The Cullen kids, Jasper, Alice, Emmett, Rosalie and Edward, sit in the cafeteria of Forks High School in the first Twilight movie

A Very Accurate Reading Guide to the Twilight Saga Books

Welcome to Forks.

The Twilight Saga needs no introductions. Whether you loved it or hated it while the books and movies were coming out, or whether you caught wind of the so-called “Twilight Renaissance” that’s been happening for the past few years over the Internet, we are all pretty familiar with the sparkly skins of killers, questionable character background choices—looking at you Jasper—and even more questionable ripping off of actual Native American legends and myths.

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There’s much to say about the literary saga that sprung from the pen—and allegedly dreams—of author Stephanie Meyer, and probably even more to observe about the fandom that grew around it and the responses to it that are still going strong to this day, almost 20 years after the first Twilight novel was published.

But first, it’s probably better to get all our vampires in a row, so here’s a reading guide to the complete Twilight Saga and the works it contains—in case you want to catch up on the craze that was sweeping everyone and their mother up in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

The main Twilight novels

The pillars of the Twilight Saga are, of course, the four main novels detailing the story of how lonely and awkward teenager Isabella “Bella” Swan moves from Phoenix, Arizona to Forks, Washington and meets impossibly beautiful and brooding vampire Edward Anthony Masen Cullen. A part of me hates that I still remember his full name without having to look it up but we shall move on and not dwell on it.

The first one is the titular Twilight, published in 2005. It covers the beginning of Edward and Bella’s relationship, her discovery that he and his whole family are vampires, and the Cullens squaring off against James, the first in a long line of vampires who want to eat Bella for breakfast. It also sets up most of the long-running story threads of the entire saga, especially Bella wanting to be turned into a vampire, and introduces Jacob Black, Bella’s childhood friend and a member of the nearby Native Quileute tribe.

Edward and Bella dance at the prom at the end of the first Twilight movie
The fact that this family of impossibly rich and beautiful immortal vampires actively chooses to go to high school over and over again is actually the biggest challenge to my suspension of disbelief (Summit Entertainment)

New Moon, released in 2006, opens with Bella and Edward in a committed and established relationship— or well, Bella is, while Edward is letting his demons consume him as he always does. After Bella’s disastrous eighteenth birthday party, Edward lets those demons win and leaves her “for her safety,” as the oldest of the tropes go.

Cue months of Bella trying to get out of the worst mental health state she’s ever been in. She does so mostly thanks to Jacob’s help, until she discovers that he too has a secret and is actually a shapeshifter, like several other members of his tribe. A whole complicated plot device made of gaps in Alice’s visions and Edward’s dramatic ass leads Bella to Volterra, where the terrible Volturi live and sort of rule the vampire world from. The whole thing is resolved with a promise that Bella will soon be turned into a vampire and become one of them. At the very end of the book, Edward drops his marriage bomb.

Edward and Bella in one of Bella's dreams at the beginning of the movie New Moon
The fact that part of New Moon was shot in Italy makes it very personal to me, it has to be said (Summit Entertainment)

Then there’s Eclipse, which came out in 2007. It picks up right from New Moon left off, with Edward telling Bella that if she wants him to be the one to turn her then she has to marry him first and Bella not being super stoked at the idea of celebrating a wedding right out of high school. She will, of course, change her mind before the book ends. The villain of the story is Victoria, the mate of James from the first book, hellbent on killing Bella as revenge for Edward killing James. Her creation of an army of newborn vampires to attack the Cullens leads to a new alliance between the family and the Quileute—and the triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob reaches the heights of its drama and, it has to be said, toxicity.

Edward Cullen and Jacob Black square up over Bella Swan in the third instalment of the Twilight Saga, Eclipse
I remember this triangle annoying the hell out of me even when I was a teenager and so peak target audience for it (Summit Entertainment)

The last installment of the main novels is Breaking Dawn, published in 2008— the same year the movie adaptation of Twilight was released in cinemas. The chunkiest of all the books, Breaking Dawn is a wild ride from start to finish, and here are some highlights: Bella and Edward get married and honeymoon in Brazil where Bella finally convinces Edward to have sex; Bella ends up getting pregnant with a mysterious baby no one even knew she could conceive; said baby pretty much sucks the life out of her throughout her pregnancy and Edward ends up having to deliver it by cutting it out of Bella’s womb with his teeth; she names the baby girl Renesmee; Jacob imprints on Renesmee; Bella is turned into a vampire and realizes she has incredibly strong mental powers; the Volturi want to destroy the Cullens; allies from all over the world arrive to support them and everything falls into place for this big battle that actually never happens; Edward and Bella live happily ever after, literally, with their half-vampire daughter. And thus this rollercoaster comes to an end.

Edward and Bella talk to their daughter Renesmee in the final instalment of the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn Part 2
The fact that no one ever says Renesmee’s name right is one of my favorite Twilight fandom inside jokes (Summit Entertainment)

The companion books to the Twilight Saga

The Twilight Saga, however, spans beyond the four main novels. There are at least three companion pieces that deserve a mention, and they are The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined, and Midnight Sun.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, released in 2010, follows the titular Bree Tanner, one of the newborn vampires in Victoria’s army in Eclipse. It expands a bit more on the dynamics within that group and their attack on the Cullens, and we get a chance to see the family we’ve all known for years through the eyes of an outsider. Considering that the title contains the word “short”, though, I think we can all guess how Bree Tanner’s story ends.

Actress Jodelle Ferland plays Bree Tanner in a small appearance in Eclipse
Bree Tanner also appeared in Eclipse, played by actress Jodelle Ferland (Summit Entertainment)

Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined was published in 2015 and it’s what the kids on Tumblr in the 2010s would have called a “gender-swapped” version of Twilight, with Beau Swan, our human protagonist, falling in love with vampire Edythe Cullen. 

Then there’s Midnight Sun, which was released very recently in 2020 after its existence had been speculated about with the fandom for years—with Stephenie Meyer saying that she was writing it and then not mentioning it anymore until it was confirmed that yes, Midnight Sun was indeed going to see the light of day.

Midnight Sun follows the same story beats as Twilight but through Edward’s perspective rather than Bella’s— who is the narrator of the entire series save for a brief chunk of chapters in Breaking Dawn which are narrated from Jacob’s point of view. This dive into Edward’s mind is exactly what you would expect: full of overly dramatic angst and behaviors that scream “red flag” but are still very funny if not taken particularly seriously.

How to read the Twilight books in order

So to recap, here are the Twilight books in their in-universe order:

  • Twilight (2005)
  • New Moon (2006)
  • Eclipse (2007)
  • The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (2010)
  • Breaking Dawn (2008)
  • Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (2015)
  • Midnight Sun (2020)

And here they are in the order in which they were published:

  • Twilight (2005)
  • New Moon (2006)
  • Eclipse (2007)
  • Breaking Dawn (2008)
  • The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (2010)
  • Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (2015)
  • Midnight Sun (2020)

(featured image: Summit Entertainment)

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Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.