I've got three omnibus books containing 9 total Warhammer 40,000 stories. Before I mention which ones I've got, which book would you recommend as a good place to start the series?

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    Difficult to answer without some clarification; "best" is a subjective term at best. Commented Jan 14, 2011 at 3:43
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    I had been thinking of asking this for quite a while. Thanks :)
    – apoorv020
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 2:47
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    Not sure if you can still find it these days, but the original Rogue Trader manual is an excellent primer on the world of Warhammer 40k.
    – Omegacron
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 13:27
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    @neilfein "best" is a subjective term at best. That seems like saying that to understand recursion, you first have to understand recursion. (I got your point). Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 16:52
  • There is simply no way an answer to this question can be anything but opinion-based and subjective. It's like asking where to start with Pratchett's Discworld: a good topic for conversation, but one where an objective, non-debatable answer cannot exist by definition.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 19:21

16 Answers 16


For a universe as rich as Warhammer 40k, I would recommend starting with a faction that you like the most. I'm assuming that since you grabbed 3 Omnibus books that you are into 40k at least to some extent. Personally I most enjoyed Gaunt's Ghost stories and Horus Heresy (no omnibus for Horus though I believe). But if you are into Eldar or Orcs or whatever, I would start with books that feature that faction. There are so many parallel stories going on that can be read in any order that I would not be concerned about hitting the story-order sweet spot. Enjoy!

  • Good idea. I've decided to start off with stories on the Imperial Guard.
    – jedihawk
    Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 5:08
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    Also worth mentioning is that even though there are tons of WH40k books, they don't necessarily all tie together in any consistent way. The Gaunt's Ghosts stories obviously all go together, but they're completely unrelated to the Space Wolf series or the Last Chancers, other than the fact that they're all set in the WH40k universe.
    – Toby
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 14:06

Both Eisenhorn and The Horus Heresy books are aimed at introducing you to WH40K in some way.


This is a three book omnibus detailing different aspects of the Imperial Inquisition, who are like the 'Space Police' of the setting, and it really gives a flavour of the Grim Dark setting as whole. It covers all three orders of the inquisition (Xenos, Malleus, and Hereticus) as well as a few aliens (including Eldar), psychic powers, corruption and Space Marines.

There have since been a few short stories featuring Eisenhorn, as well as his pupil Ravenor, so you won't be short on stories to read.

The Horus Heresy

This series starts of with Horus Rising, and aims to lay down some of the assumed backstory behind the current Warhammer 40K universe. In essence these should be the first books you read, as they take place in the 31st millennium, 10 thousand years before the current storyline. So far I've only read the first book, but it explains things very well.

The only reason I'd be wary of trying to read all of the Horus Heresy is that it's currently on 18/24/49/50+ books, unfinished and is being written by several authors so writing styles will vary. It also deals with the big picture of the WH40K background focusing on Space Marines, and doesn't give the same personal feel as Eisenhorn. It does however cover some aliens and corruption. It gets across the grand scale of the WH40K setting very well.

If you want to know the shortest route through the Horus Heresy, the linked answer is good start!

I'd also mention that all of the codices have the 'intro' description for the armies which goes a long way to filling out their part in the universe.

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    I second this recommendation, but I would put less emphasis on reading the Horus Heresy books in publication order. I have not read some of the HH books and of those I've read, I read the first five in order and the others in arbitrary order. The first three books in Horus Heresy definitely go together and in order, so I recommend reading all three of those first if you want to dive into Horus Heresy. But for the others, I just looked at their descriptions and reviews on amazon, wikipedia, and goodreads and picked the ones that sounded the most interesting to me.
    – Upgrayedd
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 18:27
  • updated the answer, and linked a reading order for the Horus Heresy!
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 11:43
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    There is a graph about connections between and order of the Horus Heresy books in this answer to another question: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/240960/113988 Commented May 23 at 17:00

I'd suggest reading an overview of the setting before diving into the novels; the novels don't do a great job at that, as they are aimed primarily at extant fans of the tabletop games. Then pick any one omnibus and go from there.

