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Where do I start and what do I read?
7 Tips About the Star Wars Expanded Universe

By Kat
Staff Writer

September 1, 2009

With hundreds of Star Wars novels, comics and young adult novels in print it can be a daunting task to know where to begin. "Which Star Wars book should I read first?" is a common question that crops up. Although there is no definitive "right" answer, presents a few ideas of where and what to start reading in the Star Wars expanded universe and how to narrow down your options.

1. Pick an Era
The Star Wars expanded universe is conveniently divided into to six eras: Old Republic Era, Rise of the Empire Era, Rebellion Era, New Republic Era, New Jedi Order Era and Legacy Era. Tackling an era rather than the whole timeline is easier since eras help break the expanded universe down into
more manageable chunks.
Rise of the Empire Era
Symbol for the
Rise of the Empire Era

2. Start at the Beginning of the Timeline
If you're the type that likes to read things from the beginning--and I mean waaay back in time--then starting at the beginning of the timeline might be your best bet. The first story, Tales of the Jedi: The Golden Age of the Sith, takes place 5,000 years before A New Hope.
  Tales of the Jedi

3. Go in order by Publishing Date
The premiere novel of the expanded universe is Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye, published in 1978. You may consider starting there, and continue reading the expanded universe in order by publishing date. This will allow you to take the same path as others before you who started reading Star Wars fiction back in the 1970s.
Splinter of the Mind's Eye

4. Follow an Author
You've already heard good things about Timothy Zahn. Pick up one of his books and read it. If you like his style, keep reading more of his stuff. Timothy Zahn is just one example. Many fans develop one or several favorite authors and sometimes different fans appreciate different styles of writing. If you're looking for consistency in writing and a safer bet that you'll enjoy the book, this might be the way to go.
Michael Stackpole
Author Michael Stackpole is another fan favorite

5. Choose a Medium
The expanded universe can be divided up into several categories: novels, graphic novels, short stories and young adult novels. Pick a category that suits you and stick with it, at least for starters. You can always decide to venture into one of the other categories later.
  Chance Cube

6. Start with the Thrawn Trilogy
If you're looking for a tried and true title, consider starting with Heir to the Empire. Timothy Zahn revitalized Star Wars fiction with the release of Heir to the Empire (Book 1 of the Thrawn Trilogy) back in 1991. Before Heir to the Empire's release, Star Wars fiction consisted mainly of roleplaying game materials (first published in 1987), Marvel Star Wars comic books (published between 1977 and 1986), and Alan Dean Foster's novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye (published in 1978).

The popularity of Heir to the Empire and the Thrawn trilogy as a whole helped usher in a new era of Star Wars fiction. The books are still considered by many fans to be some of the best Star Wars novels of all time, making the Thrawn Trilogy a popular place to start.
Star Wars Heir to the Empire

7. Mix and Match
The philosophy of this technique is essentially read what you feel like. You may want to consider at least elements of the other six suggestions, but ultimately feel free to skip around as you see fit. Feel like reading Darth Bane: Path of Destruction today? Do it. Feel like reading Vector Prime tomorrow? That's fine too. Your options are limitless.

The Technique I Used and Where/What I Started Reading
Even though the first Star Wars fiction book I read was Terry Brooks' novelization of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, my first venture into the expanded universe was Timothy Zahn's novel Heir to the Empire. After devouring Heir to the Empire as well as the other two books in the Thrawn Trilogy, I skipped ahead ten years in the timeline to the Thrawn Duology. I liked Zahn's writing style and enjoyed his characters, so I thought I'd continue reading his work. The Thrawn Duology chronologically leads in to the New Jedi Order quite nicely--and the first book in the series Vector Prime was fairly new at the time--so I continued reading there. I would also periodically go back and read other books I had missed like I, Jedi and the New Rebellion.

So you see I used a combination of these ideas: I started with the Thrawn Trilogy, picked Timothy Zahn as my author and ultimately picked the New Jedi Order as my era. So that would put me in the "mix and match" category.

Remember, there is no right answer. There are benefits and drawbacks to any reading order that you may choose. The variety, diversity and expansiveness of the expanded universe is a good thing--you'll always have something new to read. Just dive into the material and you'll be fine.

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