Canon refers to the official Star Wars story line. The acronyms BBY and ABY refer to “Before” and “After” the Battle of Yavin at the end of Episode IV: A New Hope that released in 1977. All of the dates in this timeline are measured against the original movie.
There’s a lot of stuff in the Star Wars canon, and it’s growing every day. This is my attempt at making sense of it all and giving you just the stories you need to understand (and appreciate) the big themes from Star Wars.
Dooku: Jedi Lost – 50 BBY
Trained by Yoda himself, Dooku became a powerful and influential Jedi Master. But the Count of Serreno leaves the Jedi Order over philosophical differences. This audio book tells the story of Dooku’s family history and his fateful split with the Jedi.
Master & Apprentice – 39 BBY
Qui-Gon Jinn is asked to join the Jedi Council, but a mission to faraway Pijal with Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi changes his life forever. Always a believer in the ancient Jedi prophecies, Qui-Gon’s faith in the Force is strengthened by visions of the future.
Darth Maul – 32 BBY
Darth Maul’s apprenticeship was long kept in the shadows. In this comic, Maul surfaces and comes face-to-face with a Jedi for the first time. Trained to kill, the ruthless Dathomir warrior jumps at the opportunity to slay his mortal enemy.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace – 32 BBY
At the height of their powers, they allowed Darth Sidious to rise, create the Empire, and wipe them out. It was a Jedi Master who was responsible for the training and creation of Darth Vader. Luke Skywalker’s quote from The Last Jedi summarizes the prequel saga.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones – 22 BBY
The Sith’s evil plan to annihilate the Jedi enters its most crucial stage, as a pre-programed clone is unleashed upon the galaxy. Anakin and Padme are secretly married, and we get our first glimpse of the dark side in Anakin when he avenges his mother’s death.
The Clone Wars – 22-19 BBY
The animated TV series lasted six seasons and followed Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Padawan Ahsoka Tano as they battle the Separatist droid army. Important story arcs are everywhere, including the return of fan favorite Darth Maul.
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir – 19 BBY
Having built a criminal empire to do his bidding, Maul leads an attack on Count Dooku and General Grievous designed to lure Darth Sidious to Dathomir. There, the ancient witch Mother Talzin awaits, but the dark side of the Force favors the evil Sith Lord.
Dark Disciple – 19 BBY
This is a powerful tale of love and hate in the Force, with key players from the Clone Wars era: Count Dooku, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker. The story follows Jedi Master Quinlan Vos and his flame with former Sith apprentice Asajj Ventress.
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – 19 BBY
Anakin is seduced by the dark side of the Force in a futile attempt to save Padme’s life. Chancellor Palpatine eliminates the Jedi, turns Anakin into Darth Vader, and creates the Galactic Empire. Luke and Leia are born, and the Jedi go into hiding.
GALACTIC EMPIRE ERA
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith – 19 BBY
Taking control of the Inquisitorious, a group of dark Force users tasked with hunting down the remaining Jedi, Darth Vader emerges as the most feared being in the galaxy and cements himself as the Emperor’s right-hand man and ruthless enforcer.
Ahsoka – 18 BBY
One year after Order 66 wiped out the Jedi, former Padawan Ahsoka Tano is on the run. She can’t stay hidden forever; not when the galaxy needs her more than ever. After helping a band of farmers on a faraway planet, Ahsoka joins Bail Organa’s fledgling rebellion.
Lords of the Sith – 14 BBY
A solid one-off tale about a stealth mission Darth Vader and the Emperor take together. They kick some serious ass, but Vader is put in his place time and again. The side story about the Twi’lek rebels who attempt to assassinate both villains is equally good.
Tarkin – 14 BBY
Tarkin blew up Alderaan to showcase the Empire’s true power. In A New Hope, he refers to Darth Vader as “my old friend.” This book dives into their complicated history together and details Tarkin’s ascension to Grand Moff of the Galactic Empire.
Catalyst – 21-1 BBY
A prequel to a prequel, this book sets the stage for Rogue One and is a must-read for any fan of the film. It tells the backstory of Death Star Director Orson Krennic and scientist Galen Erso, father of Rogue One heroine Jyn Erso.
Most Wanted – 13 BBY
We know Han Solo pretty well. But this is Qira’s book, and it’s a great expose into the character’s motivations. It may appear Qira is trapped in Dryden Voss’ Crimson Dawn, but this story tells us Qira likes the finer things in life, no matter the cost.
Solo – 13-10 BBY
From the depths of Corellia to a general in the Rebel Alliance, Han Solo’s origin story includes adventure, friendship, and one too many betrayals. The latter forges his infamous scoundrel persona as Han builds a wall around himself and his emotions.
A New Dawn – 11 BBY
This one’s only for fans of the Star Wars Rebels TV show, but if you’re a fan of the show then it’s a great origin story for Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus. The two heroes find themselves on the same side of a fight on a remote mining colony.
Leia, Princess of Alderaan – 3 BBY
How does a teenage girl, heir to the throne of Alderaan no less, turn her back on the benefits of royalty for the chance to start a civil war? This is Leia’s awakening and her adopted parents, Bail and Breha Organa, are beautifully written as they sew the seeds for rebellion.
Thrawn Trilogy (New) – 11-1 BBY
The trilogy includes Thrawn, Alliances, and Treason. Grand Admiral Thrawn, now serving the Emperor as his cunning chief strategist in charge of the Unknown Regions, is masterfully re-introduced here as part of the series’ official canon.
