Note: This post does not contain spoilers.
Tonight marks the Season 3 Finale of Game of Thrones. If you’re not quite ready to leave Westeros for another year and you absolutely *must* know what happens next, dust off your library card or break out your kindle, it’s time to read the books! Here are ten tips for slogging through the nearly 2 million words of the Song of Ice and Fire epic.
1. Don’t skip books. Yes, Season 1 of the HBO series follows Book 1 closely, but if you skip over “A Game of Thrones” you will miss out on George R. R. Martin’s brilliant world-building and character development, not to mention a slew of plot lines overlooked in the HBO series. Skim if you must, but don’t skip.
2. Read the books and watch the television series simultaneously. You’ll find it easier to keep track of the many names and faces in Westeros and beyond the Narrow Sea. Alternatively, [purchase the graphic novels](http://amzn.com/044042321X) and read those alongside the books as well.
3. Savor A Storm of Swords. It’s the best book of the series (so far). It’s action packed, full of plot twists, and the producers of the HBO series wisely decided to split it into two seasons. The Red Wedding is just the beginning, my friends. Read the book and smile knowingly while your friends recoil in shock next season.
4. Read “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance with Dragons” at the same time. George R.R. Martin intended these to be one large book, but it became unpublishable due to its size. He split the books by geography instead of chronologically, meaning you are essentially getting half the story if you read them back to back. Read them together the way they were intended to be read by [following the chapter order outlined here](http://boiledleather.com/post/25902554148/a-new-reader-friendly-combined-reading-order-for-a).
5. Purchase the ["Lands of Ice and Fire"](http://amzn.com/0345538544) maps and refer to them frequently. This is of course optional. I love maps and it helped me understand the size of the known world and the scope of the battles that were taking place. A word of warning: There is a map called ‘Journeys’ that includes spoilers. Don’t view this map until after you’ve completed the series.
6. Purchase **[The World of Ice and Fire app](https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/george-r.-r.-martins-world/id570015223?mt=8)** for iOS or Android. It’s an essential, spoiler-free resource for keeping characters and locations straight as you progress through the books.
7. **Read, read, and read some more**. Listen to the audio books and read the graphic novels if you must, but don’t miss out on the books! When you turn that final page of A Dance with Dragons you’ll wish you had the next installment. While you wait, [read the Winds of Winter sample chapters](http://www.georgerrmartin.com/category/news/winds-of-winter-news/) George Martin has posted on his website.
8. **Relish in the knowledge** that you no longer need to avoid internet spoilers.
9. **Sink into a deep depression** when you realize the likelihood of George finishing “Winds of Winter” next year is slim. Sink further when you realize the HBO series will probably catch up to the books shortly after.
10. **Read some fan theories** about the ultimate fate of characters on [Westeros.org](http://www.westeros.org). It’s fun to speculate, and there is strong evidence in favor of a few mind-blowing plot twists.
Thanks for reading. If you’ve made it this far, you should [follow me on Twitter](http://www.twitter.com/kyletress). *Valar morghulis*!