Whenever my friends ask me (the person who has read around 20 EU books) about picking up some of the books, I always (and ONLY) recommend:
- Thrawn Trilogy: brilliantly written, classic Star Wars, familiar characters, and some amazing new ones
- X-Wing series: less like the Star Wars trilogy, but still very well written and very true to the original spirit.
Everything else can be safely ignored. I just stopped reading them after 2 books into NJO simply because 1) there were just TOO MANY MORE and 2) there are some pretty blatant author battles.
As much as I hate to say this, it would probably be best to do a reset. I certainly feel that it has lost its way, and it's a good thing that BioWare chose to set their games way before the movies, because they'd constantly have to contend with the amount of crap that is piling in at an alarming rate.
And I, too, would support just putting Zahn in charge of the EU, giving him a reset button, and encouraging him to use it. I think that pretty much everyone would rejoice.