'Dune' Books in Order: How to Read All 21 Novels in Chronological Order – Esquire

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21 novels with no obvious road map. Let’s dive in!
So you’re fired up about Dune hitting the big screen, and you’re ready to dive into the world of Frank Herbert’s beloved science fiction novels. Congratulations! You’ve got an exciting literary journey ahead of you. And whether you’ve dabbled in Dune lore before or you’re completely new to the wild world of Arrakis, there’s something for everyone to love in this titanic-sized series about power, violence, and fate.
Published in 1965 by an automotive manuals publisher, after twenty (!) mainstream publishers rejected the story, Dune is the world’s best-selling science fiction novel of all time. It’s also considered one of the best books of all time, as well as a seminal work in the sci-fi genre. The book’s massive success inspired Herbert to write a number of sequels, which brought the total number of novels in the series up to six when he died in 1986.
More than a decade after Herbert’s death, his son, Brian, teamed up with science fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson to co-author a trilogy of Dune prequels. (This would come to be known the Prelude to Dune series.) Herbert and Anderson have remained dynamic collaborators in the years since, churning out over a dozen novels together. But what’s the right way to go spelunking through all these books and their complicated chronology? There’s no right answer; some argue that the books should be read in the chronological order of the fictive timeline, while others argue that they should be read in the order of publication.
Here’s our advice: read Frank Herbert’s six novels first, then dabble in the unauthorized spin-offs however you like. Given that many of the spin-offs are grouped into smaller series that exist within the larger story, you can sample bits and pieces of the universe. That’s the beauty of the Dune—it’s a detailed series that rewards completionism, but the entry points are numerous.
Read on for a full breakdown of the books, listed here in the order in which they were published. Happy reading, spiceheads!
Dune is set far into the future, in an intergalactic feudal society where powerful noble houses fight for control over resources, armies, and planetary power. House Atreides is ordered to take control of Arrakis, a barren desert planet with a brutal climate, but is the only place to mine Melange—a natural resource that produces a drug called Spice, which allows humanity to unlock their minds to be able to perform highly complex tasks. On Arrakis, House Atreides is betrayed by rival House Harkonnen, which sets off a battle over the valuable planet. The planet itself is inhabited with giant sandworms and a native population known as Fremen, who, over generations, have learned to survive with water as their most precious resource and currency. When House Atreides scion Paul is targeted as a potential messiah to lead the planet—and galaxy—toward a new era, an epic story of war, betrayal, and mysticism unfolds.
In Herbert’s first sequel, Paul Atreides, now known as Muad’Dib, rules the known universe as the most powerful emperor of all time. Worshipped as a messiah by the people of Arrakis, Paul faces enmity from the warring political houses under his control. Is any one ruler meant to have such absolute power? He’ll soon find out. 
Children of Dune picks up with Leto and Ghanima Atreides, the twin children of Paul Atreides, nine years after their father’s mysterious disappearance into the wastelands of Arrakis. The twins’ prophetic abilities are coveted by their manipulative aunt Alia, who rules the Empire, but these two young prophets refuse to be anyone’s pawns. 
3500 years after the events of Children of Dune, the once-desert planet of Arrakis is now a lush paradise, and Leto Atreides sits on the throne. Millennia ago, Leto merged with a sandworm to grant himself immortality, but the cost to his humanity has been enormous. Can a rebellion led by Siona, a rival relative, unseat this fearsome despot? 
Leto Atreides is dead, Arrakis (now called Rakis) is once again a desert wasteland, and the Empire has fallen into ruin. A young girl named Sheeana seems to fulfill a prophecy foretold by the late God Emperor, sending religious fervor through the galaxy. Is Sheeana destined to return the Empire to its former glory?
In Herbert’s final Dune novel, Arrakis has been destroyed, and the fate of the Empire rests in the hands of a mysterious matriarchal order known as the Bene Gesserit. On the planet Chapterhouse, the sisters are breeding sandworms and seeking to control spice production, with the goal of remaking the galaxy for a brighter future. 
Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s Prelude to Dune trilogy begins with this story of the generation before Dune; namely, Leto Atreides, father of Paul. In House Atreides, we see how Leto’s rivalries and relationships sowed the catalyzing events of Dune
In House Harkonnen, Leto Atreides’ longtime rival, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, comes into view. We also meet Abulurd Rabban, brother and foil to the Baron. Turns out, there are good people in House Harkonnen—who knew?
In House Corrino, Brian and Anderson conclude their prequel series, bringing the story up to the climactic events set to unfold in Dune. This tapestry of politics, warmongering, and spice battles ends with the birth of Paul Atreides, teeing us up to the saga we know and love (and now, have already read). 
Working from Frank Herbert’s notes, titled “Dune 7,” Brian and Anderson again expanded the series in Legends of Dune, a new trilogy. The first installment, The Butlerian Jihad, digs into an event Herbert often referred to, but never captured at scale: the long-ago war where humans fought for their freedom from “the thinking machines.” Set 10,000 years before Dune, the familiar chess pieces come into view in this volume. 
Legends of Dune continues with The Machine Crusade, set two decades after The Butlerian Jihad. The thinking machines fight back, refusing to go quietly into that good night; meanwhile, on Arrakis, a band of outlaws take their first steps to becoming the Fremen, a race of people that OG Dune fans know and love. 
Check out that sandworm on the cover! The Legends of Dune trilogy concludes with The Battle of Corrin, which tees up a final apocalyptic showdown between humans and robots. Fans of Dune know how this one ends, but it sure is fun to see how Herbert and Anderson get there. 
Dune Sequels, a two-volume spin-off series, concludes the storyline from Herbert’s six original novels, with insight from a long-lost outline that was found hidden in one of Herbert’s safety deposit boxes. In Hunters of Dune, we pick up with the escaping fugitives last seen at the end of Chapterhouse Dune, as they strengthen their powers and fight for the future of the human race. 
Herbert and Anderson tie up more burning questions in this second volume of the Dune Sequels series: namely, the future of Arrakis and the outcome of the war between Man and Machine. 
The Heroes of Dune spin-off series opens with this tale of Paul Atreides, set between Dune and Dune Messiah. Dune ends with Paul ruling Arrakis, while Dune Messiah opens with Paul ruling the galaxy. Just how did Paul gain control of the Empire? Read Paul of Dune to find out. 
Heroes of Dune continues with this second and final installment, set after the events of Dune Messiah. The Winds of Dune picks up after Paul Atreides’ disappearance into the Arrakis desert, leaving the Empire in crisis and the line of succession in question. Who will hold everything together?
The Great Schools of Dune trilogy opens with Sisterhood of Dune, set almost a century after the game-changing Battle of Corrin. With the thinking machines destroyed, political and religious movements rise, teeing up an epic conflict between reason and faith. 
With the thinking machines destroyed, a new school opens to teach humans the efficient techniques of thinking machines. But the Butlerian jihadists staunchly oppose any machinist way of life, and pick a dangerous fight with the Mentat School. What ensues is an epic showdown for humanity’s future, with a potential dark age at stake.
Want to learn more about the Bene Gesserit sisterhood from Herbert’s original novels? Then Navigators of Dune is the book for you. In this third and final volume of the Great Schools of Dune trilogy, we learn about the origins of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, and see their secretive way of life develop. 
Brian and Anderson’s latest trilogy, The Caladan Trilogy, begins with The Duke of Caladan, a prequel about the life of Paul Atreides. Just how did the ruler of a nowheresville planet become such a power player in a galactically fateful story? If that’s the question on your mind, this is the book you ought to hit next. 
Herbert and Anderson take it all the way back to OG Dune in this prequel about Lady Jessica, mother of Paul Atreides. In The Lady of Caladan, Lady Jessica reckons with her choice to betray the Bene Gesserit, her ancient maternal order, while destiny converges around her husband and son.