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I want to read The Expanse, but I'm kind of confused about which to read first and what I actually need to read. So far as I can tell The Expanse is a series of novels that fall in roughly chronological order, but there's also a number of novellas and short stories which jump around the chronology.

I figure the shorter stuff is going to be harder to find (published in magazines, etc). Does it matter what order I read the non-novel material in? Can/should I skip the non-novel material entirely?

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Corey has suggested they are best read in publication order, (main novels in bold):

Leviathan Wakes (2011)
The Butcher of Anderson Station (2011)
Caliban's War (2012)
Gods of Risk (2012)
Drive (2012)
Abaddon's Gate (2013)
The Churn (2014)
Cibola Burn (2014)
Nemesis Games (2015)
The Vital Abyss (2015)
Babylon's Ashes (2016)
Untitled Expanse Novella (TBP)
Persepolis Rising (TBP)

However another good reading order, and IMO the better one, would be as follows (again main novels in bold, and note that I've jumbled short stories, novellas etc. under one title 'short story'):

Drive - Short story published November 27, 2012.
The Churn - Short story published April 29, 2014
The Butcher of Anderson Station - Short story published October 17, 2011
Leviathan Wakes - Novel published June 15, 2011
Caliban’s War - Novel published June 26, 2012
Gods of Risk - Short story published September 15, 2012
Abaddon’s Gate - Novel published June 4, 2013
The Vital Abyss - Short story published October 15, 2015
Cibola Burn - Novel published June 17, 2014
Nemesis Games - Novel published June 2, 2015
Babylon’s Ashes - Novel published December 6, 2016
Untitled Expanse Novella - Short story to be published
Persepolis Rising - Novel to be published 2017

Also note there are a few more being written, and several planned as well. And if you want to be pedantic, you could technically say that The Martian should be read first.

I personally think the second order is better as it makes a better read. It makes more sense and nothing happens which you need knowledge from another book that hasn't been read yet to understand. Although obviously I have no idea where the unpublished ones should go, so I've placed them chronologically.

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    Can you please expand on why your second option is preferable? – Mithical Feb 19 '17 at 16:49
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    Are you saying that reading in publication order would cause unintended confusion? – BESW Feb 19 '17 at 23:39
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    You should note that your second option is the chronological in-universe order and the first one is publication order. – Reinstate Monica - M. Schröder Feb 26 '17 at 23:40
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I think the only "mandatory" novella is 'The Churn'. It contains information that is relevant, especially in 'Nemesis Games'. Read the books in order, and make sure to read 'The Churn' somewhere before 'Nemesis Games'.

'The Vital Abyss' is semi-important to the overall plot, so reading it before 'Babylon' or 'Percepolis' will certainly add to the experience.

The other novellas are more world building, which contributes to the depth of The Expanse universe, but I don't consider them vital to the plot in the books. (Also, I didn't like the earliest novellas too much. They were OK, but nowhere near as good as the books.)

UPDATE I higly recommend reading Strange Dogs before Tiamat.

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