Should You Read Star Wars Books in Chronological Order?
By: Karl Sander
Your First Steps
Where to start?
And once you start, where do you go next?
These are the most common questions for people coming into the world of Star Wars books (at least, they were for me). Just counting the new canon, there are almost two dozen novels out – with more on the way.
It can be overwhelming for anyone who didn’t have the chance to get in on the ground floor and read everything as it came out. And let’s face it - that’s an awful lot of us.
But it doesn’t have to be.
In this article, I’ll show you how my own thinking about reading Star Wars books has evolved, and hopefully it will help you come up with a plan of your own.
To Start at the Very Beginning?
I had meant to get into Star Wars books for a few years when I sat down to play Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. This was before Disney bought Lucasfilm, and I was sure Revenge of the Sith was the last Star Wars movie I’d ever see.
The game stoked my appetite for more, so I finally decided it was finally time to get serious about the books.
Partly because I had just been spending time in the Old Republic Era, and partly because I had no better idea where else to start, I figured I’d go back as far as I could. I’d see where this galactic struggle of good and evil began, and read everything in chronological order, so I could follow the ebb and flow over the generations.
It seemed as good a plan as any, so I dove into the Lost Tribe of the Sith collection, which lays the foundation for an isolated group of Sith that reappears later in the Expanded Universe and paints an interesting picture of the galaxy five thousand years before the Battle of Yavin. I snatched up Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void – set twenty-five thousand years before the time of Luke Skywalker.
I even took my first steps into the world of comics and graphic novels by bingeing the entire run of Dawn of the Jedi comics. Together, the novel and comics offered a fascinating glimpse into the very beginning of the Jedi Order, including the origin of lightsabers and the seed of what would eventually become the Sith.
But then the sequel trilogy came and ushered in a new golden age of Star Wars. With it came original books telling the backstory of characters old and new. Fresh novelizations. Even a commemoration of the franchise’s 40th anniversary.
I still wanted to read all the books – canon and legends. But all this new material and the excitement around it was hard to resist.
I Suggest a New Strategy, R2
There was more than just the temptation of recent books behind me changing my initial chronological plan. The fact was that only working through books set millennia before the films ignored what was going with Star Wars publishing out here in the real world.
I saw articles talking about Lost Stars, heard podcasters talk about the Aftermath trilogy and Catalyst. Did it make sense for me to say “Sounds good, guys, I’ll get to them in a decade or two” while I still worked through the Old Republic Era?
I didn’t think so.
And, as a practical matter, chronological order isn’t always the easiest way to go. Many of the older books are available digitally – but not all of them, and for readers who want actual paper books, some of the Legends titles are hard to find. However, there are plenty of books RIGHT THERE in your bookstore (or better yet, your Youtini bag!). Ultimately, it didn’t make sense to slow down because I couldn’t find the next thing on the in-universe timeline.
As I thought about it some more, I had one final epiphany. It dawned on me that I don’t limit myself to read anything else chronologically. So why was I handcuffing myself into reading Star Wars that way? I began to feel like I had overcomplicated something that was supposed to a fun past time.
With that, I unapologetically jumped into celebrating 40 years of Star Wars with From a Certain Point of View.
Revan would still be there when I got around to him.
Choose Your Destiny
Should you read Star Wars books in chronological order or not?
The fact is, it doesn’t really matter.
After all, most of us read Star Wars because it’s fun, an escape. That means you can make the experience what you want it to be. If that means doing it all in order, then have at it. But you certainly don’t have to – and there are some pretty good reasons not to.
If you’re following a specific series, then you probably want to make sure to read those in order. Other than that, there’s no wrong way to enjoy them. In an article on the official Star Wars website, writer Megan Crouse points out that “you don’t lose anything if you’re not reading them in in-universe order.”
After all, that’s what the fans who read them as they came out did – and they still seemed to have enjoyed them just fine!
While following galactic history in order can be fun, you’re just as free to focus on an era or subject that interests you. If you were a fan of The Clone Wars or Rebels series, there’s plenty of canon books that tie into them both.
If you’re interested specifically in Anakin’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano has a novel of her own - but be sure to read this before you check it out.
Are you curious about Sith Lords and why “always two there are, no more, no less”? Venture into Legends territory and explore the Darth Bane trilogy.
No matter your favorite aspect or era of Star Wars, there’s a book for you. Possibly several. And you can hop from one to the next however you want.
And if you’re still having a hard time deciding what to read, don’t worry - we have you covered. The Guides section of our blog is full of recommendations to suit your interests, and we’re adding more all the time.
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About Karl Sander
Karl lives in Alaska, where he’s managed not to freeze any tauntauns before the outer marker. After completing a 20-year Navy career, he now works full-time as a freelance writer. When he’s not enjoying Star Wars, he can usually be found skiing, hiking, and supporting Alaska’s independent brewers.
You can see more of Karl’s work at www.karlsander.net