New York City experienced a frostier than usual winter this year. Yet, New York Public Library branches remained open against the blizzards -- both imagined and real -- warming the hearts and minds of all who entered seeking comfort with a good book or a good word. It was during this time of snowy contemplation that we had time to ponder the spring and the joy it brings. And it brings Game of Thrones. Winter has hopefully passed New York City, but it's still coming for us all on April 12 when Season 5 of the popular series premieres.
To celebrate the excitement, Joshua Soule -- Game of Thrones fan and Library Manager at NYPL's Spuyten Duyvil Library in the Bronx -- curated a list of recommended books for the characters on Game of Thrones. The list is varied and covers such topics as zombie prevention, parenting tips, ethics lessons, and role models. Find out what your favorite characters should be reading and perhaps discover a new book for yourself!
Jon Snow -- For the man who knows nothing, what could be a better read than The Old Farmer's Almanac? With its blend of facts, charts and articles on a host of topics such as gardening and astronomy, it's just the thing a high lord's by-blow needs to survive on the perilous frontier of the Night's Watch. The long-term weather predictions might also give him a heads-up about when Winter comes, bringing the White Walkers with it. While we're on the topic of White Walkers, we also suggest The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zombies by Nathan Robert Brown; surely there's a section in there for dealing with fast zombies that do not die with a simple headshot.
Bran -- Peter Beresford Ellis' The Druids would be good reading for Bran; the similarities between Druidism and the North's ancestral worship of the Old Gods are unmistakable. Bran should also read a few books on ethics. Giving a Game of Thrones character ethics may seem like pulling a lion's teeth out and expecting it to continue hunting as normal. It one thing for Bran to leap into a dire wolf's mind, but seizing control of Hodor at need is questionable even in his world of murderers and political cutthroats. Therefore, before he makes a habit of it, Bran should read Kenan Malik's The Quest for a Moral Compass about the history of ethical thought. Aristotle's The Nicomachean Ethics is also a good starting point, something that will make Bran think twice about "warging" into another sentient being.
Sansa -- Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie might be just the thing to stiffen Sansa's spine after her tribulations. Reading of a woman traded like a political chit only to become Empress of Russia could be just the inspiration Sansa needs to wait out the Court's machinations and Petyr Baelish in particular. She should also keep in mind Marie Antoinette: A Journey by Antonia Frasier. Rescued from rape and dismemberment by a hungry mob in King's Landing, Sansa would sympathize with the last Queen of France, who was beheaded by a similar mob.
Arya -- Arya, assassin-in-training, would be fascinated by The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo. This account of a Mafia hit man Richard Kuklinski who plied his trade for three decades might provide salutary lessons in the craft of escaping notice. A good fiction choice would be the Dune series by Frank Herbert, especially in the second book Dune Messiah where the Face Dancers, shape-shifting spies and assassins, make their first appearance.
Tyrion - The King's Grave by Philippa Langley explores King Richard III's legacy after his fall at Bosworth Field. Raising the question of whether he was the personification of evil popularized by Shakespeare or a man -- like Tyrion -- who received little credit for his achievements. Tyrion might derive some cold comfort hoping his own legacy proves equally ambiguous rather than swept into the grave of lost memories. Another choice this iconoclast might enjoy are the novels of Christopher Moore such as Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.
Cersei -- The Habsburgs: The History of a Dynasty by Benjamin Curtis would have given Cersei a warning about the dangers of inbreeding, even if she would have most likely ignored it. The book also provides a window on effective dynasty-building, a lesson that seems lost on her and much of the Lannister family, much to Tywin Lannister's despair. You can feel the man's eye-rolling through the screen as he lectures his children and grandchildren about the importance of strengthening the family.
Jaime -- Jaime is a man who would appreciate tales of an unappreciated hero or even an anti-hero. When we first meet him, he's pushing children out of windows to keep his incestuous secret. As the series progresses, a more complicated picture of the Kingslayer emerges; that of an utterly flawed man who still has a moral compass. It is battered, twisted almost beyond repair, but it's still there. Fantasy novels about similarly flawed heroes such as The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan or Brent Weeks' The Night Angel Trilogy would be good for his spirit while he guards the king, practices his sword fighting and keeps Tommen from turning into another Joffrey.
Margaery Tyrell -- "No, I want to be the queen," Margaery tells Littlefinger shortly before Renly's claim evaporates in a cloud of black smoke. Hatshepsut, Pharaoh of Egypt and subject of The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney, could be Margaery's role model. Like Hatsheput, Margaery is young, ambitious, and destined to lead. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie could be another title fitting of Margaery's personal library, considering her ease in manipulating the people of King's Landing when she is first betrothed to Joffrey.
Daenerys Targaryen -- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber might be a handy read for the would-be Queen of Westeros. With her dragons getting larger by the day and now burning citizens to charcoal, Dany needs to exert some control over their behavior. The dragons seem intelligent enough to understand her and so perhaps better communication is the key to keeping their fiery tendencies reined in. After all, they are too big to spank now and Dany will end up with a palmful of spiky dragon scales for her trouble.
Sandor Clegane (The Hound) -- While the current relationship between the Clegane brothers is accurately described as one of murderous hatred, there once may have been some affection on Sandor's part for his large, big brother. Well ... before the Mountain did his best Bobby Flay impression and flambéed the Hound's face. As Sandor said, the worst part of the affair was knowing it was his brother who did it. Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry, with essays by the likes of David Sedaris and the Unabomber's brother David Kaczynski, might remind the Hound of better days. Or it might confirm that he is better off far away from the Mountain that Rides.
Petyr Baelish -- "Know your strengths, use them wisely and one man can be worth 10,000." Who said it -- Sun Tzu or Littlefinger? You could be forgiven for thinking The Art of War author penned that line. But, it's the conniving Petyr Baelish who whispered such words. Though, Littlefinger would have appreciated the Sun Tzu's maxim "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles." Baelish is a self-made shark in an ocean of apex predators and Sun Tzu's manual on warfare applies equally well to political battlefields as it does to land conflicts.
Theon Greyjoy -- Watching the show, one cannot help but wonder how Theon's fate would differ if he only showed a little more confidence in himself and his decisions. If he had told his Ironborn family to stuff it, he might not be a plaything for the Boltons now. Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Self-Doubt by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is one of many self-help books Theon could turn to when in need of a boost.
Samwell Tarly -- Samwell could very well have read Archaeologists Dig for Clues by Kate Duke growing up. He knows a lot of the history and lore surrounding the land beyond the Wall. Archaeology is the perfect area of interest for this bookish man and budding scholar. He does recognize artifacts such as dragonglass, knows the history of the ancient Fist of the First Men and recognizes the First Men's writing on a stone tablet. Samwell would definitely prefer the life of an archaeologist to shivering on the Wall and reading Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson is the perfect tonic for cold nights.