The New Republic Era
Many of the stories of the New Republic are novels written by many of the more well known science-fiction authors of the day. Beginning with Timothy Zahn and the Heir to the Empire, the first book in the Thrawn trilogy, and the first of a new line of stories set in the Star Wars universe, authors have taken the setting and made it an expanse that all can enjoy. Adding new planets and new characters. New heroes and new villians. The time following Return of the Jedi was the preferred setting, and, for a time, the only period of time allowed by Lucasfilm for authors to tell their stories in.
When the stories were first being written, each author took the stories that had been written and, if it applied to them, would incorporate the information in those stories into theirs. However, there was no established progression of stories, and the result was books that took place before and after events and contradictory information coming into existance, which has slowly been worked out.
After a time, an un-official collaboration began among authors. Vector Prime marked the first book in what became known as the New Jedi Order series. This series, composed of 19 novels by 12 different authors, while written slightly out of chronological order, tells of a massive over-arcing story involving a war with an invading species, the Yuuzhan Vong, from outside the galaxy. This compilation series changed the course of writing in the Star Wars universe.
Since the New Jedi Order series completed, there have been three other series taking place after the New Jedi Order series. The Legacy of the Force series, composed of nine novels in the main story arc, and three novels occuring during the same time and involving many of the same characters. Following that, the Fate of the Jedi, and ending, thus far, with the Legacy series.
Cover art for The Thrawn Trilogy graphic novel adaptation
Cover art for Dark Empire trade Paperback
The following series are the suggested series and books, prior to the New Jedi Order series, to read if you do not want to read all the books.