[Top 10] Best Warhammer 40k Books To Read First

Black library is the division of Games Workshop concerned with books

It can be really daunting deciding which Warhammer 40K books to read first, because there are so many of them, each with varying quality. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to tell you which books to read first, to allow you the easiest time getting into the universe, without expecting you to know loads about the lore before you start!

1. Eisenhorn: The Omnibus by Dan Abnett

The inquisitor Eisenhorn depicted at his prime

Eisenhorn follows the saga of an Inquisitor named Gregor Eisonhorn, as he travels across the galaxy hunting down heretics and investigating strange murders, while dabbling in the dark powers along the way. He finds himself embroiled in intrigue, not knowing who is friend or foe, and has to learn to adapt to the horrors that the galaxy has to offer - even fighting his own people.

This book is a great intro to the universe of 40k, as you really don’t need any prior knowledge to understand what’s going on. Plus, Dan Abnett is widely regarded as the best writer of 40K fiction, so it’ll be a great experience to hook in any aspiring reader. It also really sets things up for understanding later books, making it a good one to begin with.


2. Gaunt’s Ghosts - The Founding by Dan Abnett

Ibrim Gaunt and his bodyguard grace the cover of this book

The Founding is the first omnibus in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, which follows an elite battalion of Imperial Guardsmen through the founding of their army, and their first few deployments, all under their renowned leader, Ibram Gaunt. Action packed and with exciting and lovable characters, Gaunt’s Ghosts is a great series to follow.

This book follows on well from Eisenhorn, as while it requires a little prior knowledge, everything you need to know is covered in the previous entry. Plus, it introduces you to another important faction, the Imperial Guard, who will come up a lot later on.


3. Space Wolf by William King

Ragnar Blackmane on the cover of his very own book

Space Wolf is a fantastic book, and a great introduction to the Space Marines. Following the future Wolf Lord of the Space Wolves, Ragnar Blackmane, from his lowly origins on Fenris, all the way to becoming a superpowered Space Marine warrior. He is forced to learn to overcome his origins as a barbarian warrior, and the conflicts of his clan, to find his place in the wider order of things in the galaxy.

The introduction to the space marines through the eyes of a character just learning about them eases the expectation on the reader, making it a great beginner novel. The Space Wolves are also one of the coolest space marine chapters, so this is a really fun book for any new reader.

4. Grey Knights by Ben Counter

Justicar Alaric charges into battle in his Aegis-pattern armour


Grey Knights is a deeper delve into the Space Marines, this time through the eyes of the daemon-hunting Grey Knights chapter. It follows a squad of marines lead by Justicar Alaric, a hero of the chapter, in a quest to hunt down a daemon prince called Ghargatuloth. It even features the Sisters of Battle, an awesome faction of all-female soldiers.

Following on from Space Wolf, this book is very compelling, and introduces the reader to the forces of Chaos Daemons, and the forces that oppose them. It also includes more inquisitors, who were introduced in Eisenhorn, so it definitely feels like a successor to the previous books in the list. Plus, the Grey Knights are a fan favourite space marine chapter, so come up a lot in later books, so introducing them here avoids a lot of confusion later.


5. Priests of Mars by Graham McNiell

A mechanised servitor sets out into the red wastes of Mars


Priests of Mars introduces the tech-priests known as the Adeptus Mechanicus, who tend to the machine spirits of the Imperium found in all technology, and adapt themselves with cybernetics. This book tells the story of a fleet of ships sent beyond the borders of the Imperium, accompanied by some Imperial Guard and Space marine troops, in search of a long lost expedition.

This is a great intro to the Mechanicus, and shows off every level of society with its inclusion of Marines and Guard soldiers, as well as the awesome tech and power plays of the tech-priests. It also introduces the reader to the Eldar, another important faction.

