Although it seems like I’ve been a fan of the Star Wars Expanded Universe all my life, I only started reading Star Wars novels relatively recently. I’ve been a fan of the movies since 1999, but it wasn’t until around 2006 that I first saw a book with the iconic Star Wars logo sitting on a shelf at Barnes & Noble. I don’t remember why, but at the time, I didn’t pick it up and immediately start devouring it. I guess my interest in the franchise was still too casual. But as I continued making trips to that Barnes & Noble and continued passing by the Science Fiction section, I started to wonder: What else is there to the Star Wars story that I need to know? When I finally picked up my first Star Wars book, I was hooked.
Sadly, I don’t remember exactly which book it was, but I know that I read the X-Wing series and The New Jedi Order novels early on, so it was probably one of those books that sparked my passion for the EU. This was the Star Wars that I remembered from the Original Trilogy, but writ large against an ever-expanding backdrop of characters and locations. I found Star Wars books at a time when escaping into literature was very important to me. Stories about Luke, Han, and Leia were a welcome distraction from the personal troubles of my adolescence and early teen years. I must have taken trips to Barnes & Noble and Borders (R.I.P.) almost every weekend, whether I needed to grab the latest release or keep filling out my collection of older novels. Most of my weekly allowance went toward expanding that collection!
I focused on the post-Episode VI novels at first, even though by this time the Prequels were over and numerous Clone Wars novels had been published. Around the time that I started reading Prequel-era novels, I also began frequenting online book discussion threads, specifically on TheForce.Net’s Jedi Council Forums. By then, the Legacy of the Force series was heating up, and I had to avoid online spoilers for those books as I tore through Prequel novels like Cloak of Deception and Jedi Trial. By the time I was ready to dive into LOTF, the EU was filling up with stories from many other points in the timeline, as we approached what I think of as the modern era of the EU.
When I decided early on to commit to buying and reading the entire novelized Expanded Universe, I doubt I would ever accomplish that goal, but years of dedication have paid off: I finally own (and have read) them all. Don’t believe me? Here’s my bookshelf. (Disclaimer: This is a photo from June that excludes a few books, like Mercy Kill, that I acquired subsequent to taking this photo. I would take an updated picture, but I’m at college.)
Why, you might ask, should you care about my personal history with Star Wars books? Hopefully you will care because you can relate to my journey. Everyone who reads Star Wars books has a unique story to tell the world about how they got interested in the Expanded Universe, but common threads unite those stories. As we gear up for on October 6th, fans will be indulging in their shared passion for the EU at libraries, bookstores, and community centers all over the United States. My hope is that people at these events will share their personal “EU discovery” stories just like I’ve done. Doing so reinforces how important the books have been to our lives and how they unite us no matter what other paths we’ve pursued.
Why is Star Wars Reads Day so important? Because Star Wars books offer a variety of important opportunities to people no matter their age or how hardcore a Star Wars fan they are. Star Wars books offer kids the experience of learning more about the universe that captivated them on the big screen. They will get to explore the galaxy with their favorite characters while learning some vocabulary along the way. (You’d be surprised how many real words, terms, and phrases I learned in my early days of reading The New Jedi Order series.) Getting kids to read isn’t always easy, but with Star Wars, parents have the chance to get their kids to want to read. Serial adventures like those found in the EU will ensure that kids who are attached to the characters keep going, perhaps branching out into other EU eras (and discovering new favorite characters) along the way.
Star Wars fandom as a whole also benefits from events like Star Wars Reads Day. Finding yourself in a room with your fellow EU fans can lead to new friendships and broader horizons. You never know what other shared interests you and your new EU reading buddy might have. What starts out as a conversation about Vector Prime can lead to a discussion of vectors, prime numbers, and other aspects of your newfound mutual enjoyment of math. In addition, you will undoubtedly want to keep in touch with some of the people whom you meet at Star Wars Reads Day. Message boards like the aforementioned TFN Jedi Council Forums are ready-made for carrying on such conversations. The extra dimension of knowing that your new friend lives in your area and can attend future events with you will only strengthen that friendship.
Lastly, Star Wars Reads Day is an opportunity to do something that you may not often do in your normal shopping routine: supporting libraries and patronizing local bookstores. Yes, the Internet is a wonderful place, but sometimes the slightly higher cost of picking up the latest Star Wars novel at a local bookstore is worth it once you know the people who work there and develop connections to that community. If you attend a Star Wars Reads Day event at your local library, it’s worth considering the ways you can give back to that library branch for the fun time you had there.
Ultimately, Star Wars Reads Day is about the community of people who like reading the galaxy far, far away as much as they enjoy watching it. Just as everyone approaches the films with a different personal history and from a different perspective, we all started reading Star Wars books in different ways.
I’ve recounted how I became interested in the EU, and I hope that some of you will recognize familiar themes in my story. If you’re so inclined, share the story of how you started reading Star Wars books in the comments section below.
Happy reading, and may the Force of the written word be with you.
Eric Geller is a college student majoring in political science whose interests include technology, journalism, and of course Star Wars. He reviews The Clone Wars TV series and manages social media for Star Wars fan site TheForce.Net. He is originally from the Washington, D.C. area.