tar Wars publishing is absolutely expansive in every way. There are books for children, young readers, young adults, and full-fledged adults. They encompass every style imaginable, from hard-hitting doorstopper prose novels like Darth Plagueis to breezy page-turners and comics. There are books exploring the concept art behind your favorite movies and even reference books written from the perspective of the characters in the galaxy far, far away themselves! It’s precisely this niche category of brilliantly specific content that we’ll cover in this guide.
What is In-universe Nonfiction?
There is plenty of behind-the-scenes reference material on Star Wars. Perhaps it’s due to George Lucas’s penchant for defying genre and revolutionizing special effects.
Perhaps it’s because he enjoyed explaining the magic of how it all came together in numerous documentaries, such as Empire of Dreams. These glimpses into what made Star Wars great have also carried over into publishing with books like Star Wars Year by Year chronicling the saga’s development over time.
What stands apart in Star Wars-related nonfiction are books with an in-universe perspective.
Not just another reference guide
A traditional reference book chronicles the subject matter from the perspective of an objective, impartial narrator or a real-world lens. In-universe content, on the other hand, straddles the line between fiction and nonfiction, our world and the world of the characters we know and love – a world between worlds of sorts.
In-universe content is a more immersive experience. The author takes on the persona of a character or narrator living in the events of Star Wars in order to deliver a product that looks and feels like an artifact from the GFFA, perhaps smuggled here in a cargo compartment under the floorboards of a ship that just made the Kessel Run.
Many of these reference books bridge the gap between the real and imagined so well that the physical books include extra materials that engage the reader in a three-dimensional way.
These can include little scraps of “ancient manuscripts,” sections of the book that appear to be torn from another volume, or discovered in a long-forgotten tomb.
Some in-universe books have flaps with secrets to uncover, compartments filled with that little extra flare of interesting information that takes the experience to the next level, or pockets with artwork upon which one might marvel.
Some even came packaged as deluxe editions, encapsulated in a stellar display with interactive features that make for jaw-dropping collectible pieces.
Legends In-universe Content
The first of what became a robust series of similar books, The Jedi Path set the standard for character-class reference books set in the Legends continuity. Published in 2010 by Chronicle Books and written by reference guide aficionado Daniel Wallace, this book is a beloved guide to Jedi history, skills, and powers.
It features margin notes from a long tradition of acclaimed Jedi: Yoda, Mace Windu, Qui-Gon Jinn, Count Dooku, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, and Luke Skywalker.
Oh, and let’s not forget Dooku’s Jedi Master in Legends—Thame Cerullian! The Jedi Path allegedly was obtained by Darth Sidious and repossessed by Luke Skywalker in his attempt to reconstruct the history of the Jedi Order.
Sidious’s margin notes are as pejorative as they are malicious. He even went so far as to remove the pages that once contained the prophecy of the Chosen One!
The book is truly a delightful gem among Star Wars books, with instruction on the various forms of lightsaber combat, a guide to Force powers, and multiple Jedi of old shedding light on the nature of the Living and Unifying Force.
It received an ebook deluxe edition featuring additional content not available in hardcover, as well as a “vault edition” with an electronically-powered motorized collectible case!
Never to be outdone, the dark side got in on the action. The Book of the Sith is the dark and broody counterpart to The Jedi Path. Its vault edition came with a triangular holocron that glowed crimson.
This is the kind of story that is hidden deep in the bowels of the tombs of Korriban. Let’s just say it’s not a story the Jedi would tell you.
The Book of the Sith traces the ancient history of the Sith up through Palpatine’s galactic conquest and eventual demise. It tells of the twisted saga of Sith Lords such as Naga Sadow, Marcia Ragnos, and Ludo Kresh, moves into more “modern” Dark Lords—Bane and Plagueis—and eventually passed into the hands of Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker.
It even contains scientific notes from Darth Plagueis on his work manipulating midichlorians in order to create life. Chances are, you’ll soon find yourself challenged to a duel to the death if you manage to get your hands on this one!
Daniel Wallace’s unique series of in-universe handbooks continued with the Bounty Hunter Code, The Imperial Handbook, and The Rebel Files (a continuation of the series, this time on the Canon side of continuity).
Each one, while similar in tone and execution, is wholly unique in its fully immersive commitment to telling the story with a conglomeration of sources and liner notes scribbled in the margins, exploring not only the history of the saga but the characters who had once been in “possession” of the individual volumes.
Miscellaneous Legends Reference Titles
While this guide is not an attempt to be 100% comprehensive, a handful of other Legends-era in-universe pieces are worth our attention. One wonderful book is Jedi Vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force.
