I am a huge fan of the TV show Game of Thrones. I am considering reading the books.

A part of me would like to know the rest of the story, i.e. starting at volume 3. Another part of me is afraid to get lost in the middle of stories that the TV didn't mention (i.e. starting at volume 1).

  • 4
    This is a fairly subjective question. Maybe you could ask explicitly about the reasons you are concerned about reading the books?
    – dlanod
    Aug 19, 2012 at 0:14
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    When in doubt, always read the book(s). The book is always far superior to adaptations for TV/movie. Also consider the fact that while the TV series can entertain you for hours, the books will entertain you for years.
    – TLP
    Aug 19, 2012 at 9:30
  • 3
    Who watches before reading?!
    – Raphael
    Aug 19, 2012 at 13:37
  • 4
    People not as lucky as you to know those books before they are adapted, @Raphael. Aug 20, 2012 at 19:21
  • 2
    You should read the books, because Only the books are canon. - GRRM
    – Möoz
    Feb 2, 2017 at 0:02

6 Answers 6


Definitely. The TV show only scratches the surface of what the books contain, in my opinion. Due to the constraints of the TV medium, several aspects of the books have been modified or deleted. You'll reap the full benefit of George R. R. Martin's creativity by reading the books.

One analogy that I've come across is the Lord of the Rings. The movies were great, but still don't contain all of the depth that is present in Tolkien's original books.

In the end I believe that most fans would greatly enjoy the story arcs contained within the books that the TV show was based on. You'll have the added benefit of moving ahead of where the TV series is focusing on, since the books have been out for a longer period of time.

You'll want to read the books in their original order:

  1. A Game of Thrones
  2. A Clash of Kings
  3. A Storm of Swords
  4. A Feast for Crows
  5. A Dance with Dragons

More information can be found on the author's site or the Wikipedia page for the series.

  • Does reading ahead make the show less enjoyable though?
    – Mkalafut
    Apr 8, 2014 at 20:51
  • 1
    “You'll have the added benefit of moving ahead of where the TV series is focusing on” — not any more! Jan 30, 2017 at 13:22
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    One little thing to add re. reading order: I'd suggest considering weaving the "A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms" short stories in with this. I'd say at least try to have read The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword before reading A Feast For Crows - it's not strictly necessary, but A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons contain a lot of subtle details and mysteries relating to events long in the past not in the TV show (e.g. Blackfyre rebellions) and these will make a lot more sense and be a lot more interesting and less confusing if you've read those short stories. Jan 30, 2017 at 16:18
  • @PaulD.Waite, very true - the TV series has moved far ahead of the books now and has diverged a bit.
    – JW8
    Feb 2, 2017 at 17:59

Absolutely. The stories are generally the same, though you will notice some differences between the TV series and the books for both dramatic and running-time reasons, but the TV series is, generally, a very faithful adaptation of the books.

If you enjoy reading and you enjoy, the television series, you should at least give the books a try. However I would suggest reading from the start, as the differences may be enough to be confusing, as you are concerned about.

  • 4
    After season 2, I would no longer say that the series is very faithful to the books. For example, not much of what happened in Qarth in the TV series was from the books, but rather freshly written.
    – TLP
    Aug 19, 2012 at 9:26

I think I have a unique, or at least a less common, perspective on this from which to lend some advice. This is going to be long, the last paragraph is a shortened version. Stack Exchange is usually about solid answers with references and empirical data, but this is a subjective question on subjective matter.

I'll start with the 1 fact that applies to this question. There are many, many differences between the books and the show. These differences usually lie in the details, but there is such an immense amount of detail in the books that it all adds up to quite a bit of difference between the 2 mediums. I give an example of one of these differences below and talk about how small it is overall but how it still brings a lot to the book.

I did not read the books yet. I plan to start reading them very soon. The 3rd season of the show is about to end tomorrow evening.

In 3 seasons, much has happened. Very big surprises and twists and turns. My chief concern was that knowing these things before hand could make the books more boring than they would have been had I not watched the show.

I have since put that concern to rest after thinking about it bit more and here's why.

I knew some things about the story before they happened in the show. Some of the things I knew simply because the internet can be hazardous when it comes to popular media spoilers. Some of the other things I knew were from scouring the ASOIAF wiki. I would be reading about a character I like and read just a tiny bit too far and glimpse something huge.

I knew the details of the Red Wedding almost a year before it aired this season just last week without reading the books. I was still amazed at the scene in the show when it finally happened, just as I was with anything else I knew prior to it happening. Come to think of it, I might have known about every single major death before it happened and my enjoyment of the series wasn't as diminished as you might think.

