When I started reading Star Wars books at the tender age of ten-or-so, there weren’t so many that I couldn’t catch up to what was out there. But these days, that’s not entirely true (unless you want to read nothing but Star Wars books for the next few years). So let’s say you’d like to read a Star Wars book, but you come upon this veritable library of titles—where do you begin?
Here are a few fun suggestions based on taste, focus and more. Because everyone should read at least one Star Wars novel in their life.
For People Who Need to Know What Happens Right After Return of the Jedi
That would be The Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers. It’s actually a pretty interesting followup to the film, in that it proves winning a war does not get you out of civil duties when the inevitable fallout comes. It also allows Leia some closure with Anakin Skywalker that the films never offered her, which is pretty fantastic. Poor Luke let’s us know that Jedi Knight or not, he’s still awfully young, and falls in love with the wrong girl. And Han is his usual charming (read: difficult) self.
For People Who Like Short Stories
Pick up the “Tales of” books, written by a host of authors and edited by Kevin J. Anderson. They were started with a trilogy of books that corresponded with key groups in each film—the Mos Eisley Cantina crowd, bounty hunters from Empire, and the extras in Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi—and they are the best set, though Tales of the New Republic and Tales of the Empire have some gems in them. (They are edited by others and contain certain Expanded Universe characters as well.) Want to know how Boba Fett escaped the Sarlaac Pit? Why that guy was crying when Jabba’s rancor died? What the real deal was with the cantina band? Everything you’ll ever need to know is right here.
For People Who Want More Han Solo
Pick up the Han Solo Trilogy by A. C. Crispin. If you ever wanted to know what childhood was like for the infamous smuggler, or what made him so inclined to hang out with Wookiees, this is where you need to be. It makes sense of the man in a way that no one else has ever attempted, and Crispin’s meticulous backstory shows us how Han’s destiny was always bound to drag him toward a rebellion and one princess all along. Also, take a look at the new Timothy Zahn book Scoundrels, set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
For People Who Like Romance
Read The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton. Wait, Star Wars romance? You’re going to have to trust me on this one—it’s one of the craziest Star Wars novels ever written, but it’s also some of the most fun you’ll ever have reading a Star Wars book. It’s got gambling, C-3PO singing, club-wielding Force witches, kidnapping, the works. It’s absolutely not what you’d expect, but after you read it you won’t be able to think of any other way that Han and Leia’s relationship could have progressed towards marriage.
For People Who Like Pilots, Humor, and Awesomeness
Check out the Rogue and Wraith Squadron books by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston. You know all those awesome-seeming pilots that you never get time with in the original trilogy? Want to know what they did to help the Rebellion turn itself into an official government? For people who want to get real quality time in with Wedge Antilles and the gang, look no further. These might be some of the best Star Wars books to hit the shelves, period, in fact. They’re fast, funny, and full of action. There’s drunkenness! Love! Ewok jokes! Need I say more?
For People Who Want More Boba Fett
Explore the Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy by K. W. Jeter. If I had my way, I’d run a little coffee club where people talked about Boba Fett all the time because I love him. He’s my favorite. I’d definitely recommend his stories in the “Tales of” books, and some books in the later, more involved series, but to begin we have this fantastic trilogy that details what Fett does after his supposed “death” at the hands (stomach) of the Sarlaac. These books prove that this is one guy you really don’t ever want to go up against. I shouldn’t say more; you’ll just have to read them.
For People Who Want to Know What Happens Between Films
There’s Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry. Many played this as a video game in the 1990s, but the book offers so much more in terms of intrigue. You’ll find out about the Black Sun, a criminal organization running alongside the Empire, and all that it’s leader—Prince Xizor—had to do with the events that transpired. There’s some interesting windows into Vader’s mind, a look at how Leia feels after losing the man she loves, and the steps taken by the main characters leading up to their actions in Return of the Jedi. This book is so awesome it actually has its own soundtrack. A really good soundtrack. If you want other books set between novels, there’s the aforementioned Scoundrels, and the infamous Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster, which does not fit into canon at all and may unintentionally be one of the funniest Star Wars books ever written. (It’s not the novel’s or author’s fault; it was written before either Empire or Jedi came out.)
For People Who Want to Meet the Solo Kids
Pick up The Crystal Star by Vonda N. McIntyre. Some of you might know that Han and Leia had three children—the twins, Jacen and Jaina, and little Anakin. While we meet them briefly in other books, the first time we really get to know the kids is when they are kidnapped by a jerk named Hethrir in this novel. Leia and Chewie get to play rescue ops while Han and Luke go on a mission where they mostly argue. Seeing tiny Solo children is the real treat of the book, and you get to appreciate how difficult it is being kids of some the galaxy’s most famous heroes.
For People Who Want More Luke Skywalker and Jedi
Rebuilding the Jedi Order was bound to be a tough task for anyone, but Luke rises to the challenge with some serious calm and poise in the Jedi Academy trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson. The cadre of new students he packs together are nothing to sneer at either, and their first experiences as Jedi pupils certainly attracts some unwanted attention. There are lots of great appearances by new and old characters throughout these books, and that makes them great for any new reader.
For People Who Wish Star Wars Was More Like Rebooted Battlestar Galactica
Ever wanted your Star Wars a little grittier? A bit more real? The New Jedi Order series was a massive undertaking involving a foe from another galaxy, the likes of which our heroes had never seen. The war was long, many beloved characters died, and it changed the landscape of the Star Wars Expanded Universe forever. If you’re the sort of person who prefers no punches pulled in your science fiction and fantasy, this series is where you should begin. It’s a divider among fans for sure, but it was a bold move.
So that’s a long list for you! I’m sure there are other recommendations out there, and plenty of books that could be swapped out section by section, so sound off and tell me about your favorites! (I’m awaiting the deluge from fans furious that I didn’t include Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy—which I love, of course! It just doesn’t sit in a ready category....)