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I've heard a lot of good things about C.S. Lewis's series "The Chronicles of Narnia." But I don't know what order I should read them in. Should I read them in the order they were written/published, or in chronological order?

  • "Should" is very subjective in this instance, but not as much as "best". Could we narrow this question down any more? – Kalamane Aug 10 '11 at 21:17
  • As an aspiring writer I read them in the order of publication so that I can follow the order of the creation of the different ideas in the story. – EvilSnack Apr 19 '18 at 2:39
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I would have to say the order in which they were published. For reference:

Publication order                      Chronological order

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe   The Magician's Nephew
Prince Caspian                         The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader         The Horse and His Boy
The Silver Chair                       Prince Caspian
The Horse and His Boy                  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Magician's Nephew                  The Silver Chair
The Last Battle                        The Last Battle

Why?

  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the quintessential Narnia story. It explains everything you need to know to understand the other books, providing a great "setting" for the series. You don't really understand what Narnia is like unless you read this book.
  2. The chronological order isn't really important. You need to have read both The Magician's Nephew and TL,TW,ATW in order to understand The Last Battle, but TLB comes last in both orderings. TMN doesn't help you understand or appreciate TL,TW,ATW any more, in my opinion.
  3. C. S. Lewis is awesome and you should read them in the order he intended :P
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    There's not really a definitive answer on what order Lewis intended them to be read in, although I think the text of "Lion" heavily implies it was intended to be read first (as you point out above). – TML Aug 9 '11 at 19:42
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    @TML Fair enough :P more info for those interested. – Matthew Read Aug 9 '11 at 19:46
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    The trouble with published order is that The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is far from the best story. I'd say both the Magician's Nephew and the Silver Chair are a lot better. So I'd start with *Magician's Nephew" as a novice reader will be less likely to get bored and give up before getting to the great stories. – matt_black Nov 11 '11 at 10:18
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    @matt_black The problem is that the Magician's Nephew presupposes you've read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It specifically answers questions raised in that first book about Jadis. – trlkly Aug 2 '14 at 6:39
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    @matt_black 'I'd say both the Magician's Nephew and the Silver Chair are a lot better. So I'd start with *Magician's Nephew" as a novice reader will be less likely to get bored and give up before getting to the great stories.' Oh I don't know about that. I read them in the published order when I was 5. Had no problem with it and the fact I'm an avid reader and really always has been I think isn't all that relevant. Novice reader? not sure what you mean. But better is subjective isn't it? I know this is old but I'm genuinely curious what you mean by 'novice'. – Pryftan Oct 11 '17 at 17:10
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I think publication order is best. If nothing else because the original book is a wonderful read and will hook you into the series.

The Magician's Nephew (chronologically the first) is also a good book, but it does not have the punch and attraction of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. So if you want the best introduction to the series....

I think the series flows better in publication order — the story slowly diverging from the Pevensies — sweeping back and forth in the history of this magical land.

Reading in publication order also keeps Pevensie stories together; subjectively they are my favourites (although The Horse and His Boy is excellent too).

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    Good point about the flow. The story actually progress better with some things temporally out of order! – Matthew Read Aug 9 '11 at 19:40
  • I've always considered that to be one major appeal to the series :) – Errant Aug 9 '11 at 19:42
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I prefer to read them in the order published — with the exception of The Horse and His Boy, which I prefer to read between Lion and Caspian (as that is somewhat the timing of the events in said book). If you read The Magician's Nephew first, I feel you'll spoil for yourself what I considered to be a nice surprise, and I feel Nephew really sets up the "mood" for The Last Battle much better than, say, The Silver Chair.

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  2. The Horse and His Boy
  3. Prince Caspian
  4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  5. The Silver Chair
  6. The Magician's Nephew
  7. The Last Battle
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    That's fair. I liked reading THAHB later because it was kind of a nice surprise to have a second perspective on that time period. – Matthew Read Aug 9 '11 at 20:57
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I prefer to read them in chronological order because the story progresses better that way, to me. If you read them in written order, it can be confusing.

