I grew up a huge Star Wars fan, but it took me 20-plus years to discover the Expanded Universe. I scoured the web for the best books to read, but it was a mess of recommendations. So this list is my attempt to line up the best Legends books in chronological order.
The New Jedi Order series, set 25 years after the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, is the crown jewel of the Expanded Universe. The books on this list are the ones you should read to be prepared for the New Jedi Order’s storyline, both before and after. Read these books and you’ll have all the right pieces.
OLD REPUBLIC ERA
Darth Bane Trilogy – 1,000 BBY
This trilogy includes Path of Destruction, Rule of Two, and Dynasty of Evil. There used to be a lot of Sith masters and warriors. It was an entire culture. Now there are only two. This is the story of how Darth Bane initiated the Sith’s infamous “rule of two.”
GALACTIC EMPIRE ERA
Darth Plagueis – 67-32 BBY
This is essentially The Phantom Menace as told from the Sith’s point of view. It’s a million times better than the movie, too. Plagueis is the master of Sidious and the one who can cheat death and live forever. I wish this version actually was the first prequel movie.
Revenge of the Sith – 19 BBY
I liked this movie the most of all three prequel films, but we all know it wasn’t perfect. I really wanted to get inside Anakin’s head as he’s losing control to the dark side of the Force. This book does a fantastic job of exploring that seduction for him.
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader – 18 BBY
What happens to Darth Vader between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope? Here we explore Vader’s rise to power and the tension that exists internally as he grapples with not being Anakin Skywalker anymore. It’s a fascinating look at the series’ best character.
Darth Vader: Ghost Prison – 17 BBY
This graphic novel packs a powerful punch. Darth Vader is still a new face for the surging Empire, and others are vying for the Emperor’s attention as well. One such disciple gets the full wrath of Lord Vader in the end. This short story cements Vader as a ruthless killer.
Death Troopers – 1 BBY
Yes, a zombie book set in the Star Wars universe. It was bound to happen. The great thing is, it’s really good. I thought it was going to be cheesy, but it was a fun story and the action is intense. Throw in a few surprise guest appearances and everybody wins.
Han Solo Trilogy – 10-0 BBY
This trilogy includes The Paradise Snare, The Hutt Gambit, and Rebel Dawn. If you like Han Solo (and who doesn’t?) there’s no reason to skip these books. They bring Han from his teenage years all the way to the moment he meets Luke and Obi-Wan in the Mos Eisley Cantina.
Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina – O BBY
A collection of short stories involving the misfits from the Mos Eisley Cantina as seen in A New Hope. From the little guy who wants more juri juice to the creature whose arm Obi-Wan slices off, we get a full suite of back stories. Dr. Evazan is a freak, you’ll agree.
Scoundrels – O ABY
Set just after A New Hope, this is a whodunnit mystery with a twist at the end that’s easily one of the best Star Wars moments, film or otherwise. We also learn why Han Solo and Lando Calrissian aren’t on good terms whey they meet in Empire Strikes Back.
Shadows of the Empire – 3-4 ABY
Taking place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, this book includes all the right Star Wars set pieces plus a few extras. It’s also the best story about Prince Xizor, a cool Legends-only character everybody wishes was actually in the movies.
Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy – 0-4 ABY
This trilogy includes The Mandalorian Armor, Slave Ship, and Hard Merchandise, and it’s all you could want if you’re a Boba Fett fanatic. How did Boba Fett get to be so awesome? Why does he prefer to work alone? And did he really die in the Sarlacc pit?
NEW REPUBLIC ERA
The Truce at Bakura – 4 ABY
Ever wonder what happens immediately after the Rebels win at Endor? They don’t get much time to celebrate, that’s for sure. Luke, Leia and Han rush off to the remote world of Bakura to strike a deal with the Empire and fight back a new threat to the galaxy.
X-Wing: Rogue Squadron Series – 6-7 ABY
There are a lot of X-Wing books. For this list, just read the first four: Rogue Squadron, Wedge’s Gamble, The Krytos Trap, and The Bacta War. This is how the New Republic liberates Coruscant from the Empire and the challenges of ruling a legitimate government begin.
The Courtship of Princess Leia – 8 ABY
It was never a given that Han Solo and Princess Leia ended up together. Han ultimately bests the prince of the galaxy’s richest star system for Leia’s hand in marriage. There’s also some great background for Luke Skywalker’s future as leader of the New Jedi Order.
Tatooine Ghost – 8 ABY
Leia heads to Tatooine on a secret mission and learns about her father’s life as a young slave. She meets his friends. Hears his story. Listens to his mother—Leia’s own grandmother. It’s a lot to take in, and it changes the way she feels about Anakin Skywalker forever.
Thrawn Trilogy – 9 ABY
This trilogy includes Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command. It’s by far the most important story in the Expanded Universe. Without it, there probably is no Expanded Universe. The true star is the Empire’s fearless new leader: Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Dark Empire Trilogy – 10 ABY
Emperor Palpatine returns and lures Luke to the dark side of the Force. These graphic novels are polarizing among Star Wars fans, but it’s an interesting story that is heavily referenced in the rest of the Expanded Universe, so it’s worth reading for those reasons alone.
Jedi Academy Trilogy – 11 ABY
This trilogy includes Jedi Search, Dark Apprentice, and Champions of the Force. Luke Skywalker recruits and trains the first group of Jedi since the Empire’s great purge 30 years earlier. The Solo children also begin to show their Jedi potential.
I, Jedi – 11 ABY
I’m not a huge fan of this book, as the first half is a carbon copy of the Jedi Academy story. However, Corran Horn is a key character in Legends and plays a huge part in the upcoming New Jedi Order series. His path to becoming a Jedi is crucial to understand.
