or many fans of Star Wars, the books and comics - generally referred to as the Expanded Universe or EU - can appear much like wild space beyond the outer rim; crowded, confusing, and potentially dangerous. However, we at Youtini have flown from one end of the literary galaxy to the other, and we’re here to tell you there’s no need to be afraid.
This is where the fun begins.
Everything You Need to Know to Read Star Wars Books
Here is our all-inclusive guide that will get you reading Star Wars Books in no time.
The Difference Between Canon & Legends
There are two big timelines in the Star Wars Universe: Canon & Legends. The intricacies of this difference are fully outlined in our write-up, The Difference Between Canon & Legends, but here’s the short version:
Legends material includes all written material published before Disney purchased Star Wars in 2012. Canon material is everything that came after the fact.
If the material is Canon, it can’t be contradicted by any other medium in the Star Wars Universe. So if a character dies in a film, they can’t show up in a book that takes place after that because… well, they’re dead.
If the material is Legends, it does not have to adhere to the Canon continuity, because the events that take place in the books didn’t truly happen.
Not to say that Legends material isn’t important by any means. I mean, it is Star Wars after all. Just consider it part of its own alternate universe.
These days, a LOT of Canon material is inspired by Legends, and in fact, over half of our favorite introductory books are Legends books.
But how do you tell the difference in the store?
Nowadays, Legends material has a golden banner on the cover, but if you’re shopping for used books, we highly recommend checking out our Youtini timelines to double check before you purchase!
Star Wars Book Age Groups & Categories
There are as many types of Star Wars books as you could possibly imagine, and there a million more well one the way.
For our purposes, we like to break down our stories into a few basic categories, and we hope these help you understand exactly what type of material you’re getting when you open the cover of your new arrival.
Adult & Young Adult Novels
Full-length chapter books for adults and young adults, alike.. Most people (including us at Youtini) consider the young adult (YA) novels as good as the adult novels and we treat them as basically the same category - the one that everyone should read.
More often than not, the “young” in young adult simply refers to the age of the protagonists, so if you’re picking up a YA book, you may be in for some younger characters.
Comics & Graphic Novels
Comics are a whole other genre in and of itself. Just like the books, comics use the same rules for Canon and Legends. However, you have a couple of different options regarding how you read them.
Comics can be purchased and read in single issues or in combined prints called graphic novels or trade paperbacks. Both are a ton of fun and have their own benefits.
Single issue comics are released monthly and offer a chance to join in the larger conversation about the ongoing story.
Trade paperbacks combine multiple comics into one larger, cohesive package, so if you don’t mind waiting just a bit, you can have the whole story in your hands at once.
Kids books are surprisingly one of the biggest categories of books because there are so many ages covered. Books range from bed-time stories to short chapter books meant for preteens.
If you are a parent, chances are you already have a few of these lying around. Most of this content is pretty kids-only, but some of these junior novels are still pretty high quality and add some cool stuff to the universe that can still be essential reading for older fans.
How do I tell what kind of book I have?
Luckily, telling books apart is relatively easy because sizing of each book type is standardized.
Kids books are obviously kids books and they all vary dramatically in sizes. Adult and young adult books however, follow a simple standard:
Adult hardcovers, both Canon and Legends all share the same size and shape. Young adult hardcovers are slightly shorter.
Young adult paperbacks are taller and wider than adult paperbacks.
Adult paperbacks are even sized so that it's easy to see what is Canon and what is Legends even without a Legends banner as is the case with older prints: Canon paperbacks are taller than Legends paperbacks and when they are side by side, it's easy to tell them apart.
The Star Wars Timeline
Both the Canon and Legends timelines are split into two eras: BBY and ABY.
BBY stands for Before the Battle of Yavin at the end of Episode IV: A New Hope, and ABY stands for After the Battle of Yavin.
When you see a book take place 32 ABY that means that the events of that book take place approximately 32 years after the events of Episode IV: A New Hope.
These time measurements are incredibly important, because the Expanded Universe covers waaaaaaaay more time than the films.
In fact, the films only deal with 32 BBY to 34 ABY which is only a 66 year period! The books, on the other hand, go back over 25,000 years!
