I'm just now getting my sleeves rolled up for Conan. I've been reading a few of the Dark Horse comics...the reboot they did about 5 to 6 years ago. I ran into a chronological list of Conan novels, a reading order arranged by the character's actual age. In moving from comics to the actual novels I felt maybe I could read everything from what original creator Robert E. Howard did through all of the various authors who have contributed to this iconic character and it's universe. It's a monumental task, but one I feel I'm up for considering my similar goal of reading 'X-Men' chronologically since 1963. I started that project in 2007 and currently I'm through the books released in 2001. It can be done with enough wasted hours, complete lack of responsibility and the focused pursuit for ultimate pop-culture dominance. I'm a nerd, and I'm striving for upper echelon status.
My list starts with "Conan Of Venarium", a novel written by Harry Turtedove. This guy has made a living writing alternate history books like "Guns Of The South". This "intro" book gets tons of backlash from the die-hard fans because some of the dates don't match the timeline that most consider valuable. I don't see how any of that really matters considering the original creator had Conan in all different ages from young boy to old man. It's all up to interpretation...that is sort of the attraction for authors to continually contribute.
I think Turtledove does Conan very similar to "Braveheart" and I'm okay with that. I think this was a great introduction to the character and a recommended read for newbies like myself. It sort of retcons Conan in a way, something comics tend to do retroactively to alter a character's history. Like anything, some fans love it, others not so much. But the great aspect of these books and this character is that there is plenty for everyone. There are hundreds of books, comics, magazines to turn to including three films and a couple of video games. I'm all for a buffet...just keep it clean and tidy.
Buy a copy of this book here