See now, to me SOTE is a weaker effort than the Zahn trilogy... I felt that anything that implied in it what it did (I'm trying not to spoil it for you) was a really bad way to take the story... I didn't care for that.
That said I thought some of the new characters were interesting, I thought it did fill a gap... I was mostly irritated with only a single aspect of the story rather than anything overall.
I found SOTE to be mediocre... OK, not something you felt ripped off after you read it, but ok...
Some stuff I found good reads...
-X-Wing (Comics & Novels)... There's a number of these, they're good reads... If you're really military oriented though may I suggest picking up the strategy guide to the original X-Wing and TIE Fighter PC games. The guides are also the stories of the main pilot characters in both books (The "Farlander Papers" and "Steele Chronicles" are the actual names of the stories). They're sort of their own thing, set aside from the X-Wing Rogue Squad books/comics but worth picking up with those IMO. Hell, play the games, they're part of the story too.
The TIE Fighter story is interesting in particular because it integrates the story of Thrawn and how he goes from Vice Admiral in the Imperial Fleet to Grand Admiral... You'll like it I think, though he's not a "main" character in the story. It expounds a little on the "Secret Order" of assassins, and such that work under the Emperor's PERSONAL guidance... Force adepts are more abundant in the galaxy than you might think, and Mara isn't the only instrument the Emperor weilds... I'll leave it at that.
-Kyle Katarn's Story... Kinda like the above with the games, Katarn's got 3 books dedicated to him and of course his games (Dark Forces and Jedi Knight being the integral parts of his story with 2 latter games and the add-on Mysteries of the Sith also adding to it but later in his life). The Katarn story is, in my opinion, one of the best EU stories in all of Star Wars. The story in the games is superior to the books, but you'll have that sometimes. They're short reads though, very small, so they're worth it.
-Star Wars: Empire... It's a recent, and still going, comic series. I buy them when they put them all in one volume (trade paperback? Graphic Novel? Whatever they call them), and I found them highly enjoyable. The one where the Empire are fighting the Amanin (Amanaman's species) is great... It's like the Michael Caine movie about Rourke's Drift... Very cool story, and really the whole Empire series is interesting to me.
-Star Wars: Tales... This was just cancelled I guess but it was great while it was alive. The comic series was neat because it was a number of short stories in one issue. I got into it later so there's a lot I didn't read. I need to buy these when they're all bound in one book or a number of "volumes" like Empire gets. There were some ****** stories but some were pretty fantastic too.
-Republic Commando... I haven't read the latest book, and to be honest I haven't read the first book, but I hear nothing but praise for the first with some mixed reviews on the second. I highly suggest picking up Republic Commando though as it's on my to-read list.
-Tales of _______... The "Tales of" series (Cantina, Jabba's Palace) is considered pretty good. It has some flawed stories in it in my opinion. With some weak attempts to ALWAYS tie main characters and things to basically "nothing", I think it exemplifies some negatives to EU IMO... At the same time there's some cooler elements worth reading. Most I know have picked these up.
-New Jedi Order... It's a big series, and honestly I'm not a huge fan of it but I know others are. It'd be irresponsible of me to say skip it then. It's about the only way to read up on what happens to the Solo's and Skywalkers. Other characters sneak into it too including (drum roll) Kyle Katarn and Keyan Farlander from 2 of the video games I mentioned... Bit parts though as I understand it.
NJO is filled with some positives (IE: The NJO itself and how Skywalker reforms the Jedi Knights and Academy), and some not-so-positives (IE: Killing Chewbacca as a selling point rather than plot, other random killings to sell books, The Vong which I view as Star Trek rip-offs, etc.). It's a popular series though so I think it's worth looking into...
I do NOT recommend Splinter of the Mind's Eye, Truce At Bakura, or Courtship... I've read all 3, all 3 were disappointing to me in many ways. Also I'd highly suggest not reading Dark Empire II... Dark Empire I is eh... Dark Empire II was corny and cheap.
I'm pretty picky though... I like a lot of EU but for every good bit I enjoy there's probably 5 things I can't stand. EU has an uncanny knack for trying to tie the main characters to every passer-by seen in the films or made up in books. It's annoying really... Add to that dumb stuff like the "Bantha Bar & Grill", or keeping EVERY character alive despite their assumed deaths in the films, and you can get into some annoyi8ng crap.
With that said... The Boba Fett comics of the 90's aren't bad reads... To be honest I even have been converted from a guy who HATED the idea of Fett "surviving" the Sarlaac to now actually digging that the Mandalorian one didn't necessarilly die... if you like EU that is.
Lucas says he died... Armies of Fett Fanboys say otherwise, so that's the great hting about EU. YOu can pick and choose what to believe.
I used to hate the notion and now I kind of dig seeing Fett resurface... As old as he must be at that point, haha. At some point the guy's gotta hang up the gauntlets though you figure.