So you’ve seen Jordan Peele’s Nope and you’re looking for what to read next? Here are a few ideas. Warning: minor spoilers connected to the themes of the movie Nope to follow.
You’re probably here because, like me, you haven’t been able to stop thinking about Nope, the latest film from everyone’s favorite horror director Jordan Peele. There are a lot of moving pieces in Peele’s latest film that all add up to one thought-provoking and terrifying whole. It’s a surprising take on alien invasion/UFO horror. It’s a monster horror film that includes social commentary about media spectacles, exploitation, and more. It’s a horror film about the art of filmmaking. And of course, because it’s Jordan Peele, there are also plenty of moments that are funny.
Part of the reason Nope is living rent-free in our collective minds at the moment is because it is such a unique film. There’s nothing out there that’s exactly like it. However, there are lots of novels that you’re sure to love if you’re looking for fiction that contains certain elements of Nope. So if you’re looking for smart alien invasion/UFO fiction, monster horror with social commentary, or horror novels about filmmaking, I’ve got quite a few recommendations for you! Nothing will be quite the same experience as watching Nope for the first time, but these books come close. And they’re also just excellent in their own right. Read and see for yourself!
Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon is a genre-bending novel told from multiple points of view in Lagos, Nigeria. A large unidentified object has crashed into the ocean right off the coast of Bar Beach. And the sudden new alien presence in the water affects the lives of three people—marine biologist Adaora, soldier Agu, and Ghanaian rapper Anthony—who will bring change to Lagos and the world at large. This is a sci-fi alien invasion story that also finds inspiration from Nigerian mythology, superhero comics, and more.
If one of your favorite things about Nope was the sci-fi mixed with humor, then you’ll probably really enjoy Wesley Chu’s Tao series, starting with The Lives of Tao. Roen is an out-of-shape IT technician who is hearing voices in his head. Surely he must be losing grip on reality, right? Wrong. That voice inside his head is actually a passenger inside his brain—Tao, an alien whose race crashed on planet Earth billions of years ago. Tao’s people have been in the midst of a civil war for centuries, but ultimately both sides want the same thing—to find a way off the planet.
It probably comes as no surprise that Stephen King’s take on an alien invasion story is wholly unsettling. In the small town of Haven, Maine, something strange is happening. It all starts when author Bobbi Anderson discovers a hunk of metal while walking her dog in the woods. She soon realizes that what’s she’s found is more than just a random piece of metal. It’s actually part of a buried alien ship. And as she works to dig the alien ship out of the ground, everything—and everyone—in Haven begins to change.
Under the Skin is a sci-fi/horror alien invasion novel that’s heavy on the social commentary, so this one seems like a must-read for Nope fans. Isserly drives around the highways of Scotland looking for men. She doesn’t care who they are or what they want. She only cares that they have lots of muscles—and no family that will come looking for them. Even if you’ve seen the film Under the Skin (which is also excellent, by the way), this book is full of surprises and thematically explores a lot of social issues that aren’t central to the film. So definitely check it out!
Stephen Graham Jones has oft been called the Jordan Peele of horror fiction, so of course, one of his books had to end up on this list. And what book is more appropriate than The Only Good Indians, a book that’s all about animals retaliating against human intervention. This terrifying horror novel is the story of four Blackfoot Indian men who, at a young age, go on a hunting trip. But their hunt for an elk goes very, very wrong. Now, years later, there’s an evil spirit hellbent on revenge, and she’s hunting the men down one by one.
Like Jordan Peele’s work, Sofia Samatar’s Monster Portraits is comprised of a lot of moving pieces that pulls together into one unique, mind-blowing whole. Through poetry, art, memoir, academic research, and fiction, this book explores society’s desire to define, divide, and create a sense of “otherness,” using the metaphor of monsters. This one is a must-read for all of us monster-loving readers who want to explore more about how the monstrous can shed light on social issues.
Welcome to Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, a small town filled with strange monsters and plagued by a mysterious illness that steals memories from those affected by it. When El and Vee wake up in a movie theater with no memory of how they got there, they realize that they are the most recent victims of this horrifying disease. But how far will they go to get their memories back? And when they discover the dark horrors hidden in their memories—and in the town itself—will they wish they could go back to forgetting?
Cherie Dimaline’s Empire of Wild explores the mythology of a monster you might have heard of before. Yes, I’m talking about the Rogarou. Joan’s husband has been missing for almost a year. Then one morning, she hears the unmistakable sound of his voice coming from a revival tent in a Walmart parking lot. Just as expected, it’s him, and yet he insists he’s not who she says he is. Joan knows something terrible has happened to her husband, and now it’ll be up to her to get him back.
This sapphic novel is a great mixture of horror and comedy that I think all fans of Jordan Peele will appreciate. On top of being about monsters, this book is also about filming a television show, so basically it’s a win, win, win. In Patricia Wants to Cuddle, the final four contestants of a reality TV dating show are taken to a mysterious island in the Pacific Northwest. They anticipated competing for love. But they were not prepared for Patricia, a temperamental local who lives alone in the woods and is desperate to make a connection of her own.
Inspired by a true story, The Remaking is the perfect horror novel for fans of filmmaking and true crime. The story of the witch Ella Louise and her daughter Jessica has become the stuff of urban legends, as did the 1970s horror film that was created based on their story. Then there’s the meta-remake of the movie that was filmed in the 1990s that was also shrouded in mystery. And the podcast that looks to set all the rumors and mysteries to rest. What is the truth behind Ella Louise and Jessica? And how is the truth shaped by the storytellers who pass along the tale?
Here’s another horror novel that incorporates humor in a way that I think would be Jordan Peele approved. Plain Bad Heroines is a sapphic horror-comedy (yes! another one! can you have too many?) about Brookhants School for Girls, a boarding school with a troubled and mysterious past, including many disturbing deaths. One hundred years have passed since the horrors that befell the school, and writer Merritt Emmons has written a book celebrating the queer, feminist history of the school that was so cursed. And yes, her book inspires a horror film adaptation of the story.
Okay, so Night Film is a little more thriller than it is straight up horror, but it definitely belongs on this list because of its focus on the spectacle of filmmaking and how far some people will go to get a movie made. When Ashley Cordova, the daughter of cult-horror film director Stanislaus Cordova, is found dead in an abandoned warehouse, investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects foul play. So much has been written about the terrifying films Cordova has created, but little is known of the man himself. As McGrath uncovers the truths behind Cordova, he also comes dangerously close to the truth behind Ashley’s death.
Speaking of daughters of horror film directors, here’s Harrow Lake! As the daughter of a celebrated horror film director, Lola Nox is certain nothing can scare her. But after her father is brutally attacked, Lola is sent to live in Harrow Lake, the town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. And this town seems even scarier than the film itself. The locals are oddly obsessed with Lola’s father’s work, and someone seems to be following Lola’s every move.
These books should hold you over until the next Jordan Peele horror movie comes out. Or… at the very least until you can get back to the theater to see NOPE again. Jordan Peele fans looking for even more book recommendations, be sure to check out these Social Horror Novels for Fans of Get Out.