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The series that starts with Ender's Game has a parallel series that starts with Ender's Shadow. The graph of the timeline is... well... complicated.

Ender Series Timeline

Does it make more sense if you read them in the order they were first published, or if you try to read them in the chronological order of the story?

Image Reference: Ender's Game (series)

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I'd start with Ender's Game, then branch out and down from there. You'll prolly lose interest soon after. None really live up to Ender's Game. – DampeS8N Jan 11 '11 at 22:53
Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide and Children of Mind are very different from the other books in the series. They only really depend on Ender's Game and they could even be very enjoyable if you didn't like Ender's Game. (And people who like Ender's Game sometimes don't like the Speaker trilogy). – thelsdj Jan 11 '11 at 23:16
@DampeS8N: Ender's Game was one of my favorite books growing up and I recently read it again after more than 20 years. It still holds up. It's such a high point to start from that I believe you when you say none of the others live up to it. – Bill the Lizard Jan 12 '11 at 23:19
+1 for the excellent graph that shows the convoluted nature of the Enderverse stories. – Zoot Jan 19 '11 at 15:28
Of course, there are also people who like BOTH the Ender's Game, AND Shadow books, AND Speaker/Xenocide/Children trilogy. I would not recommend prejudicing your mind against any of them just because someone else's subjective opinion is so. +1 for the graph! – DVK-in-exile Oct 29 '11 at 4:35
up vote 61 down vote accepted

As someone who has read every book I think the publishing order is the best order to read them in because it is the order the author added to the universe. They each build on everything published before them and if you read them in a different order you don't get the same build-up and sense of discovery you would get by having things you may have wondered about in earlier books be revealed in later ones.

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But isn't this really true of any series? – DampeS8N Jan 11 '11 at 22:57
@thelsdj The Chronicles of Narnia - The Magician's Nephew was the 6th published book, but I'd recommend reading it ahead of all the others. – HorusKol Jan 27 '11 at 22:23
@thelsdj the discworld series has at least 5 starting points that I would recommend depending on the style of fantasy you enjoy (ie: witches, wizards, or wacky cities with trolls, vampires and warewolfs. – benstraw Feb 6 '11 at 3:43
@thelsdj: Star Wars. You should just stop after episode VI. – Thomas Jun 28 '11 at 12:51
@HorusKol, I strongly disagree. The text of The Magician's Nephew assumes that The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe exists and that the reader is familiar with it. – Kyralessa May 17 '13 at 17:02

The "official" answer from Orson Scott Card is:

in truth it doesn't matter, except that you should read Xenocide right before Children of the Mind, since they are really two halves of a single continuous story. In most of my books, I include all the information you need.

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Well, I would strongly suggest against reading the shadow books out of their natural order. Or Xenocide before EG+Speaker – Balog Pal Jun 22 '13 at 11:33
Of course I wouldn't expect the official answer to be "Well, while it technically makes sense to read my novels in chronological order and I made sure you'd understand them, my prequels really suck and it would be a shame if you gave up before reading Ender's Game." So while I found that official answer before I came here, it really wasn't what I was looking for ;) – Christian Nov 10 '13 at 19:14

The Ender series contains three major arcs. These are, in publishing order: Ender series, the Shadow series, and The War of Gifts.

Normally, one would read in the publishing order, but you could read these arcs in any order. Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and The War of Gifts are parallel novels that take place at the same point in time, from different perspectives. Their arcs then diverge from that point, from those unique perspectives. In fact, you could certainly read in a more-or-less chronological fashion:

Ender's Game, The War of Gifts, Shadow series, Ender series.

The advantage of reading in a chronological order is that the direct sequels of Ender's game take place thousands of years in the future and are quite distant from Ender's game in terms of plot. When reading chronologically, the story evolves in a more fluid an direct way.

The books under each arc are as follows...

Shadow Series:

  • Ender's Shadow
  • Shadow of the Hegemon
  • Shadow Puppets
  • Shadow of the Giant
  • Shadows in Flight

Ender Series:

  • Ender's Game
  • Ender in Exile (only chronologically, this is the most recently published book)
  • Speaker for the Dead
  • Xenocide
  • Children of the Mind

War of Gifts:

  • A War of Gifts: An Ender Story
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I concur, with this exception: no matter what you're interested in, read Ender's Game first. It give so much of the information for the rest of the universe that it really should be considered the "root node" of the story tree. "Speaker", "Xenocide", "Children" really are a completely separate trilogy, and should be read together - but it really doesn't have to be right after you read "Ender's Game"; you can go on from there to any other stories - I'd read "Shadow" next. – Tynam Feb 20 '11 at 19:43
I'm not sure I'd characterize "War of Gifts" as a "major arc". It is a short story that features Ender only as a rather incidental character (up until the ending). – Beofett Jun 27 '11 at 19:16
There are several other stories not listed in this answer. Some are prequels to E.G. – user17807 Dec 25 '13 at 4:15

First, read "Ender's Game" - it's the core book and establishes the setting.

