Whether you're a book lover or simply want to refine your sci-fi knowledge, knowing the Star Wars story is a must. A global phenomenon across multiple generations, the Star Wars franchise features not only canon novels, but also numerous comic books, art books, reference books, and screen adaptations.
Both young readers and the more mature audience enjoy the best movies and star wars books that one can find both on and offline.
With the Star Wars franchise growing so big and now receiving another adaptation in the form of 2023's Rogue Squadron, it's hard for a beginner to tell which Star Wars covers belong to canon books, and which can be attributed to fan fiction.
Knowing the entire Star Wars story won't only make watching the Star Wars films a lot better experience. Getting acquainted with the Star Wars universe also helps aspiring writers who wish to write their own science fiction books and short stories, so keep reading!
Star Wars Book Series Overview From 1977 to 2022
You might expect to get a simple, linear overview of the Star Wars franchise. Instead, this book series followed movie releases in not-so chronological ways, while occasional canon publications expanded on the Star Wars universe.
The first movie of the franchise, A New Hope, marked its beginning in 1977. Yet, this isn’t the beginning of the Star Wars story per se, since its place in the story happens long after the 1999’s The Phantom Menace. A New Hope assumes the sixth place in the installment, with the last chronological spot belonging to The Rise of Skywalker.
With movies not following the written publication’s chronological order, it’s easy for a Star Wars newbie to get lost in the story. Don’t worry just yet, as we’ll help you pick up the pace in no time. First, we’ll go over the story’s outline, and then overview canon publications in order in which they were published and the ways they branch out into the Star Wars franchise.
What's the First Star Wars Story All About?
The Star Wars story itself is a space opera that tells the tale of an intergalactic turmoil spanning several generations. To compare, it would be equivalent to telling the story of a world ward versus common sci-fi tropes that focus more on singular stories of their protagonists. In that sense, the story is told from multiple angles, all expanding the franchise and introducing the reader to different key events and characters that governed them.
The Star Wars novels paint a bigger picture compared to movies, although screen adaptations arguably provide a more intense, vivid experience for anyone struggling to visualize distant universes, planets, empires, and armies.
Before you begin your Star Wars reading, keep in mind that its publications branch out into two important segments: canon books and expanded universe.
In further sections, you’ll learn which canon books are central to the story, and which belong to the expanded universe. For now, let’s lay out central characters that canon books focus on so that you have a better idea of where the expanded stories head toward and how they fit into the “bigger picture.”
Main Star Wars Books Characters
The list of Star Wars’ main characters is a long one, as it is specific for a space opera. Not all of the characters get the same degree of attention and debt, though. Some we have more opportunity to get to know them over others, hence forming a shorter list of main protagonists for us to review.
Nonetheless, these numerous characters have all gained a cult following over the decades of the franchise's existence. In fact, even people who neither read nor watched Star Wars know at least a reference or two to the most prominent characters. With that in mind, here’s the fan-favorite character list that the story often focuses on:
Strangely enough, most people who are encountering the Star Wars franchise for the first time believe that the entire story is about Luke Skywalker. Although a major player, Luke can’t be considered the main protagonist. In fact, he doesn’t even appear a lot in the story’s screen adaptations.
Princess Leia Organa
Adopted into an affluent family of politicians, Leia first appears in the story as a teen who grows and evolves into a fierce princess and a rebel.
A fierce Jedi warrior, Obi-Wan plays a major role in the story as his storyline intercepts both Luke Skywalker and Anakin Skywalker, who’s been prophesized to bring peace and harmony to the Empire.
Smuggler-turned warrior is every millennial's favorite type of morally ambiguous character: The kind that has charm and wits, skills, and abilities.
Everyone’s favorite villain and an inspiration for many modern villains, including 2022’s Stranger Things’ Vecna, this heavy-breathing big guy and his machinations will disrupt our protagonist’s plans and wreak havoc across the Universe (literally).
However, the list of beloved characters in the franchise far from ends here. Widely known R2D2, Chewbacca, Wookie, Jedi Master Yoda, and others await for you to finally read their authentic stories beyond the commonly known.
Is the Clone Wars Era Featured in the Books?
