32 Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian and the Sphere series books

So far…

Robert E Howard
Robert E Howard in 1934

I am a long-time fan of both Robert E. Howard and especially Conan the Barbarian.

I read most of the Conan books below, as a youngster, though in various moves around Britain and then here to Denmark, I lost or had given away, my collection. So recently, I wondered if it was possible to re-collect the Sphere Books versions, with the white backgrounds, I remember having. These are the results so far.

I’m not really sure how many there are in total. I have a list, but no real way of knowing if that list is definitive. As you will see, later on in the list, it would seem that Sphere stopped publishing the novels in the UK (after about book 20), and the ones thereafter are coming from the USA, published, I think, by Tor Books. As I’ve started, I figure I might as well keep on until the bitter end.

The books I’m re-collecting, are second-hand/used books, so aren’t – in the great scheme of things – all that expensive. Cheaper than a bus into Aarhus, as I often point out. They clearly aren’t, as yet, so sought-after either, which also keeps prices down. I take the quality of the book as it comes and have *touches wood* been lucky so far. There are some that claim to be ‘new’ copies out there, and those are quite expensive, so as this is more an excercise in ‘can I…?’ I’m perfectly happy to have something someone else has read – and hopefully enjoyed – before me.

The first 12 Sphere books, are shown here in chronological order. That is, they are mostly the original Robert E. Howard stories which weren’t of novel-length, as they were written for the pulp fiction magazines of the time, the 1930’s. The early books below, are collections of those short-stories, ‘edited’ together and sometimes re-written, mostly by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. After around book 12, the Robert E. Howard stories have been used up and other writers brought on board to carry the character on. As continuing the character chronologically from the final Robert E. Howard story, would mean that within a couple of books Conan would be too old to be much of a Barbarian any longer, the later books have dispensed with being chronological, in favour of just being about Conan in different periods of his life.

With the Sphere books at the start then, I have listed the chronological order they should be read in, with the Sphere book number (found on the back cover) in brackets. I’ve seen the first Conan film, with Arnold Schwartzenegger, listed as Book 18, so that’s why it is in there.

Frank Frazetta

As you can see, the classic books had cover illustrations (where credited, listed as ‘painting’(s)), by Frank Frazetta. They are mostly superb. There are a few duff ones, but they are how most people picture Conan. I can’t tell you if they were specifically commissioned for the book covers, or just taken from his catalogue. There isn’t really a consistency in features to his Conans, so I would doubt that if they were commissioned, there was all that much in terms of Art Direction going on. Later covers, mostly by other artists, are even more hit and miss, as you will see. Some are truly dreadful, others slightly better. My favourite, and I’ve seen it called the ‘classic’ cover is book 5, Conan The Adventurer. But compare Conan there, with Conan on book 1, for instance.

All the covers below are the books I have so far and are scanned in from the copies I have bought. They aren’t the dreaded ‘stock photo’ some sellers put up, so you can’t really see if you are getting the cover you want until it arrives. They are all the books I have so far and as most sellers don’t (or can’t, to be fair with the later ones) list the book order number, some are out of sequence because they are thos I have found so far. The others I will get as and when. Where the covers don’t ‘fit’ with the Sphere series, it’s because I’ve not been sent the book that was advertised. Irritating, but not really worth complaining about at those prices. The Tor books haven’t, obviously, followed the Sphere books.

I’ll update the list as I find new books. The final two are from the 2011 film. The first tie-in may well be a re-print of the stories in the first film tie-in.

This list is also on the Speesh Reads Pinterest page if you’d prefer.

Here they are, in sequence, (so far):

Book 1 (3)
Book 2 (6)
03 Conan the Freebooter
Book 3 (5)
04 Conan the Wanderer
Book 4 (8)
05 Conan the Adventurer
Book 5 (1)
06 Conan the Buccaneer
Book 6 (11)
07 Conan the Warrior
Book 7 (2)
08 Conan the Usurper
Book 8 (7)
09 Conan the Conqueror
Book 9 (4)
10 Conan the Avenger
Book 10 (10)
11 Conan of Aquilonia
Book 11 (12)
12 Conan of the Isles
Book 12 (9)
13 Conan the Swordsman
Book 13
14 Conan the Liberator
Book 14
15 Conan the Mercenary
Book 15
16 Conan the Sword of Skelos
Book 16
17 Conan The Road of Kings
Book 17
18 Conan The Barbarian
Book 18
19 Conan The Rebel
Book 19
20 Conan and The Spider God
Book 20
21 Conan The Invincible
Book 21
22 Conan The Defender
Book 22
23 Conan The Unconquered
Book 23
24 Conan The Triumphant
Book 24
25 Conan The Magnificent
Book 25
26 Conan The Victorious
Book 26
27 Conan The Valorous
Book 27
28 Conan The Fearless
Book 28
29 Conan The Renegade
Book 29
30 Conan The Destroyer

Conan The Barbarian 1Conan The Barbarian 2


3 thoughts on “32 Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian and the Sphere series books

  1. Really interesting read, I first became acquainted with Conan from the 1982 movie and loved it, later on I started collecting the sphere books that were currently out, which had the white covers and the boxed image at the bottom like yours, and apart from the original CTB movie book (18) i managed to be consistent all the way up to number 26 before the diff covers came out. I ended up with a set of 1-30, but I sold them as a lot on ebay in 2005. Still, I have the ebay photo I used for the listing, virtually the same as yours except I had No.30 – Conan The Champion. I think i saw later other books were written, and I also did think about trying to recollect the series, but they weren’t in print each time I looked, certainly not as a consistent series. Still, great times, read them loads; regret selling them if i’m honest! :/
    Ebay listing photo https://i.imgur.com/PiksuMf.jpg (not great quality i’m afraid)


  2. Interesting article. I had a similar nostalgic desire to re-collect the Sphere ‘white cover’ paperbacks. REH purists hate the de Camp/Carter chronology, of course, but it was how I first experienced Conan as well so it still appeals to me as an alternative to the proper original texts. However, it did seem that I had to draw the line somewhere. Book 12 was meant to be the end of the series but commercial pressure led to Book 13 and so on, by which time I’d moved on. My personal decision was to cap my new collection at Book 20 (just before Robert Jordan) which seems like the latest book that still ‘fits’ with the first 12 books.
    The real problem with cramming in endless new adventures is that the character’s life just becomes absurd,


    1. I haven’t bought another Conan one for a while now. It seems so daunting to try and sift through which version – as the original Sphere look stops around Robert Jordan – would look best to continue buying. I’d rather not have a tapestry of different style covers, so I need to find a design that is good, and is used on multiple covers. First world problems, I guess 😉


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