I know that there is likely a long-running debate on the internets about the best order in which to read the books: chronologically in order in which the events take place in the story or chronologically in the order in which the books and stories were written.
And since I have been asked, and since I have a strong opinion about this, I offer my thoughts on the subject:
Read the books in the order in which they were written:
- Foundation and Empire
- Second Foundation
- Foundation’s Edge
- Foundation and Earth
- Prelude to Foundation
- Forward the Foundation
And, if you are adventurous:
- Foundation’s Fear (Benford)
- Foundation and Choas (Bear)
- Foundation’s Triumph (Brin)
I offer only one reason for reading them in this order: I happen to think that Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation (both of which take place chronologically before Foundation) read much better when you have the entire context of what comes after. There is more meaning to the stories and they work that much better.
And I would say that it is worth it to read the later books by Benford, Bear and Brin, if only because Brin’s conclusion at the end of Foundation’s Triumph is brilliant and makes it all worthwhile.
And for the record, I have read the entire Foundation series (not counting the Benford, Bear and Brin books) in the order it was written at least 5 times and I love it more each time I read it.