Should I read the Game of Thrones books first or watch the show first? No Spoilers, please.

I already plan to do both eventually…question is which first?
Usually I’m a “watch the show/movie first and then read the books” kind of guy, but I find there are pros and cons to doing it either way.

Which have you done (watched the show without reading the books or read the books first before the show came out)?
And what would you suggest?

And this should go without saying, but please don’t mention anything that could be construed as a spoiler, either about the show OR book. : p

For me, I’d watch the show first, then read the books. I have found that sometimes the books will fill in the gaps in the show or provide a different perspective, but I also sometimes find the dialogue in the books to be a bit stiff compared to the show, and the pacing is entirely different. But that’s just my preference. I’m pretty sure you’re going to get plenty of advocates of both approaches here.

Normally, people say book first (about any adaptation). I’m not sure here:


Book first: you’re allowed the smug sense of superiority of saying “they changed that!”

Show first: more concise package. You will likely get names and such confused, but not to the extent that the books would. Also, you will not be waiting as long because the reading takes much longer, and you’ll delay the waiting time till GRRM write a new one!

Also, I think if it turns out that you really hate the series or the books are a slog, you won’t have wasted as much time. If you enjoy the series (I hope!), the books may be more fun.

Nitpicky nitpick: the show is Game of Thrones. The book series is A Song of Ice and Fire, the first book of which is called A Game of Thrones. Annoyingly, my eBook is obviously a TV tie in, and removes the A on the “cover.”

I watched the first season of the show, then read the books (up to #4), then back to the show. Probably the way a lot of pople did it.

I would suggest watching the first two seasons, then start reading. At this point in the show, there are so many characters that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all. I think that is a good place to start reading.

I love both but the books are better.

Books first. It’ll give you a better background on everything. There are more than a few things that have been left out of the show (so far) that I’m curious as to how they are going to bring that back into play.

I also know a few folks who’ve started getting more and more confused with the inclusion of extra characters in the show as of Season 3 (if not before). It’s easier to follow who is who in the books series, IMO.

I agree that it can be done either way, but that’s coming from somebody who read the books years before the show, and then read them again after watching the first season, so my opinion is clouded

I think that the books will provide a lot of backstory that makes the first few episodes confusing for people not already familiar with the world. Most notably, the religious beliefs of the various characters and the weather patterns of Westeros were things I found myself explaining when watching with non-book-people, as well as history both ancient and recent.

However, the books are kind of a slog (especially once you get past book three), and the instant-gratification monkey inside me would probably have waited until after the first season if I hadn’t already read them. :slight_smile:

Pros to reading the books first: The backstory of the characters and the houses and the intricate workings of the society.

Cons: Martin is the kind of author who believes in giving you every detail. He’s not going to tell you that a queen was brilliantly gowned: you’re going to know the type of material and the cut and the colors and how it drapes on her. You’re not going to know a character was at a lavish banquet, you’re going to read a description of every single one of the 29 courses served*. There are also scenes in the later books that remind me of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows living in a tent in the woods" scenes that seemed to last forever. There are so many characters that by the final novel he has a 100+ page appendix telling who is who in each of the major Houses.

But, all things considered, I recommend the books. Try the first one anyway (Game of Thrones), then watch the show and see which you like best. (The first novel is pretty much equal to the first season in the amount of time covered; after that the series and the novels get a little bit out of sync.)
*He goes into so much detail about the food that there are actually websites of recipes based on the dishes Martin describes.

An interesting way to read the books is to read all of one character’s POV chapters before moving on to another character, then read their POV chapters. I’ve done this with re-reads, and it’s helped with figuring out motivations, added some depth, helped with some confusion.

I like Sampiro’s suggestion - read the first book and watch the first season of the show, and then decide what you want to do from there.

The advantage of the books is that you can read them all (so far) back to back. With the TV show, you can watch only the first three seasons and then you’ll have to wait several months before S4 starts. You could have finished the books by then.

Martin’s a very slow writer as well, at least as bestselling series writers go. He wrote the first three books in 4 years (1996-2000), but then there was five years before the fourth and then six before book five. Book six probably won’t be ready for at least a couple more years.
So, no rush at all in reading the entire series. I galloped through the first four but still haven’t finished book 5.

This is exactly how my friend & I did it (except we read all five books), & it was thoroughly delightful. I highly recommend this experience.

I watched season one and then read all the books. I just couldn’t wait until the next season to find out what happens.

George RR Martin says he plans on finishing the book series before the TV series ends. I don’t know how he’ll accomplish this at his current pace.

Book 1 and Season 1 are the same. They follow the same storylines, they take the same amount of time. It’s almost like a remake in that very little liberties are taken. So you can use that as a gauge for how you’d like to do it.
I, like many, watched season 1 then read everything. Now that I know what’s coming the show isn’t as impactful.
While reading I may have thrown the book across the room, but while watching, I was left agape.
I think for pure power punches, I’d watch the series first, then read the books, then watch the series again. :smiley:

I haven’t seen one episode nor have I read one line of GRRM so where to begin? My fantasy background is limited. I really enjoyed Tolkien, having first read it thirty years and many times since but I have been unable to find any other fantasy quite as engaging. My tastes run more along the lines of science fiction rather than fantasy.

Still, all the buzz I’ve been hearing of the last couple of years—and particularly these last two weeks—makes me think I’m missing out. I’m used to being a late-comer. I was late to Breaking Bad and also to Big Bang Theory and I love both those shows now.

So, where to start? The books or the HBO series?

I was not a huge fantasy reader, pretty much like you only reading Tolkien before I tackled a Song of Ice and Fire. I was totally captivated by the books and devoured them greedily. The show is a good alternative, but the books’ sense of history and scope is so much greater, I don’t think it can compare.

Also, in most of the changes to the characters in book vs. show, I greatly prefer the book’s presentation. Renly, Loras, Margaery, Samwell and the Hound primarily. The show takes a lot of the good humor out of the characters, it is much more grim in tone.

I would wait until all books are written. Unfortunately that will probably be 10 years in the future.

I think you are good either way - both have their strengths and weaknesses. I prefer the books, but you can make a perfectly plausible argument why the show is better.

Maybe go with whichever you’ll plow through quicker - if you’re a fast reader, do the books. If you can do some marathon sessions on the weekend, the series ( like most such series I think it works best in chunks of several episodes at a time ). Only because the quicker you’re through, the less you have to worry about spoilers, more so with the books that are farther along.

I think I’ll read the first book this weekend and see how it goes. But yeah, it would be nice if he wrote a little faster.

A Game of Thrones (1996)
A Clash of Kings (1998)
A Storm of Swords (2000)
A Feast for Crows (2005)
A Dance with Dragons (2011)
The Winds of Winter
A Dream of Spring

If you can manage to finish the first one in a weekend, that would be pretty impressive.