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Reading Pathways

Reading Pathways: Star Wars Books

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

It’s Star Wars Day, and what better way to explore the Star Wars galaxy than to read something you’ve never read before? As I’ve written about before, I was fairly late to the Star Wars fandom. But ever since watching Episode IV in late 2016, I’ve been immersed in a galaxy far, far away. But even after watching every movie I could, it never really occurred to me to read the Star Wars books; I turned to the comics first.

When I did start reading the books, the first one I read was Bloodline, which to this day, I think is the best Star Wars book. I chose it because Leia was the main character, and I wanted more of her thought processes.

The Star Wars book world can be overwhelming and confusing. There are hundreds of books, and if you spend time in any SW social media group, you’ll see talk of Canon, Legends, and EU. If you aren’t familiar with the terms, it’s easy to get lost.

Legends vs. Canon

Star Wars Legends used to be known as the Expanded Universe (EU). It consists of all of the background and licensed stories of Star Wars, save the first six novelizations of the original Star Wars movies and The Clone Wars, before April 2014.

In April 2014, Lucasfilm made the announcement that to prepare for the sequel trilogy, the EU would be retconned and made into Legends. The new timeline would consist of the original six movies, The Clone Wars (TV series and movie), and all material from that point on.

Sometimes characters in Legends can become Canon, like Thrawn, but the stories are very different.

So where do I start?

If you ask ten people which books to start with in the SW galaxy, you’ll get ten different answers. That’s one of the things I love about the fandom — there are so many different things people fall in love with. Some people love the Sith, others love the droids, and yet others follow certain characters. That being said, you don’t necessarily want to accidentally start your SW book experience by picking a book that’s the third in a trilogy. So if you were to ask me where to start if you’ve never read a SW book before, these are the books I would suggest. I add a caveat, though: I would also recommend all of the novelizations, especially the prequels. They are immensely better than the movies, and all of them offer extra scenes, more backstory, and flesh out the story.

There are so many good ones that this is not meant to be a definitive list. I chose these to give a varied glimpse at the SW universe and the many areas to explore. My focus was Canon, not Legends — although I did include Legends books that I think are indispensable. If you’re looking for even more Star Wars book suggestions, check out this post and this post.

Note: For a long, long time, Star Wars authors were mostly white, and mostly cis men. That has been changing in recent years.

Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

This YA novel was one I read shortly after reading Bloodline, because so many people recommended this as a must-read. Claudia Gray is a master of Star Wars. It is set before, during, and after the original trilogy, and follows two childhood friends — Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell — who end up on opposite sides of the war once they’ve grown up. Will their relationship survive?

Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston

I’ve always thought Padmé got short shrift, and so I’ve been really happy to see Johnston bring her to life and develop her backstory. In this book, Padmé Naberrie wins the election for Queen of Naboo, leaving her family and becoming Padmé Amidala. She chooses an array of handmaidens, each chosen for a particular reason. When the Trade Federation invades Naboo, this group will have to come together.

Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse

This book takes place in between Episodes 8 and 9, and for me, was a much-needed addition to the story. The Resistance has taken a huge blow. Poe has defied orders and gone rogue, and relationships have been deeply affected. Hope is running low, and the Resistance needs to start rebuilding — which includes traveling the galaxy and recruiting those who have helped in the past with the rebellion. Especially for readers newer to the SW books, for those who have seen the movies, this is a great entryway into the books of the galaxy.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge — A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Córdova

I added this in because Galaxy’s Edge is a recent addition to the Star Wars world, and for some people, it may be a good entry point. Izzy and Jules were childhood friends in Batuu, until Izzy and her family abruptly left. Years later, Jules is a farmer and Izzy is a smuggler. She ends up on Batuu for a job, and all she wants to do is to get the job done and leave — until she runs into Jules. Their connection is still there, but so much has changed — and when Izzy’s job goes awry, what will it mean for their reunion?

The Thrawn Trilogy (Legends) by Timothy Zahn

This trilogy consists of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. These three books by Zahn will always be on must-read lists for Star Wars, and for good reason. These Legends books take place about five years after Return of the Jedi. The books follow Han, Luke, and Leia and the rebuilding of the New Republic, as well as Grand Admiral Thrawn, a military genius. There are so many great characters in these books and they’re a great introduction to the rest of the Legends books.

Thrawn Ascendancy (Canon) by Timothy Zahn

Yes, Zahn again, because his epic Thrawn trilogies are so widespread in the SW book world. There are several Thrawn trilogies now, including another canon Thrawn trilogy by Zahn. The newest one, the Ascendancy trilogy, has two books out as of this writing (Chaos Rising and Greater Good), and is a prequel to the other canon Thrawn trilogy. These give us an even deeper look at Admiral Thrawn and his rise. I started this trilogy being a little apprehensive, but the writing and the plot are Zahn at his finest.

Have you read any Star Wars books?