My top 40 ‘Star Wars’ books for the 40th anniversary: The top 10

After at least 160 novels (more if you delve into children's books) from 1976-2014, the Expanded Universe ended a few years ago, but it's not forgotten, and these 10 books stand the test of time. On the 40th anniversary of "Star Wars," let's take a look back at these classics, counting down to the all-time best "Star Wars" novel.

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My top 40 ‘Star Wars’ books for the 40th anniversary: Nos. 20-11

Continuing the countdown of my top 40 "Star Wars" books leading up to the 40th anniversary on May 25, here are the books that just missed top-10 status, Nos. 20-11:

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My top 40 ‘Star Wars’ books for the 40th anniversary: Nos. 30-21

Continuing the countdown of my top 40 "Star Wars" books leading up to the 40th anniversary on May 25, let's take it to the halfway point with Nos. 30-21:

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My top 40 ‘Star Wars’ books for the 40th anniversary: Nos. 40-31

Counting down to the 40th anniversary of the film on May 25, here are my top 40 "Star Wars" Legends books. It's perhaps an odd choice to focus on the books rather than the movies, but the thing I love most about "Star Wars" is my bookshelf full of EU tomes, so for me it's the perfect way to celebrate. And besides, "Star Wars" technically started with a book: Alan Dean Foster's ghost-written novelization of the first movie, back in 1976. Over the next four days, I'll reveal 10 entries per day, culminating with my pick for the all-time best "Star Wars" book. (Eligible for this list are the novels and short-story collections; no reference books.) Let's start with Nos. 40-31:

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘Clone Wars Gambit: Siege’ (2010)

By the time of Karen Miller's third "Star Wars" book, "Clone Wars Gambit: Siege" (2010), we know the game: Strap in for a lot of words, but you'll be rewarded with outstanding characterization and an appreciation for the human toll of warfare.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth’ (2010)

As she did on "Clone Wars: Wild Space," Karen Miller again shows she's a master of delving into characters' headspaces in "Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth" (2010), the first of a duology that concludes with "Siege." You won't get complex plotting here, but you do end up with a thorough grasp of the physical and psychological stresses put on Obi-Wan and Anakin on a mission to Lanteeb, where Separatist General Lok Durd (the fat Neimoidian voiced by George Takei on the TV show) is overseeing the creation of a bioweapon.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘The Clone Wars: Wild Space’ (2008)

Karen Miller's "The Clone Wars: Wild Space" (2008) isn't the first "trek through the jungle" novel, as it follows the likes of "Splinter of the Mind's Eye," "Heir to the Empire" and "Shatterpoint." But it's certainly the most vicious, as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bail Organa get brutalized to within an inch of their lives on the Sith planet Zigoola. I remembered this aspect of the novel most starkly from my first read – and it's the reason I dreaded revisiting it. However, it takes up a smaller percentage of the book than I thought; the duo doesn't crash land on Zigoola until page 236 of this 342-pager.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘Coruscant Nights III: Patterns of Force’ (2009)

Following two solid lead-ins, "Patterns of Force" (2009) is a satisfying final chapter in Michael Reaves' "Coruscant Nights" trilogy. It's definitely pulpy (mostly in a good way) and it gets bizarrely untethered at times, but Reaves provides lots of juicy writing about core "Star Wars" concepts in a book that is perhaps used as source material for Disney's "Rebels" more than any other.

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‘Star Wars’ flashback: ‘Coruscant Nights II: Street of Shadows’ (2008)

Michael Reaves steps up his game in "Coruscant Nights II: Street of Shadows" (2008), which has more of a true mystery plot than the trilogy's first book and even better tie-ins to the wider Expanded Universe. While there are continuity oddities and plot conveniences, it's a compulsive page-turner and Jax Pavan's gang of renegades is more engaging now – if only because we've spent more time with them.

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'Star Wars' flashback: 'Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight' (2008)

If you're following the EU in chronological order, Michael Reaves' "Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight" (2008) is an oddity for a couple reasons. First, rather than trying to track down Obi-Wan and Yoda, as one might expect, Vader becomes obsessed with finding Jax Pavan. This feels like equal parts "inexplicable shift in the plotline" and "compelling mystery for the rest of the trilogy." Secondly, we witness the death of Even Piell, who is already dead at this point, as per "The Clone Wars." This has a real-world explanation (more on that later), but no fictional answer.

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