A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
Those ten little words opened up a whole new world for me. I first started reading Star Wars books shortly after watching the re-release of The Empire Strikes Back in theaters. Though I can’t remember exactly how old I was at the time I knew as soon as that movie was over that I needed more and the next time I found myself in a book store I sought out the science fiction section and was thrilled to see Star Wars books. But where should I start in a series such as this? There were quite a few books on the shelves, though the selection was small compared to what is available now, and it took me quite some time to settle upon a book to buy. The first book that I read in this very large series was The Courtship of Princess Leia. I know this book isn’t always a favorite among Star Wars fans but I absolutely fell in love with this book and it showed me that I was on the trail of something wonderful. In the years that followed reading this book I bought and read quite a few Star Wars books.
Starting in the Star Wars series of books can, especially now, be a bit daunting. With over three hundred and fifty books in the Star Wars series, this includes young adult novels as well as e-book novellas, it can be difficult to know just where to start in this series. After I struggled with finding a good starting place amid this series I thought I would share some of my favorite books as well as giving readers who are new to the series a few starting points.
The first thing to consider when jumping into a series as large as this is where you want to start in it. For this I look at the series in three sections, prior to the new trilogy, from the new trilogy up to just before the original trilogy and finally, from right before the new trilogy and beyond. If you are looking for books that have the original big three in them – Han, Leia and Luke, then the latter choice is best for you. If you want to know where it all starts, then the books prior to the new trilogy are where you want to go. Like the new trilogy? Then the books occurring during and after those movies are the ones to get. Once this choice has been made then it’s on to the next step.
Within each section of the Star Wars series there are stand alone novels along with smaller series and trilogies. If you aren’t sure how much you want to commit to this series or if you will like the books at all then I would highly recommend picking up a stand alone. These books will give you a small glimpse into the world without being too overwhelming or making you feel like you are missing out or perhaps being forced into reading more than you might want. If you feel like you are ready to fully dive into a series (within this series) then that’s great.
So how do you pick which book, be it a stand alone or series, to go for? This may seem like a very difficult thing to figure out, especially since new books are continually being published that span the entire timeline of this series. But there is one very important aspect to the Star Wars series of books that can help a reader out in this. At the front of every book is a timeline, where it lists all the books currently published, where in the timeline they occur and whether they are part of a series/trilogy or not. It is this guide that can make the enormous task of finding the right book that much simpler. It takes only a couple of minutes to flip through these few pages, find all the books in the area of the timeline you are interested in and then choose one. Now you won’t always find the book you might want to buy on the shelf, but with that timeline now in your hands you can work to find other books in that same area and will hopefully give you an equal look into that section of the series.
Can it really be that simple? Yes, it can. There may be people who disagree with this method, but that’s okay, each person has to find their own way at picking these books. This is simply how I found my way through this enormous series and thought I would share it with other readers who may be interested but leery of jumping in. I know it took me time to find my rhythm within these books and there were times when I read books out of order and got confused, but if you stick to looking at and following the timeline and it’s list of books I don’t think you can go wrong.
One thing to remember is, especially when starting anywhere in this series, is that there will be things you have missed. Events that had occurred in previous books that would have lead to events in the book you are reading and yes there may be times when a major event is spoiled because you didn’t read that stand alone or trilogy first. If you really want no surprises like this then the best thing to do is start from the very beginning of the series and work your way to the end. I know I have skipped a few books along the way, mostly because I couldn’t find them in stores, and there were a few times when I was kicking myself for doing that because something major happened in the book I had missed and was referenced in the next book. However I think the authors do a pretty good job of keeping things like this happening to a minimum, yes there will be references to prior events in the series but it will not always ruin a big plot twist in a book you haven’t read yet.
Favorite Star Wars Books:
I can say that I have loved nearly all of the Star Wars books that I have read. Yes, there were one or two that I highly disliked, and in some cases downright hated, but overall this series has been a joy to read. It was hard to narrow down the list of favorites but I will list a few here that I truly loved and may be good starting points to newer readers. Most of the books that I have read in this series fall during or after the original trilogy so that will be what you will find in this list.
- The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton. This was, as I mentioned earlier, the book that started my obsession for me. This book is a stand alone that occurs eight years after A New Hope.
- Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster. Though the details of this book have faded over time I still remember it being an amazing read. This book is a stand alone that occurs two years after A New Hope.
- The Bounty Hunter Wars by K.W. Jeter. Who doesn’t love bounty hunters? Well if you don’t love them then these books might not be for you. But overall bounty hunters are a great mix of characters in the Star Wars universe and these books place a nice spotlight on them. This trilogy occurs four years after A New Hope and consists of the books The Mandalorian Armor, Slave Ship, and Hard Merchandise.
- The Black Fleet Crisis Trilogy by Michael P. Kube-McDowell. I loved these books when I read them, however I found that a lot of people didn’t like these books. There were huge discussions on the Star Wars forums when these books came out and I remember being on the very small side which enjoyed them. These books occur sixteen to seventeen years after A New Hope and consist of the books Before The Storm, Shield of Lies, and Tyrant’s Test.
- The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn. I loved Thrawn. His character was so strong and I just couldn’t wait to read more about him and his plans. These books occur nine years after A New Hope and consist of the books Heir To The Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command.
- The New Jedi Order Series by Various Authors. Theses books make up the largest series within the Star Wars expanded universe and introduce a new and powerful enemy the Yuuzhan Vong. The Vong certainly changed a lot of things for the characters in this book and I count these among my favorite books of all in this huge series. These books occur twenty-five to twenty-nine years after A New Hope.
- Crucible by Troy Denning. This is one of the books I have recently read and it certainly earned it’s place among my favorite. The events that occurred in this book really brought a lot of things together and also gave me a bittersweet feeling while reading it. This is a stand alone book that occurs forty-five years after A New Hope.
There are so many others book I wish I could list here but to keep things relatively short and to save myself from listing nearly every book in the series that I have read I will stop there. The Star Wars series is huge but even so I am very glad that I found myself starting into it all those years. There were many months after that when I read nothing but Star Wars novels and would end up re-reading them while waiting for the newest book to come out. Though I took a very long break, several years long in fact, from these books I have in the past few months returned to the series and find myself happily catching up with all the events transpired while I had my attention elsewhere. It may take me more than a year to read everything I have missed but I am definitely up to the challenge.
I hope this post has inspired you to go and check out this large series and perhaps it will also help you find that starting point amid the many books out there. There is no right way to enter this series, but with a bit of luck you may just find a new and fantastic set of books to fill your reading time with.