GAME OF THRONES: Should Fans of the HBO Show Read the Books?

Should you read the Game of Thrones books?

A popular question, but don’t worry, I’m here to rip off Mark Lisanti’s Grantland decision-guide format to help you. If you’re seriously thinking of reading this and then bitching about SPOILERS then by all means read on so I can ruin some key events for you.

Are you interested in recreating the exact meals on the show to pair with your Game of Thrones themed ale that you drink out of bored-out horn during your next Game of Thrones cosplay viewing party?

If you are a fan of painstakingly, lovingly crafted food porn, the books are a must. Peter Jackson could make three separate three-hour movies based on the food description alone in GOT. You can make a whole cookbook out of this shit. No, I’m serious.

When it comes to pop culture discussions, do you like fucking with your friends?

If you want to piss off your friends by hanging spoilers over their head, sorry, you have no choice but to read the books.

Do you like reading lots of pages?

Then yes, read the books. Many pages to be had here.

Are you one of those people that always thinks the books are better than movies or TV shows as a way to mention in conversation just how much you read, i.e., how cultured you are?

Obviously get to reading, but chances are, if you’re one of these people, you’ve already read the books and are actively scoffing at your friends for their lack of cultural relevance. And hanging spoilers over their heads.

Do you love the character Theon Greyjoy?

The TV show goes into a lot more detail on Theon’s plight in the hands of Ramsey Snow, who tortures him by eating sausage in front of him, or something like that. Actually if you love the character, you should probably read the books and spare yourself the gritty details, since it picks up on him long after the torture that broke him. If you simply like the character, and sausage, the show gives you more context on his transformation into Reek.

Is Bronn your favorite character?

Stick with the TV show. His role seems expanded, he’s got some killer lines and he gets to play Mr. Miyagi to the newly left-handed Jaime Lannister.

Do you have any idea as to what the fuck is going on with the television show?

If you have a low capacity for plot threads that don’t neatly resolve themselves within the hour (or a few episodes, or several seasons, or the entire run of the show) or if you find yourself saying “Who the hell is this guy?” whenever someone shows up after taking a few episodes off, then don’t read the books. That may seem counter-intuitive, but let’s face it, if you can’t handle how the show has condensed the story, unpacking said story to even bigger lengths and longer periods between character appearances with more details to keep track of is a difficult assignment. You should just binge-watch all eight episodes of True Detective instead to see if your attention span can handle it. Or you can read the books slowly, carefully, and enrich your connection to the characters and the story. Carefully! If you skim, you’re fucked.

Are you interested in geneaology of people that do not exist in real life?

Read the books. Handy passages in the back to give you greensight, er, insight into the family history of each of the families of Westeros. Although if you know that Bran Stark’s great grandfather is Edwyle Stark and you can’t name your own great-grandparents, well what that says about you is an entirely different blog post.

Are you interested in how the Song of Ice and Fire saga ends?

Of course you are. What a silly question. If you clicked this post and read this far, I’m willing to bet you have an elaborate fan theory about the eventual fate of the Iron Throne on Reddit somewhere with a level of obsessive detail that would make Rust Cohle drop his Lone Star beer in disbelief. That said, I have no idea what you should do, because we’re not sure if the last book is going to come out before the last episode of the TV show, or if they’re going to say fuck it and do a movie.

Are you interested in creating an elaborate fan theory about the eventual fate of who “wins” the Iron Throne on Reddit somewhere, with a level of obsessive detail that would make Rust Cohle drop his Lone Star beer in disbelief?

The books have more obsessive detail. See if you can catch the Yellow King references in the books. Ha, I’m fucking with you. But am I?

Do you like the word “breeches?”

Read the books. Trust me on this.

Do you like seeing naked women on your television more than imagining what they look like in your head?

Then go with the TV show, which is sure to have Mr. Skin’s research team working overtime for the next several seasons.

Are you easily confused by casting changes?

In the books, the characters are always played by whoever you imagine in your head, keeping the casting nice and neat. So read the books because in the show, hell, you never know. Sometimes a Lannister cousin shows up as King Tommen, or this guy turns into this guy, which isn’t that much of a stretch, really, but when the Mountain is recast by three different bodybuilders who barely talk, your brain may start to revolt.

Do you often cry at weddings?

Wait a second. I’m afraid I have to be more specific–if you enjoy tears of joy at weddings, do not watch. Do not read. If you are the prick who nudges your date an says, “I give it six months” and thinks weddings are boring and nothing ever happens, I’d say the universe of the books and the show are right in your sweet spot, you cynical asshole. That said, the wedding events were transformed into something even more awful for the show, so read the books to test your stomach for wedding-related fireworks, and then watch the show. Spoiler alert: they never get around to the electric slide.

Do you seem to understand the situation?

Then read the books, or I’m going to have to eat every fucking chicken in this room.

Fred Venturini

Fred Venturini is an author and freelance business consultant. He grew up in Patoka, Illinois. In 2014, his story "Gasoline" was featured in Chuck Palahniuk's Burnt Tongues anthology. His short fiction has been published in the Booked Anthology, Noir at the Bar 2, and Surreal South. The Heart Does Not Grow Back, published by Picador in 2014, is his first novel. He lives in Southern Illinois with his wife and daughter.

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