I came to my instant Warhammer addiction by way of a single Horus Heresy book sitting in the library surrounded by lesser books not carrying the light of the Emperor...Once I beheld the staggeringly amazing Universe, I was hooked. Of course, since the book that drew me in was somewhere among the 32 Horus Heresy novels/anthologies, I needed to understand where in the Emperor's Universe I was and started the Heresy series proper. Yet, my journey it seems is far from over. For it is Warhammer 40k, not Warhammer. And that means 40,000 years to chronicle. So people, how do I travel through this 40k? Series by series please. I'm not usually the type to read one book out of the middle, if I know I want to read them all eventually. Thanks for any assistance.K
That is a very tough question to answer as by now there are virtually hundreds of books in the W40k universe. Most of the answers would be hugely speculative and based on personal preferences. The Heresy books span the 30th and the 31 millenium.
After that you could read the Beast Arises series. those are set a bit after.
When you are done with that series then it is anybods guess. Some books have timestamps and tell of a particular period, others dont. You basically wont loose any continuity if you read them in any order you want. There are the Blood angels Series, The Ultramarines Series, The Dark Angels trilogy, The Space Wolves books Starting with how Ragnar Blackmane became a Space Marine and going to how he became the Wolf Lord.
Then you have your Inquisitor series (Eisenhorn trilogy and Ravenor Trilogy, read the first before the second as they are connected)
Then you have your Gaunts Ghosts series ( 13 books so far and counting ) The Calpurnia trilogy
And I have barely scratched the surface here. The important thing to note is that wherever you choose to start you wont spoil stuff for yourself as the books raraly mention events in other books.
The timeline is pretty meaningless in the 40k universe, read the books you like.
After The Horus Hersey, everything is a massive jumble. I'd really advise you not bother trying to follow any sort of timeline in regards to what you read.
There is a timeline, it's a pretty interesting itself if you have some time to kill, but you should really read the books you like the sound of.
There are so many contributing authors in the 40k universe, some are brilliant, some are not, if you try to adhere to any sort of timeline, you'll be forced to read horrible books that will really put you off the 40k universe entirely.
Just to keep this answer roughly up to date, the next big deal in the 40k universe took place about 1,500 years after the HH.
A huge ork warboss leads an invasion into Imperial space. It's covered in The Beast Arises series of novels:
1,500 years have passed since the end of the Horus Heresy, and the Imperium is at peace. The Space Marines keep the Galaxy safe and the High Lords of Terra busy themselves with politicking and infighting. But something has been out there in the darkness, waiting...The Orks have returned, and they are more powerful than ever before. Can the Imperium hope to survive when The Beast arises?
First of all, the usual wikipedia link to all the Warhammer 40k novels.
Basically, except for the obvious timeline Horus Heresy versus the rest of the books (Horus Heresy being technically Warhammer 30k), there is no real order between series.
Of course, each of the series has a chronological order (which is not always the order suggested by the numbering of the books - see the HH for instance).
For the HH, the Black Library has suggested a reading order, that you can find here: The Horus Heresy.
The next earliest series written so far post Heresy is the Beast Arises series, this is set about 1500 after the fall of Horus and details an Imperium that has lived in relative peace suddenly being attacked by the biggest Ork Waaagh since the battle of Ulanor. It also tells of the story of the rise of Drakan Vangorich and the events that led to the Beheading.