What first drew me to House of Leaves was how so many people who’ve read it called it one of the scariest books they’ve ever read. The book is about a book about a video documentary about a house whose inside dimensions keep changing. If that sounds confusing, multiply it by 10 and that’s how confused I was after finishing the book.
I didn’t find the book as creepy or disturbing as others have made it out to be, but I did find it to be like one of Borges’s labyrinth stories. House of Leaves presents itself in multiple frames:
For most of the books I’ve read, I paid more attention to the plot and characters of the book than its design. The reverse could be said of House of Leaves. The book’s long rambling footnotes, wild typography, and unconventional page layouts helped lure me into the story. There were times where I couldn’t tell if what I was reading was real or not. I wasn’t sure whether or not I could trust the words on the pages. If the book is designed to confuse the reader, it does a good job of it.
Books with lots of footnotes can be intimidating, but House of Leaves is an easy read. Some of its footnotes sprawl several pages while others seem like just a run-on sentence with random words. Luckily, upon the first read-through, not all of the footnotes need to be read. Johnny Truant even advises the reader to skip some if they’re boring.
There are so many layers in this book that when I first started reading it before bedtime, even though the content wasn’t disturbing to me at all, I started having strange and vivid dreams. I had to stop reading it before bed for a few days.
It could be just observational bias, but after reading the book, I started to notice a lot of things that reminded me of the House such as the weird creaks and pops my apartment makes at night for no apparent reason. The book isn’t life-changing in a grandiose, but it definitely had at least a small effect on me.
There are a lot of books that can be considered “library books” — books that can be borrowed, read, and returned. House of Leaves isn’t one of them. There are so many codes, layers, and interpretations in the book that I know it deserves at least a second reading. What’s frustrating is that even though the basic language is simple to read, there are so many meanings in one chapter that I felt that I missed about 3/4 of the book by just concentrating at what the words on the pages meant.
Different readers will react differently to the book, so the only endorsement I can give House of Leaves is that it’s nothing like anything I’ve ever read. After I finished reading the book, I felt like I had only begun to understand it.