The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has captivated readers and movie-watchers alike for more than a decade. With the publication of A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, you may be looking for a re-read, or perhaps you never read the books in the first place. So what is the best way to read The Hunger Games books in order?
First, we’ll list The Hunger Games series according to both publication order and chronological order. Finally, we’ll list out The Hunger Games movie order for those who like to watch the film adaptations after reading the books.
About Suzanne Collins
Despite penning one of the most popular and successful YA fantasy series, Suzanne Collins is notoriously private. She has no public social media presence and very rarely does press. Perhaps because of this, her work tends to speak for itself.
The Hunger Games series is the only young adult offering in her bibliography. However, she does have a middle grade series as well. That is The Underland Chronicles series.
Before she became an author, Collins was still a writer. She began working for Nickelodeon in 1991 on shows like Clarissa Explains It All. She also wrote for the children’s show Little Bear.
It is believed that Collins lives in Connecticut with her family.
The Hunger Games Summary
The Hunger Games is a dystopian series of books that depicts Panem, a corrupted, perverted, and debased nation, that consists of twelve major districts. The Capitol hosts a televised competition annually that exerts control over the twelve districts.
This annual game involves the selection of tributes: A teenage male and female between twelve and eighteen years of age. Each of the twelve districts appoint two tributes, who will compete against the 22 other tributes.
Participants have no choice but to kill if they want to live. The Hunger Games only crowns one winner. All the rest must perish.
The first book in this series, The Hunger Games, revolves around a 16-year-old, Katniss Everdeen, who resides in District 12. She volunteers to participate in the 74th Annual Hunger Games in place of her 12-year-old sister, Primrose Everdeen.
She finds herself in a dilemma, where she has to survive between 22 well-trained tributes from other districts, and her childhood friend, Peeta, from her district.
You can read The Hunger Games books in order in two separate ways: Publication and chronology.
#1 The Hunger Games Books in Order of Publication
The first way to read The Hunger Games books in order is to follow the publication order, which is the recommended reading order for any first-timers. That’s because the trilogy is about Katniss and her fight against the oppressive regime in Panem. The first three books document this journey while the fourth book is a prequel that takes place 64 years before the first book.
It is best to read the prequel after you have read the original trilogy because you will already have a familiarity with the world. This will provide helpful context going into the prequel as it endeavors to flip opinions that were established in the original trilogy. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows Coriolanus Snow as a young man before he becomes the major antagonist in The Hunger Games books.
- The Hunger Games (2008)
- Catching Fire (2009)
- Mockingjay (2010)
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2020)
#2 The Hunger Games Books in Chronological Order
The second reading order is only recommended as a reread for fans. If you have never read the books before, the shift in perspective regarding Snow from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes to The Hunger Games might give you emotional whiplash. However, as a fan of the books already, this reading order can be a fascinating way to visit this dystopian world.
If you read the original trilogy when it first came out and are only now catching onto the prequel hype with the release of the movie trailer, this order would be the perfect way to read the prequel for the first time before diving into a reread of the original trilogy.
The Hunger Games Movies Order
Chronologically, The Hunger Games movies match up with the original trilogy. The only exception is that the final book was broken up into two movies, which was incredibly popular during this period of book-to-screen adaptations.
The movies star Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, and Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne. The series also stars Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland.
The first movie was directed by Gary Ross, while the subsequent three movies were directed by Francis Lawrence. Although the critical and financial success peaked with Catching Fire, the franchise garnered more than $2.9 billion at box offices around the world.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Movie
There is one movie missing from the list above though, and that is the highly anticipated prequel: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. It takes place 64 years before the first book, The Hunger Games, and follows Coriolanus Snow long before he became the President of Panem.
Instead, the film promises to show a different side to Snow who, as an 18-year-old, becomes the mentor to Lucy Gray Baird in the 10th Annual Hunger Games. In the background to this, the tone of the Games is changing as Snow experiences pressure to make spectacles of the contestants.
The prequel was published ten years after the publication of the final book in the trilogy and five years after the second installment of the Mockingjay adaptation. While the final movie adaptation of the original trilogy received mixed reviews, the release of the prequel’s trailer had fans ecstatic.
The trailer revealed parallels with the original movies that had the internet exploding with fan reactions. Many are reveling in the return to peak mid-2010s fandom culture. Even Sam Claflin, who starred as Finnick Odair in the original movies, posted a reaction to the trailer online saying he was so excited for its release.
The parallels make more sense when you look at the creative team behind the project. The same composer for The Hunger Games movies has returned, as has Francis Lawrence, who directed Catching Fire and both Mockingjay movies. Lawrence says the prequel will be the longest of all the movies.
It stars Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow, Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird, Peter Dinklage as Dean Casca Highbottom, and Viola Davis as Dr. Volumnia Gail.
The movie will premiere in theaters on November 17, 2023.
A Summary of The Hunger Games Books
For simplicity, in the descriptions below, I’ve listed The Hunger Games books in order of publication. If you have never read this series before, the below summaries will contain spoilers
1. The Hunger Games
Every year, the twelve districts of Panem that are beholden to the Capitol must participate in a tournament known as the Hunger Games to remind them of their place in society. Each year, two children are selected at random to fight to the death in an arena.
Katniss Everdeen has kept her head down, avoiding the attention of the Capitol and she’s almost free. That is until her sister, Primrose, is chosen during this year’s Reaping. Without hesitation, Katniss volunteers to save her sister.
2. Catching Fire
Sparks are igniting. Flames are spreading. And the Capitol wants revenge.
Katniss and Peeta have survived the Hunger Games. They get to go home, but Katniss is far from happy. Nothing is as it was, and the attention of the Capitol is on her greater than ever. President Snow will stop at nothing to put her in her place after the stunts she pulled at the Hunger Games.
This year marks the 75th Annual Hunger Games. Every 25 years, special rules are introduced to “spice things up.” And this year? This year, Snow made up the rules just to get at Katniss. For the first time ever, all the tributes will be previous winners of the Hunger Games, chosen at random from each District’s pool of winners.
But District 12 only has one female winner. And that means Katniss is going back to the Capitol.
Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But through the chaos of their escape, Peeta was left behind and now the Capitol has him.
Sheltered in District 13, a district everyone thought destroyed, Katniss must become the face of the rebellion and stop the Capitol once and for all, hopefully saving Peeta in the process.
4. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow must confront a near impossible task. If he wants to redeem his family name, he must succeed as a mentor for the 10th Annual Hunger Games.
Except the tribute he must mentor is the female from District 12: Lucy Gray Baird. She is the lowest of the low but now their fates depend on each other. Coriolanus must weigh his need to follow the rules against his growing feelings for Lucy and his desire to survive no matter the cost.
Looking for more books in order?
Check out my list of the Twilight Series in Order.