2024 marks 16 years since Suzanne Collins debuted the brutal world of The Hunger Games and its heroic rebel leader, Katniss Everdeen. With the recent release of the prequel novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, and its subsequent film adaptation, now is the perfect time to revisit the original books that started it all.
Set in a dystopian world where kids kill each other annually as a way to quell a rebellious and fractured nation, The Hunger Games sparked a YA frenzy and inspired women all over the world to take up archery. If you’re feeling like you want to revisit the franchise but don’t know where to start, we’re here to guide you through the Hunger Games books in order. You can also check out our guide to The Hunger Games movies as well.
How to Read the Hunger Games Books in Order
While the newest edition to the series, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is set before the original trilogy, the context provided by the three Hunger Games books is key to truly enjoying the prequel. With that in mind, we recommend reading the originals before that entry. But if you want a chronological journey through Panem, then feel free to begin with Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes before hitting the others.
1. The Hunger Games
It was this dramatic YA hit that launched the epic Hunger Games franchise. After author Suzanne Collins found herself flicking between coverage of the ongoing war in Iraq and reality TV late at night, she was inspired to create her bestselling novel about a world where kids must fight each other to the death for the entertainment of their fellow countrymen. It’s a brutal entry into the dystopian YA canon that launched 1,000 imitators and a smash-hit box office franchise that’s still going strong today.
The story of this first novel follows Katniss, a young woman in the impoverished District 12, who scavenges to help her family survive far from the watchful eye of the Capitol. But when the annual reaping ceremony sees Katniss’s young sister picked as a Tribute for that year’s Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers, sending herself on a nightmarish journey of survival. Fighting against other children from Panem and alongside her fellow District 12 tribute, the sweet-hearted baker Peeta, she must outsmart not only her competitors but also the maniacal government that sent them there.
2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Following their shocking survival in the Hunger Games, Peeta and Katniss should be living a peaceful life as champions. But after tricking the Capitol into letting them both survive, the pair are in more danger than ever. Their radical survival has inspired cells of resistance across Panem, and President Snow blames Katniss, threatening death to her loved ones if she doesn’t play along with the Capitol narrative. But Katniss can’t help but be inspired by the bravery of the Districts that she and Peeta visit on their “Victory Tour,” and soon the pair finds themselves in the arena of the Hunger Games once again. Taking her bestselling formula and expanding the world and lore while introducing new fan-fave characters like Finnick Odair and Johanna Mason, the second entry in the series sets up the shocking finale brilliantly with a world-shifting twist that changes everything we know about Panem.
3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
In the action-packed finale of the original Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss and her rebellion friends are flung into a nightmarish war against the Capitol. As they aim to take down President Snow and install their own leader, Alma Coin, Katniss finds herself the reluctant face of a battle that puts her loved ones in the crosshairs. Instead of a return to the Hunger Games arena, Snow brings the Hunger Games to the streets of the Capitol, where Katniss and her crew must battle through nightmarish traps and horrific violence in order to achieve their goal of bringing freedom to Panem. But, as she learns, nothing is what it seems, and some people don’t want to change the system so much as take control of it. This trilogy-ender stands out as a surprisingly depressing and realistic end to a blockbuster series.
4. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
As noted above, this prequel is set 64 years before the original book, though Collins wrote it with audiences who were familiar with her series in mind. That’s why the prequel ends up at the end of our list, so you can fully enjoy the context and worldbuilding of the original trilogy before having your heart broken by the origin story of the villainous President Snow.
Chronicling the origins of the Hunger Games as we know them, this story centers on the planning of the 10th edition of the Games and the impoverished 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, who is chosen as a mentor for District 12. It’s there he meets their female tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, who becomes an influential part in the history of the Games, thanks to the way she utilizes her skills as a musician to engage the audience. As Snow and Lucy grow closer, both their lives change forever as they prepare for the Hunger Games and fall for each other in the process. This is an intriguing look at the early days of the Games and how both Lucy and Snow shaped them. If you’re already a fan, it’s an expansion filled with Easter eggs. And if you’re a newcomer, it’s an interesting jumping-on point that’ll change how you read the series.
Will There Be More Hunger Games Books?
At the moment, no future Hunger Games novels by Suzanne Collins have been announced. That being said, the long history of the Hunger Games themselves leaves a lot of opportunities for additional spin-offs featuring popular characters from both the prequel and the original series. We don’t yet know if Collins has any interest in continuing the series at this time, and the director of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has stated he won’t make a new movie without source material from the writer.
Rosie Knight is a contributing freelancer for IGN covering everything from anime to comic books to kaiju to kids movies to horror flicks. She has over half a decade of experience in entertainment journalism with bylines at Nerdist, Den of Geek, Polygon, and more. Rosie is a published comics author who has written titles including Godzilla Rivals vs. Battra and The Haunted High-Tops. She co-hosts the weekly Crooked Media pop-culture podcast X-Ray Vision. When she’s not writing, you can find her playing Dragon Ball FighterZ or rewatching weird old horror and martial movies in her free time. She loves making comics and zines as well as collecting VHS and reading much manga as humanly possible. You can find her on social at @rosiemarx.