Yes. Clone wars are featured in the Prequel sections between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. This story shows the conflicts between the Confederacy of Independent Systems and the Galactic Republic, which are named Clone Wars to start with.
The Ultimate Star Wars Books List
Canon Star Wars Books in Order to Read
Claudia Gray’s Master and Apprentice
This Star Wars novel starts with Obi-Wan Kenobi’s journey to becoming a Jedi Knight. It gives a deeper look at his relationship with Qui Gon Jin, his Master. In this installment, Obi-Wan starts questioning the Master and shows concern over his fascination with prophecies.
This installment explores the period prior to Phantom Menace and is a good book to start if you want to catch the beginnings of an emerging threat.
Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn
This installment takes place after the events of the Revenge of the Sith, and prior to the story of A New Hope. It gives a darker tone as it shows life under the Empire across the entire galaxy. In terms of the movies, this book covers the events of Solo and Rogue One.
James Luceno’s Catalyst
If you’ve read the previous two books, the Catalyst gives a glimpse at how the Death Star was born, including more background of Galen Erso, its maker.
Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath
You’d think that the defeat of the Empire would see the galaxy finally achieve harmony. Yet, this installment shows the aftermath of defeating the Emperor, whose legacy is still very much alive. In this book, the Rebel Alliance battles with the remaining Empire loyalists and soldiers while the new government is still being formed.
This title includes the story after the Return of the Jedi, but before The Force Awakens.
Claudia Gray’s Bloodline
This installment follows the path of Leia after the victory of the Rebel Alliance. In this book, Leia deals with the aftermath of learning about her lineage and charters her path to becoming a New Republic’s First Senator. This book also sets the stage for The Force Awakens.
Alan Dean Foster’s The Force Awakens
This book gives more detail to its namesake movie. Here, we follow more of Rey and Finn, who see major character developments throughout the duration of the franchise.
Jason Fry’s The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi further explores the Force, how it works, and the organizations associated with it. Here, we get to know what lies beneath the surface of Resistance and the First Order. We also get to see a lot more of Luke Skywalker and his relationship with Kylo Ren and Rey.
Rebecca Roanhorse’s Resistance Reborn
This book was written as a prequel to The Last Jedi and takes place immediately before The Rise of Skywalker. The novel was written to tie into the movie.
Now that you know about all the key Star Wars titles, you can start reading and set your basis for fully enjoying and understanding the franchise.
Most Star Wars fans prefer the books to movies though. The reason that books are so often found to be better quality than movies is because books take longer to write, so the writer has more time and much more opportunities to revise their work.
Filming movies like Star Wars is incredibly expensive, so fewer attempts to improve the work done are made by directors than they are by writers. Writers can go back and correct their work as many times as they please, and they additionally get editorial guidance.
Furthermore, the Star Wars franchise began in 1977, when there weren’t sufficient technological possibilities to film scenes with the quality that we have today.
In simple words, the scenes written in the book were technically more demanding than what filmmakers at the time were able to achieve. This is one of the main reasons why movies weren’t made in chronological order.
With Star Wars, in particular, opinions are divided regarding whether the books are better than the movies, and even when comparing the books against one another. Some books are said to be better quality than others.
Also, consider that there may be parts of the story that you will find only in books or in the movies.
Not all Star Wars media covers movie events in the same detail. Some include them, and others are written as prequels or sequels to events in the movies.
Even with that, numerous featuring publications that branch out the plot and give greater insight into the conflict between the Force and the Dark Side will leave you with some puzzling questions, and more importantly, a great reading experience.
How Many Star Wars Books are There?
The list of Star Wars books is long. All the Star Wars books put together make for 381 books, not including comics and other media, like short stories, collected stories, and "secret history" publications.
The Expanded List of Star Wars Books
Now, we come to the moment you've been waiting for. Here, we will list the major Star Wars books in the exact chronological order. Keep in mind that this list doesn't contain only canon novels. It includes important expanded universe publishing as well.
The previously mentioned canon Star Wars books are only the core of the franchise. There are dozens, if not more, published titles by franchise authority writers that breathe further life into the Empire versus Republic civilization development that you should know about. With this in mind, let’s overview major Star Wars book series and publications in their chronological order.
