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Blog – Posted on Tuesday, Nov 12

The Ultimate Guide to Reading the Star Wars Books

Say you decided you’d like to read all the Star Wars books in existence. You would find yourself reading for a long, long time. In other words, you wouldn’t have time to finish them all by the time The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters this December 19th.

There are canon novels, film novelizations, reference books, comics, books for young readers, roleplaying sourcebooks — and that’s not to mention all of the storylines depicted in the video games and TV series. Someone who’s just dipping their toe into the galaxy of Star Wars media will likely wonder: where should I start? 

We can’t blame you. The timeline of this epic space opera franchise has been notoriously jumpy since its conception in 1977, when the first movie, A New Hope, was released. While it might have been the first installment to hit the big screen, it’s actually the sixth movie chronologically. The first movie chronologically is The Phantom Menace — which was released in 1999. And the last one chronologically is the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker.

So is it any surprise that readers might feel slightly daunted by selecting their first Star Wars book? 

But don’t worry, Reedsy Discovery to the rescue! To help you explore the vast frontier of Star Wars lit, we’ve put together a couple of different reading lists to choose from, depending on the sort of reading experience you’re looking for. 

So buckle up, because our first stop is... 

Books to read before The Rise of Skywalker

If your desire to get better acquainted with Star Wars lit has been sparked by the upcoming release of The Rise of Skywalker, this is the list for you. In broad strokes, these novels paint the major galactic events that have taken place and add tons of context to the events taking place between the movies. They’ll ensure you head to the movie theater armed with as much insider Star Wars knowledge as possible.

A quick note: you will notice that some of these books are labeled as “canon,” while others are marked “Expanded Universe.” The canon novels are part of the official storyline as established by Disney, while the Expanded Universe novels are considered additional knowledge — but not 100% canon. Learn more about the distinction in the “Star Wars canon books” section below!

1) Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray (canon)

As we mentioned, The Phantom Menace was the fourth Star Wars movie to be released, but it comes first in the chronological sense. That’s why Master & Apprentice is a good book to start with: it takes place eight years before The Phantom Menace and provides a look back into Obi-Wan Kenobi’s journey to become a Jedi Knight — a journey which revolves, of course, around his relationship with Master Qui-Gon Jinn.

In Claudia Grey’s contribution to Star Wars canon, we see Obi-Wan begin to question his Master. He respects Qui-Gon deeply, but fails to understand why Qui-Gon often disregards the laws that bind the Jedi — and why he favors ancient prophecies over more practical concerns. It’s in the midst of this uncertain state that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon head to the royal court of Pijal, on a mission to help a fellow Jedi resolve a political dispute. What seemed to be a straightforward assignment quickly becomes muddled by deceit.

As Qui-Gon begins to see visions of violent disaster, strengthening his faith in the prophecies, Obi-Wan’s faith in his master continues to weaken. And this precarious situation makes one thing very clear: the Master and apprentice must breach this divide to put the threats they face to rest, or risk being at odds forever.

Takes place in: 40 BBY (BBY means "before A New Hope"), eight years before the events of The Phantom Menace.

2) A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller (canon)

The period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope is a dark one (that includes the movies Solo and Rogue One). A New Dawn is one of the many books that provide an interesting look at what happens in between, including a more nuanced depiction of what the galaxy looked like under the Empire’s rule, and how that affects the average citizen. 

Takes place in: 11 BBY, providing an additional look at the events between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.

3) Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno (canon)

If The Rise of Skywalker does its job, it won't be necessary to read any of these books to follow along. Still, Catalyst provides some pretty unique background information sure to please moviegoers.

In the upcoming movie, now-Jedi Rey and her crew explore the ruined Death Star. In Catalyst, we get a look at the creation of this galactic super-weapon, as well as its creator, Galen Erso. 

Takes place in: 21 BBY, and can act as a prequel for the events of Rogue One.

4) Aftermath by Chuck Wendig (canon)

Return of the Jedi sees the Emperor finally brought down. Is that the end of the story? Not a chance! The aptly titled Aftermath depicts the events that take place after the Emperor has been defeated — and it turns out, the fight isn’t really over. The Rebel Alliance still needs to deal with all of the remaining Empire soldiers and loyalists who threaten the freshly woven fabric of the new government. 

Takes place in: 4 ABY (ABY means "after A New Hope"), and covers the events after Return of the Jedi, setting the stage nicely for The Force Awakens.

5) Bloodline by Claudia Gray (canon)

It would be weird to watch a movie or read a novel where the climax occurs in the middle, and the second half acts as a stretched denouement. Still, the rippling effects of the climax are often fascinating — and that’s why series are so popular. They allow us to see what happens to characters after the fight is done or the revelation uncovered — or, in Leia’s case, after she finds out that Darth Vader is her father.

Bloodline is a good accompaniment to Aftermath: it details the events following the Rebel Alliance’s victory. However, Grey’s book focuses on Leia and her decision to become a First Senator in the New Republic. From here, much of the groundwork is set in establishing the Resistance that’s formed in The Force Awakens.

Takes place in: 28 ABY, and provides a lead-in to The Force Awakens.

6) The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster (Expanded Universe)

Sure, you can just watch The Force Awakens. But Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the movie will no doubt make sure you know more than your friends about the two movies preceding The Rise of Skywalker. In particular, you’ll get a more detailed look into Rey’s character development as she goes from scavenger to Jedi. Finn’s character arc is also much more vibrant as he makes the major transformation from stormtrooper to Resistance member. 

Takes place in: 34 ABY, and reflects the events in the movie The Force Awakens.

