If You Like...Star Wars - Read These Books!

Editor's Note - Some of us here at About Books have already bought our tickets to Rogue One. As we wait for it to open in theaters December 16, we are enjoying these recommendations. 

Almost 40 years after the release of the first Star Wars movie, the characters and stories have become bonding points from generation to generation, and there have been many who have started to study the universe’s continuing appeal. Star Wars is what is known as a space opera, a subgenre of science fiction that features space as a setting, with a melodramatic and adventurous plot often containing space warfare, romance and advanced technologies and/or abilities, like the Force. I think one of the other elements that sets Star Wars apart from a lot of other space-set science fiction is that it’s not just set in space – it’s set in a galaxy, far, far away with limited to no mention of Earth or Earth’s interactions with other planets, galaxies or species. This choice makes it even easier for readers to suspend disbelief enough for fantastic elements to coexist in the story alongside its more familiar science-based aspects. What you’ll find on the list below is a mix of retellings and adaptations, other space operas in galaxies far, far away and non-fiction reads that may interest Star Wars fans, so without further ado… read on!

The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
Originally published in 1949, this work is Joseph Campbell’s exploration of world mythology through a lens of modern psychology, considering the patterns that can be found in myths through the ages and its relevance to our human experience. Why is this book of interest to a Star Wars fan? This title was actually one of many things that inspired George Lucas in his creation of Star Wars.

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire – Timothy Zahn

There are many titles that either retell the movies or expand the Star Wars universe, but our recommendation list would not be complete without mentioning Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy. Heir to the Empire was the first attempt at continuing the Star Wars story, eight years after the release of Return of the Jedi, and, in it, Zahn successfully captures the characters from screen to page and makes it feel like readers have entered the Star Wars universe again. For many years, this trilogy was considered by many to be part of the Star Wars canon, but that view was officially corrected and the Thrawn trilogy, relabeled a Legend, prior to the coming of The Force Awakens and what has been dubbed the “new canon.” This reader can’t help but wonder, though, if any of the plot lines in Force Awakens can be traced back to this trilogy, despite its non-canon relabeling...

With the Lightnings – David Drake

History meets space opera in this story, which Drake himself has called a “SF version of the Aubrey/Maturin series, Patrick O’Brian’s superb knockoff of Forester’s Hornblower” series. In Drake’s universe, the Republic of Cinnabar battles it out against the Alliance in a battle for supremacy and the wealthy planet Kostroma finds itself stuck in the middle, trying to remain independent. When a powerful invasion fleet heads toward Kostroma, it’s up to Daniel Leary, Cinnabar naval lieutenant, and Adele Mundy, a scholar whose family had no love for Cinnabar and paid the price, along with their thrown together crew to help the planet Kostroma retain its independence.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope – Ian Doescher

This book is a particularly fun adaptation of George Lucas’s Star Wars that takes the story from screenplay to an iambic pentameter stageplay, exploring the question of what the story might look like if Shakespeare had told it. The six books in this series adapts the first six movies and – bonus – may be an excellent starting point for Star Wars fans learning to read and understand Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter.

Dune – Frank Herbert

This otherworldly science fiction tells the story of Paul Atreides, a son who was supposed to be a daughter, and as a result may be a sort of “chosen one” to a group called the Bene Gesserit that seeks to maintain their power and influence for the good of their society. The Bene Gesserit possess supernatural mental abilities, including one called “the Voice” which enables them to perform their universe’s version of a Jedi mind trick. This book is the first in a series of books by Frank Herbert, in a world that has had a similar lasting appeal as Star Wars for many science fiction fans

The Making of Star Wars – J. W. Rinzler

For film buffs and anyone else interested in seeing the behind-the-scenes workings of filming Star Wars, this book is not to be missed. There are many books out there that go behind the scenes of each of the different Star Wars films, but this one exclusively explores the making of Star Wars: a New Hope, the very first film created and shared, and includes interviews from the official Lucasfilm archives, conducted before and during work on the film but not released until years later when this book was published in 2007.

What other recommendations would you give to others who love Star Wars? Leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!

- Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library

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