However, don't think of expanded universe as somehow less relevant or less quality than the canon. Novels that expand the franchise contribute to the beloved Star Wars story and give its millions of fans more of the same thing they love. Without further ado, here's a full list of the best Star Wars books:
This star wars novel gives deeper insight into the character Windu. The story sets after the events in Attack of the Clones, featuring Yoda’s Jedi Council second-in-command. Raised on Haruun Kal, Mace Windu witnesses the Summertime War between his planet’s natives and the outsiders.
This book doesn’t only give you a glimpse of what it looked like for distant planet natives to experience sudden war, but also has their former allies fall into the Dark Side, which one can easily associate with how people change amid conflict.
In Shatterpoint, you see Windu questioning many of the series' main premises and slowly building up awareness of some of the Jedi's weaknesses that leave them open to dark influences.
Not many Star Wars novels feature Anakin Skywalker, and this one does so with valuable insight into a crucial character for the plot. Set before the Revenge of the Sith and after the Attack of the Clones, this book shows Anakin’s journey of becoming a Jedi Knight and discovering his leadership skills.
One of Anakin Skywalker’s first major tasks as a Jedi will be to go on the planet Praesitlyn, that’s about to be invaded by Pors Tonith, an ally of the adversary Count Dooku. This novel gives you a glimpse of the many war strategies used to gain enemy Separatists access to hyperspace routes, as well as the hardships of warriors without Force powers.
The Dark Lord Trilogy
Set in the early period of the Galactic Empire, his very important series shows how Anakin transforms into Darth Vader. Featuring the events toward the ending of the Clone Wars, this book shows Obi-Wan and Anakin searching for Count Dooku. The series’ second installment shows more of Anakin’s death experience, beyond what we get in the film.
The third installment of the series shows Dart Vader (formerly Anakin) and his relationship with Padme that set off his path of falling into the Dark Side.
The Force Unleashed
You’ll find this title in several Star Wars media. It also belongs to a popular video game, and it tells the story of a secret apprentice to Darth Vader who’ll later be known as Starkiller. It tells an exciting tale of Galen Marek, an apprentice lured into the Dark Side by Vader, who’ll later study to become a leader of Star Wars rebels.
This epic adventure also centers around questioning loyalty, which will explain the events that led up to creating the Death Star.
Han Solo Trilogy
This trilogy shows the back story of one of the series' main characters. It shows his journey of being a fighter pilot for the Empire and then questioning his loyalty. This book shows some events that coincide with the plot of 2018's Han Solo movie, plus some additional ones that more tie in with the additional franchise trilogy.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
This is one of the first franchise spinoffs, initially aimed to revive the story shall the Star Wars failure at the box office. This title focuses on the adventures of Luke and Princess Leia as they search for a kyber crystal.
The crystal is said to possess Force powers and could act as an energy source for lightsabers. Although the story is narrowly tied to Luke and Leia, it features one of the series’ most iconic scenes, in which Luke and Darth Vader battle with their lightsabers. The events of the book unfold closely before the plot of The Empire Fights Back.
Shadows of the Empire
In preparation for the release of The Phantom Menace, this expanded feature shows the events that unfolded before The Empire Strikes Back and after the Return of the Jedi. It’s not only a book but instead a story concept that further involves merchandising and other media. The story extends to a roleplaying game, a video game, and a comic book series.
Following is The Thrawn Trilogy mentioned earlier in the article. In this title, the legacies of Luke and Leia are shown in the series Heir to the Empire installment.
Other relevant titles in the expanded universe include Lost Stars, Thrawn, and Thrawn Ascendancy giving another peek at the faith of Grand Admiral Thrawn, Kenobi, and previously mentioned, Aftermath.
Best Star Wars Books
Now, with so many books to read, you likely wish to make a selection and prioritize them for the best learning and reading experience. For this reason, we outlined some commentary about staples that made for the best Star Wars books, and why said features made them better than others.
Now that you know about all the Star Wars books out there, let’s discuss some of the series and novels that have been called ‘best’ in the franchise. Keep in mind that the franchise itself focuses more on the movies and that books have been written as a way to expand on the movie events. In a way, this franchise is a hybrid of literature and video, in which you can’t fully experience one without the other.