You can often find older editions of the 40K rules inexpensively in the used bins at gaming stores, and the universe information there is much more easily digested, and allows finding your favored faction easier.


Just wanted to add that it's been suggested to start with the short story collection Let the Galaxy Burn as an introduction to the WH40k universe, and then follow your interests from there. I personally started with LtGB, then read Blood Ravens: The Dawn of War Omnibus, then from there on to Imperial Guard and Ultramarines novels. I did find it necessary at times to search online for background info that I was missing (e.g. the history and culture of the Eldar).

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    Never heard of it. Thanks! I'll see if I can find it for my Kindle.
    – jedihawk
    Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 4:14

Eisenhorn / Ravenor

Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium / Ciaphas Cain: Defender of the Imperium by Sandy Mitchell

Space Wolf 1 & 2


Grey Knights

Hammer of the Emperor

Gaunt's Ghosts

Blood Angels

Blood Ravens

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    Er, what? I'm part of this question's intended public (having never read any of Warhammer 40k), and I have no idea what your answer means. I suppose these are titles, but why should I read these and in this order?
    – user56
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 8:43

In reply to Gilles and Horus My personal recommendation is starting with a imperial guard series like gaunts ghosts or the lay chancers. They will give you a perspective of the average human. After that a space marine or a inquisition based series would be wise. The blood angels series is one i recommend due to its strong imagery and good story. After that it is up to you. The list i have is a expanded version of horus's answer minus the few i have not read.

Eisenhorn / Ravenor: Covers the Inquisition and the different Ordos. My personal favorite was the Ravenor series.

Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium / Ciaphas Cain: Defender of the Imperium by Sandy Mitchell: My one of my favorite series. The plot revolves around a hero of the Empire who believes himself to be a coward. Very light hearted compared to other series.

Ultramarines: A standard space marine series with themes of honor and duty. A great world but the characters are a little dry. The enemies are chaos and tyranids.

Grey Knights: I also enjoyed this series. Covering the grey knights and their wars against deamons. It covers the inquisition and its methods and it s relation to the grey knights.

Gaunt's Ghosts: an imperial guard series, among my friends it is either hated or loved. This series is considered the bread and butter of the imperial guard stories. The overall feel is that of band of brothers or another world war 2 series.

Blood Angels: A great story about a pair of brothers in the blood angel legion. I read the omnibus and i would recommend you do that also, there is a short story that reveals a another dimension the antagonist.

Last Chancers: This novel is an imperial guard novel that is about a penal legion and the main character Cage. Covering chaos, the tau, and 'nids. Truly a good series.


As several people have already recommended I think "Eisenhorn" is a fantastic Warhammer 40k book and is a pretty good place to start.

I also really enjoyed the Word Bearers series, which begins with "Dark Apostle", if you would like to dig into the corrupt world of Chaos Space Marines.

Over on my blog I have actually made a list of suggestions for new readers, which you might want to check out: Suggestions for new 40k Readers


I'd recommend getting onto the Warhammer 40k wikia site and researching a little bit into each faction (the first few paragraphs in an entry are usually an overview of the article involved).

You can do so by just searching a few of the major factions and reading part or all of the article that shows up. For instance, if you like humans, just search 'Imperium of man' and you will find an article that overviews the Human Empire and its internal factions as well as lists several of humanity's major enemies. Inside of this article is a list of major alien factions.

"Several alien species and dark forces (the Forces of Chaos, the Tyranids, the Eldar, the Dark Eldar, the Orks, the Tau, the Necrons, etc.) increasingly challenge the supremacy of the Imperium and humanity's predominant place in the galaxy".

From there just read about whatever you find most interesting. Horus Heresy for Chaos and Space Marines, the assorted Space Marine Omnibi for (obviously) Space Marines, etc.

