Welcome fellow readers to the gargantuan series published by the Black Library known as Warhammer 40k. Warhammer 40k collection includes hundreds of novels each written by dozens of different authors and the task of knowing where to start your epic journey can be daunting to say the least. Let me say from the start that I am not an expert on Warhammer 40k nor have I read every single book that I am going to recommend. I’m writing this article as a casual fan, who enjoys these books tremendously and I am hoping to shed some light to fellow readers regardless of your exposure to the Warhammer 40k universe. I hope everyone is ready for a wild ride, so strap in!
Before I get into the reading order, I need to give you some background on what Warhammer 40k is and the dark world these characters live in. This quote is taken directly from the Black Library “It is the 41st Millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor of Mankind has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the master of mankind by the will of the gods and master of a million worlds by the might of His inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the vast Imperium of Man for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day so that He may never truly die.
Yet even in His deathless state, the Emperor continues His eternal vigilance. Mighty battlefleets cross the daemon-infested miasma of the Warp, the only route between distant stars, their way lit by the Astronomican, the psychic manifestation of the Emperor’s will. Vast armies give battle in His name on uncounted worlds. Greatest amongst His soldiers are the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors. Their comrades in arms are legion: the Imperial Guard and countless planetary defense forces, the ever-vigilant Inquisition and the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus to name only a few. But for all their multitudes, they are barely enough to hold off the ever-present threat to humanity from aliens, heretics, mutants — and far, far worse.
To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. It is to live in the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. These are the tales of those times. Forget the power of technology and science, for so much has been forgotten, never to be relearned. Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods.” If you are still with me at this point, I’ll start listing some of my recommendations, but I would suggest visiting https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Warhammer_40,000_Universe to have a better understanding of the timeline.
There is no clear cut right or wrong entry point into the Warhammer 40k universe as all readers enjoy different aspects of the series. I believe there are 3 solid ways for new readers to jump into the Warhammer 40k books and I’ll jump right into them now.
The first path new readers can go down is a slow emersion into the Warhammer 40k universe as a we follow an Inquisitor on solving mysteries throughout the universe in the Eisenhorn Trilogy. Eisenhorn was my first entry into Warhammer 40k and I haven’t looked back since. Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn is an Imperial inquisitor, one of the tireless defenders of humanity. With his warband he scourges the galaxy, walking in the shadows of darkness in order to root out heresy. When that heresy is found to infiltrate the hierarchy of the Imperium and the Inquisition itself, Eisenhorn must rely on himself alone to deal with it – even if it means making deals with the enemy and compromising everything he has ever believed in. You are slowly introduced to many factions in the imperium and Dan Abnett, considered by many to be one of the best Warhammer 40k authors, writes a very fluid and exciting story. From here, the transition to the next novel becomes very fluid with the Ravenor Trilogy. Ravenor is a character we see introduced in the second book of the Eisenhorn Trilogy and upon the completion of that series, Ravenor goes off on his own missions. When Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor and his band of lethal operatives are drawn into a conspiracy to spread the taint of Chaos across a sector, their investigations take them into the gravest peril through space and even time. Wherever they go, and whatever dangers they face, they will never give up until their mission succeeds. Ravenor Trilogy is also written by Dan Abnett, so that transition should be pretty seamless. Other suggestions could be the Ghost Gaunts series also by Dan Abnett.
The next path new readers can go down are the Space Mariners. the Space Marines, also known as the Adeptus Astartes, are superhuman warrior-monks who fight for the Imperium of Man. They wear mechanized suits of armour and have modified genomes that grant them superhuman strength and endurance. The Space Marines contain hundred of different chapters, each containing different missions, goals, and strengths. If you are a reader who loves action and combat, this is the path for you to take. I can’t possible go into all the different Space Marine stories but I will list my favorite two. The first is the Blood Angel Omnibus by James Swallow. One of the most celebrated chapters in the entire Imperium, but they harbor a terrible curse. When their beloved Primarch was slain, every Blood Angel was doomed to share a portion of the pain inﬂicted upon his ﬂawless form. From that day forth, every Blood Angel has been tormented by visions of the last moment of Sanguinius. You will have a blast reading about the Blood Angels and how they are living with the sins of their past.
My other favorite Space Marine chapter is the Space Wolf Omnibus written by William King. The howling fury of the Space Wolves is about to be unleashed! On the grim death world of Fenris, the sparse population faces a daily battle for survival against lethal monsters and rival tribes. But Fenris is also home to the mighty Space Wolves Chapter of Space Marines, the Emperor’s elite warriors in a universe full of aliens, heretics and mutants. The adventures of Ragnar begin when he is revived from a savage death in battle and inducted into the ranks of the Space Wolves. But can the ferocious Ragnar conquer the beast within and fulfil his destiny on the battlefields of the 41st millennium? William King writes a very griping story about Ragnar entry into the Space Wolves and you get the feel from the start of what it takes to be a soldier in the Imperium. Other Space Marine omnibus to consider: Salamander Omnibus by Nick Kyme, Grey Knights Omnibus by Ben Counter, and the Ultramarines Omnibus by Graham McNeil.
We have arrived at the final path which is the ever growing entries in The Horus Heresy. The Horus Heresy is the cataclysmic event of the Warhammer 40k universe that starts around the time the Emperor of Mankind had almost conquered the entire known galaxy and united mankind under his reign. Suddenly his son Horus is stricken with heresy, and rebels against his father and turns half of the Emperors’ 20 Primarch sons against him. The universe erupts in a kind of civil war which expands over dozens of books. The Horus Heresy has all the great aspects of the Warhammer 40k universe thrown into these stories: interesting characters, action, plot, and a galactic civil war. I will say that these books can be a little complex and deep as it goes into a lot of lore and history surrounding the Imperium and I would suggest reading one of my other suggested paths first just to get your feet wet. Once you start the Horus Heresy, you will not want to stop!
This ends my reading suggestion list for Warhammer 40k. I hope everybody found this list helpful, insightful, and making the task of picking a starting point that much easier. These are not the only starting points new takers can dive into, but these are the books that got me started on my path and I hope everyone will enjoy them as much as I did. I welcome new suggestions from fans as this universe is so large that no one person can conqueror this in one lifetime, not even the Emperor of Mankind.
All hail his name!