Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Book Series Reading Order

Isaac Asimov's Foundation Book Series Reading Order

If you haven’t reached yet for one of Isaac Asimov’s books, then at least you’ve heard of him. Or maybe you have watched the film “I, Robot” from 2004 (starring Will Smith), suggested by Isaac Asimov’s 1950 short-story collection of the same name. So you are probably wondering, where should you start with reading the Isaac Asimov Foundation book series. Don’t worry, we will let you know in this article.

The best order of reading the Foundation book series is by chronological order:

  • Prelude to Foundation
  • Forward to Foundation
  • Foundation
  • Foundation and Empire
  • Second Foundation
  • Foundation’s Edge
  • Foundation and Earth

To find out why this is so, as well as which books are part of the Foundation series, keep reading. We warn you, speaking of the books, it was not possible to avoid some of the spoilers (not the big ones, but still…). First of all, we want to introduce you to this remarkable author.

Let’s meet one of the “Big Three”

Isaac Asimov was born in the Russian city of Petrovichi, near Smolensk, on January 2, 1920. Three years later, he emigrated to the United States with his parents. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he learned to read when he was five years old. As his parents owned a shop where there were also science fiction magazines, he often read them, and at the age of eleven, he started writing his own stories.

After graduating from Columbia University, he became a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, and since 1958 has devoted himself entirely to what he was the best of – writing.

He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science and has written or edited more than 500 books. Along with Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke he was considered one of the “Big Three” – the best-known members of the group of authors who brought science fiction into a Golden Age in the middle years of the twentieth century.

RELATED: ‘Foundation’ TV Show Review: An Astounding Inter Galactic Adventure

Some of the interesting facts are that Asimov preferred indoor, small spaces, that he was afraid of flying, and never learned to swim or ride a bike. Some people said that he was known for his accuracy – he never looked at his watch, and he always knew how to estimate time.

He was an outspoken humanist and rationalist, who did not challenge other people’s religious beliefs denying superstition and unfounded beliefs.

Isaac Asimov died on April 6, 1992, in New York. He was 72 years old.

We could still speak about this very interesting man, but we are here because of his stories. We hope you enjoyed reading about his biography so far, at least as we did while researching it. 

The Foundation book series

Besides the Robot novels and Galactic Empire Trilogy, Isaac Asimov is best known for his Foundation book series by which he influenced contemporary science fiction.

The original Foundation Trilogy is one of the most celebrated works in science-fiction. When Asimov wrote “Foundation”, he had no idea that he had begun a series of stories. After the original Trilogy, he wrote new books.

So, this is one of the familiar situations for readers – first of all, you have sequels and then you’ll go back where you did come from. 

As we mentioned before, we prefer reading these books chronologically. But first of all, let’s see the publication order of the books.

Everything became with the Trilogy which consists of these three books: Foundation (published in 1951), Foundation and Empire (published in 1952), and Second Foundation (published in 1953). It needs to be mentioned that originally, it was a series of eight short stories published in Astounding Magazine in the 1940s.

RELATED: 7 Fictional Worlds That Deserve Their Own Cinematic Universe

These three books as part of the Trilogy won the one-time Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966. Congratulations! 

Foundation’s Edge the fourth book of the series was published in 1982 and it was the first sequel of the Trilogy.

In 1986 came the second sequel Foundation and Earth.

And here we come back at the beginning – the two prequels and also known as the books no. 6 and 7 of the series.

Prelude to Foundation, as the prequel no. 1, was published in 1988, followed by the second prequel Forward the Foundation which was published in 1993.

A little bit confusing isn’t it? We can’t agree more. So, let’s arrange them chronologically!

The best order of reading the Foundation book series

Even the author himself wrote in the Author’s Note of the Prelude to Foundation that readers might appreciate reading the books following the chronological order. Who are we to think otherwise?

