You may not know the month and year when Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher first read for their roles in Star Wars, but if you read Star Wars: Year By Year: A Visual History, you will!
You’ll learn a lot more, too, like when Topps released its first set of Star Wars trading cards (August 1977), or what year Kenner first sold the Imperial Troop Transporter toy (1979), or when Lucasfilm launched its now-ubiquitous THX Sound System (June 1982), or when the first official Star Wars convention outside the Americas took place (Celebration Europe, July 2007).
The book is full of facts, but it’s far from boring. Measuring an impressive but still manageable 10 by 12-inches, this carefully researched chronology boasts a beautiful, engaging layout, amply illustrated in full color (including many rarely seen images, and several two-page spreads). You’ll find yourself losing track of time as you browse it. You can also read it cover-to-cover with just as much enjoyment – I know, I’ve read the book both ways!
What makes Year By Year much more than a laundry list of dates or a coffee table exercise in nostalgia is its attention to the Star Wars franchise in historical and cultural context. The book begins with a comprehensive overview of world events and entertainment milestones that influenced George Lucas, and never loses sight of the larger world as it documents all the films, books, comics, video games, merchandise, and more that make up the Star Wars phenomenon. You’ll see how this imaginary world has always been involved in a dialogue with the real one.
Of all the Star Wars reference books I’ve seen, Year By Year is my favorite. It’s great for dipping in here and there, or for checking out “This Day in Star Wars History,” or even for doing focused research about a particular topic or theme in the franchise. When I wrote about the history of Boba Fett toys and collectibles, for example, Year By Year proved itself indispensable, confirming things I already knew and cluing me into things I didn’t.
Year By Year is now in an updated second edition. If you own the first edition, you’ll want to know that the new version covers only six additional years (2010-2016) – but what momentous years they were, bringing the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, the end of The Clone Wars and the debut of Star Wars Rebels, and, especially, the arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the build-up to the first standalone Star Wars movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
With about 50 pages of entirely new material, as well as new cover and slipcase illustrations and two new, collectible lithographs in the front pocket that feature artwork from The Force Awakens, you may well decide the revised edition deserves a place of honor on your bookshelf alongside the first. There’s no better retrospective of Star Wars’ first four decades and no better promise that plenty of excitement and imagination is still to come.
Have you read Star Wars: Year to Year: A Visual History? What’s your favorite thing about the book? Sound off in the comments below!