Things are just so interesting in these stories that knowing some of the major plot points doesn't completely ruin the adventure. The journey to each of these plot points is just as good as the pay off and the small and sometimes very big differences in the books should be much more than enough to make it worth it.

It's akin to Romeo and Juliet. They tell you how it's going to end at the very start of it. You watch to find out how it happens though. This is a little different because I know what happens and how it happens. That means that the differences between the show and the books are the driving force behind continued reading of the books.

The main plot points will still happen and for the most part we will arrive at those happenings in much the same way as the show, but the different characters and added detail should be enough to keep it entertaining. George is a great writer from what I hear, the details the show doesn't have time for is what I'm betting on keeping me interested.

Slight spoiler ahead but not that big of a deal really. It has to do with the battle at Blackwater Bay. Tyrion's Chain, it was a pretty epic part in the battle before the wildfire was unleashed on Stannis's fleet. It's wasn't in the show. It was a gigantic chain hidden in the water. At just the right time the chain was pulled up out of the water and the ships crashed into it. I believe another chain was pulled up behind them as well to block any retreat. With the fleet now enclosed in the bay, the wildfire was then used on them. It's a minor difference against the big picture but it goes further in showing how smart Tyrion is. That extra description of the chains is enough to make that battle interesting to read on it's own even though I know exactly how it ends and why it started and how we got there to begin with, know what I mean?

So in short, I would say there is never a reason to not read the books besides the fact you're not enjoying them. Even if the show was on season 10, I feel the books would be worth it. I learned this the hard way, by being a spoiler hound but still enjoying the show. So I can only assume that I'll enjoy the books even with knowing everything, just as I did with the TV show. The books have the added benefit of extra details (TONS of extras) and minor plots to enhance enjoyment as well, no matter how much you already know from the show and wikis.

I finished the first book and am a little bit into the 2nd book. I have to say I PREFER having saw the show first! These books are not "easy" reads in my opinion and sometimes I find it hard to form a picture in my head based off of the book descriptions. Having seen the show though, I have A TON of visuals to pull from to enhance my understanding of scenes within the books. I think this coupled with all of the extra details and minor plots the show doesn't have makes reading the books a great companion to the TV show. Enjoying it very much.

  • 5
    The battle of Blackwater Bay was ridiculously epic in the books. It spanned at least 5 chapters from what I remember. Aug 23, 2013 at 2:57

You should read the books because

1. Only the books are canon

The author, George R. R. Martin, has stated on multiple occasions that he considers only his books to be 'canonical'[1][2]. Anything else is either an adaptation or fan-fiction. This is important given that the most popular adaptation, Game of Thrones, has surpassed and digressed from the main story lines (in comparison with the books).

2. They are filled with a lot of explanations

Given that the books are written in point-of-view style, you tend to get a fair bit of exposition from within the characters' minds. This is incredibly difficult to convey on-screen, especially when there is no narration. Reading the books offers an insight into the thought process of the characters and explains their actions, thoughts and feelings in a much clearer way.

3. They are filled with backstory and world-building

Yes, they are filled with what some consider to be fluff - like what meals they ate, how many times they slept, what hills and trees make up a landscape. However, this is incredibly important to understand the mode of transport and the difficulties thereof - not everyone has insta-travel or insta-build - so making decisions has circumstances and shows the mindsets of the characters and why they chose to behave the way they did.

Take for example Jon Snow's decision to send away all of his friends and becoming a seemingly 'ignorant' leader; we can see in truth that he actually has a lot on his mind.


Yes, it's worth it assuming you like to read (some people don't) and enjoy his writing style (he's not a bad writer (but he's a slow writer) but some people just don't like that style).

I won't post spoilers, but a lot has been changed on the show. Some stuff was changed for the simple reason that just because something works in a book doesn't mean that it will in a tv show that lasts for 10 1-hour episodes per the first 6 seasons and even less for the last two.

Some things just work better presented differently.

Some characters became fan favourites and were made a bigger part of the show.

Seasons 5 and 6 and perhaps parts of 4 have very little to do with the books because those books still haven't been written. And with how fast Martin is writing, I'd be surprised if Winds of Winter came out before the end of the show.


If you would like to go into more detail of the plot-line of Game of Thrones, I'd definitely recommend reading the Song of Ice and Fire books, I'd definitely recommend reading them. You can learn a lot of the past with the various groups, such as the Wildlings, the Lannisters, the Starks and the Targaryens (those are the core groups, really) The plotline is more detailed and also, in season 3 of Game of Thrones, the idea of "Warging" is talked about, if you haven't watched season 3 I won't say what it is, but it is in a lot more detail for the Starks in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Also, you get to understand what a character is thinking, making some chapters a lot more interesting. I'd recommend reading the books.

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