The symbiosis of books and movies, along with the birth of the expanded writing, began with the 1991 Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, which focused more on Han Solo, Luke, and Leia than your typical Star Wars books. It saw two further installments, the second titled Dark Force Rising, and the third being The Last Command.
These books sparked interest in the history of the said fictional galaxy that couldn’t be told and finished within the publications and releases to date.
The Darth Bane Series
This book series predates The Phantom Menace and follows the Sith lord as he discovers his proclivity to the dark side. Following his revelation, Bane will join the Brotherhood of Darkness, during the events leading to the Empire/Republic conflict. In this book, you’ll read about Bane revising the rules established in The Phantom Menace, which limited the Sith to having a single master.
The trilogy novels titled Path of Destruction for the first, Rule of Two for the second, and Dynasty of Evil for the third installment give us a different take on the conflict.
Here, we get to see that Bane plots the destruction of both sides, and takes on an apprentice who’ll be tasked with completing the said mission.
The end of this trilogy will give you a glimpse of the eon-long peace that saw the involvement of the Jedi Order with the Republic’s military. The book to read after finishing the trilogy is Master and Apprentice, a canon title mentioned in the earlier section.
The Original Thrawn Trilogy and Expanded, Dark Legends: The Thrawn
If you ever wondered what brought about the interest in making The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, it would be this sequel trilogy that has both canon and expanded variations.
This expanded universe trilogy introduces the character of Grand Admiral Thrawn. It was written by Timothy Zahn. You’ll find a similarly tiled canon series as well, featuring this same character. Once you pick up The Thrawn, you’ll find that its plot begins around the Return of the Jedi Events, namely the conflict between the Empire and the Star Wars Rebel Alliance.
Like many of the franchise antagonists, Grand Admiral Thrawn, too, is on a mission to take over the galaxy, and he means to do so with the help of a Dark Jedi.
While both the expanded and canon versions of the original trilogy are considered to be pieces of high-quality writing, many Star Wars enthusiasts prefer the expanded version. Why? It is said that the Legends follow their own direction and focus, whereas the canon books are more tied in with the events of related movies.
If you ever wondered how noble intentions can lead to disastrous outcomes, then fill the gaps of knowledge with this title. Darth Plagueis reveals to us the background of Plagueis’ obsession with immortality and the tragedy that unfolded as a result of his pursuit of creating life.
Here, you’ll also see how he manipulated and instigated the Phantom Menace's central conflict.
Dark Force Rising and The Force Awakens make for must-reads in order to fully grasp the story.
All the Star Wars Books In One Place (Old and New Canon): What's Next?
Read Star Wars Insider
If you just can't let the franchise go past reading its best canon novel collections and graphic novels, you might feel satisfied subscribing to a dedicated franchise magazine. Here, you can enjoy excerpts from graphic novels, articles, releases, and film novelizations commentary.
Other Star Wars Media Releases: Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022)
This series fills the gap before The New Hope and after the Revenge of The Sith. The show follows Jedi Master Obi-Wan as he looks after and trains young Luke Skywalker.
Additional Best Star Wars Novels to Enjoy
It appears as if a franchise enthusiast can spend all their spare time enjoying Star Wars movies, books, graphic novels, and animated series by Disney Lucasfilm Press.
Best Star Wars Novelizations (Old and New Canon)
On that know, while it's wise to start from official canon novel collections, don't forget about other series like The High Republic era books, the Galactic Republic era, and ultimately the New Republic era books. The High Republic era series alone counts over 10 novels to enjoy!
Newest Star Wars Books
Not that the classics written by Alan Dean Foster aren't spectacular, but the author alone can't seem to give readers everything they expect from the story.
Now, you must be wondering: What are the newest exploits of the Star Wars rebels, and what was their success rate so far?
The franchise continues to develop, and its latest publications include those of The High Republic era series. Novels featured in the newest series exploring the Galactic Republic and the High Republic exploits include the Lost Stars, the Fallen Star, Return of the Jedi, The Last Jedi, The New Hope, and The Rise of Skywalker, and many more.