It took nine Star Wars movies for a character to actually pick up a book. In The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker finally revealed a small library of ancient Jedi texts. By The Rise of Skywalker, Rey was a dedicated reader of these books, but beyond that, there’s not a ton of book-reading in the beloved faraway galaxy. But, luckily, in our galaxy, there are a TON of Star Wars books for kids.
Assuming you’ve got a school-aged kid who can read books on their own, you might be curious if Star Wars books are even a good idea? What order should you read Star Wars books in? Is there an official Star Wars reading order or book timeline? Which books count as canon? Which ones are best for tweens and teens? What should you know about all the books that are out there? What about the Star Wars book novelizations?
Listing all the Star Wars books ever published would be a waste of your time, but instead, here’s a quick hack to what to know about each major grouping of Star Wars books.
Which books count as Star Wars canon?
For the most part, every Star Wars book or comic book published after 2014 counts as “real” Star Wars canon. This means if your kid wanted to read the Han and Lando book Last Shot by Daniel Jose Older, that book directly references the film Solo: A Star Wars Story. Similarly, the book Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse directly sets-up the events of The Rise of Skywalker.
This thing where the books directly connected to the movies and TV shows pretty much began with the book Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller which introduced the Star Wars: Rebels characters (from the cartoon) but before the cartoon had actually aired. If your kids are into Ahsoka, who originated on The Clone Wars, moved over to Rebels, and made her first live-action appearance on The Mandalorian in 2020, there’s also the YA book just called Ahsoka, by E.K. Johnston.
Again, any of these post-2014 books count, and the Lucas Story Group takes into account various things that have happened in the books and comic books when the new shows and movies are made. Unlike the ’80s or the ’90s, kids who read new Star Wars books now, will not see the events of those books contradicted by what they see on screen. Or, at least, that’s the idea.
Which books are Star Wars Legends?
Okay. This is confusing. It’s not your fault. But, everything published before 2014 by Lucasfilm (or Lucas Books or Del Rey or Ballentine) was made non-canon right before The Force Awakens came out. These books are all largely still in print though, and new editions often have the word LEGENDS plastered across the top of the book. “Legends” means that this Star Wars book is not part of the “official” Star Wars story, but it might be a cool thing to read.
Here’s the part that gets confusing for parents: There’s a lot more of these books out there than there are the newer ones. The “Legends” label is retroactive, but in the ’90s, most of the comics, novels, and video games were generally called the Star Wars “Expanded Universe,” or “EU.” For short. Here’s a quick list of the biggest novel and comic book series from this era.
- The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn– Three novels, published from 1991 to 1993 — Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command — which all tell the story of what happened to Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando five years after Return of the Jedi. These events have been largely overwritten by the “new” canon, but certain characters (like the baddie Grand Admiral Thrawn) have been reintroduced into the “new” canon thanks to newer books, and the series Star Wars Rebels. Notably, The Mandalorian takes place in the exact same time period as these older, non-canon books, and Luke Skywalker is — more or less — acting the same way he did in those books as he did in the big Mando Season 2 finale. That said, Han and Leia have children in these books, and they are NOT Kylo Ren. At all. (Though they do have a kid named Jacen Solo, who turns to the dark side way later. Exactly like Kylo!)
- Dark Empire by Cam Kennedy and Tom Veitch — A comic book series that ran from 1991 to 1992 in which a clone version of the Emperor came back to life six years after Return of the Jedi. Sound familiar? Yeah, the plot of The Rise of Skywalker was very similar
- Young Jedi Knights YA series by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta — A series of chapter books intermediate readers focused on Han and Leia’s kids; Jacen Solo and Jania Solo. This series is very much about them attending a Jedi Academy run by Luke Skywalker.
- Jedi Academy books by Jeff Brown — A series of tongue-in-cheek books for young readers. These may have never counted as “real” Star Wars canon. But for early readers (like K-2) these are great.
- The Han Solo Adventures by Brian Daley, three books — Han Solo at Star’s End, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy, and Han Solo’s Revenge, originally published in 1979 and 1989, these were the first stand-alone books, outside of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (which is not great.) Basically, these books are fun, but certainly for older readers. They also read like “James Bond in space” books written by someone in the late ’70s, because that’s what they are. Approach with caution!
There are many many more “Legends” books published from roughly 1979 to the 2013-ish era, and most of those adhere to their own internal continuity, which began in 1991 with Heir to the Empire. However, the further you get into the weeds there, the more confusing it will get. And, just to be clear, almost nothing that happens in these books has anything to do with the current crop of Star Wars books, movies, or TV shows.
In what order should you read Star Wars books with kids?
Just like watching Star Wars movies with kids for the first time, there are a lot of answers to this question. It’s probably not a good idea to read the books in publication order, mostly because of the schism with all the Legends books. In theory, you could mostly focus on the novelizations of the original films first, and then kind of jump around from there.
Or you could start with the books published in 2014 (A New Dawn) and see where that leads you.
Or you could focus on the novelizations of the newer films. This is kind of interesting because, with The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker, there’s intentionally A LOT of extra material in the book versions. Think of the stuff in these books like “deleted scenes,” but instead, scenes that were never even filmed. These books are called “Expanded Editions” of the movies, which is exactly what it sounds like.
But there’s one more, much newer options for reading order with kids.
What is Star Wars: The High Republic?
As of 2020, Lucasfilm started a new publishing initiative with a series of books and comics called Star Wars: The High Republic. This series of brand-new books are set around 300 years before the majority of the classic Star Wars films, including the prequels. And, many of these books are aimed at younger readers.
The first novel is The Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, which was just published in January 2021.
Next, you’ve got a YA novel called Into The Dark, by Claudia Gray, also set in the High Republic Era, which came out on February 2, 2021.
The upshot of the High Republic books is that they are just coming out and are basically set in an entirely new continuity. Yoda is like 700 years old in the High Republic era, which means he’s considerably younger than he is in the regular movies. But, other than Yoda, the High Republic is full of new characters for young Jedi.
If you have a school-aged kid, who is just getting into chapter books and Star Wars, The High Republic might be a great place to start.
May the Force of reading be with you!