Foundation Reading Order: The decline and fall of Isaac Asimov’s Galactic Empire

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First published as a series of short stories in 1942-50, the Foundation series is one of the most celebrated works by science-fiction author Isaac Asimov.

Reading the Foundation Series in Order

Beyond the original trilogy, the Foundation series was extended but also placed in the continuity of other series written by the author. Therefore, you can find multiple reading orders.

The original Foundation Trilogy

Foundation (1951)
Foundation and Empire (1952)
Second Foundation (1953)

The Extended Foundation Series

Years after the publication of the original Foundation trilogy, Isaac Asimov wrote more Foundation books, prequels and sequels. It is recommended to read them in publication order rather than in chronological order, but you have the choice.

In Chronological Order

Prelude to Foundation (1988)
Forward the Foundation (1993)
Foundation (1951)
Foundation and Empire (1952)
Second Foundation (1953)
Foundation’s Edge (1982)
Foundation and Earth (1986)

In Publication Order

Foundation (1951)
Foundation and Empire (1952)
Second Foundation (1953)
Foundation’s Edge (1982)
Foundation and Earth (1986)
Prelude to Foundation (1988)
Forward the Foundation (1993)

The Isaac Asimov Extended Universe

You can merge the Robot, the Empire, and the Foundation series, but also a few standalone books into one big series. This is not ideal as Asimov didn’t plan those books to be read like this. The best way is to read in order of publication, but if you’re searching for something like that, here is a reading order inspired by the one Asimov suggested himself, but with a bit more books.

I, Robot (Standalone, 1950)
The Caves of Steel (Robot series, 1954)
The Naked Sun (Robot series, 1957)
The Robots of Dawn (Robot series, 1983)
Robots and Empire (Robot series, 1985)
The End of Eternity (Standalone, 1955)
The Stars, Like Dust (Galactic Empire series, 1951)
The Currents of Space (Galactic Empire series, 1952)
Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire series, 1950)
Prelude to Foundation (Foundation series, 1988)
Forward the Foundation (Foundation series, 1993)
Foundation (Foundation series, 1951)
Foundation and Empire (Foundation series, 1952)
Second Foundation (Foundation series, 1953)
Foundation’s Edge (Foundation series, 1982)
Foundation and Earth (Foundation series, 1986)

The Foundation Trilogy published by Folio Society (2016)

The Story of Foundation

The story of Foundation is set in a future where the Galactic Empire is destined to fall, taking with it the galactic civilization. For Hari Seldon, a mathematician and psychologist who has developed psychohistory, a way to predict future events, this is inevitable. For him, a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years is coming. Nevertheless, he wants to help humankind survive this ordeal and create the “Foundation.”

Seldon is a controversial figure and the Empire doesn’t want to make him a Martyr, he is exiled to a bleak planet at the edge of the galaxy with his followers, scientists and scholars. His organization is then tasked to compile the Encyclopedia Galactica by collecting the knowledge that will help the future generation to get back up again.

More about the Foundation series

Does the Foundation series need to be read in order?

The original Foundation trilogy needs to be read in order. For the sequels and prequels, it is recommended to follow the publication order, but you can follow a chronological order. You just need to know that the prequels will spoil the rest of the story.

You can also want to read the series next to other Asimov series. They were not written that way, you’ll find some inconsistencies, but it is still a valid approach to his work.

The Foundation series published by Harper Collins

How many books are there in the Foundation series?

In total, Isaac Asimov has written seven books in the Foundation series. But other writers wrote more. There is the Second Foundation trilogy–Foundation’s Fear (1997), Foundation and Chaos (1998), and Foundation’s Triumph (1999)–by Gregory Benford, Greg Bear, and David Brin, but also the 1989 anthology Foundation’s Friends, Stories in Honor of Isaac Asimov.

Has the Foundation book series ended?

Yes, the Foundation series had ended. It was technically published between 1942 and 1993.

Is there an adaptation of the Foundation books series?

The Foundation series was first adapted as an eight-part radio drama broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1973. For a long time, a film adaptation was in development, but it was never produced.

In 2021, the streaming service Apple TV+ launched the first season of the Foundation TV Show. It was developed for television by screenwriters David Goyer (The Dark Knight) and Josh Friedman (Snowpiercer). It features an ensemble cast led by Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Lou Llobell, and Leah Harvey.

The Foundation Apple TV+ series

About the author of the Foundation series

Who is Isaac Asimov?

A Russian-born American, Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was a writer and a professor of biochemistry at Boston University.

He was rejected from medical schools and studied instead chemistry at a high level–earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree in chemistry in 1948. He also learned French and German. He became an instructor of biochemistry. By 1952, his writing career really took off, but he continued to teach.

What has Isaac Asimov written beyond the Foundation series?

Isaac Asimov is best known for his hard science fiction but also wrote mysteries, fantasy, and nonfiction. In fact, he was a really prolific writer. He is known for having written or edited more than 500 books. 

Asimov’s most famous work is the award-winning Foundation series–which won the Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966. His other celebrated novels include the Robot and the Galactic Empire series.

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For more epic science-fiction, dive into Frank Herbert’s Universe with the classic Dune or the space opera The Expanse.