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How to read Dune, Frank Herbert Sci-Fi classic?

Dune Reading Order

Last Updated 6 months ago.Like a lot of people, I read Dune and I thought it was awesome. Then, I didn’t want it to stop, so I keep on reading. Two books later, it was not as good as it was at the beginning, so I took a break. After a long while, I thought I might pick up where I left off, thinking I would be easy. Wrong, things get more complicated the further you go in the series. So, I tried to compile what I found and this is the result.

What is Dune?

Well, it’s a classic and a franchise. Written by Frank Herbert and published in 1965, Dune is a science-fiction epic set in a distant future where the one who controls the “spice” controls the universe — it’s the over simplistic way to introduce the story.

Dune takes us in a feudal interstellar society in which noble houses controlling individual planets had pledged allegiance to the Padishah Emperor. The story began with young Paul Atreides whose family accepts the stewardship of the planet Arrakis where you can find the only source of the “spice” melange. Politics, religion, ecology and technology collide when forces of the empire plot against each other in order to seize control of Arrakis.

What’s Dune reading order?

That’s the one-million-dollar question. For some, there’s nothing good after the original Dune, but if you are here, you probably want more than that. So, here is a possible reading order. It’s not a chronological one, because I think that the best way to start is with the first book published.

Dune Messiah - Dune Reading Order Children of Dune - Dune Reading Order

  1. Dune — The first and only entry point that makes sense. This is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family—and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.
  2. Dune Messiah — Paul Atreides, prince turned revolutionary leader and messiah of a fanatical religious sisterhood, is to be brought low by the very forces that created him. Yet foreseeing the plans of his enemies, he determines to drive on towards his own, shockingly different, vision of the future.
  3. Children of Dune — The sand-blasted world of Arrakis has become green, watered and fertile. Old Paul Atreides, who led the desert Fremen to political and religious domination of the galaxy, is gone. But for the children of Dune, the very blossoming of their land contains the seeds of its own destruction.
Frank Herbert's Dune Saga 6-Book Boxed Set

Frank Herbert’s Dune Saga 6-Book Boxed Set: Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune

At that point, you can stop. Well, if you want more, I prefer to continue with Frank Herbert’s work. That said, there’s what’s known as Heroes of Dune : Paul of Dune and The Winds of Dune. Half of the story of Paul of Dune takes place between the first Dune and Dune Messiah .Well, it’s more complicated. Idem with The Winds of Dune. I refer you to the chronological reading order, it’s easier for me.

God Emperor of Dune - Dune Reading Order Heretics of Dune - Dune Reading Order Chapterhouse: Dune - Dune Reading Order

  1. God Emperor of Dune — Centuries have passed on Dune, and the planet is green with life. Leto, the son of Dune’s savior, is still alive but far from human, and the fate of all humanity hangs on his own sacrifice.
  2. Heretics of Dune — The Lost Ones are returning home from the far reaches of space. The great sandworms are dying. And the children of Dune’s children awaken from empire as from a dream, wielding the new power of a heresy called love.
  3. Chapterhouse: Dune — The desert planet Arrakis, called Dune, has been destroyed. Now, the Bene Gesserit, heirs to Dune’s power, have colonized a green world–and are turning it into a desert.

Chapterhouse: Dune ends with a cliffhanger. With Frank Herbert’s death in 1986, there was no conclusion in sight, until Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson published two sequels based on notes left behind by Frank Herbert:

Hunters of Dune - Dune Reading Order Sandworms of Dune - Dune Reading Order

  1. Hunters of Dune — The exotic odyssey of Duncan’s no-ship as it is forced to elude the diabolical traps set by the ferocious, unknown Enemy. To strengthen their forces, the fugitives have used genetic technology from Scytale, the last Tleilaxu Master, to revive key figures from Dune’s past.
  2. Sandworms of Dune — The end with a lot of answers about the origin of the Honored Matres, the tantalizing future of the planet Arrakis, the final revelation of the Kwisatz Haderach, and the resolution to the war between Man and Machine.

Another possible ending. Now, if you really are into going further into the story, you can go back in time with the prequels.

