If you are a fan of the hit series Lovecraft Country on HBO, you are probably sad that the show isn’t coming back for a second season. If you are new to the concept of Lovecraftian works, you have to understand that H.P. Lovecraft was racist AF and to me, that makes the show more interesting because it flips what the original author intended to convey. The genre-bending show, based on Matt Ruff’s novel by the same name, took liberty to explore historical references, sci-fi, and racism as horror concepts. Each episode of the show felt like a self-contained short film. Between the gore, the time traveling, the conjuring, and the never-ending Easter eggs, Lovecraft Country trended weekly on social media whenever a new episode aired. While there were some who weren’t fans of the show, it still managed to cement itself in pop and literary culture.
Since the show had so many themes, it would be challenging to find a single book that encapsulates all those genres in just a few hundred pages. So I thought it would be helpful to round-up books that honed in on spec fic themes and storylines of the show. Now, if you are ready to read some books that will keep you up at night and, in most cases, in touch with social issues, get ready to add these books to your TBR pile. You will want to read these sooner than later.
Djeliya By Juni Ba
While this graphic novel doesn’t involve any racial elements, it does display high fantasy elements that I found similar to the show. Ba creates a post-apocalyptic world where a powerful wizard commands the kingdom due to his magical and mystical powers. Similar to the show, the graphic novel has a few different perspectives from the characters that all sync together for one epic story.
Bad Witch Burning By Jessica Lewis
This is probably one of my favorite books this year because Lewis takes you on a journey with her lead character, Katrell, that makes it easy to feel the same bubbling angry that she feels. Now, without spoiling the story, Katrell has the ability to talk to the dead which could be comparable to Lettie in Lovecraft Country when she went back in time to the Tulsa City Massacre. Katrell also reminds me of Diana Freeman when her mother was gone and she was being chased by haunted beings, except for in this case, the only one controlling the dead is Katrell. It’s a beautiful mix for fans of Lovecraft Country, Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah, and Deathnote Tsugumi Ohba.
Killadelphia Volume 1: Sins of the Father By Rodney Barnes, Jason Shawn Alexander, And Luis NCT
Similar to the men who believed they were the descendants of Adam, Killadelphia has a real historical villain as well and it’s John Adams, the former president of the United States. Adams is a vampire and is seeking to takeover Philadelphia by turning people into zombie-like monsters to do his evil bidding. Not only is Adams a vampire, but so is his wife, and the two have their own agenda. The hero in the story is a cop who decides to follow in his dead father’s footsteps, which may lead him straight to his grave. So he does what anyone else would do when zombies are running the city — he digs him up, and yes, his dead father is partially a zombie, too.
Ring Shout By P. Djèlí Clark
In the show, Christina talks about not being a friend of the Klu Klux Klan because they are poor. However, Clark gives them powers in Ring Shout, especially the grand wizard, as they sew evil into the hearts of humans across the country. With growing unrest across the country, the evil powers seem to be winning as they release all types of hell on earth. But then there is Maryse Boudreaux, the bootlegger who takes pleasure in killing the evil Klansman with her magical sword. She teams up with a couple of folks who can all hold their own against the great evil.
The Taking of Jake Livingston By Ryan Douglass
Jake is a high school medium who can see ghosts. They don’t usually freak him out, but there’s one ghost named Sawyer who refuses to leave him alone. Not only does he not want to leave him alone, when he was alive he was a school shooter and killed several people. Now he wants to kill even more as a ghost, and only Jake can stop him. It reminds me of the scene in Lovecraft Country where Lettie buys a house and realizes that it is haunted, and she calls a priestess to get the ghost out of the house.
The Ballad of Black Tom By Victor Lavalle
Here Lavalle puts a spin on Lovecraftian tropes by reimagining The Horror at Red Hook. LaValle even references Cthulhu in his retelling, but not in the way you would think. Set during the 1920s in New York as the Harlem Renaissance is thriving, a young Black man just does what he can to survive. Of course there is a cop who wants to wield supernatural powers himself. All this leads up to Cthulhu coming into our world and bringing terror along with it.
SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire By Nicole Givens Kurtz
While this is more standard horror than Lovecraftian, it still manages to weave culture and race into a number of horror themes in this anthology by independent publisher Mocha Memoirs Press. With over 25 stories to quench your horror thirst, you will not only find new storytellers to follow and support, you will appreciate the originality of the tales.
The Freedom Race By Lucinda Roy
Since we didn’t get a second season, we can only imagine what the world would look like if only Atticus and his family held all the magic. However, Roy creates an alternative history that showcases what our country would look like if there was a second civil war and the ramifications that would come with that. It’s harsh at times, but necessary considering the times we live in now.
The Conductors By Nicole Glover
One of my favorite aspects of the show was seeing Black people tap into magic and spells. Glover creates a world where the Underground Railroad conductors possess magic they used to free people. In the show, we saw a distinct difference in what Chicago was like for Black people. Oftentimes, if Black people needed help, the police were not their answer. Because of this, the free Black people in The Conductors rely on a couple of enchanting former conductors who make it their business to solve cases in Philadelphia for them.
The Between By Tananarive Due
Due is easily the Queen of Black horror, especially when it involves the paranormal. In The Between, she mixes racism with haunted elements that are just downright creepy. Hilton’s life was spared by his grandmother and his wife is being stalked by someone she prosecuted a long time ago. It doesn’t help that he’s having vivid, violent nightmares that get worse as each day passes. It reminded me of when Lettie and Atticus went to Lovecraft country and the entire mansion was full of magic, and they experienced violent dreams and visions that terrified them both.
Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago By Ayana Contreras
One of the main characters of the show was the city of Chicago. Chicago has such a rich Black history between the great migration and its history of the working class. Additionally, Chicago is notoriously segregated and most of the depictions of racism in the show reflected a lot of the city’s history with racism. But that’s not the only aspect of Chicago as it relates to Black history. From music, to food, to a generation of artists and intellectual thinkers, the city of Chicago — which was founded by a Black man — remains a city of hope for Black Americans.
For more books that complement your favorite movies and TV shows, check out this post on the best book-to-movie adaptations.