As Paul promised here is my own, personal count-down of my personal favorite Expanded Universe works!
Video games are an important part of the EU, but for the most part, they’re inaccessible to me. I don’t have the time, the patience, the money, or the hardware it takes to run the greatest Star Wars games. Galactic Battlegrounds is different, though. I can easily handle the strategic challenges thrown my way in the campaigns, and I love competing with my brother in multiplayer mode—even if he always wins. The storyline is good, and generally fits into the larger EU well. (This is something the Empire at War folks could have learned from.) Best part of the game? Simon the Killer Ewok.
9Cloak of Deception
Perhaps James Luceno’s best Star Wars novel, Cloak of Deception is definitely an EU masterpiece. It integrates established EU locations and characters into a political thriller that showcases Palpatine’s manipulations and provides the background for The Phantom Menace. And just when you think you’ve got everything figured out, Luceno adds a shocking surprise ending!
8The New Essential Guides
The old Essential Guides were great for their times, and sill have lots of useful information…but the new Guides are absolutely spectacular! The sheer amount of sources grows impressively with each book, both as new stories are released and older ones gain credibility. Although there have been a few lackluster volumes, most provide excellent art with brand new information and plenty of continuity fixes to keep the sometimes disparate sources in line with one another.
7Evil Never Dies
And uh, speaking of continuity fixes…Abel G. Peñ is a master of continuity, who routinely balances retcons with storytelling and new information. He hasn’t written any novels, but recently his works have become very influential in setting up characters for future books. Peñ’s Sith guide is his masterpiece, filling in the gaps in Sith history, describing Sith Lords only barely mentioned before, and even providing a reasonable explanation for the Sith’s continued existence.
6X-Wing: Wraith Squadron
Wildly different in tone than anything that came before, Aaron Allston’s Wraith Squadron books balance over-the-top humor—the stuffed Ewok gag is legendary—with a sense of danger that was new for Star Wars novels. Any of his characters could be killed off, and several of my favorites were. Allston also tied his books directly into the older Courtship of Princess Leia, and even explained a major inconsistency with that novel to boot. My favorite part? While posing as an Imperial crew, undercover Wraith Squadron devises a wacky-but-effective solution to avoid meeting another Imperial crew face-to-face that you have to read to believe.
Turning background extras into main characters is a staple of the EU, and it’s never been done better than in the Tales collections. A whole slew of talented authors—some of whom were not the usual stock Star Wars writers—contributed to these three books, one for each of the movies. Two of the best Boba Fett stories ever written can be found here, along with some highly entertaining adventures of the cantina band. The quality and variety of stories and authors in these stories can’t be found anywhere else.
Star Tours combines two of my favorite things: Star Wars and Walt Disney World. You wouldn’t expect to find a Star Wars ride here, but it definitely work. Disney's animatronics bring the droids of Star Wars to life--where else can you see a C-3PO that really is a robot? Walking into the queue area of Star Tours is like walking into a Star Wars movie, and while the simulator isn’t exactly intense, the shaking and soaring feel just like what you see onscreen. Amazing!
3The Thrawn Trilogy
What can I say here that others haven’t? Even though it took me three years to finish, the Thrawn Trilogy was one of the first EU series I read. It still stands as my favorite novel trilogy.
2The Jude Watson-verse
Ah, but before I started reading the rest of the Expanded Universe, I had already discovered Watson’s Jedi Apprenticeseries. In the post-ROTS era it’s hard not to look back on a time when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were solving mysteries and undertaking “aggressive negotiations” without a definite sense of nostalgia. Although Apprentice ended after eighteen books (and two special editions) it really continued on in Watson’s two follow-up series, Jedi Quest and Last of the Jedi (the latter of which is still ongoing.) Add to that her classic Legacy of the Jedi, Secrets of the Jedi, and her pre-Apprentice works (the Journals and Science Adventures) and you have one of the largest and most impressive EU contributions by a single author.
1Classic Star Wars
Although there are many works set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson’s excellent newspaper comic stories have long been considered the definitive bridge between the two. Goodwin had previously written stories for Marvel’s Star Wars comic line, but here he had the advantage of working with material from the newly-released Empire. Thus, we not only have typical high space adventure stories involving flying snakes and a half-dressed pirate queen, we also see the backstories for many events in Empire: the bounty hunter of Ord Mantell, the discovery of Hoth, the evacuation of Yavin, and the launch of the Executor. Years after the series had concluded, Dark Horse teamed with Al Williamson to colorize the daily strips and add new artwork, turning the hard-to-find newspaper strips into full-blown comics. Great art, terrific writing--the EU hasn’t been this much fun since.
Those are my favorites so far…and I look forward to finding more!