The Dune prequel series

House Atreides - Dune Reading Order House Harkonnen - Dune Reading Order House Corrino - Dune Reading Order

This trilogy is known as Prelude to Dune, the story leads to the first Dune novel.

  1. House Atreides — As Emperor Elrood’s son plots a regicide, young Leto Atreides leaves for a year’s education on the mechanized world of Ix; a planetologist seeks the secrets of Arrakis; and the eight-year-old slave Duncan Idaho is hunted by his cruel masters in a terrifying game from which he vows escape and vengeance.
  2. House Harkonnen — As Shaddam sits at last on the Golden Lion Throne, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen plots against the new Emperor and House Atreides — and against the mysterious Sisterhood of the Bene Gesserit.
  3. House Corrino — The blood feud between Duke Leto of Caladon and Baron Vladimir Harkonnen reaches its climax, as the emperor Shaddam – leader of House Corrino – is finally forced to curb the powerful Harkonnens or risk losing his own throne.

The Butlerian Jihad - Dune Reading Order The Machine Crusade - Dune Reading Order The Battle of Corrin - Dune Reading Order

This trilogy is known as Legends of Dune, the story takes place over 10,000 years before the events of the first Dune novel.

  1. The Butlerian Jihad — The tyrants translated their brains into mobile mechanical bodies and created a new race, the immortal man-machine hybrids called cymeks. Impatient with human beings’ endless disobedience and the cymeks’ continual plotting to regain their power, the world-controlling planetary computershas decided that it no longer needs them. Only victory can save the human race from extermination.
  2. The Machine Crusade — Earth is a radioactive ruin. But the initial campaign of the Butlerian Jihad has given new hope to mankind. Serena Butler, whose murdered child has become a symbol for oppressed humanity, inspires a war against the thinking computers led by Xavier Harkonnen and Vorian Atreides.
  3. The Battle of Corrin — The universal computer mind Omnius has retreated to its last stronghold, where it plots a devastating new strategy that could undo the victories of the Butlerian Jihad. The surviving Titans are creating new lieutenants to do their will when at last they return to attack the human beings they once ruled.

Sisterhood of Dune - Dune Reading Order Mentats of Dune - Dune Reading Order Navigators of Dune - Dune Reading Order

This trilogy is known as Great Schools of Dune, this story is a sequel to the Legends of Dune trilogy and takes place nearly a century after the events of Dune: The Battle of Corrin.

  1. Sisterhood of Dune — It is eighty-three years after the last of the thinking machines were destroyed in the Battle of Corrin, after Faykan Butler took the name of Corrino and established himself as the first Emperor of a new Imperium. Great changes are brewing that will shape and twist all of humankind.
  2. Mentats of Dune — The Mentats, the Navigators, and the Sisterhood all strive to improve the human race, but each group knows that as Butlerian fanaticism grows stronger, the battle will be to choose the path of humanity’s future―whether to embrace civilization, or to plunge into an endless dark age.
  3. Navigators of Dune — The story line tells the origins of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood and its breeding program, the human-computer Mentats, and the Navigators, as well as a crucial battle for the future of the human race, in which reason faces off against fanaticism.

Coming Soon

A new Dune adaptation is coming and Brian Herbert wrote with Kevin J. Anderson a new trilogy for the occasion. It’s called The Caladan Trilogy and it focuses on Duke Leto, Lady Jessica, and Paul, leading directly to the events in Dune.

  1. Dune: The Duke of Caladan — Leto Atreides, Duke of Caladan and father of the Muad’Dib. While all know of his fall and the rise of his son, little is known about the quiet ruler of Caladan and his partner Jessica. Or how a Duke of an inconsequential planet earned an emperor’s favor, the ire of House Harkonnen, and set himself on a collision course with his own death. This is the story.
  2. more to come…

If after all that you still want more, there are short stories. I put them in the chronological reading order.

Dune’s chronological reading order

This is the mostly official chronological reading order, apparently. It’s useful if you want to know when to read the short stories or if you are one of those who want to try to read it that way. If it’s that case, good luck to you.