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    In light of the other answers (which I agree with) I think you will need to defend your answer with more than a one liner. What do you find confusing about reading in publication order? What details or groundwork are missing form that order? – Caleb Aug 16 '11 at 20:41
  • This is such a subjective question it's hard to justify an answer, but I agree with this one. As a kid, I read this series at least half a dozen times, in both orders, and I preferred the chronological order by a wide margin. My sister felt the same. Makes more sense when you know how this all came to pass. – DCShannon Feb 18 '16 at 19:22
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As a kid I happened to come across The Magician's Nephew first (OK, the library had them all, and it was probably the picture on the cover or maybe the squib on the flyleaf (hardbacks with dustcovers). After reading it I asked my folks about the order of the rest. They explained that TMN was written later to fill in what people thought they were missing. I went with the chronological order and never had that 'something is missing' or 'but how did Narnia happen' so I feel that it was a good logical way to read it and it fit my brain. I've read them many times. Once I did it in publication order and felt dissatisfied enough I didn't read them again for several years. Was that because my brain said "Not logical!" or because it wasn't the order to which I'd become accustomed? I don't know, but I definitely prefer them in a nice, neat logical order. So I will vote with the minority here (GryPhoenix & Jeremy) because I STRONGLY prefer this chronological order. Some people don't mind skipping around. But the OP wanted to know which order - and this order is more [chrono]logical. So it depends on OP's way of thinking. Though by this date I hope you've read them all - in whichever order.

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I think the books should be read in chronological order. It obviously would make more sense. What is the point of getting to book 6 (nearly the end of the chronicles) and barely discovering how the whole existence of that world came to be known? I never enjoyed the idea of going through a trilogy or saga and towards the end, there is a prequel to all the books or movies. To me it's like, "put that before!" In this case C.S Lewis thought of that a little late and came out with the book towards the end but to me, The Magician's Nephew should be first.

And also, The Horse and His Boy should come after The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Does it not make sense to read a book that takes place during the High King of Peter after he, along with the other Pevensies, were actually crowned King and Queen? And if you need further persuasion, it is said that Lewis himself said they books should be read in chronological order. What more do you need? To me you just have to follow the timeline.

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    I actually disagree that it makes the most sense this way, therefore, your word "obviously" doesn't fit for me at all. If you start with the Magician's Nephew, you don't get the nice surprise about the owner of the manor (and wardrobe) later. Many stories are told with flashbacks and LWW was published first and makes perfect sense without The Magician's Nephew. In this case, the flashback just happens to be an entire book. – balanced mama Jan 20 '13 at 2:46
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The thing is, I've read The lion, the witch and the Wardrobe then The Magician's Nephew and then the rest in the order they were to be read. I recommend that you do not do it any other way, it makes it confusing. Or, you could read the MN before the L,W,w, but I wouldn't read it after any other book. But you should read The Magician's Nephew sometime, it explains how Polly and Digory came in to Narnia (you will be confused otherwise, as they appear in the last battle) and it shows how Jadis aka The White Witch came to be the witch with in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I hope

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Chronological Order

C.S. Lewis himself thought that to be the best order to read them in, as evidenced by a quote from a letter to fan asking about the reading order, although he didn't seem to have a strong preference.

I think I agree with your [chronological] order for reading the books more than with your mother's. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn't think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last, but I found I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I'm not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published.

—C.S. Lewis, as quoted in C.S. Lewis' Letters to Children.

Differences in Reading Orders

The difference between the published order and the chronological order is in the placement of the books The Magician's Nephew and A Horse and His Boy. Both were published between The Silver Chair and The Last Battle, but take place much earlier than that.

  1. The Magician's Nephew
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  3. The Horse and His Boy
  4. Prince Caspian
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  6. The Silver Chair
    1. (The Horse and His Boy published)
    2. (The Magician's Nephew published)
  7. The Last Battle

According to Wikipedia, "fans of the series often have strong opinions over the order in which the books should be read."
As evidenced by the large number of answers here.

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My preferred order is this:

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It was written first and introduces things. The narrator expects the reader to know nothing about Narnia. Reading anything else first would make some parts of it feel wrong.
  • The Magician's Nephew. Readers still remember who Digory, and are wondering how the situation in the first book came about. This is a direct answer, and completes the first book.
  • Prince Caspian.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
  • The Silver Chair.
  • The Last Battle.

The Horse and His Boy doesn't much tie to anything, and doesn't introduce anyone or anything of importance, so it's possible to read it at the end, not read it at all, or read it any place after Prince Caspian (which I think is good to read before it because it introduces the idea that Narnia is just one country in that world and that there are political struggles, which is good to understand before reading The Horse and His Boy).

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