What is the first thing that comes to you when I say Star Wars? For me it is that Star Destroyer rumbling down the screen, first seen back when it was just Star Wars, and not yet Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I was 10 at the time, and no other movie experience has come close to that since. My first Star Wars action figures came on 12 back cards, so believe me my fandom is legit.
I think for most people Star Wars evokes visual images such as that. We had the original three movies (plus their theatrically released Special Editions), and the three prequels (one so far re-released in 3D), and now Episode VII: The Force Awakens is upon us. Seven movies spanning, what, three generations? I’m never sure how generations are counted.
Of course there is also The Clone Wars animated movie. Can’t forget that, right? Plus the two made-for-TV Ewok movies. the Droids made-for-TV movie, and the disowned Holiday special (starring Bea Arthur). The television series include Droids (13 episodes), Ewoks (35 episodes), Clone Wars (25 episodes), The Clone Wars (121 episodes), and Rebels (23 episodes to date). Phew, that is a lot to watch. But today we are talking about reading Star Wars. After all, the book came first. Sort of.
The official novelization of Star Wars was released in 1976. Attributed to George Lucas, we now know it was ghost written by Alan Dean Foster. No one paid it much attention at the time because Star Wars wasn’t a thing yet. In 1978 Foster wrote Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, and the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU) was born. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is a nifty enough adventure that features Luke and Leia shortly after A New Hope takes place. Fun, but not canon.
Two EU trilogies would follow over the next few years, one featuring Han Solo and the other Lando Calrissian, but then nothing (except the movie adaptations) until 1991. That was the year that Timothy Zahn, like Foster an established sci fi writer, put out Heir to the Empire. This was eight years after the last movie had been out, and not much was happening then in the Star Wars world. Zahn’s book (first in a trilogy) changed that.
In 1992 the sequel came out, plus three Star Wars books aimed at younger readers. In 1993 four more came out, and six in 1994, and 10 in 1995, and so forth every year since. How many are there? Well, that is a tricky answer, tricky because what counts as a Star Wars book?
On the heels of Zahn’s trilogy came many other new books. Initially it was a mish mosh of stand alone books and short series or story collections. All were set after the original movies, continuing the stories of our favorite heroes…and villains. For many Zahn’s are considered the best, and have a true cinematic feel to them. The others often fell into the trope of what new super threat is there now. “Blew up a Death Star or two? No matter, there are more of them” sort of thing.
Eventually LucasBooks took more editorial control over the EU books, and developed a routine of planned series with multiple authors and curated story lines. Many well known authors have taken a crack at writing Star Wars, including Greg Bear, Terry Brooks, Troy Denning, Barbara Hambly, R.A. Salvatore, and others.
So where does one start? Anywhere, really. There are series and standalones, books set after the movies and 1000s of years before them, good books and meh books. Here are a few suggestions.
Shadows of the Empire, by Steve Perry
Rogue Squadron, by Michael Stackpole (X-wing 10 book series)
Vector Prime, by R.A. Salvatore (The New Jedi Order 19 book series! Warning: a much beloved character does not survive this book.)
Betrayal, by Aaron Allston (Legacy of the Force 9 book series)
Outcast, by Aaron Allston (Fate of the Jedi 9 book series)
Death Troopers, by Joe Schreiber (zombies!)
Scoundrels, by Timothy Zahn (Han and Lando in an Ocean’s Eleven style caper.)
Aftermath, by Chuck Wendig (lead in for the new movie)
Novels for Younger Readers
Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks are vivid reminders of how a lot of Star Wars is aimed at children. As adults we sometimes assume some type of ownership over the franchise that just isn’t there. Anyway, there are plenty of good books for our younger readers too.
The Rising Force, by Dave Wolverton (Jedi Apprentice 20 book series, all but the first one written by Jude Watson. Ages 9-12, but good crossover appeal, like most of these books, really.)
The Desperate Mission, by Jude Watson (The Last of the Jedi 10 book series, Young Adult)
Han Solo at Star’s End, by Brian Daley (trilogy, Young Adult)
Eaten Alive, by John Whitman (Galaxy of Fear 12 book series, modeled after Goosebumps. Seriously).
Darth Vader and Son, by Jeffrey Brown (4 of the most adorable picture books ever.)
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger (6 book series about sixth graders obsessed with Star Wars.)
And there are piles more Star Wars book in the children’s area of your library, including many aimed for beginning readers. We even have Star Wars phonics.
Marvel published the first Star Wars comic books in conjunction with the release of the movie, and various companies have been doing the same ever since. There are some good stories in there, and some laughable ones as well. I like looking at the old Marvel ones, when the only source material they had was the first movie. The romantic tension between Luke and Leia is creepy. I suppose they only ever teased that in the comics because they weren’t sure if Leia would end up with Han instead.
Star Wars: Aratanaru Kibō, (manga Star Wars)
The Star Wars (based off the original screenplay draft)
Star Wars Omnibus : A Long Time Ago… (the first Marvel comics)
Star wars : Clone Wars Adventures (series aimed at younger readers)
The movies all received novelizations of course, as did some of the video games. Most stay very close to the source material.
The Phantom Menace, by Terry Brooks
Attack of the Clones, by R.A. Salvatore
Revenge of the Sith, by Matthew Stover
The Force Awakens, by Alan Dean Foster (not yet released)
The Clone Wars, by Karen Traviss
The Force Unleashed, by Sean Williams
A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy, by Alexandra Bracken (a retelling of A New Hope for younger readers)
And finally there are a ton of nonfiction books for all ages. Some expand and expound upon the Star Wars universe, while others go in all sorts of other directions. Here is just a taste.
The Star Wars cook book : Wookiee cookies and other galactic recipes, by Robin Davis ; photography by Frankie Frankeny
LEGO Star Wars : the visual dictionary, by Simon Beecroft and Jason Fry
Star Wars : the essential guide to warfare, by Jason Fry with Paul R. Urquhart
Star wars : incredible cross sections, by David West Reynolds
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars : Verily, A New Hope, by Ian Doescher ; inspired by the work of George Lucas and William Shakespeare (for realz. Doescher has done Star Wars as Shakespeare for all six movies to date, and they are brilliant.)
Wow, that seems like a lot of Star Wars books, but in actuality I barely scratched the surface. Books for every fan of every age. Whether you have never seen Star Wars on the big screen or will go to your grave insisting that Greedo shot last, there is a Star Wars book(s) for you.