haunting of Hill House

Book description

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…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

27 authors picked The Haunting of Hill House as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

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,…

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. 

From Nancy's list on gothic tales of houses.

I confess I saw the 1963 movie with Julie Harris when I was a teenager before I read the book, but the book is as usual better than any film version that has been made. The appeal for me definitely comes down to the standard haunted house trope – my favourite basis for any scary story. Shirley Jackson uses a buildup of fear rather than horror to get a response from the reader which I think is far more effective. The story centres around a group of people staying at Hill House to investigate possible paranormal activity, and the creepy…

From Anne-Marie's list on scaring the bejesus out of you.

Far from just another Gothic story set in yet another ostensibly haunted mansion, Hill House is, in my opinion, the best psychological horror novel of all time (sorry Stephen King!) A bold statement, I know, but I consider Shirley Jackson my muse. When an agent once compared my writing to hers, I printed the email and taped it onto my computer as a firewall against doubt and insecurity. 

The question Jackson so subtly asks is the same one that appears (more clumsily, I’m sure) in many of my own works—is it the location or the person (in this case, Eleanor)…

From J. L.'s list on gothic reads by modern women.

This is one of the scariest and most elegant books I have ever read. It’s got all my favorite things; a haunted house, a group of charismatic flawed characters, a troubled heroine, a creeping atmosphere of dread… I was completely wrapped up from page one, routing for Elenore who, after decades of servitude under her abusive mother and dominating older sister, just wants to live her life and drink from her own cup of stars. Stephen King called this one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century, so there’s that too. 

From Sophie's list on escaping reality.

It might sound strange, but one of the things I like most about Shirley Jackson’s writing is just how brutal she is with her characters! When I first met Eleanor Vance, the lead character in The Haunting of Hill House, who’s seeking her ‘cup of stars’, I was absorbed in the slightly strained and unsettling interior monologue that lets us into her view of the world. From the start, I got the feeling of something about to snap… But personally, I’m usually rooting for the characters in the books I read, so I still hoped Eleanor might find those…

From S. T.'s list on reality becoming unreal.

The Haunting of Hill House is yet another cautionary tale. Billed as a ghost story, you never truly know what it actually is. Eleanor Vance is sick of caring for her disabled mother and wants a change in her life. She takes part in the study at an apparent haunted house. The haunting is made scary through Eleanor’s eyes (and decreasing sanity). Through her writing, Shirley Jackson creates a story that’s timeless and will never wilt. It’s like a ghost itself in that way. 

I’ve read a lot of horror novels. In my opinion, The Haunting of Hill House is the best. From its first, magnificent paragraph it writhes with anxiety, insanity, and doom. 

How did Jackson pull this off? The premise seems unpromising and formulaic: a paranormal investigator gathers three people to join him in an investigation of a haunted house. The answer rests in Jackson’s ability to depict the emotional vulnerability of her protagonist (Eleanor Vance). Eleanor has suffered for many years under the yolk of an overbearing family, and for her Hill House offers a chance for diversion and a dreadful…

From Nicole's list on paranormal investigation.

The grandmother of all haunted house books, this 1959 release is the scariest haunted house book I’ve ever read. The 1963 film adaptation is the scariest haunted house movie I’ve ever seen. Four people gather at the allegedly haunted and uninhabited Hill House—a scientist studying psychic phenomena, two women with a history of psychic ability, and the heir who wants to prove the house isn’t haunted so he can sell the place. The servants won’t even stay after sundown“in the night. In the dark.” The initial atmosphere of lurking menace builds to screaming tension. Don’t read it if…

This is my all-time favourite haunted house novel. The reason why I love the book so much is that, having always been interested in the paranormal, I like the concept of an occult scholar gathering together a group of ordinary people—all of whom have had some brush with the paranormal at some point in their lives—in this huge, rambling house, whose reputation is very dark and disturbing. I also love the ambiguity surrounding both the main character, Eleanor, and the ghostly atmosphere of Hill House itself. I mean, is Eleanor really the victim of any supernatural force that may be…

Want books like The Haunting of Hill House?

Our community of 9,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like The Haunting of Hill House.

Browse books like The Haunting of Hill House

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in haunted houses, the paranormal, and ghosts?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about haunted houses, the paranormal, and ghosts.

Haunted Houses Explore 64 books about haunted houses
The Paranormal Explore 199 books about the paranormal
Ghosts Explore 206 books about ghosts