Warhammer is a deep and well-fleshed-out universe filled with different books by varying authors. The majority of books focus on the Imperium of Man, but there are enough out there that delve into Xenos factions and Chaos Legions. If you’re trying to find the best Warhammer 40K books by reading each one, you’re going to find yourself dying of old age before you can finish your list.
To save you some time, we’ve put together a list of the books that we think best showcase the grimdark that is Warhammer, along with some beginner Warhammer books for readers that are new to the series. Here are 3 books to start with if you’re new to Warhammer 40K and 10 books we feel are the best Warhammer 40K books you need to be reading.
If you’re interested in even more Warhammer 40K content, you might want to give the hit mobile game Warhammer 40K: Tacticus a try.
Where to Start If You’re New to Warhammer 40K
If you’re new to Warhammer 40K, it can be pretty daunting trying to figure out which book to pick off the shelf. Just take a look at the Wikipedia page of every Warhammer book to get an idea of the depth we’re talking about here. If you’re new, the best place to start is with books that slowly dip your feet into the lore of Warhammer. These three books are in no specific order, but Space Wolf is arguably the easiest one to start with for reasons we will soon discuss.
Space Wolf by William King might just be the best introduction to the Space Marines and Warhammer since it is from the point of view of a know-nothing savage named Ragnar Thunderfist, who is thrown into the thick of it. It’s the first book in a six book series, so if you like the first one, there’s definitely more to keep you interested.
After almost dying in battle with a rival tribe on his homeworld, Ragnar is recruited by the Space Wolves, a Space Marine chapter. This book covers a great deal of beginner knowledge, such as who the Space Marines are and the process of becoming one, and introduces the reader to Warhammer’s technology and surface lore.
Eisenhorn: The Omnibus
Eisenhorn: The Omnibus is an epic detective story that follows Gregor Eisenhorn, a senior member of the Imperial Inquisition. He and the rest of the Imperial Inquisition are tasked with rooting out heresy throughout the galaxy, but when heresy has infiltrated the Imperium and the Inquisition, he must go out on his own to expel it.
This omnibus is a trilogy with two short stories that give you a better glimpse into the Imperium of Man without throwing a ton of in-universe jargon and vocabulary at you. It’s easy to quickly understand that heresy is anything that goes against the wishes of the Imperium and the Emperor. It’s written by Dan Abnett, a respected author within the universe and one you’ll soon come to love as well.
This one is for readers interested in a faction other than the Imperium of Man but would like it to be a book for beginners. Brutal Kunnin is written by Mike Brooks and is the first novel to ever put the reader in the mind of an Ork. It follows Ufthak and his crew and their attack on the forge world of Hephaesto.
It might be a little harder than the previous two books for a beginner, but if you already know a little bit about Warhammer and are interested in a faction besides humanity, Brutal Kunnin might just be a good place to start.
Best Warhammer 40K Books
The following books are some of the best Warhammer 40K books you can read right now. This is not necessarily an extensive list, and you might not see a book you love on it, but it’s generally agreed that these books are great. If you don’t see a book you love on this list, leave a comment below, letting us know which Warhammer 40K book you think is best and why. If you already read one of these books and loved it or hated it, you should also leave a comment and let everyone know why.
Written by Graham McNeill, Fulgrim follows the titular character as he commands his warriors into battle against an alien foe. This book marks the start of the first steps down the road to true corruption within the Imperium of Man and showcases the vile beings seeking to corrupt and cause chaos within the galaxy.
Gaunt’s Ghosts: The Founding
A Dan Abnett novel, Gaunt’s Ghosts: The Founding follows elites troops of the Tanith First and Only, nicknamed the Ghosts. They’re specialists who excel at scouting and are quickly thrown into the heaviest fighting as they try to complete the mission their commanders have assigned them. The Founding is a great novel that doesn’t focus on Space Marines or other super soldiers of the Imperium.
Another Dan Abnett novel, Legion, is set before the Horus Heresy and looks at a Space Marine chapter called the Alpha Legion. The Alpha Legion is the last and most secretive group of Legiones Astartes, who have been sent to a planet to support the Imperial Army. They’re so secretive that the commander of the campaign on the planet didn’t even know they were involved until they announced themselves, and underneath it all, a spy plot is developing.
For a little more backstory on Horus and the Horus Heresy, Horus Rising by Dan Abnett is a great novel that shows Horus’s beginning of the end. After the Emperor leaves the front lines, believing victory is imminent, he entrusts his favorite son with command of the great crusade. Horus tries to carry out and continue the mission, but unbeknownst to him, seeds of heresy and treason have already been planted among the ranks.
Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium
Who doesn’t love a story about a Commissar? Ciaphas Cain is a hero of the Imperium and well-respected. Unfortunately for him, he has a habit of getting thrown into deadly situations, only persevering by luck and some slight skill.
The First Heretic
Another novel that provides some backstory for the Horus Heresy, The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden showcases the Word Bearers as they begin their descent into the hands of Chaos. They would eventually become the first of the nine legions to betray the Emperor and also hold the title as the first group of Chaos Space Marines. To find out where it all started, try out this novel.