As with anything that expands, quality seems to have dropped. The Thrawn Trilogy is certainly accepted as one of the best trilogies as far as books. One of my favorites was the ORIGINAL expanded universe novel by Alan Dean Foster (who novellised Alien) 'Splinter Of The Mind's Eye'. Tales of books are also very good and give you an idea of expanded universe writers that you may like.
As I said there are alot of novels out there not so good, e.g. As a classic Star Wars fan, most of Drew Karshyn's (sp) books don't appeal to me and Bioware lore of the universe is somewhat grating so again I'd recomend to avoid those. I'd also look at graphic novels such as The Golden Age of The Sith and if you can pick up the orignal Marvel comic series, you won't go wrong.
I have to 100% disagree with you. The books and comics you are describing are the worst of the worst, well other than a few bad decisions like the Star Wars Galaxies novel. They are terribly dated in terms of being old fashioned, poorly written/drawn and most of the ones you mention will leave this poor guy in worse shape in terms of understanding current Star Wars Cannon than never having read at all.
For example, Splinter of the Mind's Eye was a tie-in novel much like a happy meal toy as a tie-in. It was written with no regard for even the rest of the original trilogy and is probably the novel of most questionable cannon status.
For the OP, I recommend reading Heir to the empire first and following from there in chronological order. At whichever point you want, read the tie-in novels to this book. You might as well skip the clone wars era novels as they are also of questionable cannonicity at this point.