A Star Wars Reading List of Non-Star Wars Books
According to some rumors on the Internet, a completely new Star Wars movie is being released in select theaters around the world on Friday. If this is true, it could mean a lot of Star Wars fans are going to very casually be posting their reactions intermittently to social media. It might be difficult to discern exactly what these Star Wars fans are on about, but one this is for sure: they’re going to be salvating for more stimulation that is similar to Star Wars.
So, here’s a list of books to read in preparation for the new Star Wars or for after you’ve seen the new Star Wars. These books are not actually Star Wars books, but will remind you more than a little bit of Star Wars.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This novel tells the story of one family over the course of several, several generations. What does this have to do with Star Wars? Well, at the beginning of most good versions of the novel you’ll find a family tree diagram that will help you distinguish “Remedois the Beauty” from “José Arcadio Buendía” from “Remedios Moscote” and so forth. Star Wars films have no such family tree diagram thing to help you sort all of this out, but they really should! (In the old Star Wars novels there’s not only Anakin Skywalker but Anakin Solo and Ben Kenobi, not to mention Ben Skywalker. Marquez eat your heart out!) Doubtlessly there will be new branches of the Skywalker and Solo and Organa family tree in this movie. Plus, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Star Wars share something else in common other than both being an epic family drama: ghosts of ancestors and mentors showing up to shoot the shit with the living.
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Egan’s award winning 2010 novel doesn’t tell a single story but instead a myriad of different stories, which eventually lead to numerous “ah-ha!” moments on the part of the reader when you realize yes, everything is connected. From the shoplifting in the first chapter, to the heartbreaking PowerPoint chapter, to the story of friends who upon meeting after years apart, find that their once bright potential has faltered. The Force Awakens has given us glimpses of beloved — once youthful — characters who are now older, and possibly estranged from one another. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo maybe having a falling-out is not too different from Scotty marching into Bennie’s office in Goon Squad and throwing a gross fish on his desk. If Luke turns out to be a weird old hermit and Han is somewhat “normal,” it doesn’t get any more Goon Squad than that.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Finding out that the previous generation of “good guys” wasn’t all it cracked up to be seems to be a theme not only in the existing Star Wars films, but also in the new one. Rowling borrowed from this notion pretty hard in her fifth Harry Potter novel, in which we learn the newly anointed “Order of the Phoenix” was not the first “Order of the Phoenix.” In big fantasy epics, it seems like awesome orders of magical people are constantly getting disbanded and then getting back together in a different generation. Star Wars has already done this once with the Jedi Order, and now it looks like it’s poised to do it again. Rowling also gets bonus Star Wars points in The Order of the Phoenix because the showdown between Voldemort and Dumbledore is almost straight-up Vader and Obi-Wan.
Many Waters by Madeleine L’engle
You might think you know the universe of A Wrinkle in Time because you’ve read A Wrinkle in Time and maybe A Swiftly Tilting Planet, but who do you know who has read Many Waters? This one is the most Star Wars of L’engle’s books for the simple reason that it revolves around Twins, specifically Dennys and Sandy Murry. In it, they also end up in the middle of a desert seemingly by magic and eventually end up riding unicorns. Pseudo-outer space twins in a magical desert? The Force is strong with the Murry family!
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This one is fairly obvious because there are so many references to ’70s and ’80s science fiction in it, but Ernest Cline’s debut novel also has true Star Wars structure. His protagonist Wade literally goes from zero to savior of the entire world, and does it primarily from being good at video games. In almost every single way, Wade is what Luke Skywalker would be like if Luke Skywalker were a real person. Ready Player One then is the meta-Star Wars; both less literary and deep than Star Wars, but somehow more-so on both counts because it’s more “real” in its overt fakery and homage.
Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher
The themes of this novel don’t directly dovetail with Star Wars stuff, unless of course you think of the Dark Side of the Force as a metaphor for drug addiction. (Which it basically is.) Anyway, this novel was written by Carrie Fisher and it remains one of her strongest pieces of work. (Her one-woman shows are pretty solid too.) If you worry that Princess Leia doesn’t have enough agency in Star Wars, here you can check out her real-life alter-ego’s incisive writing and legit pathos.
The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
In almost every way, this 1949 analysis of myth and how myth functions is where it all began. George Lucas and Star Wars fans/scholars have been shouting at the top of their lungs for decades now that the reason Star Wars is so pervasively likable is that it’s all about Campbell’s observations about Jungian archetypes present in certain kinds of epic quest narratives. How about you read The Hero With a Thousand Faces and make up your own mind? I bet you’ll probably only agree with, like, half the things Campbell says, which is honestly the best kind of book.
What non-Star Wars book are you reading that are actually somehow all about Star Wars?