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I've started reading George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" book series, and I intend to watch HBO's television series based on it at some point. I wonder about two things:

  • Should I start watching the series before having finished all the books?
  • If so, which chapters should I have read? What is a good starting point?

The point is obviously avoiding spoilers.

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    I think it is safe to watch S1 after reading the first novel, but I'm sure someone has done in-depth analysis to map seasons to books. My personal preference would be to read all of the books and then start the show. – Rob Sobers Aug 11 '14 at 22:43
  • At some stage the TV series starts to mix together material from different books, so you can't really watch and read at the same time without one spoilering the other. – user8719 Aug 11 '14 at 22:49
  • @RobSobers I just discovered that one season of the TV series equals roughly one book. I might watch a season after I finished the book after the one it was based on, to further reduce the chance of spoilers. – MarioDS Aug 11 '14 at 22:49
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    S1 is roughly Book 1, S2 more or less Book 2, S3 & S4 sort of covers Book 3, Books 4+5 are a bit of a problem, since they are happening concurrently, so I guess those will be the next 2 or maybe more Seasons, Book 6 the world is waiting for... desperately... youtube.com/watch?v=nAXgt39W6KY starting at 1:26:00 GRRM talks about exactly this scenario. – BMWurm Aug 11 '14 at 22:54
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    Note that the TV show is now in a spot where it is potentially full of spoilers for events in unpublished books. It already has several key scenes not in the current books. Next season will almost certainly have spoilers unless GRRM can manage to release book 6 before it does. – System Down Aug 11 '14 at 23:13
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The 100% guaranteed way to ensure the show doesn't spoil anything from the books is to read them all first. That should go without saying, and that's the path I recommend. But if you insist on jumping into the show while you're still reading, here's a rough guide.

There's a pretty strong correlation between the first two books and the first two seasons. Season One, in particular, is almost a word-for-word adaptation in many parts. You could probably start watching those immediately after reading the respective books.

Season 3 is where things get tricky. Individual storylines differ in pacing. For example, Bran's Storm of Swords storyline is completely finished by the end of Season 3, while Jon Snow's only ends up about 1/3 completed. Things get even murkier in Season 4, when several characters start to make significant inroads to their Feast for Crows/Dance with Dragons storylines.

I'd recommend at least reading all the way through Storm of Swords before tacking Season Three, since Bran and Jaime's entire arc is in Season Three. In addition, episode one reveals something crucial about the character Arstan Whitebeard that is a mystery throughout the book.

But I strongly recommend reading all the books before starting Season Three. Season Three immediately reveals the fate of a major character whose fate is a mystery for two whole books.

Theon

But I definitely, definitely recommend reading all the books before Season Four. Dany, Bran, Brienne, and the spoilered character above all have parts of their Feast for Crows/Dance with Dragons storylines in that season.

EDIT: One thing I should add is that the show often makes things explicit which, in the books, are only hinted at or revealed over time. This happens as early as the first two seasons, in which much of ambiguity behind characters like Littlefinger and Margaery Tyrell are stripped away. They aren't spoilers, per se, but it could diminish your enjoyment in reading the books.

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    Unfortunately all the books have yet to be written :-). – Francis Davey Jan 18 '15 at 16:45
  • the show has pretty much departed fully from the books by now since we don't even have (Spoiler) Griff/Aegon(Spoiler) i think its safe to assume the newer books will be vastly different than the show. – TerranGaming May 23 '18 at 8:21
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There is no one true answer, but here's the strategy I would take.

Option 1: read all the books, then watch the TV show.

Why? Because then you can't be spoiled and don't have to think about it.

Option 2 (if you really wanna watch the TV show):

  • Read AGoT, watch S1 (S1 is extremely faithful to the book)
  • Read ACoK, watch S2
  • Read ASoS (minus the epilogue), watch S3 and S4
  • Read ASoS epilogue
  • Read AFFC
  • Read ADWD

Why? Because the order above will let you alternate between the book and show while minimizing spoilers.

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    Some reasoning to your suggestions would help. As it stands it looks a lot like an opinion :) – Möoz Aug 11 '14 at 23:04
  • @Mooz valid point--added some reasoning, though I think the question as a whole isn't truly answerable. – Rob Sobers Aug 12 '14 at 2:13
  • Agreed, that's why I personally don't like "which order should I watch" or "when should I read" type questions; but don't let your answer suffer :) – Möoz Aug 12 '14 at 3:41
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From what G.R.R. Martin says:

The season that’s about to debut covers the second half of the third book. The third book [A Storm of Swords] was so long that it had to be split into two. But there are two more books beyond that, A Feast for Crowsand A Dance with Dragons. A Dance with Dragons is itself a book that’s as big as A Storm of Swords. So there’s potentially three more seasons there, between Feast and Dance, if they split into two the way they did [with Storms]. Now, FeastDance take place simultaneously. So you can’t do Feast and then Dance the way I did. You can combine them and do it chronologically. And it’s my hope that they’ll do it that way and then, long before they catch up with me, I’ll have published The Winds of Winter, which’ll give me another couple years. It might be tight on the last book, A Dream of Spring, as they juggernaut forward.

So going from what G.R.R Martin said I would just read as the books as the seasons pertain to them.

You will no doubt read fast, and the seasons will be much more behind you, but if you wait for them you will never get finished.

So, read the books and wait for the seasons to portray them. The seasons have no special content really(the books were written first, so I classified them as more canon), the books were written before they were even aired.

Here are additional reading list:

  1. moviepilot.com

  2. goodreads.com

Both these additional list talk about spoilers and understanding the series. That being said you will probably get a better understanding by reading the books first(or along with watching the series), because the series seems to condense and cut to make the books fit on screen.

If you read the books first you will no doubt get spoilers as the books will give you a outline of the seasons and the seasons will give you a outline of the books. This may or may not ruin you enjoying the series, both books and seasons. But they do have minor differences(large sometimes).

This might help your decision: It is a look at the differences between the books and the seasons.

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