Where to Start with the Dune Universe

By Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Dune is not only a classic novel, but a vast universe created by Frank Herbert. And with six novels written by Frank himself as well as 13 novels and nine short stories written by us—covering approximately 15,000 years of history in the Dune canon—it can be difficult to figure out where to start.

We strongly recommend reading Frank Herbert’s original novel Dune first. This is one of the seminal works in all of literature, and everyone should read it. After that, we suggest Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, to finish Frank Herbert’s original trilogy.

At that point, you have several options. You can keep reading through Frank’s other three Dune novels which span about 5000 years of history, and follow that chronologically by reading our Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, which were based upon Frank Herbert’s notes…followed by our other prequels and sequels.

As alternatives, we recommend two other entry points:

Dune: House Atreides begins a prequel trilogy that goes back to the generation just before Dune, in which we tell the story of young Duke Leto, his love story with Lady Jessica, their first battles with Baron Harkonnen, and how Crown Prince Shaddam took the Imperial throne.

Or you can go back 10,000 years before Frank Herbert’s Dune, with the trilogy that starts with Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, and another trilogy beginning with Navigators of Dune…in all, six novels that establish the origins of the Fremen, the discovery of spice, the legendary war against the thinking machines, and the beginning of the feud between House Atreides and House Harkonnen.

Yet another option would be to read all of the novels and short stories in chronological order, starting with “Hunting Harkonnens.” Below is a chronological list of novels and short stories, from beginning to end. All the short stories are collected in Tales of Dune, except for the just-released “The Waters of Kanly,” which appeared in Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

Two other books of interest are The Road to Dune, with a collection of background material, some of the short stories, and the short novel “Spice Planet,” a very different version of Dune, as originally outlined by Frank Herbert and written by us.

And if you want to learn more about the genius of Frank Herbert, who created this grand universe, you will enjoy Dreamer of Dune, Brian’s Hugo-nominated biography of his father.

The Dune Universe in Chronological Order:

“Hunting Harkonnens” (story, Tales of Dune)
Dune: The Butlerian Jihad
“Whipping Mek” (story, Tales of Dune)
Dune: The Machine Crusade
“The Faces of a Martyr” (story, Tales of Dune)
Dune: The Battle of Corrin
Sisterhood of Dune
Mentats of Dune
“Red Plague” (story, Tales of Dune)
Navigators of Dune
Dune: House Atreides
Dune: House Harkonnen
Dune: House Corrino
“Wedding Silk” (story, Tales of Dune)
“A Whisper of Caladan Seas” (story, Tales of Dune)
“The Waters of Kanly” (story, Infinite Stars)
Paul of Dune
Dune Messiah
Winds of Dune
Children of Dune
God Emperor of Dune
Heretics of Dune
Chapterhouse Dune
“Sea Child” (story, Tales of Dune)
“Treasure in the Sand” (story, Tales of Dune)
Hunters of Dune
Sandworms of Dune
Tales of Dune
The Road to Dune
Dreamer of Dune [biography of Frank Herbert]

9 thoughts on “Where to Start with the Dune Universe

  1. My advice: read the Frank Herbert original trilogy, then stop. You’ve now read a modern classic. It’s a full and complete story.

    If you’re left wanting more, even if it’s not in the same arc, then by all means read the rest of Frank’s Dune novels. They probably won’t move you profoundly, but they’re interesting additions to the world-building.

    Only if you’re desperate for more Dune and are prepared for some pretty hack writing should you read Brian and Kevin’s work. (If you’ve read other KJA work, you’ll know what to expect.)

  2. I don’t consider the other novels “hack writing” at all. A different style from different people, of course. I have read most, and they do add to the world and re-visit some interesting characters, so for people like me who like to consume every iota of information in the worlds I love, I gladly follow them. The originals by Frank Herbert are the only ones I have re-read, and they are classics for a reason, but it doesn’t take away from the others.

  3. Definitely read DUNE first…I have them all written by Frank Herbert and have read them more than once…

  4. Definitely read DUNE first…I have them all written by Frank Herbert and have read them more than once…

  5. I have been asked this question so many times and I find myself vacillating between the prequels and the original trilogy because history first is always good and I have read every book so often that each works as a stand-alone story for me. Still, Dune is such an epic world-building novel that it sets the stage for every other novel in that universe. In the end, I usually suggest starting with the original trilogy and then going in the direction that your curiosity moves you. Really, there is no wrong answer, it is the kind of series that defines a genre.

  6. Let’s face it, Frank’s books are objectively superior to the bulk commercial fiction of KJA and Brian and I would recommend you begin with those.
    You can then proceed to the rest if you want to carry on experiencing that world but you will need to be prepared for a weaker plot and endless recapping of previous chapters. I’m not sure what their editor was thinking when processing those novels but it is what it is.

  7. I would recommend reading Dune, Dune Messiah and then Children of Dune. Are you enjoying yourself? Are we having fun? Then push on to God Emperor of Dune. Still with us? Was that fun? If so. it might be time to move back and read the The Butlerian Jihad, The Machine Crusade and The Battle of Corrin. Bit of a different beast, right? Was that amazing? No? Then skip back to Heretics of Dune, then Chapterhouse: Dune, and finally hold your nose for Hunters and Sandworms? Oh, you actually loved Jihad, Crusade and Corrin? Cool, then just start reading all the BH/KJA books in chronological order, then re-read Dune, Messiah, Children and God Emperor because they are amazing, and then finish up with Heretics, Chapterhouse, Hunters and Sandworms.

  8. I have as much Herbert in me as Hoyt has Heinlein.

    Read Dune, Messiah and Children.
    Then God Emporer, Heretics, Chapterhouse.

    With respect, the other novels are not up to the same standard. I’m a Dune fanatic and put them down in disappointment after skimming the first 100 pages.

    I truly do wish they were up to snuff. They are not.

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