6. Night Lords: The Omnibus by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

A stylised cover shows off the themes of the omnibus - blood and darkness


Night Lords: The Omnibus delves into the beloved Night Lords chapter of the Chaos Space Marines, corrupted supersoldiers who fight for Chaos. They stalk the shadows of the galaxy, eternally seeking revenge for the death of their primarch. It has very strong characterisation, following the prophet Talos, and representing the depth of his emotions.

The Chaos Space Marines are one of the coolest and scariest factions in the 40K universe, and this shows them off incredibly well, through the awesome Night Lords chapter. This book shows a lot of complexity with regards to the evil factions of Chaos, which is a really important and intriguing theme.


7. Assasinorum Kingmaker by Robert Rath

Our two assassin protagonists shown in action in the noble palace


Assassinorum: Kingmaker is the latest book by Rober Rath, well-known to 40k book fans for writing The Infinite and the Divine, and it introduces the Assassins of the Imperium, as well as the Knight Houses, warriors who fight in huge and ancient mech suits. It tells a fantastic tale of how the Imperium works towards the greater good - through a lot of intervention and conflict.

Bringing in another two of the coolest factions in 40k, this book brings us back away from the grand conflicts of the Imperium and Chaos, back to a much smaller scale conflict, making it much more personal and compelling. This makes it a great beginner book, aswell as relying on everything introduced in the previous rankings on the list.

8. Fire Caste by Peter Fehervari

The battlesuits of the T’au and the Imperial Guard remnants face off in the dark jungles


Fire Caste features the T’au Empire, a highly advanced alien civilization who often fight in large robot suits called battlesuits, and do everything for the ‘Greater Good’. It also brings back the Imperial Guard in a battered and broken form, forced to fight a guerilla war against the T’au.

As the first novel featuring the T’au, this a fantastic place to first learn about the faction, and the re-flavouring to the now very familiar Imperial Guard is a really interesting point for a lot of readers. Plus, the Heart of Darkness-like jungle war theming makes it very different from any other 40k book in the series, providing new insight, and exciting new ideas.


9. Day of Ascension by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Mutated soldiers of the Genestealer Cults proclaim their ascension


From the beloved science fiction author Adrian Tchaikovsky comes Day of Ascension, introducing the wonderfully evil Genestealer Cults, and places them in conflict with the now familiar Adeptus Mechanicus, in the urban environment of an industrial Forge World. However, this could be an opportunity for protagonist Genator Gammat Triskellian to end stagnation and corruption on his homeworld.

Another small scale story with another new and awesome faction, written by one of the best sci-fi authors ever. Definitely one for new readers to enjoy, especially with all the context they’ve gained from the previous books on the list. It also really humanises what can be seen as a faceless, antagonistic faction, which is really interesting.


10. Horus Rising (Book 1 Horus Heresy) by Dan Abnett

Horus’ space marines muster on a desolate moon


The Horus Heresy series is a prequel to the rest of 40k, and is many peoples’ favourite series in the setting. It covers the corruption of half of the space marine legions to Chaos, lead by the Warmaster Horus, and the civil war of the Imperium which ensued. It is an epic saga of many books, but it begins here, with Horus Rising.

Many consider this a good starting point to the 40K books, but in my opinion it is best enjoyed after understanding the context of the rest of the setting; knowing about Chaos and The Imperium, about Space Marines and Daemons, and about the way the setting ends up after the civil war, makes it a much more fascinating and compelling story than if you were to begin with it. As it ties together so many elements of the setting, there couldn’t be a better book to end this list with.

So - 10 books that introduces the reader as gently as possibly, and in the most engaging way. After reading every book on this list, you should be an expert on the 40k setting, on its factions and conflicts, and on which book to read next - as this list also covers the best authors of 40k books too. Reading all the books written by these fantastic authors should keep you engaged and occupied for a long time - so get to it!

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Hailing from rainy England, April spent much of her youth curled up in front of the TV, chasing high scores and completing quests. Now, her quests bring her to the writing desk.
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