What Order Should I Read The Game of Thrones Books In?

Reading a series of books can seem easy enough, but what happens when there are prequels, world guides, and an HBO series thrown into the mix? It can suddenly cause confusion that would have been hard to imagine back when the first book of the series came out in the late 1990s.

Related Article: How Many Game of Thrones Books Are There?

As an important note I’ll also say it’s worth reading all of the books that have been published before watching the HBO series, if you haven’t done so already. There are obvious spoilers in the series, plus there are fantastic subplots in the books you’ll never find a whiff of in the TV series.

I realize many people interested in the books now started with the TV series and are coming to the source material, but even if you know plenty of spoilers it’s important to point out:

  1. Major plot points may happen at different times between the books and the HBO mini-series.
  2. There are many plot points, characters, etc. that are in the books that never show up in the series.
  3. Since the books aren’t done yet, it’s possible major end of series plot points will be different…especially with how much the last season of the show flopped.

So let’s jump in to find out what order you should read the Game of Thrones books in to give the reader the best possible experience!

game of thrones books
I’ve spent many, many hours reading and re-reading these books!

Game of Thrones Books in Order of Publication

So far there are seven books released by George R.R. Martin in The Game of Thrones series, with three more that are planned for release at this time to complete the series, which is unfinished.

  • 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 World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of the World of A Game of Thrones (2014)
  • Fire & Blood, Part I (2018)
  • Fire & Blood, Part II (Announced but not released)
  • The Winds of Winter (Announced but not released yet)
  • A Dream of Spring (Final title announced, no release date)

I strongly recommend taking the 2014 companion guide out of the reading order and saving that for last, as the book is much more interesting and fulfilling once you know the story, the characters, houses, and events in the series itself. This also helps avoid potential spoilers.

Other than that, reading the books in order of publication date make sense because it gives the story in order and gives you investment in the characters that makes the prequels far more interesting. Without those stories and inferences from the main series, it’s much more difficult to get into the original books.

Game of Thrones Books Chronologically Ordered

The story happened in a certain chronological order, didn’t it? Doesn’t it therefore make sense to read the books in the order that they happened in the timeline?

There is an argument for this, and as someone with certain OCD tendencies I can relate. However, it’s important to note that much of the interest in the larger world and the prequel comes from events in the storyline of the main series. It also becomes apparent when reading that both the prequels and the world guide rely on that investment to some extent.

They’re still very good books alone – but more is received from them by knowing the main story. However, the chronological order of how it all happens in the world goes as follows:

  • Fire & Blood, Part I (2018)
  • Fire & Blood, Part II (Not yet released – you can see how this could be a problem right off the bat)
  • The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of the World of A Game of Thrones (2014)
  • 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 (Announced but not released yet)
  • A Dream of Spring (Final title announced, no release date)

So Which Order Should You Read The Books In?

There are arguments for both chronological and by order of publication, but in my experience it makes sense to read the original series first, then the prequel books, then the world guide.

A Game of Thrones (1996)

The first book was actually called A Game of Thrones, while the series itself is called The Song of Ice and Fire, a fitting title for those who have read the books or saw the series. Book one is all about the political intrigue, setting up the game of chess so to speak that kicks of everything to follow in the series.

This is a masterful fantasy adventure book with the important caveat that it requires a heavy good faith investment of about 250-300 pages before things really start moving. That’s a big ask for many readers, and understandably so, but the pay-off is worth it if you can commit to knowing the setup would kick up what many believe to be among the greatest fantasy-adventure series’ ever written (at least the first 4 books anyway).

This is where it all starts!

Check Out the Paperback That Started it All from Amazon.com!


Check Current Pricing on the entire mass market paperback A Game of Thrones seres from Amazon.com!

A Clash of Kings (1998)

George R.R. Martin followed up A Game of Thrones with A Clash of Kings, which explodes into nearly 900 pages of action. The kingdom shatters into civil war as multiple factions make claim for the crown, important noble houses leverage their positions to try to get the best deal from various factions while paying attention to who gains the upper hand, and the wildlings of the North give the Night’s Watch all they can handle.

This book was a massive pay-off and is considered by many to be their favorite of the series, and there’s little denying it’s one that has an incredible amount of action, intrigue, twists and turns that actually make sense in the storyline, and the clear start of Arya’s journey to become who she would eventually become.

Check Current Pricing on Special Illustrated A Clash of Kings from Amazon.com!

A Storm of Swords (2000)

Another fine book and the book with…THAT infamous moment. The one that broke more hearts, viewers, and readers than any other. If you know, you know. To contradict Billy Idol, it wasn’t a white wedding. Not in this book.

A Storm of Swords was an incredible work that built on the action of the first two books, brought some plot points to shattering conclusions while opening up new ones that made the mind spin. This was the book where John Snow’s life clearly began on a different path he couldn’t imagine, where Daenerys came into her own, and where the civil war in Westeros started becoming more clear.

In addition to setting the stage for some of the most interesting plots and sub-plots that never made it into the HBO series, and won multiple awards for best fantasy novel of that year.

Check Current Pricing for A Storm of Swords on Amazon.com!

A Feast for Crows (2005)

One of the very few fantasy books to top the New York Times Best Seller list at #1, a feat that put Martin in the company of Robert Jordan and Neil Gaiman, the only other authors to pull this off. Considered by many critics to be the pinnacle book of the series, and hugely popular with fans who read the series voraciously, A Feast for Crows lives up to its name.

This book was the core material for Season 5 of the HBO series, but also provided crucial plot points to Seasons 4 and 6, showing just how much of the meat and potatoes of the story comes in this book.

Introducing the Iron Islands and Dorne in big ways, pushing many plot points forward, and creating a rich, full, and terrifying world, this is a book that greatly expanded the world, opened up incredible story lines, crossed the paths of many characters in a new way, and moved the world forward.

Check Current Pricing on A Feast for Crows from Amazon.com!

A Dance with Dragons (2011)

Wait, am I saying it’s been over a decade since the last book in the main series of Game of Thrones books? Yes, unfortunately that is the case. This book was a mixed bag. Many plots were moved forward, but there were many brand new scenes introduced without the tightness or tie-ins to the story that previous books seemed to have.

Still, we get the best look at The Free Cities yet while crucial moments at The Wall take place and some of the political intrigue and betrayal return to the forefront while multiple wars still rage. There is a lot going on here, though the fear of bloat and wandering, and what that means for future books after this 1100 page behemoth, are legitimate concerns.

Check Current Pricing on the full Game of Thrones paperback series from Amazon.com!

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of the World of A Game of Thrones (2014)

Released three years after A Dance with Dragons, diving into this right after reading the series is a good way to get the most out of it since this was released after DwD and also means you’re diving into the surrounding lore and world information when you know it best. This is why I think this is the best time to read the guide.

Fire & Blood, Part I (2018)

The prequel might have happened first on the timeline, but the book was written later with future events and past books in mind. Once you know the story of Westeros in this time period the prequel becomes much more interesting and further enhances the overall experience of these stories.

This is the best order to read the books in to maximize enjoyment, care, and understanding while minimizing spoilers in Martin’s magnum opus of a writing series. Enjoy getting immersed in this world as so many have before you!

Other Book Articles You May Enjoy