Rebels – 5-1 BBY
The animated TV series lasted four seasons and followed the Ghost crew: Hera, Kanan, Ezra, Sabine, Zeb, and Chopper. Seamlessly weaving in old friends like Leia and Lando and baddies like Darth Vader and Thrawn, the Rebellion takes its first steps towards open war.
Rebel Rising – 13-0 BBY
What happens after 8-year-old Jyn Erso is rescued by Saw Gerrera? Why is Jyn in prison at the beginning of Rogue One? Follow her journey from orphan to heroine as Saw gives Jyn the training and confidence she needs to become a rebel leader.
Rogue One – 0 BBY
The Rebellion breaks Jyn out of prison and sends her on a mission to retrieve her father, scientist-turned-captive Galen Erso. The Death Star flexes its might, and Jyn’s crew of rogue soldiers infiltrates the Empire’s stronghold to swipe secret plans to the battle station.
Episode IV: A New Hope – 0 BBY
Following the Battle of Scariff, the Rebellion makes plans to destroy the evil Death Star. Luke trains to be a Jedi Knight under Obi-Wan Kenobi, Leia is captured and tortured by Darth Vader, and Han Solo emerges as a dashing savior in the Rebels’ signature victory.
From a Certain Point of View – 0 ABY
A collection of 40 short stories spanning the events of A New Hope. Why didn’t the Jawas run a memory wipe on our two favorite droids? What was Mon Mothma’s contingency plan should the rebels lose? What role does Qui Gon Jinn have to play in all this?
Darth Vader – 0 ABY
The Emperor blames Darth Vader for the Death Star’s destruction and introduces a team of cybernetic thugs to challenge Vader’s standing. The Sith Lord mercilessly slaughters them all and along the way learns that he has a son.
Weapon of a Jedi – 0 ABY
Luke continues his training following the Rebels’ stunning victory at Yavin IV. He discovers a hidden Jedi temple and learn more about the Force. Thus, Luke embarks on his lifelong quest to become a Jedi Knight like his father.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back – 3 ABY
Enraged after the Death Star’s destruction, the Emperor and Darth Vader set in motion a plan to capture young Luke Skywalker. Han and Leia are used as bait, and it’s revealed that Darth Vader is actually Luke’s father and the fallen Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker.
Moving Target – 4 ABY
Princess Leia’s mission after The Empire Strikes Back sets the stage for the Rebellion’s ultimate victory. She dupes the Empire into thinking the Rebels are going one way, when actually she’s securing secret hyperspace lanes to the forest moon on Endor.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi – 4 ABY
Luke walks right into Jabba the Hutt’s temple and rescues Han Solo, then leads the Rebellion to victory alongside Leia, who we learn is Luke’s twin sister. Anakin Skywalker is redeemed when he turns on the dark side and kills the Emperor.
Shattered Empire – 4 ABY
Immediately after the Battle of Endor, the Rebels’ celebration is short-lived as the remaining Imperial forces mount a counterattack and our heroes are thrust back into battle. Luke teams with Poe Dameron’s mother, a fighter pilot in the Alliance, to save the galaxy again.
Aftermath Trilogy – 4-5 ABY
A compelling look at how the galaxy reacts to the Emperor and Darth Vader’s deaths. The rebels’ win at the Battle of Jakku ends the war once and for all, but the Emperor’s grand plan comes into focus and tracks are laid for the sinister First Order.
Lost Stars – 11 BBY – 5 ABY
Follow childhood friends Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree through all three original films as they end up on opposite sides of the war. It’s a love story, but it’s also a lot of fun weaving through the Star Wars universe from beginning to end. Great ending ties into the Aftermath trilogy.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 – 0-4 ABY
This video game mostly follows Iden Versio, leader of the Empire’s famed Inferno Squad, as she realizes the Imperial war machine isn’t what she believes it to be. Luke’s journey to Jedi Master begins as he starts to uncover the Emperor’s true plans for galactic domination.
NEW REPUBLIC ERA
Last Shot – 8 BBY – 7 ABY
Here, we meet a very different Han Solo than we’re used to. He’s struggling to be a husband, doesn’t really enjoy being a father to 2-year-old Ben, and he’s way out of place in the New Republic. That’s why he jumps at the opportunity to join Lando on a dangerous mission.
Bloodline – 28 ABY
Set six years before The Force Awakens, Leia’s not exactly happy with the New Republic Senate. Her fall from grace begins with the public revelation that she is Darth Vader’s daughter. The First Order surfaces, and Leia leaves politics to form the Resistance.
FIRST ORDER ERA
Phasma – 28 ABY
Captain Phasma is one of the coolest characters in The Force Awakens, but she’s hardly even in the movie. This is her origin story and it’s super interesting. Surviving on a remote world to become the face of the First Order, Phasma is not what she seems.
Before the Awakening – 34 ABY
Three short but critically important stories about the heroes from The Force Awakens. Meet Finn during his stormtrooper training, Rey scavenging the deserts of Jakku in the weeks before the movie, and Poe as he sours on the New Republic navy and joins Leia and the Resistance.
Episode VII: The Force Awakens – 34 ABY
Ben Solo, Han and Leia’s only son and one-time pupil of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, terrorizes the galaxy as dark side disciple Kylo Ren. Rey, an orphan from Jakku, emerges as a strong Force user and threat to Kylo Ren, who kills Han Solo in the movie’s final moments.
Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – 34 ABY
Rey tracks down the missing Luke Skywalker, who has isolated himself on the remote planet of Ahch-To after his failure to train a new generation of Jedi. Rey’s connection with Kylo Ren is strengthened, and Luke sacrifices himself to save Leia and the Resistance.
That’s as far as I’ve made it so far. More recommendations to come.