1. Prelude to Foundation

In this first prequel of the Foundation book series, we are back in 12.020, the year in which Emperor Cleon I sits on the Imperial throne of the planet Trantor. A genius mathematician Hari Seldon has come to Trantor to deliver his paperwork on psychohistory, his extraordinary theory of prediction. Little does he know that he has already sealed his fate and the fate of humanity.

It was a time when the Galactic Empire was still at the height of its power, unaware of its imminent end.

2. Forward to Foundation

In the second book of this anthological series, the stability of the Empire is dangerously shaken and threatened with disintegration. Laskin Joranum, intending to prevent this, will want to take the place of the current Emperor’s Prime Minister Eto Demerzel (one of the many alter-egos of the robot R. Daneel Olivaw), whom he believes is incapable of solving the serious problems crucial to the Empire’s survival. 

In his plan of saving the Empire, Laskin will include Harry Seldon, the head of the Department of Mathematics at one of the biggest universities on Trantor, asking him for help with his knowledge of psychohistory.

3. Foundation

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme and now it is dying. Gaal Dornick, a doctor of mathematics, comes to Trantor, the center of the Galactic Empire, at the invitation of a distinguished scientist in the field of psychohistory – Harry Seldon, to participate in a mysterious project. 

As an eminent psychohistorian, Harry Seldon made disturbing predictions that Trantor would be completely destroyed within five centuries. This apocalyptic scientific prophecy will shake up the government of the Empire, so Seldon and Dornick will soon be targeted by the Commission of Public Safety.

4. Foundation and Empire

The story of the Foundation continues to the collapse of Seldon’s plan with his so far safe leadership of the First Foundation, through two centuries of chaos. But the appearance of Mule, a mutant of incredible mental abilities and boundless ambition, puts the First Foundation in danger. 

Two men and one woman go from Terminus to the ruins of the once all-powerful Trantor in an attempt to uncover the secret location of the Second Foundation, which is their only remaining hope. But Mule, with the help of his powers, is also looking for the Second Foundation.

5. Second Foundation

After breaking the power of the First Foundation, the mutant Mule does everything to discover the position of the Second Foundation. His empire comprises one-tenth of the Galaxy and one-fifteenth of its population, including the Foundation itself.

Han Pritcher, the Foundation’s officer (who becomes loyal to Mule) with his colleague Bail Channis embarks on a mission to find the Second Foundation which they only know of is located “somewhere at the end of the Galaxy”. If Mule succeeds in his plan, Seldon’s plan will fail, and with it also the restoration of the entire civilization.

RELATED: 56 Best Fiction Podcasts You Need to Follow in 2023

6. Foundation’s Edge

Almost five hundred years after its creation, the First Foundation is at the peak of its power, after, according to all, it destroyed the Second Foundation. However, there are rumors that the Second Foundation still secretly exists, and that it’s preparing to take over the power as soon as a new Empire is established. Therefore, the Mayor of Terminus City, Harla Branno, will make a crucial decision – to find out if the Second Foundation really exists and, if so, where is its location.

7. Foundation and Earth

In the last book of the Foundation series, the Councilman of Terminus City, Golan Trevize, is wondering if he was right to choose a collective mind as the best possible future for humanity over the anarchy of individuals, nations, and planets. To achieve this goal, he decides to travel in search of the planet Earth to find out its past because there is no record of it in the galactic libraries.

Hopefully, we helped at least a little bit with your decision on how to read this remarkable masterpiece.  No matter you listen to our (and Isaac’s as well) recommendations or just do it by yourself, give this series a chance. It deserves it in every way.

“There are no nations! There is only humanity. And if we don’t come to understand that right soon, there will be no nations, because there will be no humanity.”

“Life is a journey, but don’t worry, you’ll find a parking spot at the end.”

Isaac Asimov

  • Robert is the co-owner of Fiction Horizon and a lifelong fan of movies, TV shows, comics, and video games. Especially fascinated by Marvel, he enjoys every aspect of the franchise.