If you’re a Star Wars fan, there’s a good chance you’ve read a SW book or two. There is a whole galaxy of books about SW—hundreds of them, if we’re counting the EU (expanded universe). (If you’re new to SW books, you might want to check out this piece by a fellow Rioter on where to start). When Disney acquired Lucasfilm, all the books that were previously written and considered the “expanded universe”—books set during, between, and after the original and subsequent films—were declared non-canon and rebranded as “Legends.” Disney decided that there would be a new, restructured canon that would ensure continuity along a SW timeline that included the movies. Starting in 2014, the new canon includes all of the Episodes and one-off movies, The Clone Wars film, the TV shows Star Wars Resistance, Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and comics, books, and video games published after April of that year.
Needless to say, many fans have Strong Opinions about this. For me, it falls within my general attitude about the fandom: if you love it, you do/like/read/play whatever you want.
I’ve put together a list of must-read Star Wars books—and before anyone says anything, I realize that 20 books is a drop in the bucket. Your favorite might not be on here, and that’s okay. You might have different choices, and that’s okay, too. Feel free to make your own list. I’ve included canon and Legends on the list, but I have not included any comics. That’s not to say there aren’t any good ones—hello, Doctor Aphra—but I’m not including comics in this list, though there’s certainly enough of them to make a different list focusing on just the must-read SW comics. I’ve also decided to include some books about Star Wars. One thing I’ve been really excited about with the newer Star Wars books coming out is the diversity of authors—it used to be a lot of white guys writing Star Wars, and that’s starting to change, albeit slowly. (This list reflects that slow change.)
These aren’t in chronological order, nor are they in any ranking. They’re simply what I think are must-reads if you love Star Wars or want to learn more about Star Wars.
Dark Disciple by Christie Golden
I’m a Rebel Alliance girl all the way, so I was apprehensive about reading a book about a former Sith apprentice (Asajj Ventress). I needn’t have worried—this book is, IMO, one of the best novels. Ventress is a former Sith apprentice turned bounty hunter whom the Jedi Council has decided would be a good partner for Jedi Quinlan Voss to work with in order to bring down Count Dooku. What follows is a sort of anti-romance story with plenty of action. Ventress is one of the fiercest characters in the new canon and is someone to be reckoned with.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray
Give me all the Leia books. All of them. Also give me all the Claudia Gray Star Wars books. Put the two together? Well, you can’t lose. This is the story of Leia Organa as a teenager, going through the process of preparing to prove her worthiness as the heir to the throne of Alderaan. When she notices her parents acting secretive, she takes it upon herself to find out why…and has to decide whether she wants to be part of history or not. (As a bonus, we also see the origins of her friendship with Amilyn Holdo in this book!)
Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston
While I don’t love the prequel movies, Padmé has always interested me. A teenage queen with a cadre of handmaidens? There have to be some stories there. Thankfully, we finally got one. In this novel, we see Padmé after she ends her reign as Queen Amidala of Naboo and begins her position as a representative in the Galactic Senate. For me, while the main story was great, I also really loved the side stories of the handmaidens, and would not be averse to more books exploring more of Padmé’s world.
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Córdova
If you’re looking for a SW novel that feels a little different, pick this one up. Set on Batuu, this is the story of Izzy and Jules, childhood friends long separated. When Izzy returns to Batuu to deliver a package, she runs into Jules, who never left. Izzy’s job doesn’t go exactly the way it’s supposed to, and she needs to go on the run. This is a romance of sorts, but because it’s Star Wars we also get plenty of world-building, interwoven stories, and action. I didn’t know what to expect with this book, but couldn’t stop reading it once I started.
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
Yup, another Claudia Gray book. This was one of the books that it was suggested I start with in the Star Wars galaxy. The story follows Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, both of whom love flying. They eventually enroll in the Imperial Academy, which was a dream of both of theirs. Slowly, the Empire loses its appeal for Thane, and he leaves to join the Rebellion—while Ciena stays to become an Imperial pilot. As enemies, will they ever be together again? This was one of the first books where I saw the human side of people who joined the Empire, and I do think it’s an important one to read.
Battlefront II: Inferno Squad by Christie Golden
I was hesitant about this one, since I knew nothing about the video games on which it’s based—but after reading Dark Disciple, by the same author, I gave this one a go. Golden excels at bringing humanity to the dark side. Set after the events of Rogue One, a small group of Imperials called Inferno Squad have been tasked to infiltrate the partisans formerly led by Saw Gerrera—but they risk discovery at any time, which would be catastrophic. Iden Versio is a wonderful addition to the Star Wars canon and I really loved the way we’re drawn into the workings of the Empire with this book.
Original Thrawn trilogy, aka Heir to the Empire trilogy
Okay, I’m cheating with this entry. This is actually 3 books: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command, all by Timothy Zahn. These are part of the Legends (EU) books, and were the first Legends I read. These are set after the original trilogy, and in these books, Leia is married to Han Solo and expecting twins. Grand Admiral Thrawn has taken over the Imperial fleet, and is heading for the New Republic. Zahn is wonderful at constructing the Star Wars universe, and we get a whole array of dynamic characters, including my favorite of the EU, Mara Jade. These are a must read. If you don’t read any other Legends, at least read these.
Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson
I tore through this book because I couldn’t stop reading it. A Resistance spy is captured on an Imperial ship by a red-clad Stormtrooper known as Cardinal. He isolates the spy and holds her hostage, torturing her in order to get information on Captain Phasma, the chrome-clad, brutal Stormtrooper. As the book unfolds, we not only see the interactions between the spy and Cardinal, but we learn more about the origins of Phasma and the events that led her to become who she is.
Bloodline by Claudia Gray
Yup, another one. IIRC, this was the first Star Wars novel I read, or one of the first. This book centers Leia and is set around six years before The Force Awakens. This is a very political book, and we see Senator Organa seeing that the seeds of dissent are being planted in the New Republic, infighting is going on, and there’s a growing threat to the democracy. Gray nails the character and voice of Leia—so much so that I could practically hear Carrie Fisher narrating the book in my head as I read this. This book does an excellent job in explaining the political workings of the Republic and how things got to where they are before TFA.
Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy by Amy Ratcliffe, illustrated by Alice X Zhang, Annie Wu, Jen Bartel, Karen Hallion, Sara Alfageeh, et al.
I love this book so much I have two copies. It is absolutely gorgeous, thanks to the slew of illustrators (who are all women or nonbinary), and I love that there were characters I’d never heard of. This book profiles 75 of the women of the Star Wars universe (books, games, television shows, movies, and comics), giving a brief character sketch and background for each of them.
Okay, so this book isn’t JUST about Star Wars, but Jameson returns to Star Wars and Lucasfilm again and again in the book, and it’s a major touchstone of the book. He looks at the major franchises in pop culture and geekdom, and it’s basically a study of modern fandom and geekdom and how they got to be so popular in our everyday lives (like Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and Star Trek). He looks at the passion found in fandoms, why and how people love what they do, and also takes a new look at classic favorites, providing a smart analysis based in pop culture. It’s a fun, smart look at pop culture, geek culture, and fandoms.
Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno
I didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did. This is a prequel to Rogue One and shows how Galen Erso’s scientific work attracted the attention of Orson Krennic. Krennic is on the top-secret Death Star project, and Erso’s scientific knowledge and projects are just what he needs. The book details how Galen, Lyra, and Jyn were taken in by Krennic and the Republic—and though Galen believes he’s doing something beneficial that will be used for good, Lyra starts to suspect something different. Given that we didn’t get much of Lyra in Rogue One, I really liked seeing her character develop in this book. If you liked Rogue One, this is not to be missed.
Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel by by Daniel José Older
If Han is your favorite character, this needs to be on your list. Han and Lando are teamed up again after Lando shows up on Han’s doorstep. He’s on the run from an assassin whom Han and Lando encountered years and years before—and all of Cloud City is in danger. Older is a master storyteller, and he’s developed the characters in really fun and interesting ways.
Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse (November 5)
Yes, it hasn’t come out yet. But this is still on the list, damnit, because I love the Resistance and Rebellion and I’m super excited about this. This is a prequel to Episode IX, and takes place after Episode VIII, and follows the rebuilding of the Resistance after the devastation that took place previously.
Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson
Set on Batuu, we get to see Vi Moradi again—the Resistance spy caught by Cardinal in Phasma. In this book, the Resistance is struggling, and General Organa needs to send people to different planets to find allies and weapons. She sends Vi to Black Spire Outpost, along with a surprising partner. When things start to go awry, Vi and her team need to find people willing to stand up to the First Order. Hint: if possible, read Phasma before you read this one.
Canto Bight by Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, and John Jackson Miller
This collection of four interconnected stories gives a different viewpoint of part of the Star Wars galaxy. In The Last Jedi, viewers got to see Canto Bight: a monied place full of exotic animals and aliens, high-rolling players having a good time, and a place of seemingly carefree excess…except for those working there, of course. These stories delve into both sides of the world that is Canto Bight, and if you’re looking for something different in Star Wars, this might be just what you need.
Spark of the Resistance by Justina Ireland
This YA book looks like a fun addition to any Star Wars library—and with Justina Ireland writing it, you know you’re going to get some good storytelling. Minfar, an isolated planet, sends out a distress call, and Rey, Poe, and Rose come to the rescue to help fight against the First Order.
A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
Emperor Palpatine is in charge, and it is the Age of the Empire—this book is set between Episodes III and IV—and dissent is rising. This was the first book of the new canon, and it gives us an origin story about how two of the leads from Star Wars Rebels (Kanan and Hera) came to be connected. Having never watched Rebels, I really enjoyed this book and how it set up some backstory for the original trilogy. The characters were all well-drawn, especially Hera, and the voice is definitely pure Star Wars.
Not to be confused with the Legends Thrawn trilogy, I’m talking about the new trilogy by Timothy Zahn that includes Thrawn, Thrawn: Alliances, and Thrawn: Treason. These books track his rise to power and his place in the Empire. All of these are in my TBR pile, and from what I hear, there may be some important information to learn in these books before seeing Episode IX.
Prequel trilogy novelizations
I know, I know: I can hear it now, the whining about the prequel trilogy, yada yada yada. But hear me out: yes, the movies are…what they are. But there are also a lot of really interesting characters in them, and the novelizations provide more information and backstory. I didn’t love the prequel movies, but have really loved the novelizations. The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith are all worth reading, especially if you don’t want to watch the movies, but still want the backstory.
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