Then I'd read "Ender's Shadow", which covers the same period of time from alternate points of view.

After that, it really depends on which plot you want to follow. There are two trilogies, and they go in very different directions.

The Speaker trilogy (Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind):

follows Ender after he leaves Earth, and takes place in the far future. It tends to focus on "meaning of life and universe" topics.

The Shadow books:

stay in the "present" on Earth, following Bean, Peter, Valentine, and the other supporting characters, and explores the aftermath of "what happens when a bunch of teenagers save the world". These books are a bit more political and realistic.

The short stories tend to be snapshots in time, and aren't really necessary until you've become well and truly hooked.

For instance, "Investment Counselor" introduces you to Ender's AI, but it works perfectly well as a flashback instead of reading that in it's chronological order. War of Gifts is similar, in that it fills in history without advancing the plot.

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(And indirectly explains ... what? – Matthew Read Mar 3 '15 at 15:56
Wow. Almost four years and no-one's noticed that before. And sadly I don't remember exactly what I had in mind, so I took out the sentence fragment. Thanks for the catch! – Allen Gould Mar 4 '15 at 17:45

I would recommend either reading them in the publish order, or reading the Ender's series books first followed by the Shadow series. It doesn't hurt to occasionally switch books to be chronological either, but in general, the published order is probably best. There are very few interactions between the two sets (Shadow and Ender), so the chronological order between sets doesn't really matter, beyond the first book of each (Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow)

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Speaking as someone who has obsessively read every book, novella, and short story in the series, I would recommend publication order for all of the main stories:


  1. Ender's Game
  2. Speaker for the Dead trilogy1
    • Speaker for the Dead
    • Xenocide
    • Children of the Mind
  3. Investment Counselor (short story)
  4. Ender's Shadow1
  5. Shadow trilogy
    • Shadow of the Hegemon
    • Shadow Puppets
    • Shadow of the Giant
  6. Ender in Exile
  7. Shadows in Flight (novella)
  8. First Formic War trilogy1
    • Earth Unaware
    • Earth Afire
    • Earth Awakens
  9. Second Formic War trilogy (announced)
  10. Children of the Fleet
  11. Shadows Alive (announced)

1can be really be read right after Ender's Game.

Other short stories and novella

These are mainly optional and can be read anywhere after Ender's Game:


For the Comics, I would go with a modified chronological order starting with Ender's Game. Note that Ender's Shadow arc isn't necessary for understanding any of the other comics.

  1. Ender's Game: Battle School
  2. Recruiting Valentine2
  3. Ender's Game: Command School
  4. Ender's Shadow: Battle School
  5. Ender's Shadow: Command School
  6. War of Gifts2
  7. The League War2
  8. Mazer in Prison2
  9. Ender in Exile
  10. Gold Bug2
  11. Speaker for the Dead
  12. Formic Wars: Burning Earth
  13. Formic Wars: Silent Strike

2These are one-shots and can easily be skipped.

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Read them in published order, as stated earlier you will most likely miss out on the wonder of the series by reading them for the first time chronologically. If your hooked enough to finish them once then go back and read them chronologically! I'm on my THIRD read through and am reading them in publishing order again because I found that the story just feels better that way. Card's writing evolves in a subtle but still noticeable way as time goes on and if you truly enjoy the series it is definitely better to "feel" the evolution as the story progresses.

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I love the Enders Game series and in reference to the novels, every time I suggest reading them, I tell people to stick to the timeline. Card admitted that when he wrote the original sequels, he was still young and inexperienced. If you read "Enders Game", then the "shadow" books through "Shadow of the Giant", then "Ender in Exile", then "Speaker for the Dead" and so forth, it makes for the best read in my opinion. Specifically because there are familiar characters in Ender in Exile that you would recognize only after reading the shadow books and technically "Ender in Exile" happens before the end of the original "Enders Game" book.

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protected by Keen May 17 '13 at 1:17

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