People tend to find Space Marines most interesting, so I would recommend searching Space Marines as well, as most books are focused on Space Marines anyways.


Assuming one knows nothing about Warhammer 40'000, I'd start by reading the Factions part on the Warhammer 40000 entry in Wikipedia. That already gives a very broad oversighht of the different factions and the reader then knows at least something about the setting. I.e., when confronted with Eldar / Aeldari or T'au, one knows what these factions are.

After that, you can continue by watching Lore Videos on Youtube. I'd recommend Luetin, his lore videos are very respected. He also has a Beginners Guide to Warhammer 40'000 playlist that gives one a good oversight of the different factions, the history of the universe and so on.

While watching the Luetin videos, you can start reading books. I would not recommend (at all) to start with the Horus Heresy, I'd even recommend not to do it. Although it tells the story of the Horus Heresy in great details, at that point, it is way too long for a new reader (54 books and after that, there are more books for the siege of the Imperial Palace).

Good books to start are

I'd recommend not to read the Path of the Dark Eldar too early. Dark Eldar are very dark and twisted and could scare away somebody not familiar with the setting and the role of the Dark Eldars.

For Space Marines, pick a chapter that suits what you like and start reading (not a complete list as there are about 1'000 chapters):

  • Ultramarines: poster boy of Games Workshop and what Space Marines should be.
  • Space Wolves: Genenhanced space Vikings in power armour
  • Black Templar: Genenhanced templar knights that want to purge all that is not human
  • Imperial Fists: Honourful and stubborn
  • Salamanders: Paladins, they do care about humans
  • White Scars: Mongolians in Space
  • Blood Angels: Very proud and honourable fighters with a dark twist
  • Raven Guard: Sneaky

Here is a list of novels on the universe.


Eisenhorn, Gaunt's Ghosts, Space Wolf, Horus Heresy, in that order, roughly.


I personally started with Let the Galaxy Burn and the Caiaphas Cain omnibuses. From there I went into Space Marines with the Ultramarines series followed by the Soul Drinkers.

But by far my favorite two have been the Eisenhorn series and the Caiaphas Cain novels.


I have only recently started to read Warhammer 40k. I have read the first two books in the Horus Heresy and although at first I didn't understand some things it then later clarifies. By half way through Horus Rising (the first one) I had a pretty firm grasp on the Warhammer 40k world and found the books easy to understand and read.


As someone who enjoyed playing the computer games, but not played the tabletop yet, these are my recommendations based on how I followed it.

First start with the Horus Heresy books; Horus Rising, False Gods etc. Then start Galaxy In Flames then The Flight of Eisenstein. After the first 2 books you would have what I believe is a reasonable grasp of the 40k universe with regards to the Imperium of Man v/s Chaos and why there are Traitor Legions within. You could then move on to discovering the other xenos aka Orks, Eldar etc.

The books are a pretty easy read, but don't let that put anyone off as they are quite politically focused intertwined with some good narrative.

However the downside, in the humblest of my opinions, is that I am starting to find the "Imperium of Man" is a bad organization. Especially with Horus being a Warmaster or have I read them wrong even before Heresy sets in. Of course Loken and his comrades are still good guys :). Maybe a spoiler there sorry :(

So go with Horus Heresy 1st 1-4 books if you're like me and only dabbled in the periphery of W40k.


I've fiddled about the edges of WH40K for years, then a buddy dumped a bunch of books on me, mostly in the middle of various series. What I can do at this point is recommend anything by Dan Abnett or Sandy Mitchell. Neither is in any danger of winning a Hugo, let alone a Nebula, but both have the hang if the "ripping good yarn". One thing that sets them apart is that they have each modelled a series on an extant historical fiction, adapting it to the WH40K milieu. Abnett has the Gaunt's Ghosts series, based on the "Sharpe's..." series (wot got Sean Bean his start), and Mitchell basing Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, on McDonald's "Flashman" series, which is essentially Italy a deconstruction of Sharpe. Now, I've read some Abnett, but none of Gaunt, yet. High 9n my list based on multiple recommendations, though. I can recommend Cain without reservation. 3/4 through the first omnibus, and it's both well written and spot on the setting, and a laugh riot.