Currently, the two timelines cover the following periods:
Canon: 39 BBY -- 35 ABY
Legends: 25,793 BBY -- 139 ABY
Star Wars Explained also has a really great video that walks through virtually the entire Star Wars timeline. Fair warning though: many spoilers ahead and the video is quite long!
The Best Star Wars Books to Read First
Ask one hundred Star Wars fans where to start reading and you will get one hundred different answers. However, our team at Youtini have put a great deal of thought into this because we consider it an incredibly important decision.
Our Foundational Collection breaks down this question, but here’s the gist:
If you hate your first book, you may never pick another one up.
And there are just as many reasons to dislike a book as there are to like it. If you pick up a book at random, you could end up in the middle of a nine-book series (like I did) and have no idea what is happening or who the characters are, and that confusion could potentially put you off of Star Wars books forever.
Thus, there are several qualities that we believe your FIRST Star Wars book should have:
- Easy to read and understand without any prior knowledge outside of the films.
- Memorable and important characters
- A comfortable writing style with a good flow
- A relative importance to grand scheme of the EU
- Perhaps most of all: Fun, entertaining, and likely to get you hooked.
Long story short, we carefully analyzed hundreds of books in the EU to choose what we think are the best options to start with.
Is it crucial to read these first? Absolutely not! Read whatever you like! All Star Wars is good Star Wars. But if we had to pick five, these are the gems that rose to the top.
The Youtini Foundational Books
- Lost Stars by Claudia Gray: a Canon, stand-alone YA novel
- Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover: a Legends, adult novelization of Star Wars: Episode III
- Darth Bane: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn: a Legends adult novel and the first entry in the Darth Bane Trilogy
- Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn: a Legends adult novel and the first entry in the Thrawn Trilogy
- Kenobi by John Jackson Miller: a Legends stand-alone adult novel
You may be familiar with the events of Star Wars’ Original Trilogy, but Lost Stars manages to re-explore its major plot points through the eyes of brand new characters Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell. Along the way, it tells a love story that rivals that of Anakin and Padme.
Claudia Gray is among the elite Star Wars authors when it comes to crafting compelling stories. This books excels by giving a fresh take on the Star Wars story fans already know and love.
Following Order 66, General Obi Wan Kenobi vanished from the galaxy along with all the other Jedi. Years later, he re-emerged as a crazy old hermit by the name of Ben to play a hand in the fate of the galaxy. However, much more happened in the preceding years than one might expect. Even on a backwater planet like Tatooine, there is conflict, and soon Ben finds himself wrapped up in a decades-long feud between the moisture farmers and their arch nemeses, the Tusken Raiders. Ben must find a way to get to the bottom of an ever-deepening mystery that lies beneath the conflict while also keeping his identity—and his true purpose on Tatooine—a secret.
Every Star Wars movie has an accompanying novelization, but none so impressive as Revenge of the Sith. While it expertly tells the story of the film, it also manages to add to it in unexpected ways. Not only is it the best novelization, it’s a fantastic work of fiction in and of itself.
Matthew Stover outdoes himself in this novelization by painting Obi Wan, Anakin, and the rest of the Jedi as glorified super heroes in the eyes of the common man in the Star Wars universe. Somehow, this raises the stakes of one of the most intense episodes of the saga and makes Anakin’s ultimate fate even more impactful.
After destroying the second Death Star and freeing the galaxy from the Emperor’s clutches, Luke, Han, and Leia find themselves trying to lead the fledgling New Republic into a new age. However, in the far reaches of space, a new threat rises from the ashes of the Empire in the form of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Despite only having the remains of the Imperial military at his disposal, Thrawn’s intellectual prowess promises to push our heroes to their absolute limits.
Timothy Zahn changed Star Wars forever when he released Heir to the Empire in 1991, and it continues to have a profound impact on the fandom to this day. It proved that Star Wars could not only live beyond the story of the original films, but that it could thrive. All Expanded Universe books were born out of the spirit of this novel, making it essential reading for all fans.
