Star Wars was my first fandom. Before Harry Potter was popular, before I discovered The Wheel of Time, before I started watching Stargate: SG-1, I had Star Wars. The movies have been my favorite for as long as I can remember. I started reading the books in the fifth grade and have read over 100 of the Expanded Universe books.
I never really thought about the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU) being hard to break into, because when I started reading them, I read them in no particular order. I read whichever book my Waldens had in stock that weekend. But recently, it was brought to my attention that some people view the EU as a baffling wall of books, with no idea where to start. I'm sure that has only gotten more baffling with the addition of the books that take place before and during the prequels. (I've read about a dozen of those, but not all. I'm more of a Luke/Han/Leia/Wedge kind of girl).
So if you are wanting to break into the EU, but have no idea if you should start at The Truce of Bakura or at The Jedi Academy, I have your answers here! Yay!
There are three ways to read the Star Wars EU:
One is in order of Star Wars chronology. That is, start with A New Hope, read the books that take place right after it leading up to The Empire Strikes Back, read the books between it and The Return of the Jedi, and then read the books that take place after that in the order they take place in the universe. This chronology is published, and you can find a pretty good one here. Because it's all inclusive, if you're looking for Han/Luke/Leia books you need to scroll about halfway down. I suggest using ctrl F to find one of the original trilogy movies and then look at the books around it.
If you choose to read the books this way, there is one important thing you'll need to remember. A lot of the Rebellion Era and New Republic Era books were written before the new trilogy came out. This led authors to create some history of the universe that directly conflicts what we're told in the new trilogy. Like we didn't know before the new trilogy that Jedi couldn't get married. Authors assumed they could, since Luke and Leia were the children of a former Jedi, and they talk about historical Jedi who were married. Also all the history of Boba Fett in the Bounty Hunter books is now completely bogus, thanks to George Lucas. So I would suggest checking publication date before you read a book, just so you can know if something was written before or after the new trilogy. That will help you figure out why some of the history seems weird.
The second order of reading the Star Wars EU is in order of publication. That's probably closer to the order I read it. I can't find an order online for that, but it shouldn't be too hard to find.
The third way to read it is to read the books I'm about to suggest in the following order, which is a mix of the first two (this only covers books that take place after The Return of the Jedi).
- The Thrawn Trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command). The Thrawn Trilogy was hailed as the follow up trilogy to the original trilogy. And it's amazing. If you read no other Star Wars books, read these. They take place around there years after The Return of the Jedi.
- The Jedi Academy Trilogy (Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, Champions of the Force) This one takes place after The Thrawn Trilogy by like two years.
- Truce at Bakura. This takes place almost right after The Return of Jedi, so that's going back in time a little.
- The Courtship of Princess Leia. This takes place after Truce at Bakura but before The Thrawn Trilogy.
- X-Wing Series 1-8, Rogue Squadron, Wedge's Gamble, The Krytos Trap, The Bacta War, Wraith Squadron, Iron Fist, Solo Command. These actually take place before The Courtship of Princess Leia and for the most part they don't follow main characters. But these books are what cemented Wedge Antilles as my favorite character, and introduced the awesomeness of Corran Horn. Seriously. Awesomeness.
- I, Jedi. Now that you know who Corran Horn is, you can read this book, which actually takes place during The Jedi Academy Trilogy.
- Children of the Jedi, Darksaber, Planet of Twilight, The Crystal Star. These books aren't a set, or even by the same author, but they sort of follow a story-line. Also the next couple are in chronological order within universe.
- X-Wing Star Fighters of Adumar
- The Black Fleet Crisis Trilogy (Before the Storm, Sheild of Lies, and Tyrant's Test)
- The Hand of Thrawn Duology (Specter of the Past, Vision of the Future)
- Young Jedi Knights. You need to read at least the first four, because these characters are important to later stories. Jaina, Jacen, and Tenel Ka are all important. I love all of these books, but they are written for kids.
At this point, you have a couple of options. Go ahead and read The New Jedi Order, or go back and read all the other books that take place during the time period, like Shadows of Mindor or Tatooine Ghost. Either works. But DO NOT read the Legacy of the Force Series without reading The New Jedi Order and do not read Millennium Falcon until you've read the Legacy of the Force. Heck, DON'T read the blurb for Millennium Falcon until you've read Legacy of the Force. Seriously, the blurb has major spoilers. Then once you've read Millennium Falcon you can move onto The Fate of the Jedi. So that order is:
- The New Jedi Order
- The Legacy of the Force
- Millennium Falcon
- The Fate of the Jedi
Also, recently a ninth X-Wing book came out (like this past week), but it takes place after The Fate of the Jedi. So DO NOT read Mercy Kill. K?
Ok, so that's pretty confusing. If you're interested in reading in the EU and you're confused, you can ask me about it. But the real moral of the story is start with The Thrawn Trilogy.