  1. Hunting Harkonnens (short story)
  2. The Butlerian Jihad
  3. Whipping Mek (short story)
  4. The Machine Crusade
  5. The Faces of a Martyr (short story)
  6. The Battle of Corrin
  7. Sisterhood of Dune
  8. Mentats of Dune
  9. Red Plague (short story)
  10. Navigators of Dune
  11. House Atreides
  12. House Harkonnen
  13. House Corrino
  14. Paul of Dune (Parts II, IV, VI)
  15. Wedding Silk (short story)
  16. The Winds of Dune (Part II)
  17. Whisper of Caladan Seas (short story)
  18. Dune
  19. Paul of Dune (Parts I, III, V, VII)
  20. The Winds of Dune (Part IV)
  21. The Road to Dune (short story)
  22. Dune Messiah
  23. The Winds of Dune (Parts I, III, V)
  24. Children of Dune
  25. God Emperor of Dune
  26. Heretics of Dune
  27. Sea Child (short story)
  28. Chapterhouse: Dune
  29. Hunters of Dune
  30. Treasure in the Sand (short story)
  31. Sandworms of Dune

27 thoughts on “How to read Dune, Frank Herbert Sci-Fi classic?”

  1. I have been reading the Dune books in this order, and this order cannot be correct.
    At the end of Navigators Josef Venport is defeated and Manford Torondo killed. However, in Red Plague both are happy and live again. Also in the beginning of House Atreides the Arakis is ruled by Harkonnens, while at the end of Navigators the Emperor took the carge of all Venport properties, including
    Arakis and spice production and established the Spice Guild.
    So things do not add up and while befrote the inconsistencies were small and not so noticable the abovelisted inconsistencies make me feel that i have been reading the books in the wrong order.

    1. Chris, one small comment regarding the Haronens ruling Arakis, that is correct. The Emperror did take posetion of most of venport holdings (remember he does not hold dominion over the Navigators or Junction). The Harkonens Rule only through the favor of the Emperor, as he still technically owns Dune. Harkonens only administer the Planet in his stead, and the Emperor uses the lucrative post of administrating Arrakis as a reward and as a way to try and controll certain houses in the Landsraad.

  2. There’s yet another short story called, “The Waters of Kanly (from the lost years of Gurney Halleck)” that is included in a short story collection of various Sci-Fi writers in a book titled :”Infinite Stars”. I’m not too sure where this might fit into the reading order, but it’s definitely pertinent. Does anyone have an idea where this short story should be inserted in the reading order?

  3. Thank you for going to the trouble of writing this. When I first began reading the books in the 70s, I jumped around & did not read them in order- rereading them now in order I am getting so much more out of the experience- appreciated.

  4. An alternative reading order seemed to make things fit together better for me (admittedly, there are a few books at the end that I haven’t completed yet, and I read them over a span of several decades, so chronological inconsistencies may have been lost to the sands of time…)

    I found that reading the original six authored by Frank Herbert (including Chapterhouse Dune) plus the two sequels completed based upon his notes. At that point, go back to the beginning with #12-17 in the list, and finally, #9-11, as this then leads into the first book.)

    I also found that re-reading the first couple of books after having gone deeper into the series helped, as there were things that I either missed the significance of or just missed completely. Herbert crafted a universe in detail that is rarely seen in other series, with the possible exception of Asimov, Tolkien, Banks, Heinlen, and this seems to require a lot more focus when reading, unlike many (not all) newer authors. [I am open to being proven wrong with this if anyone has suggestions for me to add to my reading list]

    1. Maybe not as detailed as these authors but I enjoy Joe Abercrombie, his main set of works starts with the First Law Trilogy

      1. Would not compare the First Law series with Dune series, one is Sci-fi the other Fantasy.
        Joe Abercrombie is an excellent writer, I have read his works and thoroughly enjoyed each and everyone.

      2. Wheel of time is good but the best is David eddings the belgariad and mallorean (sets of 5 books each) and belgareth the sorcerer and polgara the sorceress. His world and culture building is amazing. And for belgareth who lives along time his life extended he sets things in motion over thousands of years. As you read he does things and you slowly see why like following prophecy to make sure certain heroes will be born. Or even villains that need to do something. It’s amazing. Also the rivan codex is a book that explains better the money and different kingdoms political types of system. Kings emperors caretakers wardens etc.. please check them out!!

