I have read the vast majority of the Star Wars books published up until 2014, which were previously called Expanded Universe (EU) and are now called Legends. I even slogged all the way through to the end of the Fate of the Jedi series. For evidence, please see my bookshelves.
For some reason, I have not read nearly as many Star Wars books since they became canon. Probably a couple of things are contributing: less time for reading, less patience for bad books, moving on to other series like The Expanse. Plus I’m just not as invested in new characters as I was in EU mainstays like Mara Jade.
But I’m slowly starting to get into more and more of the canon books. Here are some I’ve read that I thought were worthwhile.
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
This was the first new canon book that got a lot of buzz. It was published as part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” initiative in 2015 leading up to TFA. Technically it is classified as Young Adult (Gray is a YA author, and the characters are young) but don’t let that deter you. (Luke is only 19 in A New Hope after all, and no one worries about that being YA.)
It tells the story of two star-crossed lovers, one belonging to the Empire and one to the Rebellion. I liked seeing the perspective of everyday Imperial citizens, and it helps the reader understand why young people might join the Empire even though it’s evil. The story takes place mostly during the Original Trilogy but also goes all the way up through the Battle of Jakku (so that we can find out why there is a Star Destroyer crashed on the planet in TFA).
Thrawn and Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn
I remember how excited I was when they announced at Celebration 2016 that not only would Grand Admiral Thrawn, the best antagonist of the entire EU, be appearing in Star Wars Rebels, but also that Timothy Zahn, his creator and one of the best EU authors, would be writing new novels about him. The result is two solid new canon books that will appeal to new readers and EU fans as well (and particularly those who have enjoyed The Clone Wars and Rebels).
Thrawn serves as a kind of origin story for the future Imperial officer, showing how he initially came to serve the Empire. I was disappointed that Pellaeon does not appear; instead his role is essentially filled by a new character, Eli Vanto. There is also an interesting side plot regarding Governor Pryce of Lothal and Colonel Yularen, and a cameo from EU character H’sishi, a Togorian.
Thrawn: Alliances also has some good payoffs for EU fans, including a joke about Force-sensitive animals (but no actual ysalamiri or vornskrs). The flashbacks where Thrawn teams up with Anakin and Padmé to take out a Separatist operation feel like a good episode of TCW. It also provides an interesting contrast to the tentative partnership of Thrawn and Vader much later as they follow the Emperor’s orders to investigate a disturbance in the Force. (Plus we get a Noghri assassin!) Both storylines take place on/around Batuu, and specifically Black Spire Outpost, which will be featured in the upcoming Disney Star Wars theme park area, Galaxy’s Edge.
My only complaint about T:A is that it was difficult to read casually. Because the story jumps between two time periods, and also occasionally between characters, it was sometimes hard to pick up the thread of the story when I was only reading a chapter at a time.
The conclusion of Zahn’s new Thrawn trilogy will be out later this year.
Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra by Gillen, et al.
Disney launched a bunch of new lines of comics with the new canon, and these two series feature the first breakout non-movie character of this era: Doctor Aphra, a mercenary archaeologist with two homicidal droids in tow.
Aphra seems like a new take on Indiana Jones, except as a queer woman whose illustration implies a mixed race heritage. She ends up working for Vader and forming an interesting quasi-partnership with him, which is the most interesting part of the Vader story line. (The less interesting part involves some Force-based science experiment characters that seem like they came from the bad part of the EU.)
Plus, did I mention the homicidal droids? BT-1 (“Bee Tee”) and 0-0-0 (“Triple-Zero”) may seem like an astromech and a protocol droid, but they actually are programmed for assassination and torture. For me, they recall HK-47 from KOTOR, which is always welcome. Plus it’s just nice to see snarky droids, whatever their allegiance or alignment.
Aphra eventually got spun out into her own series, plus a short story in the From a Certain Point of View anthology. I look forward to seeing where she goes from here!
Star Wars Block Book
This is the Star Wars book I currently read the most. Every day, in fact. Sometimes multiple times. My 1.5 yr old loves this book and can recognize Darth Maul (“Maul Maul”), the Death Star, Darth Vader, and R2-D2. I am a proud mama!
But seriously, this book is beautiful with lovely cutouts and illustrations. Plus it’s sturdy enough for toddler fingers. It covers the prequels, OT, Rogue One, and TFA.