7) The Last Jedi by Jason Fry (canon)

In terms of the movies, The Last Jedi is where we leave off before diving into The Rise of Skywalker. And in Jason Fry’s novelized adaptation of the movie, we dive deep into the inner workings of the Force, the First Order, and the Resistance. We’re also offered a much more intimate look at the dynamics between Rey, Kylo Ren, and Luke Skywalker.

Takes place in: 34 ABY, and reflects the events in the movie The Last Jedi.

8) Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse (canon)

If you only want to read one Star Wars book in preparation for The Rise of Skywalker, it should probably be Resistance Reborn. It was written specifically to link The Last Jedi to the upcoming movie, and is its official literary prequel.

Takes place in: the “current” Star Wars timeline. You are officially ready for The Rise of Skywalker!

Novelizations of the Star Wars movies

Viewers watching the film adaptation of a book often leave the theater complaining that “the book was better.” That’s because novels are given the luxury of time when it comes to exploring the nuances of a story. But what happens when a story as epically cinematic as Star Wars is adapted for the page? 

Well, give these film novelizations a read and decide for yourself! Each novel, which has been organized in chronological order, offers an alternative take and deeper dive into the movies’ plots. 

For readers who: love watching “the director’s cut” version of movies. If you want to dive much deeper into the events of the movies — and possibly consider different ways they could have played out — this is for you. 

Star Wars canon books

It’s time for a little Star Wars history lesson! Up until Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, the “Expanded Universe” — i.e. all of the licensed backstories about the saga, including many of the above film novelizations — was considered canon. However, after the Disney acquisition, the Expanded Universe books became known instead as “Legends,” and a new, official canon that ensured the continuity of the Star Wars universe was established.

An easy way to spot a canon novel is to look at the publication date. If it was published before 2014, then it’s not canon. That being said, a number of the elements introduced by the Expanded Universe are incorporated into the new, official canon. Below you can find all of the adult canon novels — yes, there are also separate lists of canon books for young readers, canon short story collections, and more. Once again, these books are listed in chronological order.

For a full list of every canon Star Wars book out there, check out Wookiepedia.

For readers who: are looking for a reading experience that is 100% certified canon.

The Thrawn Trilogy (or trilogies)

Did you think we were finished covering the complicated classifications in the world of Star Wars books? In the words of Yoda: wrong, you are! 

The Thrawn trilogy is part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which, as we learned above, means it’s no longer canon. Here’s where it gets a little confusing: the Thrawn trilogy is written by Timothy Zahn and introduces the character Grand Admiral Thrawn. Grand Admiral Thrawn is a canon character and appears in another Thrawn trilogy, also written by Zahn. And that one is part of the canon. 

Are you still with us? The first Thrawn trilogy takes place about five years after the events of the 1983 film Return of the Jedi and the showdown between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. It starts with Grand Admiral Thrawn hatching a plan to take control of the galaxy — and his search for a Dark Jedi to help him do so.

The original Thrawn trilogy is an important contribution to the world of Star Wars lit because it essentially jumpstarted the notion of the Expanded Universe, revitalizing public interest in the Star Wars franchise. In fact, in The Secret History of Star Wars, author Michael Kaminski writes that the renewed interest sparked by the Thrawn trilogy was a large motivator behind Lucas’ decision to create the prequel movies: The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005).

This Expanded Universe Thrawn trilogy includes the books:

The canon Thrawn trilogy is included in the above list of canon Star Wars books and includes:

If you finish both Thrawn trilogies and simply can’t get enough of Zahn’s flair for capturing this galaxy far, far away, you’re in luck! He’s written a number of other books for the Expanded Universe beyond the Thrawn trilogies:

For readers who: want to learn more about the aftermath of the battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire, or have heard of Grand Admiral Thrawn and want to dive deeper into his origins.

To learn more about specific characters

The Star Wars movies give meaning to the words “ensemble cast.” As with most space operas, this galactic saga features a long list of characters, who we get varying degrees of insight into. Maybe you’re looking to learn more about the backstory and motivations of a specific character, or perhaps you have a favorite character that you’d like to spend more quality time with. If so, this list will help you accomplish just that.

Leia Organa

To learn about Leia’s teen years and her tumultuous training to sit on Alderaan’s throne, check out Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Grey (canon).

Han Solo

This classic choice for Han fans sees him joining fellow Falcon crew member Lando on the run from an assassin who’s threatened not only the two of them, but all of Cloud City. Read all about it in: Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel by Daniel José Older (canon).

Darth Vader

Can’t get enough of that heavy breathing? In this canon installment, Darth Vader is on a mission to prove his allegiance to the Sith Order. Read more in: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp (canon).

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Set well before the original movie trilogy, this aptly titled book takes a very early look at the relationship between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, look up Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray (canon).

Luke Skywalker

While this book isn’t necessarily about Luke, he still gets major “screen time” as he joins forces (pun intended) with Mara Jade and uses the Force to locate a mysterious pirate ship with a crew of clones. Read on about their adventures in: Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn (Expanded Universe).

For something a little different…

If George Lucas’ saga about a Rebellion against an evil Empire in a galaxy far, far away feels like it’s just missing something, this series might be the one for you. Written by Ian Doescher, it imagines what the Star Wars story would look like if it was an Elizabethan drama penned by none other than the Bard himself.

Don’t let the novelty fool you: this Shakespearean take on the space opera includes authentic meter and verse. Come for the dialogue between R2D2 and C-3PO, stay for the Darth Vader monologues. 

The following books are ordered chronologically and are, it should go without saying, very much not canon.

***

As Yoda would put it: long is your reading list! May the Force be with you as you make your way through the galaxy of Star Wars books. And if you feel like exploring other areas in the universe of science fiction, check out this list of the 100 best sci fi books!

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