How to Read the ‘Game of Thrones’ Books in Order

Has anything ever dominated pop culture the way George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire owned the 2010s? While HBO’s Game of Thrones racked up more Emmy awards than any drama series in history, Martin’s five-volume (so far) book series earned a massive display table at nearly every bookstore in America, spawning an Iron Fleet of podcasts and websites dedicated to unpacking Martin’s narrative labyrinth. And with good reason—the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros might be the most fully realized and compelling fictional world since Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

But today, three years since the final episode of Game of Thrones and a whopping 11 years since the most recent book in the main series, the franchise’s cultural legacy is in an awkward place. After seven highly acclaimed seasons, the TV series ended with the most disappointing final stretch since ABC’s Lost (unless you ask Esquire‘s Justin Kirkland). And after publishing the first five books in the span of 15 years, Martin has spent the last decade-and-some-change suffering from “the most public case of writer’s block in human history” while trying to finish the sixth book, The Winds of Winterleaving some fans wondering if we’ll ever get a chance to read the seventh and final book, A Dream of Spring.

This fall, HBO is taking another crack at Martin’s masterpiece House of the Dragona new series based on Martin’s prequel book, Fire & Bloodwhich narrates the history of House Targaryen—the royal, dragon-riding, sometimes incestuous, often insane ancestors of Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones.

If the timeline sounds confusing, that’s because it is. With five (of seven) books in the main series, plus one (of two) prequels, as well as three novellas and a slew of companion books, navigating the Seven Kingdoms can be challenging for beginners and experts alike. To help, we’ve put together a reading order designed to deliver the richest—and smoothest—possible reading experience, whether you’re new to the franchise or you’ve already watched every episode of Game of Thrones. Here’s hoping we can add The Winds of Winter swear A Dream of Spring to this list sometime before 2040. (While you wait, check out our maps to The Lord of the Rings, Duneoath The Wheel of Time.)

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A Clash of Kingsby George RR Martin

4

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

7

The World of Ice And Fire

9

The Lands of Ice and Fire

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