‘Star Wars’ Expanded Universe: Where Should a New Reader Begin?

When it comes to the novels of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, we have a literal (and literary) embarrassment of riches:  a wonderful saga that could rival any in the history of mankind. Authors have explored this rich setting and its characters for decades now, and there’s still plenty left to see. Characters like Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade and Darth Vader will probably ascend into the mythological ranks to join Gilgamesh, Vainamoinen and Beowulf in future centuries. Who knows? thousands of years from now our descendants may look at the constellations anew, renaming them in honor of these mythic characters. As a Star Wars fan, I feel proud to be a part of this legacy.

That being said, I often wonder what a good beginning point would be for a new reader in the Star Wars universe. Should I recommend Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire? Stackpole’s X-Wing: Rogue Squadron? What about the Fate of the Jedi books? Something else? It can be a daunting task: recommend the wrong book and you may lose a reader forever.

With this in mind, I turn to you, dear readers and Star Wars scholars, with this question: What is your recommendation for a reader’s first Star Wars novel? Assume that our hypothetical reader is familiar with all six films and enjoyed them all equally, and generally enjoys science fiction literature. Where would you tell him or her to begin?