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A Guide to Asimov's Series
In the "Author's Note" at the beginning of Prelude to Foundation*, Asimov says that when he wrote "Foundation", which appeared in the May 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, he had no idea that he had begun a series of stories that would eventually grow into seven volumes and a total of approximately 700,000 words. Nor did he have any idea that it would be unified with his stories involving robots and the Galactic Empire for a grand total of 15 volumes and about 1,500,000 words.

If you look at the publication dates of these books, you might notice that there was a 25 year hiatus between 1957 and 1982, during which he did not add to the series (though he did continue to be prolific). Regardless, by the time he wrote Prelude to Foundation in 1988, the situation had become sufficiently complicated for Asimov to feel the readers might welcome akind of guide to the series, since they were not written in the order in which (perhaps) they should be read.

The 15 books offer a kind of history of the distant future, which is, perhaps, not completely consistant, since he did not plan consistency to begin with. In my humble opinion, Asimov did a wonderful job and was sufficiently vague and cryptic when integrating his series together. Indeed, I feel that it's almost better this way because each book has its own unique story which fits into a place in the story of its series; then behind everything is an all-encompassing story whose tentacles extend even beyond the series. A bit mindblowing.

I recommend reading the series in its proper chronological order, which is outlined below:

The Robot Series

1. I, Robot 1950 Collection of Short Stories
2. The Caves of Steel 1954 The first Robot novel
3. The Naked Sun 1957 The second Robot novel
4. The Robots of Dawn 1983 The third Robot novel
5. Robots and Empire 1985 The fourth and final Robot novel

The Empire Series

6. The Currents of Space 1952 The first Empire novel
7. The Stars, Like Dust 1951 The second Empire novel
8. Pebble in the Sky 1950 The third and final Empire novel

The Foundation Series

9. Prelude to Foundation 1988 The first Foundation novel
10. Forward the Foundation 1992 The second Foundation novel and the latest to be written
11. Foundation 1951 The third Foundation novel, comprised of 5 stories originally published between 1942-1949.
12. Foundation and Empire 1952 The fourth Foundation novel, comprised of 2 stories originally published in 1945
13. Second Foundation 1953 The fifth Foundation novel, comprised of 2 stories originally published in 1948 and 1949
14. Foundation's Edge 1982 The sixth Foundation novel
15. Foundation and Earth 1986 The seventh Foundation novel

Miscellaneous Novels
The Robot Series
The Empire Series
The Foundation Series
The Second Foundation Series

Asimov Links
Series Guide

* - The introduction of this page is basically a bastardized version of the author's note from Prelude to Foundation. I added Forward the Foundation to the list and offered some of my thoughts towards the end there...

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