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
- Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule: a Canon adult novel and the first entry in The High Republic Era
The High Republic
Want to experience something brand new?
When the High Republic initiative began, it gave readers another option where to begin reading Star Wars books. Beginning with Light of Jedi, this era takes readers 200 years prior to The Phantom Menace in a time when the Jedi were at the height of their power and glory. The launch of this new era gives readers the opportunity to jump into a set of stories with new characters, locations, and events without needing to know anything before starting. The authors have set a precedent with their diverse characters with complex backgrounds that allows all readers to find characters they can relate with.
The High Republic is a fresh start for new and veteran readers alike with more books and comics promising to be released well into the future. While the adult novels give you the core of the main story, a lot of important information is explored in much more depth within the young adult novels, middle grade novels, and comics. While this could potentially be overwhelming, we got you covered with our detailed The High Republic guide where you can find reading order recommendations, reviews, and more.
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! If you absolutely set on a reading order, we do have a Youtini Reading Order that you can follow along.
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.