        1. Yes!!! David and Leigh Eddings are in my top 5 SciFi/Fantasy authors. I love that I can read 10 books in one series and 6 books in another!

      3. Thank you to the author of this article as well as to those who posted comments with extra info. I am 63 and decided to wait out the pandemic by reading the books I loved when I was younger. I had no idea so many Dune books had been added to the series.

        After showing this article to my adult kids who are stretched across the country, they got together and started ordering the books for me. Imagine my great surprise in getting so many books in the mail for Christmas this year!

        I still have books coming in and look forward to spending a peaceful year reading through the troubles. It may be awhile before we can sit down with friends for a coffee…but I feel I have a whole universe of old friends right here on the book shelf. Now excuse me…I have a lovely glass of wine and hours to go before I sleep.

      4. House Atreides
        House Harkonnen
        House Corrino
        The Duke of Caladan
        Paul of Dune (Parts II, IV, VI) – somewhere in there…..
        The Duke of Caladan

      5. Don’t fucking read the Brian Herbert/Kevin Anderson garbage.

        Just. Don’t.

        They completely shit all over what Frank created. Read up to Chapterhouse and stop.

        From there create your own head-canon. Mine is that Daniel and Marty are together a Kwizatz Haderach who evolved Other Memory from centuries of Face Dancing.

        Of course, the final twist is that the Tleilaxu have been the puppetmasters for the whole time, and Butler was the original Facedancer…

        So much better than fucking cymeks, and more in line with where Frank seemed to be going.

        1. Kul Wahad, this one speaks the truth! There are only 6 dune books (7 if you count the Dune Encyclopedia), the rest are a corpsefucking Alia-level ABOMINATION!

      6. Also – Brian Herbert serially refuses to release the “notes” he alleges that his father wrote.

        I refuse to believe that Frank left notes with such critical contradictions to what he’d already written.

        Fucking cymeks.

        1. youre right lol, whenever another author tries to finish a dead author’s series it never turns out well (with the expeption of christopher tolkien but he is tolkien’s son

          1. I don’t know Brandon Sanderson did a fair job with the wheel of time…. not perfect but I think it’s a close a it could be worth Jordan having passed away

        2. The Waters of Kanly takes place right in the middle of the original Dune. House Harkonnen has attacked and taken over Arrakis, yet Paul hasn’t emerged as Muaddib.

        3. I agree with Xyzzy, which provides a straightforward answer to the question.
          Read the six Frank Herbert books, in order of publication.
          Ignore the rest. They are a fluffy and poor imitation of the original canon.
          If you are still unsatisfied, re-read the six. You will have missed something. This is not a criticism or a judgement.. just a fact.

        4. I read Dune Messiah first. It was in my Fathers shop left there by a travelling salesman.
          That was 1976.
          Next I read Dune.
          I was wondefully stoned and sank into my bed through the mattress and to the floor.
          I read other Frank Herberts books as to me they were about lsd , in that that substance was like something out of science fictionby the way it opened up humanities potential zt a time when humanity first went i to space a d hunger and poverty was less prevalent for so many…. and never seemed to reach a conclusion.

        5. The reading order is to read the Books Frank Wrote first. Sadly everyone has gotten one thing WRONG about the Books Frank wrote. He was not able to finish Chapterhouse:Dune and his Son did. As for the Books written by Brian and his co writer if you wish to read them as part of the books by Frank Herbert leave out then that is up to you. While they are about the worlds of the Dune Saga they are not needed to read the books by Frank Herbert.

        6. Dune was good, sure. I’ve read it (only) twice. Haven’t read any of the other Dune novels (yet). But for my money, Herbert’s best series is the Pandora Sequence (incl. Destination Void). I’ve read the sequence 3 times (4?). I’ll probably read it again next year.

        7. 🙁
          Please leave a spoiler alert warning at the beginning of the article! The synopsis for the second and third book gave way too much away 🙁

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