Those more versed than I: is there a Hornblower or Aubrey/Maturin pastiche out there?

  • This reads as more recommendation based than an actual answer to the best place to start I.e. these books are good not these are a good please to start because X. Also the last paragraph appears to be a question of its own so would be best if you edited it out.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 8:11

If by book you mean novel, I'll leave here an advice to not feel overwhelmed by the 60+ novels of the The Horus Heresy and The Siege of Terra.

The site heresyomnibus was released a few months ago, and it breaks them down into easy to follow omnibuses, so you're never overwhelmed and can focus just on the parts you like the most.

For me, I find this series of books one of the most famous, interesting and recommended. I just read the first 6 books, and I haven't read any other WH40k novel.

The Primarchs and their betrayal is the part of the lore that I was most curious about. Humanity was on their way into living in an utopia. A god like leader at its helm. Twenty demigods as his generals/governors. The rulership of philosophers kings! How could things go so wrong? How come people live in such a hellish nightmare, and that is just a normal part of their lives?

Horus Rising
The Wolf of Ash and Fire (EoT)
Death of a Silversmith (SoT)
False Gods
Galaxy In Flames
Lord of the Red Sands (WwE)
Flight of the Eisenstein

Source: heresyomnibus

  • Hi. Can you explain why The Horus Heresy is a good starting point for those looking to get into the Warhammer 40K universe? If you're just going by the recommendation provided by another website, then it'd be good to edit your answer to include a quote of the relevant text, along with a link to the specific webpage the text was quoted from. Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 2:16
  • I didn't use any quotes besides the suggested omnibus order, which i pre-formated. I didn't recommend to start with the Horus Heresy, it is my 4th place to start. I'll add more information on my choices, I didn't want to post a wall of text, I'll try to be brief
    – icetbr
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 16:23
  • If the suggested omnibus order is a quote, then please edit the answer to include a link to the webpage the text was quoted from. As a general principle, all quotes posted on this site should specify the source, so that the accuracy of each quote can be more easily verified. Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 16:40
  • I think I got it now, let me know if It needs anything else
    – icetbr
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 16:47
  • You've added the source for the quote, which is the main issue I had with this answer. If I had any further qualms, it's that the first three quarters of the answer doesn't really need to be there. I know that information was intended to be helpful to the OP, but on this site, we like answers to focus directly on the specific question asked, rather than going off on related tangents. Had you not included the book list at the end, this answer would've been deleted as a non-answer, as the other information isn't directly relevant to the question, i.e. which book is the best one to start with. Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 17:04

I can't say I've ever ready any Warhammer books, but from my experience, I always start reading books at the beginning of a series. For example: if the first book published in a series ends up being the third book because two prequels are published years later, I always start with the prequels.

  • Agreed. That's usually how I approach a universe. But I don't see much sequence with these books.
    – jedihawk
    Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 5:07
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    Most of them don't have a sequence timeline-wise. Sure, the exterminatus trilogy is a sequential trilogy, and the Eisenhorn books have a sequence, but the overall line doesn't.
    – aramis
    Commented May 14, 2011 at 17:45
  • I agree with regards to prequels, with one added condition: they need to be written by the original author, otherwise I read the "original" material first, then the prequels. (Haven't read any Warhammer though.)
    – zenzelezz
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 10:47
  • To all: Not only is the published order of WH40K books unrelated to the way it unfurls in-universe it's largely co-authored by the Black Library staff; tl;dr:There is no 'beginning' to the series, nor is there an original author.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 13:59

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