The Liaden Universe® is not tidy. Nor is it a series, exactly. It’s a Universe. There is therefore no orderly progression, Book One through Book Whatever. That would be easy and, as previously advertised, we never, ever do anything nice and easy.
Now, granted, there are some books that need to be read this-before(-or-after)-that, but the Whole Universe is not so ordered.
It is also entirely untrue — though some enthusiastic readers who have been with the universe since the beginning will insist upon the point — that a new reader must read all the previous books in the Universe before attempting the most recent.
It is true that a new reader may miss some of the nuances that so delight long-time readers, but the larger story will be perfectly comprehensible and entirely enjoyable. Indeed, if the new reader goes on with the series, they will develop their own supply of nuance and so reap their own delight.
Below are some suggestions for reading orders, as well as a list of books that may be read with no prior knowledge of the Liaden Universe®.
Novels that may be read with no prior reading in the Universe:
Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors, Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, Balance of Trade, Fledgling, Crystal Soldier, Necessity’s Child, Dragon in Exile, Alliance of Equals
Novels that are direct sequels:
Carpe Diem, Plan B, I Dare
Fledgling, Saltation, Ghost Ship, Dragon Ship, The Gathering Edge
Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon
Balance of Trade, Trade Secret
Novels that may benefit from being read in a particular order:
Carpe Diem really is more comprehensible if read after Agent of Change, and perhaps also benefits from reader familiarity with Conflict of Honors
Mouse and Dragon may be more accessible to those who have previously read Scout’s Progress.
The order in which the books were written:
Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors, Carpe Diem, Plan B, Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, I Dare, Balance of Trade, Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon, Fledgling, Saltation, Mouse and Dragon, Ghost Ship, Dragon Ship, Necessity’s Child, Trade Secret, Dragon in Exile, Alliance of Equals, The Gathering Edge
Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon, Balance of Trade, Trade Secret, Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, Mouse and Dragon, Conflict of Honors,Agent of Change, Carpe Diem, Plan B, Fledgling, I Dare, Saltation, Ghost Ship, Necessity’s Child. Portions of Dragon Ship, Dragon in Exile, Alliance of Equals, and The Gathering Edge happen concurrently.