Black Fleet Crisis Trilogy – 16-17 ABY
This trilogy includes Before the Storm, Shield of Lies, and Tyrant’s Test. It’s the biggest challenge the New Republic has faced since the fall of the Empire. The ruthless Yevethen are a serious threat, but it all comes together in the end for Luke, Leia and Han.
Corellian Trilogy – 18 ABY
This trilogy includes Ambush at Corellia, Assault at Selonia, and Showdown at Centerpoint. It’s important to get a feel for Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo while they are still children, and it’s here we really set the foundation for their personality traits and skill sets.
The Hand of Thrawn Duology – 19 ABY
This duology includes Spectre of the Past and Vision of the Future. Two huge things happen in this series that play integral roles in the New Jedi Order. First, Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade get engaged. Second, the New Republic signs a peace treaty with the Empire.
NEW JEDI ORDER ERA
Vector Prime – 25 ABY
Possibly the biggest book in the Expanded Universe. We first meet the Yuuzhan Vong, a terrifying race from another galaxy hell bent on destroying everything in their path. Big battles. Excellent writing. Heroics by the Solo kids. And the death of a beloved character.
Dark Tide I-II – 25 ABY
The duology includes Onslaught and Ruin, and it’s a dark time for the New Republic. With the help of Admiral Pellaeon and the Imperials, the good guys mount an offensive against the Yuuzhan Vong at Ithor. But they lose, big-time, and the entire planet is destroyed.
Agents of Chaos I-II – 25 ABY
The duology includes Hero’s Trial and Jedi Eclipse and reintroduces Han Solo to the fight. But Han is a broken man after the death of Chewbacca, and his struggles echo that of the New Rupublic. Catastrophic losses give the Yuuzhan Vong the advantage in the war.
Balance Point – 26 ABY
Han, Leia and the Solo kids leave the main fight to support refugees displaced by the Yuuzhan Vong. But the war comes to them, and young Jacen Solo fights an internal battle to stay away from the Force. He succumbs to the power, and his path to the dark side is forged.
Edge of Victory I-II – 26 ABY
The duology includes Conquest and Rebirth and largely follows Anakin Solo’s mission to save the Jedi Academy on Yavin IV. We learn even more about why the Yuuzhan Vong are attacking the galaxy, and Luke and Mara’s son, Ben, is born safely.
Star By Star – 27 ABY
The Yuuzhan Vong unleash the voxyn, a terrifying breed of creatures that hunt Jedi. The Solo children embark on a suicide mission to kill the voxyn queen, while the Yuuzhan Vong finally strike at Coruscant, the home planet of the New Republic.
Dark Journey – 27 ABY
Coruscant falls and a shattered Jaina Solo takes center stage following the death of younger brother Anakin and capture of twin brother Jacen. This is the darkest any of our heroes has gotten since Luke turned to the dark side in the Dark Empire trilogy.
Enemy Lines I-II – 27 ABY
The duology includes Rebel Dream and Rebel Stand and introduces the Resistance to the Expanded Universe. Luke and Mara return to Coruscant to face a deadly Dark Jedi, while Jaina Solo steps into a leadership position as the good guys win their first major battle.
Traitor – 27 ABY
The other biggest book in the Expanded Universe. Jacen Solo is not dead. Rather, he’s been captured by the Yuuzhan Vong and is tortured by Vergere, the mysterious former Jedi. To survive, Jacen abandons the way of the Jedi and makes an unlikely alliance.
Destiny’s Way – 28 ABY
Jacen Solo returns, but he’s a changed man after his capture by the Yuuzhan Vong. The New Republic elects a new Chief of State, who helps Luke Skywalker restart the Jedi Council, and Admiral Ackbar sets a trap for the enemy that changes the tide of the war.
The Force Heretic I-III – 28-29 ABY
The trilogy includes Remnant, Refugee, and Reunion. Luke and Jacen head to the Unknown Regions in search of a mysterious being that may change the galaxy’s fate. Meanwhile, Nom Anor sows the seeds of dissent on the Yuuzhan Vong homeworld.
The Final Prophecy – 29 ABY
With Luke Skywalker already on Zenoma Sekot, Corran Horn and Tahiri Veila travel to the living planet along with three Yuuzhan Vong dissidents. However, Nom Anor reveals himself and poisons Sekot, setting in motion the war’s final stages.
The Unifying Force – 29 ABY
It all comes down to this. Our heroes attack Coruscant in epic fashion, striking down Supreme Overlord Shimra to defeat the Yuuzhan Vong. But at what cost? Hundreds of millions dead. Planets destroyed. Governments shattered. The war is over, but the galaxy is forever changed.
The Dark Nest Trilogy – 35-36 ABY
This trilogy includes The Joiner King, The Unseen Queen, and The Swarm War. It’s not part of the New Jedi Order series, but it’s not part of the Legacy of the Forces series, either. A bridge between the two, Luke Skywalker ascends to Grand Master of the Jedi Order.
LEGACY OF THE FORCE ERA
Betrayal – 40 ABY
In the beginning of the 9-book Legacy of the Force series, we follow Jacen Solo’s decent to the dark side of the Force. A storyline that’s been building since the onset of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion and spanning 15 years of Jacen’s life, our hero embraces destiny as he sees it.
Bloodlines – 40 ABY
Jacen Solo is looking more like his grandfather, Darth Vader, every day. Leading a deadly special ops unit, Jacen ruthlessly hunts Corellian dissidents on Coruscant. Ben Skywalker is caught in the middle, and an aging Boba Fett re-enters the storyline in a big way.
That’s as far as I’ve made it so far. More recommendations to come.