Every great story has a great villain; or, in the case of Star Wars, a great band of villains. Darth Bane: Path of Destruction focuses on one of the most indispensable Sith Lords in history and chronicles his rise to power as well as its reverberating effects on the future of the galaxy that culminate in the Emperor and Darth Vader.
Karpyshyn manages to flesh out a story that fans didn’t know they needed. It provides a better understanding of what it truly means to be a Sith. Even the most fervent fans of the Light Side will find themselves cheering for one of the most power-hungry villains in all of Star Wars as he claws his way from humble beginnings into a position of ultimate power. By the end of the first book, you’ll be scrambling to pick up the sequel.
The Best Order to Read Star Wars Books
The best order to read Star Wars books is a bit of a controversial topic.
There are a variety of different strategies that fans have attempted over the years, but the most often suggested to new readers are chronological order or publishing order.
That makes sense right? Start at the beginning and read them all in the order they exist on the timeline.
Well that might make sense… if there weren’t approximately 200 novels and 400 graphic novels.
That’s why Youtini universally recommends against any sort of arbitrary order that you are required to stick to no matter what.
There’s simply way too much content to justify adhering to a rigid reading order. We have a full write-up on the site, Should you read in chronological order? But the short version is this: Read what you want to read.
There is a ton of content out there, so read what makes you happy! Do you have a favorite character? A favorite theme? Start there!
Just pick a Collection on our site and pick a book from the collection. We have reviews and ratings to help guide you along but you really can't go wrong by cherry picking your books individually based on ratings and reviews. You can even check out our list of books sorted by our official review score.
Check out the next section for details on how Youtini can help guide your reading further.
How Youtini Can Help You Read Star Wars Books
After tackling the Foundational Books, you are going to be dying for something to read next. But where should you start? The galaxy is the limit, my friend!
There are a number of ways that Youtini can help guide your reading. We have worked to build as many guides and tools as possible to get you going on your interplanetary journey, many of which we’ve already mentioned.
Here are a few features that will help you navigate further down your reading list.
Use the Youtini timelines both to see where books fall but also to see all the covers in one seamless flow.
Maybe you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover… but you should absolutely pick the one with a really bad-ass Jedi lady on the cover! Check out the timelines…
What should I read if I like…? Any veteran Star Wars reader has heard a question like that, and they’ve definitely thought it themselves. Luckily, we’ve done the homework for you so you can get straight to reading.
Check out our collections on characters, themes, and even authors where we have compiled themed lists to show you the books that have been written for whatever mood you’re in. Check out the reading guides…
If only there were some way to keep track of all that you’ve read and all that you want to read! By the FORCE there is!
The Youtini Bookshelf is just that - a digital bookshelf for your Star Wars books. Every book featured on the site can be tracked, recorded, and added to your personal collection using our app. Just create a free account and get tracking. Check out the Bookshelf…
News & Reviews
We stay on top of every release so you don’t have to. Scope out every book before it comes out with our spoiler free reviews. Want to see what our entire staff really thinks before you dive in?
Check out the full review and analysis. We have a super thorough process for reviewing every book and you can be assured that we are honest and critical yet positive and kind. Check out the latest reviews…
The Living Force Podcast
Join Eric, and The Doctors, Charles and Corey as they dive into every new Canon book in the EU.
Every week, they host round-table book discussions on Canon novels, host interviews with prolific Star Wars authors and collaborations with other Star Wars podcasters, and provide fun, positive commentary and analysis on every face the EU. Check out the show…
There has never been a better time to be a Star Wars fan, because there has never been so much Star Wars! Don’t miss a single new release by using the carefully monitored Star Wars release schedule.
You can also join our email list and get up to date reminders to pick up the book, audiobook, or comic! Check out the schedule…
Join us on Discord or our exclusive Facebook group to chat about your favorite books or gush over your recently completed collection.
Star Wars Twitter is another ballgame entirely, and we welcome your follow in that even bigger pool! Check out the community…
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Leave a Book Review
Every book on the site has a profile with details, reviews, and more. Leave your own reviews and ratings to share your thoughts and ideas with the rest of the Youtini community. Just use the search function in the navigation bar to find the book you'd like to review. We may even read it on the podcast!