Star Wars books: Where to start reading when jumping into the lore?

There are so many Star Wars books with many adventures and stories for fans to read and consume, but with such an extensive library of titles, where should you begin?

Star Wars is an iconic film franchise. We’ve had a total of ten movies dating back to 1977, plus three television shows, including one that is ongoing. Most fans know all the characters and storylines from the movies and shows, but there’s a much bigger world (actually worlds) out there in Star Wars lore.

Many, many books have been written with characters, planets, and plots not touched on in any Star Wars visual media. These additional stories not seen in movies and TV shows is known to fans as, the Extended Universe. Essentially the Extended Universe is anything that wasn’t produced by Lucasfilm.

Before reading any of the Star Wars novels, there’s something very important to know when it comes to the stories from these books. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, the company decided to rebrand all the existing books to be referred to as “Star Wars Legends” and these stories were not considered to be official Star Wars canon.

This means that they are not part of the official or actual Star Wars storyline, and are exactly what the title says, legends. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these stories and characters didn’t exist in a galaxy far, far away, but it definitely does not confirm that they did either. All novels subsequently published after Disney’s purchase in 2012 are considered official Star Wars canon.

As I mentioned, there are a vast amount of books out there with new, interesting stories that make up additional parts of the Star Wars timeline. So, where do you start reading? Should you start with novel adaptations of the films? Should you go for just the books that are canon? Or should you start from the very earliest chronological book in the “Legends” timeline?

The answer, quite honestly, is to start in whatever era interests you the most. With such a huge library of choices, you can’t go wrong picking out a book from the Original Trilogy era, or something from the Prequel era. Or if you’re interested in The Clone Wars, there’s books for this period, or stories about post Return of the Jedi as well.

Once you can establish which piece of the Star Wars timeline puzzle you like best, I’ll give you some books that I have read and/or are in my collection, that you should read in that particular era. So let’s take a look.

The Clone Wars

My favorite part of Star Wars lore is The Clone Wars. I absolutely loved the show and have read a couple of books from this era as well. One great book to read from this era is Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden. This book details the journey of Asajj Ventress, the former apprentice of Sith Lord Count Dooku/Lord Tyranus, and Jedi Master Quinlan Vos, as they both try to find and kill Dooku.

A fantastic series of books that take place during the Clone Wars are the Star Wars Republic Commando novels. This series of books follows the Omega Squad, which is a group of clone troopers. If you loved the clones in The Clone Wars as much as I do, you’ll want to check out these five novels all written by Karen Traviss.

The Old Republic

A much lesser known period in the Star Wars timeline is The Old Republic. This era took place long before the events that happen in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, approximately 3,600 years before, in fact. These four books are not exactly tied together, and do not follow a larger storyline, such as the Republic Commando series mentioned before, however there are characters that you do see pop up in more than one novel.

The chronological order in which to read these books is: Revan, Deceived, Fatal Alliance, and Annihilation. If you ever played The Old Republic or Knights of the Old Republic video games from the early to mid-2000’s, you’ll love these novels.

Related Story: Star Wars rumor: Film trilogy by Benioff and Weiss to be set in the Old Republic

The Empire

The time in between Episodes III and IV were dark times for our heroes and the light side of the Force, however there are some great books to dive into that take place before the Battle of Yavin. A good place to start in this era is with Kenobi. As you can tell, this novel follows Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi during his exile on the planet of Tatooine. While we’ve seen Obi-Wan battle Darth Maul in Star Wars Rebels, which refutes some of the details in the novel Kenobi, this “Legends” story still gives us a look into what our beloved hero was up to while hiding from the Sith and watching over young Luke Skywalker.

The first novel published after Disney purchased Lucasfilm, A New Dawn shows us the beginning of two of our favorite characters from Star Wars Rebels, Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla. In this book, we see Kanan trying to live an inconspicuous life years after the events of Order 66, while a young Rebel Hera Syndulla crosses paths with the former Jedi. Don’t let their relationship in Rebels fool you, it was not love at first sight, but A New Dawn does provide an exciting story to kick off the new Disney canon.

Post Return Of The Jedi

The three best books I would recommend that all Star Wars fans should read is the Thrawn trilogy or the Heir To The Empire Trilogy, written by Timothy Zahn. This trilogy consisting of Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command are three of the finest pieces of storytelling, adventure, and excitement I’ve ever read.

It was in this trilogy that we were introduced to one of my favorite characters of all time, Grand Admiral Thrawn, and we also get all our favorites back from the Original Trilogy movies as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and more, all are heavily involved in the storyline. We see light saber fighting, Jedi training, space battles, rescues, deceit, and absolutely fantastic characters not seen in any of the movies or television shows. I cannot recommend the Thrawn trilogy enough, and to me, these books are essential to every fan that is interested in reading Star Wars novels.

A Couple More

Photo credit: DelRey Books

I have a few more novels I would definitely recommend to anyone that is wanting to dive into the Star Wars books. The first, to continue on from my adoration of the Thrawn trilogy, is the book Thrawn by Timothy Zahn.

In 2017, Zahn brought back the fan favorite in an origin story that was the beginning to another trilogy about the blue-skinned Chiss. If you are as enamored with Thrawn as I am from the Heir to the Empire trilogy, and from Star Wars Rebels, you’ll love reading about this character’s beginnings.

Darth Plagueis is another fantastic read that will captivate readers from beginning to end. While the title suggests it is about the Sith Lord alluded to by Emperor Palpatine in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, this book actually more so follows Sheev Palpatine as he grows from young adolescent on Naboo, to powerful Sith Lord, Darth Sidious.

It was pretty great to read how this mastermind planned and manipulated everything, and I mean everything, that occurs before Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and we even see events that happen during the timeline of the movie as well. Familiar characters pop up from time to time, and we truly do see the inner genius that is Darth Sidious.

Jumping into the Star Wars book universe can be a bit daunting. There are so many books to choose from, and no right answer as to where to begin. But do not be discouraged youngling, the task is not as daunting as it may seem.

Next: E.K. Johnston’s Queen’s Shadow is a bigger story than it seems (REVIEW)

Find what period or characters you are most interested in, and surely there is a book for you to start your journey with.

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