Bryce Davidson Heck, I didn't even know there were previous books until now, and I'm halfway through this one. So no, it is not necessary.
Ghaith Aqidi You could start reading from the human division. However, starting from the first book is what I would recommend since it will give you a lot of information about what happened and how the whole *SPOILERS* conflict between the conclave and the CU started, and honestly the first three books are just a great read, you could however skip Zoes tale since its basically the same as The last colony. hope my answer helped :)