Do you need to read Star Wars books to understand Star Wars?

Star Wars: Padawan. Image courtesy
Star Wars: Padawan. Image courtesy /

Star Wars is a vast, constantly-growing universe that has been building upon itself since 1977. It’s unrealistic to think that everything that every story ever told within a galaxy far, far away should — or could — play out on a screen.

Therefore, it’s hard to comprehend Star Wars fans’ negative reactions to the books that are now released on an almost monthly basis. Star Wars books quite literally expand the universe of Star Wars, filling in gaps between other stories, adding to the backstories of key characters, and even introducing new characters that are sometimes — in the case of Cobb Vanth in The Mandalorian, for example — brought onto the screen.

So why, when Obi-Wan Kenobi grapples with his sexuality in Padawan or Rey’s parents’ origins are expanded upon in Shadow of the Sith, are so many inclined to respond with “if this wasn’t in the movie, it doesn’t count”? Why is “this should have been a TV show” such a common complaint in the fandom?

Star Wars books are not required reading. They never have been. When something occurs in a Star Wars book, it’s specifically been written for that story, told in that format, for people to read. The idea that a story is more important because it happens on a screen as opposed to a page isn’t just absurd, it’s insulting to the people responsible for bringing that story to life. Authors’ stories are just as important as screenwriters’ stories. They are equal.

Star Wars books exist to supplement the other media Star Wars contains. That is their purpose. They are there for those who want to read them, and if you don’t, no one is forcing you to do so. Those who read Star Wars books and other Expanded Universe material may have a more detailed understanding of the fictional world. That does not mean those who only watch the movies or shows are less knowledgeable of Star Wars’ larger themes and ideas. Everyone is free to consume stories in whichever ways they prefer. It’s not a contest. And missing something that may have been expanded on in a book doesn’t mean books are essential, They are extremely beneficial, but they are not required in order to consider yourself a “true fan.”

Just because Star Wars books — and comics, and video games — add more substance to already-existing material doesn’t mean you’re missing something essential if you don’t consume them. Reading is a choice. Not everything can or has to be revealed in a movie or TV show, and just because a book does it instead doesn’t make the information worthless.

Review: Chris Kempshall’s The History and Politics of Star Wars. dark. Next

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