* this post contains SPOILERS for season 6, but not for events that happened solely on the books.
It's been 2 and a half years since I finished the so-far released books of A Song of Ice and Fire, the collection of books in which Game of Thrones is based. After a great disappointment with one of the show's choices back in season 4, I've taken it as my personal purpose to convince as many people as possible that the books are worth a try. I have noticed over time that people don't usually like to hear that the show is bad (and it indeed deserves some merit) and therefore will try a different approach with this article. I just want people to realize that the books have so much to offer that the series can't even scratch (and sometimes just completely ignores/changes/oversimplifies - okay, I will control my feelings better).
I think that one thing we can all agree Game of Thrones has done beautifully is casting. All the actors are extremely talented and were completely capable of bringing their characters to life, but some of them are (or grew to be) just so much more older than who they represent. I'm not saying that Daenerys, Jon, and others, should've been portrayed by teenagers; it would never have worked, but when they're shown basically as grown ups, there's an entire dimension of their personality that is lost. The fact that they were thrown into the world at such young ages justifies many of their decisions, and the impact of the situations they had to go through is just increases the real traumas that'll never leave them. This dimension is never lost in A Song of Ice and Fire because the storyline is much more comprehensible and so the readers are usually much more emphatic towards the characters. This ends up reverberating in a more polemical theme with the trivialization of violence in the show.
When, in season 6, Sansa murdered Ramsay and Arya crossed some more names off her list, millions of viewers cheered. People who read the books, though, were completely devastated to see their heroines going through a path they'll probably not recover from, letting themselves be consumed by all the torment they underwent, and becoming defined not by who they are, but by the revenge they seek. Violence in Game of Thrones might have shocked once, but now people rejoice over all the guts and gore. I don't know if this is some psychological process, if we become used to what we see, but never to what we imagine; I only know that the books are still painful even after many rereads. Differently from the show where the capacity of children to learn that they live in a world that follows the "kill or be killed" rule and all they can do is embrace it, the books believe in redemption and in making your own choices. A Song of Ice and Fire is an alert to all the horrors of war. The characters' development, how they're crushed and destroyed, reflects all of it, and yet there's still hope. The books have, in the end, a pacifist message, and the occasional search for revenge (the show simplified everything towards it, when most of the time it's much more complex than that - oops, sorry) is seen as the loss of identity and the beginning of the end. Most of the Stark children are deeply rooted to their childhood in Winterfell, something that not even war has been able to strip them completely apart from. Other characters, like Jaime and Sandor, went through much more significant and permanent changes than they did in the series. That's the beauty of the books, which I don't think the show has been quite able to represent.
All of this characters' in-depth is usually possible in the books because each chapter is a POV (point of view), telling the story from different perspectives. Characters that usually receive a lot of hate from show-watchers, such as Sansa and Catelyn, are actually some of the favorites for many book-readers. The close approach to who they are makes us more acceptable and emphatic towards people who are simply people. I'm not saying that there's nothing special about them; everyone is special, but they aren't rule changers like Arya, Brienne, and Daenerys, and that shouldn't be a reason to dislike them. Catelyn isn't better nor worse than anyone, and just lives the silent tragedy that's the life of a woman in such a society, and that's all you should need to pity, sympathize, and relate to her. As for Sansa, the beauty of her character lies in how much she developed over time, leaving her naivety and becoming a true player (a development that, in the books, is unleashed without the necessity of rape).
Finally, A Song of Ice and Fire is a saga with hundreds of secondary characters and no principals. The Emmy understands it and somehow sees it in Game of Thrones, not allowing any of the actors to compete for a Main Role prize, but truth is, the show is becoming each time more focused on a few and ignoring the many players existent in the books (or just murdering them when they don't really know what their function can be - I give up). It's an action forgivable by the restrictions of time in television, but this aspect in the books awakens an entire new world. Every character matters, has a purpose to exist, is capable of the greatest schemes, fights for his/her own beliefs/goals, is passionate, charming, considerate, clever -- (I don't even regret this). In a nutshell, half of A Song of Ice and Fire theories are based over characters to whom the show hasn't given (been able to give?) the slightest importance, and some characters that are almost flawless in the show, are just as human as all others in the books.
Yes, A Song of Ice and Fire is a very extensive book collection, but season 7 is still months away, and there's no better heating source for this Long Night also known as hiatus. If you love Game of Thrones, the books will allow you to rediscover all your favorite characters, meet new ones, and sympathize with some you didn't even expect to; you'll be able of completely diving into this fantastical world, and come back from it with a quite different view. If you tried watching the show and couldn't get into it, that's also no reason not to read the books. Even with more characters, it's easier to keep track of them, and the intensity of plot-twists and intricate moves makes it even more exciting than the series, beyond the different approach to both people and violence. This read is one of my highest recommendations, and I hope more people will now look differently towards this mountain of pages and think of it with a slight hint of possibility.