With the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars coming up this week, I figured it’d be a good time to highlight some books about the franchise. Here’s a mix of old favorites and new releases.
Fellow GeekDad John Booth wrote this book about the first 30+ years of his Star Wars fandom. It’s a collection of vignettes that is sure to resonate with those of you who grew up around the time the original films were released. You can read GeekMom Jenny Williams’ original review of it here. Maybe it’s time for an even more expanded version, now that Star Wars has hit 40! (Jonathan H. Liu)
I’ve mentioned Star Wars Art before in another Stack Overflow column, but it’s worth repeating: Ralph McQuarrie’s artwork is a huge part of why Star Wars looks the way it does. These two oversized art books are amazing and packed with sketches, concept art, logo designs, and more, along with stories and interviews about the creation of Star Wars. (Jonathan H. Liu)
I really love cartoonist Jeffrey Brown’s take on the Star Wars universe, in which he asks the question: what if Darth Vader raised Luke and Leia when they (and various other characters) were kids? We get to see Vader as single dad, with Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and others as toddlers and teenagers, and it’s really fantastic. My favorites are still the first two, Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess, but you can’t really go wrong with any of these. My toddler has taken to calling them her Darth Vader books, and they’re frequently the books that we grab off the shelf when we need some on-the-go reading. (Jonathan H. Liu)
Part of the success of Star Wars is probably due to the fact that the character types and the relationships between them are familiar to us. It’s the hero’s journey, a cautionary fable, a villain’s redemption—rewritten as space opera. Ian Doescher shows us Star Wars in a new light by rewriting each movie in the form of a Shakespearean play, and does a brilliant job with it. There are books for the first 6 episodes at this point (you can read Jim Kelly’s reviews of the original trilogy here), with The Force Doth Awaken coming this fall. So far, it sounds like there aren’t plans to adapt Rogue One, but we can expect Doescher to start working on Episode 8 soon. (Jonathan Liu)
This is my current Star Wars read—it’s an in-depth history of Star Wars that looks at the films, the merchandise, the culture. Taylor digs into the stories that paved the way for Star Wars and influenced George Lucas, and fills in with stories about Lucas’s life leading up to Star Wars. He writes about the origins of the 501st Legion, about the various parodies and spoofs and knock-offs that the franchise has inspired, about the prequels and their initial (and later) reception. Since it was published in 2014, it predates Episode VII but does cover the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney. If you’re looking for a wide-ranging book about the effect Star Wars has had on the world, this book is a great place to start. (Jonathan H. Liu)
If Rogue One had you saying “I need more Chirrut and Baze in my life!” as soon as the lights came up, then you should just stop reading this now and go buy Guardians of the Whills. This middle grade novel, written by Greg Rucka, gives readers a much-needed glimpse into the Guardians’ lives before they crossed paths with Jyn and Cassian.
The Empire is making their presence known on Jedha, and Chirrut and Baze have tried to adjust to their lives since their Kyber Temple home was destroyed. There are rumors of a newcomer to Jedha who’s willing to take the fight to The Empire. But is Saw Gerrera really their ally?
Guardians of the Whills is a short, sweet read aimed at ages 9–12, but anyone who loved this pair in Rogue One should pick up the book. While readers are treated only to tidbits about their past, those quick looks of Chirrut and Baze’s life before the dark times are worth your time and money. (Kelly Knox)
So, by now, you all probably know I have a little bit of a Thrawn thing. I just can’t resist a blue dude who can out-deduce Sherlock Holmes, knows how to fight, and is the only non-human ever to advance to the rank of Grand Admiral in the Imperial Fleet. Admittedly, Timothy Zahn’s stuff isn’t my usual SF fare these days, but Thrawn is his creation and I was curious to see what he’d do with the opportunity to transition his character over to the new canon. This book is a deep dive into Thrawn’s psyche, much of it told from his own perspective, a very different look at both the Empire and the Rebellion than we’ve gotten in the past. I also quite liked the update to Thrawn’s backstory and the fact they’ve tied him neatly into the canon universe by alluding to a meeting with a certain General Anakin Skywalker, which affected Thrawn profoundly. Highly recommend. (Shiri Sondheimer)
This book, written as if it is an artifact from within the Star Wars universe, follows its history through propaganda art from both sides of the many conflicts. We see posters about the new Galactic Republic, and then posters from the Separatists and the Republic as the Clone Wars build up. It covers the entire span of time from Episode I to Episode VII, and also makes reference to characters from Rogue One, Rebels, and Clone Wars. I was actually expecting the book to be primarily artwork, but there’s a lot of text as well, describing the political environment throughout the story of Star Wars. There is, of course, a lot of artwork, including two envelopes containing 10 posters, and the whole thing comes in a nice slipcase.
It’s a fun premise, looking at the story of Star Wars through the lens of conflicts, both political and martial, but one thought that struck me about halfway through was that you don’t really see any of this in the films themselves. In fact, there’s so little writing seen in the films that it inspired Ryan Britt to write Luke Skywalker Can’t Read. The book depicts some images of what are meant to be the equivalent of bumper stickers, but I’m pretty sure I never saw any of those in the movies, stuck to TIE Fighters or landspeeders or on the side of a droid. That, and it’s hard to believe that propaganda artwork long ago in a galaxy far, far away would look so similar to our own and use so many of the same phrases. Still, if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, it’s a very beautiful book. (Jonathan H. Liu)
Like Star Wars Propaganda, this large-format book is intended to be an artifact from within the Star Wars universe, a series of ancient hand-drawn maps discovered in the Shadow Stacks of the Graf Archives. The book starts with a map of the known galaxy, followed by a timeline that spans from 32 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) to 14 ABY, which covers Episodes I–VII as well as the Clone Wars and Rebels. It’s followed by a page of “Historical Figures,” describing many of the major Star Wars characters. Finally, there are the maps—each map is a two-page spread, describing a world and with small illustrations depicting many of the significant events that occurred there. They’re not intended to be accurate maps, but more like a timeline spread out geographically—that can be fun to look at, but it can also be hard to read in chronological order because you’re jumping all over the place.
The maps are filled with a lot of fun details, including the occasional weird doodles, and they’re definitely something that young fans could lose themselves in, too. GeekMom Kelly Knox wrote about this book (and some other Rogue One titles) earlier this year. (Jonathan H. Liu)
If you enjoyed Rogue One, this book is for you. Concept art includes character designs, landscapes and buildings, ships, computer interface designs, and more. The text describes the making of the film, from the initial concept to the way the story developed. Did you know that the core team originally included a pair of aliens (including Senna, who underwent multiple designs before being scrapped), or that K-2SO was originally going to be a protocol droid before being replaced by an Imperial Security droid?
I love the way that “art of” books give more insight into the background of a film, and showcase images that were cut from the final movie so that you can some more of the behind-the-scenes thought process. With Rogue One, the team faced a particular design challenge: since the movie led directly into A New Hope, the designs used for costumes and ships and weapons couldn’t look completely different from what we saw in that film. On the other hand, technology has improved significantly over the past 40 years, and they didn’t want to make a movie that looked dated when it was brand-new. It was fascinating to read about how they approached this particular issue. (Jonathan H. Liu)
Disclosure: We received review copies of the books covered in this column, except Shakespeare’s Star Wars and Thrawn.