While everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock is aware of the Skywalker saga’s various trilogies within the Star Wars universe, not everyone knows that there are hundreds of Star Wars novels out there that are just as thrilling. Their myriad new characters, locales, and adventures further flesh out the already exciting science-fiction-meets-fantasy universe.
The biggest reason Star Wars has enjoyed such tremendous success over the past four decades isn’t because of the uber-cool lightsabers or the epic characters: It’s the highly developed universe. From the Empire’s undeniable style and Force dyads to padawans searching for the kyber crystal they’ll place in their lightsaber and Sheev Palpatine’s unstoppable journey to becoming a Sith Lord, the universe of Star Wars is impressively broad, deep, and engrossing. And that’s precisely what makes the novels so wonderful.
So if you’re looking to get your Star Wars fix while eagerly awaiting for the next movie or Disney+ series to drop, these books should do the trick. A good chunk of them revolve around the beloved Skywalker saga, but if you’d rather explore the other stories in the Expanded Universe (which is totally understandable), you’ve got plenty of options at your fingertips, or rather, at your local bookstore.
Recently, I decided to embark on a journey in which I read all of the Star Wars novels, and so far I’ve loved every single word. Granted, I haven’t made as much progress with the books as I would have liked to at this point (as in, not even 30 books yet because I got sidetracked with other books) so far, they are a ton of fun to read and do a great job of fleshing out the universe beyond what we’ve seen in the movies.
The books are an absolute blast and have introduced new characters, worlds, and items. I love how much richer the universe (and even the movies) feel because of them; the lore is richer than that of nearly any other universe out there and, as a fan, I am so thankful. Plus, the books are all written by varying authors, which is wonderful as it allows multiple creative voices, styles, and ideas to interact with the universe, making it more robust. Some authors wrote multiple novels—like Drew Karpyshyn, Michael Kogge, Chuck Wendig, John Jackson Miller, and Timothy Zahn—so if you like one book by them, you can look forward to the others they wrote.
The most important thing to note about the Star Wars novels is that they come in one of two flavors: canon and non-canon, which are typically referred to as the Legends or Expanded Universe books. Canon refers to the books (and video games, graphic novels, etc.) whose content is accepted as an official part of the Star Wars timeline, same as the movies and animated shows. Everything else is non-canon, as it contains information that in some way contradicts the canon lore.
For those new to the novels, I recommend jumping in with any that are canon like Star Wars Rebels: Rise of the Rebels, Tarkin, Battlefront: Twilight Company, or Thrawn: Treason. The vast majority of these will have characters and locations you’ll recognize from the movies. Also these books are set just before the infamous Battle of Yavin (BBY), which saw events like Princess Leia receiving the plans to the Death Star, Emperor Palpatine dissolving the Imperial Senate and establishing his dictatorship, and Luke ultimately destroying the Death Star. Likewise, others are set just after the Battle of Yavin (ABY).
For everyone else, I recommend doing what I did: jumping into the deep end with the Legends novels. I decided that I wanted to read all of the Legends books in chronological order (within the universe, not by the publish date), starting with Tim Lebbon’s Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void, which takes place 25,793 BBY, and progressing through the Lost Tribe of the Sith (5,000-2,975 BBY) and The Old Republic (3,954-3,640 BBY) arcs.
With roughly 400 novels, you might be wondering where exactly to start. Luckily, you’ve got plenty of options. Timothy Zahn’s The Thrawn Trilogy—which includes Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command—is widely regarded as a fantastic series and a great place for virtually everyone to start. Or you can also opt for The X-Wing series by Aaron Allston and Michael A. Stackpole, The Republic Commando series by Karen Traviss, Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter by Michael Reaves, or Aftermath Trilogy by Chuck Wendig, which span the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and introduces new characters.
While deciding to read all of these books is certainly an ambitious idea, these books are an exciting and immersive way to learn more about Star Wars‘ rich, awe-inspiring universe. You can find these books on Bookshop.org, Google Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at various other online and brick-and-mortar booksellers. May the Force be with you!