All You Need to Know about the Dune Books

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We bet you’re not the only one to have been mesmerized by Dune‘s adaptation. If you can’t wait for part two to arrive in theatres (soon!), you can spend quality time learning more about the Dune books and the world of Frank Herbert and his novels. 

Dune by Frank Herbert

The Dune book series is not something new. The first of them dates back to 1965. In total, Frank Herbert wrote six novels before his death in 1986:

Each of the five sequels of Dune was critically acclaimed and commercially successful. Today, it’s considered the classic of science fiction.

When Was Dune Written?

The first Dune book was written in 1965. Frank Herbert was the first author of Dune; however, after his death, his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson co-authored to create all the other existing Dune books.

What Is Dune About?

If you watched the adaptation, you know the Dune summary well enough. Dune is set on the desert planet Arrakis thousands of years in the future. It’s the story of Paul Atreides, the heir to a noble ruling family. It’s also a story of an intergalactic conflict over the most precious resource in existence—priceless spice melange—a drug that can extend life, enhance consciousness, has hallucinogenic properties, and fuels space travel. Priceless enough to kill for…

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Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet). Image source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Paul Atreides belongs to House Atreides, which is one of the houses within the Padishah Empire. They’re ruled by the patriarch of the Atreides family, who took the title of Duke. However, House Atreides is betrayed, and Paul’s family is destroyed. The Dune plot revolves around his journey to his destiny and his rise to the imperial throne.

Dune is a sci-fi story; however, it’s also a complex narrative that covers many modern problems—from overexploitation of Earth, colonization, and monopoly to religion’s interference in politics and environmental threats. Frank Herbert foresaw many of the things we have to face now; he also criticized the devotion to messianic figures and the creation of religious myths and legends about leaders.

So, when you’re lost in the dunes of Dune, remember that it’s more than just a story—it’s a mirror reflecting our own struggles and questions. Frank Herbert was like a cosmic sage, throwing out warnings and insights wrapped in a breathtaking saga of adventure and intrigue. It’s like he left us a time capsule from the future, urging us to open our eyes to the present.

How Many Dune Books Are There?

The first Dune book, published in 1965, introduces us to young Paul Atreides and his unexpected rise to power. As the series continues in Dune Messiah (1969), we dive deeper into the aftermath of Paul’s rise and the challenges that come with leadership, foresight, and sacrifice. Children of Dune, published in 1976, follows Paul’s descendants as they navigate ruling on Arrakis while facing genetic legacies and new threats. In God Emperor of Dune, published in 1981, we jump thousands of years into the future where we see a transformed Paul Atreides presiding over a vastly different empire, pondering the nature of power and control. The series concludes with Heretics of Dune (1984) and Chapterhouse: Dune (1985), which shift focus to factions opposing the God Emperor’s rule and explore themes of societal change, memory, and evolution in a fragile universe.

Here’s the list of the Dune books in order of their release:

Dune Book Cover Art

The Dune book series has seen numerous covers since its publication in 1965. The first cover art for Dune—created by John Schoenherr—can be considered the one that came with the first serialized stories in Analog Magazine in 1963.

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Image source: Muddy Colors

The very first Dune book, as you may know, was initially rejected 23 times before it was finally published by a tiny publisher of mostly car manuals (Chilton Publishing). Its cover art came from the Analog set we mentioned earlier. By the way, nowadays, Dune‘s first edition, first printing hardcover book in very good condition with a dust jacket, is listed on Biblio for $24,888.

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Image source: Biblio

The first paperback edition cover art was also created by John Schoenherr. He created both the cover art and illustrations for The Illustrated Dune, which was published in 1978. The next  cover art designer for the Dune books became Jack Gaughan:

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Image source: Muddy Colors

Next, there were the Dune books illustrated by Bruce Pennington (1970s):

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Image source: Muddy Colors

And the Dune books illustrated by Gerald (Gerry) Grace (1970s):

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Image source: Muddy Colors

Dune cover art in the 1990s:

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Here are some later Dune book cover art versions:

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And cover art from foreign editions:

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Dune Books in Chronological Order

The thing is that there seems to be no right way to keep up with the chronology of the books. Indeed, there’s no right answer on how you should read them: in the order of the timeline or in the order of publication. Here’s the Dune book series order with the books as they come in the Dune world:

  • The Butlerian Jihad (2002)
  • The Machine Crusade (2003)
  • The Battle of Corrin (2004)
  • Sisterhood of Dune (2011)
  • Mentats of Dune (2014)
  • Navigators of Dune (2016)
  • House Atreides (1999)
  • House Harkonnen (2000)
  • House Corrino (2001)
  • The Duke of Caladan (2020)
  • The Lady of Caladan (2021)
  • The Heir of Caladan (2022)
  • Dune (1965)
  • Paul of Dune (2008)
  • Dune Messiah (1969)
  • The Winds of Dune (2009)
  • Children of Dune (1976)
  • God Emperor of Dune (1981)
  • Heretics of Dune (1984)
  • Chapterhouse: Dune (1985)
  • Hunters of Dune (2006)
  • Sandworms of Dune (2007)

We can recommend doing the following: read six novels written by Frank Herbert first—they’re a must, after all. Then, if you’ve been taken in by the world of Dune, read all the rest. The beauty of the Dune is in the fact that there’re numerous entry points, so you can choose the way you read them as you see fit.

Dune Sequels

The most recent news regarding the Dune series is the coming publication of a new 12-issue comic book series adapting the novel Dune: House Harkonnen by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

Original Dune Movie

The original Dune film series was released in October 2021. Directed by Denis Villeneuve—who is best known for Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival—it immediately became immensely popular and even got described as “the best sci-fi movie of the decade.” As of February 2022, Dune’s ticket sales at the box office crossed the $400M mark worldwide. 

While the Dune books have been loved by readers for decades, and there were several movie adaptations, what’s the reason behind the 2021 remake’s huge success?  The answer is probably in the fact that it’s a beautifully crafted film with dazzling visual effects—which manages to demonstrate one of the richest and most complex worlds in all science-fiction created by Frank Herbert once.

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Image source:

Dune, Part 2 began production in July 2022 and was filmed in several locations (e.g., Budapest, Abu Dhabi, Jordan, and Italy). The next installment of Dune’s sequel, Dune, Part 2, is expected to take an interesting turn. Director Denis Villeneuve is exploring the latter half of Herbert’s story. This part of the movie follows Paul’s journey within the Fremen community, his rise to power, and his fight against the ruling Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV. Paul’s transformation into the legendary “Kwisatz Haderach” is not only exciting but also puts his life in danger.

Let’s hope Dune, Part 2 will be as good as part one.

Update: The Warner Bros movie studio will delay the planned November release of Dune, Part 2 sequel until March 15, 2024 (instead of November 2, 2023) following writer and actor strikes.

Natalie Song