This massive manifesto from accomplished writer Ryder Windham is written from the perspective of Jedi Master/singer-songwriter Tionne Solusar as she compiled knowledge to pass along at the Jedi Praxeum at Yavin IV.
Add in over 100 full-color illustrations from prolific artist Chris Trevas and Jedi Vs. Sith makes for a must-have for Legends lovers.
Another excellent title is The Essential Guide to Warfare by Jason Fry. It tells the hard-hitting tales of epic battles across the Star Wars timeline, including exclusive short fiction written from the perspective of characters who lived the battles themselves.
There are so many more unique in-universe Legends titles. From technical manuals about owning and operating your favorite starships to the Wildlife Field Guide, or perhaps prepare to visit your favorite Star Wars locale with the Galactic Phrase Book and Travel Guide, there’s truly a book unique to whatever your particular interest.
With the latter written by legendary sound designer Ben Burtt, you’ll be saying “Yub Nub” in no time!
Canon In-universe Content
In a similar style to the Legends In-Universe Handbooks, a recent initiative called the Star Wars Secrets Series took that idea and ran with it. This colorful, interactive reference book series includes The Secrets of the Jedi, The Secrets of the Sith, The Secrets of the Bounty Hunters, and The Secrets of the Wookiees.
From author Mark Sumerac and publisher Insight Editions, these marvelously creative guides are a true joy to dig through in search of previously unheard-of knowledge. Nearly every page has flaps, pockets, and foldout elements, creating a tactile reading experience.
In true Star Wars style, even the cookbooks are uniquely stylized. Insight Editions brings extra spice in elevating Star Wars-inspired cuisine into an immersive experience.
Many have been published at this point—the Padawan Cookbook, Life Day Cookbook, Galactic Baking, Galaxy’s Edge: The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook, and the Galactic Cookbook, to name a few.
There’s a lot more to make than blue milk; in fact, now there are blue noodles!
The remarkable thing about these particular cookbooks is their in-universe slant. The Galaxy’s Edge Cookbook, for example, is not a peek behind the curtain on how to make the food served in the concession stands at the Disney theme parks; instead, it’s written from the perspective of Strono “Cookie” Tuggs, taking you on a journey of the streets of Baatu.
There’s more than just recipes in these delightfully well-crafted savory guides.
Another incredibly creative, extremely niche subgenre of in-universe reference guide is that of the charming parody books. How Not to Get Eaten by Ewoks and Other Galactic Survival Skills and Use the Force: Discover What it Means to be a Jedi are prime examples.
Not much different in style from Ben Burrt’s Galactic Phrase Book and Travel Guide, these are a perfect fusion of entertainment and information, both a love letter to the galaxy we all know and love mixed with a little poking fun.
While one cannot truly learn to use the Force to move objects (other than the occasional well-timed hand gesture at a supermarket door), these books will make it seem almost possible. From DK Illustrated, these handbooks are beautifully full-color, with eye-catching infographics from start to finish.
Miscellaneous Canon Content
A few more worthy guides are deserving of a brief mention. The High Republic: Chronicles of the Jedi: An Illustrated Guide to the Galaxy’s Golden Age is a must-have for all High Republic fans.
This beautiful, collectible, leatherbound tome from reference guide savant Cole Horton is an incredibly informational guide to the era that’ll make you want to don your gold Jedi robes before you’re done.
Scum and Villainy is a breathtakingly gorgeous, full-color, oversized guide to the seedy underbelly of Star Wars—the kind of places Ben Kenobi would tell you to avoid. Bonus points for coming from the maestro of the Story Group himself, Pablo Hidalgo.
Not to be outdone by the cookbook, the Traveler’s Guide to Galaxy’s Edge is an expansive look around every last nook and cranny of the intergalactic theme park. It makes for a great read to either prepare for your adventure, to reminisce once you return home, or for the fan who simply dreams of going in person.
Of course, the publishing world is ever-expanding. Therefore, there are bound to be entries omitted from this guide. Finding a book you’d either never heard of, or one you’ve long anticipated adding to your shelves, is part of the fun, though, isn’t it?
Pro tip, however: keep these massive reference books on your sturdiest shelves! Hardwood, the bottom shelf, or even beskar if you can afford it. Your shelves will thank us later.
We hope you enjoy immersing yourself in the Coruscant underworld alleyways, the Jedi temple archives, and the smuggling compartment of your favorite spice freighter with these in-universe reference guides. There’s an awful lot to explore with these meticulously crafted masterpieces.