For me, Star Wars is a story told in the films and the novels. In the “dark times” post-Jedi, pre-Prequels, the novels were really all we had. So where should a newer fan interested in reading novels look to get started.
There are a lot of great Star Wars books and some that are ok to skip. But I have the top 5 that you should take a look at first.
If all you’ve seen from Star Wars is the films, this is definitely the book to start with. Lost Stars follows a pair of young lovers whose lives diverge as the galactic civil war emerges. One remains with the Empire and the other joins the Rebellion.
We get a view of familiar (and new) events in the Star Wars Saga from the viewpoint of those not directly involved in the main stories. We see the Empire and Rebellion as characters that shape these individuals’ decisions. We also get to learn to love two new wonderful characters.
Claudia Gray’s Bloodline is really the pre-requisite novel for the Episodes VII, VIII, and IX. It gives the most back-story of any novel to give context to the events leading up to The Force Awakens.
Bloodline details the political backdrop and the personal struggles that Senator Leia Organa must endure in order to maintain the fragile New Republic. We learn of the political underpinnings of the First Order and get a front row seat to how the galaxy reacts to a revelation about Leia.
Heir to the Empire / Thrawn Trilogy
Any long-time Star Wars fan mark reading Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn as a milestone. Even though it’s not part of official canon, it has such an outsized influence on the content and direction of Star Wars today that it’s still worth a read. It’s one of the best Star Wars novels written (canon or EU).
HtoE is set 6 years after the Battle of Endor. Han and Leia are married with three kids. The Empire is in shambles, but hanging on to what few systems that still control. They are led by a mysterious humanoid with an uncanny ability to determine his adversaries every move, simply by evaluating their historical artwork.
Aftermath Life Debt & Empire’s End
The Aftermath Trilogy by Chuck Wendig is really the definitive story of the final fall of the Empire and the seedlings of what becomes the First Order.
Though the trilogy starts off slow (I wasn’t a fan of the first book, and the second, Life Debt, doesn’t really require that you read it), it is definitely worth the build up. Chuck Wendig draws a compelling and intense portrait of the galaxy after the death of Palpatine and the chaos that ensues. It highlights the changes within the Empire given the power vacuum. It also uncovers secrets of the Empire that only very few were ever meant to know.
These novels perhaps provide the most graphic scenes in all of Star Wars. There’s full-blown rated-R violence and descriptions that wouldn’t be fit for children if put on the big screen. But Wendig gives you a lot to stoke your mind’s eye into seeing the underbelly of the world that he envisions.
Other great books
Catalyst: A Rogue One Story
Catayst tells the story of Galen Erso and his life-long entanglement with the Empire. We learn of his past relationship with Orson Krennic, the formation of his family, and his work with Kybur Crystals.
The story takes place during the ending stages of the Clone Wars and covers his story until just a few years before the opening prologue to Rogue One. It should be considered the prequel novel to Rogue One and serves to help us feel more deeply about Krennic’s appearance at Galen and Lyra’s farm.
Lords of the Sith
Thought not terribly important to the overall Star Wars Saga, Lords of the Sith is one of the best Star Wars novels in recent years. It is set a few years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. The story centers on the Empire’s dealings on Ryloth and the rebel faction on Ryloth led by Cham Syndullah (Hera Syndulla’s father). It gives insight into the relationship between Darth Vader and the Emperor. The action sequences involving Vader are consistent with that scene with Vader at the end of Rogue One.
Dark Disciple is story composed of several unfinished episodes of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars series dedicated to Asajj Ventress. Ventress is the former apprentice to Count Dooku who left the Sith order after his betrayal.
In this story, the Jedi Council send Jedi Master Quinlan Vos to gain her trust to uncover a means of assassinating the Count. We get a up close glimpse into the Dark Side of the Force and get a more nuanced view of one of The Clone Wars’ best characters in Asajj Ventress.
You can see a full list of canon novels and read a few more reviews on our Books – Canon Novels page.