Star Wars Books: A Primer

One of the ways you can group Star Wars fans is to ask one question: Do you read the books? The most common response I’ve received from fellow fans is one of shrugging negativity, usually from one (or more) of the following critiques:
  • Star Wars is much better served in a visual and auditory medium. Fact. But until the television show gets made, I’m not very interested in animated tales of the SW universe. And you know what? Most of the books I have read are surprising compelling. Even without the sound effects (some audio books of the series will actually have John Williams music in the background) and visuals, I have to say I’m pretty sold on the novels. (One of which I’m going to talk about here later.)
  • There are too many books out there; it’s confusing. Again, you could go nuts trying to figure out where to start where there are dozens of books at this writing. This is where I can help, using my peerless knowledge and vast experience.
  • There are too many to catch up. There are many, but if you read the key ones, you can skip the rest.
Regarding the last one, this is the biggest obstacle for the casual fan in picking up the so-far excellent New Jedi Order series. (I'd stack the first three in the series up against any other three out there.) You don't need to read all the books, just a few key (and incidentally excellent) ones. I haven't read all the books in the series, but I can tell you that I haven't felt like I've missed anything in the NJO series thus far by only sticking with the ones listed below. So let’s do that. Here are the essential books that I recommend you read to get up to where I’m at. (In order):
    First, foremost, and best are ‘The Thrawn Trilogy’. I personally would recommend this series to anyone. You have a new Empire commander genius who discovers an animal that cancels out the Force, who then teams up with the dark insane clone of a former Jedi Master. If that doesn’t sound interesting, then forget it! A must read for the introduction of several key recurring non-cannon main characters, who are as cool and as richly drawn as any on screen. That’s not an exaggeration..
    Heir to the Empire
    Dark Force Rising
    The Last Command
    Right after that trilogy we have an equally interesting, if not as well executed ‘Jedi Academy’ series, where Luke first starts to reestablish a Jedi school. Good, not great. However, essential for the introduction of several key recurring non-cannon main characters who show up a lot in future books, and also key for the stand-alone book following them..
    Jedi Search,
    Dark Apprentice,
    Champions of the Force

    And finally, we have I, Jedi. A concept that usually draws in non-Star Wars readers the most; writing in the first-person a character who develops Jedi powers. The Jedi in question appears a lot in subsequent novels. You can read this without reading the Jedi Academy series, but it will be pretty confusing; this novel mirrors several of the events in that series, but provides no background of context except from the first-person. But, believe me, it is worth reading the other series just for the payoff

And that’s all you need to read to prep for the New Jedi Order series! One other good series I’d recommend, but you don’t necessarily need, is Timothy Zahn’s follow-up Hand of Thrawn series.

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