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How To Read the ‘Hunger Games’ Books in Order

Are you, are you comin' to the tree?

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series is one of the bestselling and most influential YA series ever published. The series’ popularity is comparable to the likes of Harry Potter, Twilight, and Percy Jackson, boasting over 100 million copies sold. While aimed at young adults, The Hunger Games boasts some very mature themes of power, government corruption, rebellion, and war.

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Hunger Games takes place in Panem, a country in North American consisting of a Capitol and 13 districts. The districts suffer from extreme poverty and are kept under the strict rule of the Capitol. Every year, the Capitol holds the Hunger Games. In each of the first 12 districts, one boy and one girl are chosen to participate in the Hunger Games. These 24 participants will be forced into an arena where they will fight to the death until one victor remains. The games are a reminder of the Capitol’s power and a measure taken to ensure the Districts never rebel again.

When Katniss Everdeen volunteers to participate in the Hunger Games in place of her little sister, she embarks on a journey of survival that will morph into one of rebellion as the series continues. The books sparked a film trilogy starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson. The films were positively received and proved to be the highest-grossing film series based on a YA series in North America, second only to Harry Potter. Now that the release date of the film adaption of the Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has been confirmed for November 17, 2023, many will likely be revisiting The Hunger Games.

In what order should you read The Hunger Games?

The order in which to read book series can get a little complicated. Especially if that series is Dune and has 9 books in it or if its Percy Jackson, a pentalogy that now has a bunch of spin-off novels thrown into the mix. Fortunately, The Hunger Games is a little simpler with its main trilogy and a single prequel novel. As a result, there are really only two ways to read the series: in order of publication or chronologically.

In order of publication

(Scholastic)

Here is the order you would read The Hunger Games books if you are going by publication date:

  1. The Hunger Games (2008)
  2. Catching Fire (2009)
  3. Mockingjay (2010)
  4. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2020)

This is the order that I would personally recommend for readers. First of all, you are always going to want to read the main trilogy in order of publication. The books simply will not make sense if you read them in any other order. The only real movable variable here is The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. This is a prequel that takes place 63 years before the events of The Hunger Games and follows the story of Coriolanus Snow, before he was President Snow. If you read in publication order, you’ll be reading the prequel last.

The reason that I recommend reading the prequel last, is because of the differences in pace and tone between The Hunger Games trilogy and the prequel. Both the prequel and trilogy are splendid, but The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is not anywhere near the action-packed adventure that the trilogy is. It is an origin story and it is filled with very heavy detail that will explain the history of the Capitol, Hunger Games, and Snow’s younger days. However, these aren’t just empty details, but unique references and parallels to The Hunger Games that will be far more intriguing if you’ve read the trilogy first.

The Hunger Games is a fast-packed, addictive trilogy that you’ll likely finish very quickly. Then, you’ll be more than ready to slow the pace down, get your study cap on, and appreciate all 517-pages of the more detail-oriented, educational, and slower prequel.

Chronologically

(Scholastic)

Here is the order you would read The Hunger Games books if you are reading chronologically:

  1. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
  2. The Hunger Games
  3. Catching Fire
  4. Mockingjay

Again, the order that you read the original trilogy doesn’t change. The only change is you read the prequel before the trilogy instead of after. While, I personally preferred to read the prequel after, it certainly also has benefits to read before. For one, it is an expansive and detailed history of the Capitol of Panem and really gives you an understanding of the Hunger Games, before it throws you headfirst into the action.

Meanwhile, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes truly gives depth to President Snow. Literally, every single statement, quirk, and attitude of Snow in The Hunger Games is going to have an entirely new meaning if you read the prequel first. If you do choose this order, just be prepared for a pretty dramatic jump in tone and pace between the first and second books you read.

(featured image: Lionsgate)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.