You may have noticed that Star Wars: The
Franchise Force Awakens is everywhere. And it’s likely to be this way for a few years to come. That doesn’t mean it’s the best sci-fi movie going, but its likely to be the most successful.
Since the end of the original trilogy in 1983, various books and graphic novels have been published, both fiction and non-fiction, expanding on the famous stories of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, and telling us how they were designed and produced.
Later, the books told us what happened next, as well as in between those great movies; they told us more about the prequel trilogy (if you’re not a fan, try watching them in the wrong order), and even went in-depth into the video game universe of The Old Republic.
To signal the arrival of a new trilogy and several spin-off movies, we’ve compiled a list of the best Star Wars books you really need to read. These would make great gifts for birthdays or even to celebrate Star Wars Day!
Like all of the pre-The Force Awakens spin-off media, Kenobi has been relegated to “Legends” status, meaning that it is no longer part of the official Star Wars story, or “canon” (this infographic explains the new Star Wars universe timeline).
Don’t let this put you off.
On Tatooine, “Ben” Kenobi has become a hermit, waiting for his moment. Unfortunately, he becomes entangled in some local trouble, with local farmers struggling to resist the attacks of the Tusken Raiders – “Sand People”.
Feeling like a classic western and expanding on the bare facts we know about Obi Wan Kenobi, this is one of those books that you should just buy. Now.
The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Another behind the scenes art book – but this time, the focus is on JJ Abrams’ record-breaking revival movie, The Force Awakens, and brings you 256 pages of stunning concept art. Look out for concepts not followed up in the movie; a tantalizing glimpse of what might have been had certain elements not been excised from the script.
While the organization of the book might not appeal to some – characters, locations, and vehicles are mixed, rather than given their own sections – this is a title that provides a great companion to the movie. Of course, you shouldn’t read it until you’ve seen The Force Awakens.
Star Wars The Ultimate Visual Guide
The word “Ultimate” aptly describes this book, which comprises of 200 pages from DK Publishing looking at pretty much everything in the Star Wars universe up to and including 2012. This means there’s nothing from the sequel trilogy, but plenty from the originals and prequels, such as rare behind-the-scenes photos and the obligatory pre-production drawings.
Including a host of hitherto unknown facts covering fan conventions, 35 years of merchandise (from toys, video games, poster art, and the Clone Wars animated series) and beyond, this is one of those books that you just want to keep going back to. There’s simply so much included in it.
The Making of Star Wars
Full title, The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film, this is an exhaustive account of the genesis of Star Wars, from the birth of “Annikin Starkiller” to the birth of Industrial Light and Magic, with long-forgotten interviews with stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher, supporting actors Sir Alec Guinness and Anthony Daniels, composer John Williams, special effects master Dennis Muren, and many more.
This is the hardcore “behind the scenes” book that Star Wars fans have been crying out for over the years, and author JW Rinzler has been given unprecedented access to the archives to bring what is, as the title claims, the definitive story of the original film’s development.
How to Speak Wookie
By the time you’ve read this, you’ll believe that you can, indeed, communicate with walking carpets. But once you’ve mastered the rwwrrr (start to yawn, and then roll an “r” or gargle), you’ll need some help. While only 12 pages long, this book by Wu Kee Smith and with illustrations from JAKe [sic], also comes with a sound box to help you practice the key Chewbacca phrases covered in the book.
Should you ever land on Wookie home-world Kashyyk, or find yourself winning a game of Dejarik (that chess game R2-D2 and Chewbacca play in the first Star Wars movie) against a Wookie and need to talk yourself out of an arm-losing situation, this is the volume you need to read first.
Other books in this series include How to Speak Droid with R2-D2.
Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy
Another dip into the archives, this collection of storyboards from the first three Star Wars movies provides a unique glimpse of the process of designing and directing a motion picture.
With complete storyboards from artist Joe Johnston, the book also features early boards for the first movie by Alex Tavoularis and Ivor Beddoes, and some very rare boards by Roy Carnon. Ralph McQuarrie’s art for Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back, is also included. This is so big it even has its own trailer…
At 352 pages, storyboards are split at 82, 112, and 142 pages of material for A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, respectively. This is a behemoth, a Death Star in terms of Star Wars behind-the-scenes books.
The Thrawn Trilogy
Back in 1992, a trilogy of novels by respected science fiction author Timothy Zahn picked up the Star Wars story several years after The Return of the Jedi. Here, Han and Leia are married, the latter pregnant, and Luke is training to be a Jedi Master.
A new threat arises, however, distant remnants of the empire, marshaled by a tactical genius called Grand Admiral Thrawn, who has found an insane dark Jedi to assist him in his quest to restore Emperor Palpatine’s vision of galactic dominance.
Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command tell a fascinating and exciting new Star Wars story, albeit one that is now superseded by The Force Awakens and what follows (and as such, now wield the “Legends” moniker for all cancelled expanded universe media). While these books launched a whole mini industry of Star Wars universe tales, this trilogy is where they began, and should not be missed. (Note that while there is a second trilogy from Zahn, it isn’t a patch on this.)
While rare in print, you can also buy a graphic novel format collection of The Thrawn Trilogy for Kindle.
The Star Wars video games have played their own part in developing the expanded universe over the years, none more so than the loved and maligned (in equal measure) MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), The Old Republic.
In 2012, following the release of the game, Drew Karpyshyn was commissioned to write the story of the game’s unplayable protagonist, Revan. Sometime Jedi, sometime Sith, Revan’s presence (pun intended) dominates the game, and so this provides an insight into his origins. Whether you’re interested in The Old Republic or not, this piece of Star Wars universe history (albeit designated Legends status) is well worth your time.
Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible
Pre-dating the prequel trilogy, this 1992 book presents stunning concept art, features quotes from the designers of the first three Star Wars movies about their inspiration (hamburgers for the Millennium Falcon, street lamps for Boba Fett’s craft, etc.) and the book follows the development of these designs into working cinematic models and then merchandise.
Featuring 131 pages of stunning photos, the presentation of this book is very polished. Compiled by Stephen J. Sansweet, at the time the owner of one of the most complete private collections of Star Wars collectibles, the book also tells the story of how movie merchandise rebuilt the cinema industry, which had been in the doldrums throughout the 1970s.
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars
It would be fair to summarize Star Wars as a tragedy (behave at the back, prequel haters), with Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader as the central villain. William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest tragedy writer of them all, so why not mash the two up?
Amazingly, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – which so far comprises adaptations by Ian Doescher of the original trilogy and prequel trilogy – isn’t a complete mess. It reads well, is arguably funnier than the original movies, and featured re-titled installments such as The Jedi Doth Return and The Empire Striketh Back.
If you like your Star Wars with a twist, it might be worth checking some of the online fan fiction set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
Expand This List!
We’ve given you more than 10 books to think about, but perhaps you think you know better! Do you own any of these titles? Perhaps you rate other Star Wars novels, graphic novels, or art books higher? If so, please comment below, giving us your suggestions or any other thoughts you may have.