I've been hearing about the show endlessly for years, but when I saw the size of the books I assumed it was one of those things I'd just never get to. I had so much else to read, and I almost never watch TV. And anyway, my sense of the series was that it was mostly a lot of pointless shock value and not worth my time. The way I started reading sounds almost dramatic. Last May I was visiting my best friend from college for his father's funeral. It's a weird sort of time to spend a weekend together, so when we were idly talking about the books on his shelf and he insisted that I take A Game of Thrones home with me, I complied. It happened that I was taking more classes that summer, actually way too many classes. When my friend asked at the end of the summer if I had finished the book, I had to sheepishly say that I hadn't started it. I only started reading when he mentioned that he would be visiting my area in October, so I felt I had to read the thing so that I could return it. I wasn't into it at all. I was mildly interested by some of the themes of decay and degradation in the setting, but beyond that it did seem to be a lot of shock value: a series of pointless rapes interspersed with weirdly specific recipes for stew. So when my friend did visit, I had to tell him I wasn't done with the book. In fact, the thing had spent so much time bouncing around the back seat of my car that it was pretty beat up, so I just bought him a new copy. After that I mostly stopped reading, maybe a page here and there. It was only about three weeks ago something clicked. I think it was Maester Luwin's long lesson to Bran about the history of Westeros. Suddenly the world wasn't a mildly interesting deconstruction of fantasy cliches, it was a living, breathing thing with an incredibly intricate history. The stormy politics weren't an excuse to show violent scenes, they were based on a backstory that went back centuries and more. And that helped me connect to the characters better, which was pretty important for me at that point. My two favorites, Robert and Ned, were out of the picture, but Daenerys and Arya were rising quickly and turning into people even more awesome to read about.I have hardly been able to put the books down since. So I wish the history had been placed earlier, maybe at the beginning like Tolkien did. I would have enjoyed the first book a lot more and better appreciated this really monumental piece of worldbuilding.