A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Utter the phrase A Game of Thrones. Whether referring to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series of epic fantasy novels, the first title in that series, or the blockbuster HBO television series of the same name, there are few among us who would not immediately grasp the reference to this fantasy world of Lannisters and Starks, kings and would-be kings, queens and dragons, and family loyalty and betrayal taken to extremes, all set against a backdrop of seasons that span whole decades. The influence of that world and its inhabitants on popular culture is far-reaching and undeniable.

The first novel of Martin's historical fantasy series was published in 1996, and while it was popular among fantasy fans it failed to reach mainstream bestseller lists until after the second and third installments were released. Sales of the entire series again skyrocketed after the premiere of the HBO series in April, 2011, and the subsequent re-release of the books as mass market paperbacks, including a 5-book boxed set in 2013. Sales of all editions exceeded 24 million copies in North America alone by September, 2013. Today, affordable new and used copies of the entire series, both paperback and hardcover, are plentiful.

At the other end of the spectrum, the 1996 first edition of A Game of Thrones, in foil dust jacket, is now highly sought after by collectors, as are first editions of the subsequent novels in the series: A Clash of Kings (1999), A Storm of Swords (2000), A Feast for Crows (2005), and A Dance with Dragons (2011).

In addition to the five completed novels, Martin has also written five prequel novellas, two of which have been adapted as graphic novels; a collection of maps, with artwork by Jonathan Roberts, called The Lands of Ice and Fire; and a collection of quotes from the world's favorite Lannister, called The Wit & Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister, illustrated by Jonty Clark. A third companion book, The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, is due to be released on October 28, 2014. Martin wrote this newest book with Elio M. Garcia and Linda Antonsson, founders of the fan site Westeros.org.

Others have also jumped on the Game of Thrones bandwagon, sometimes with Martin's blessing and sometimes without. There's a series of comic books, created with input from Martin and compiled in three volumes as graphic novels; a cookbook called A Feast of Ice & Fire by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer, with an introduction by Martin; collections of critical essays; unofficial guides to the TV series; and assorted games, puzzles, even action figures.

Though winter may be coming, it can't come quite fast enough for fans. While viewers wait with baited breath for the new season to begin next spring, and while readers wait anxiously for Martin to finish what he claims will be the final two books of the series — The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring — there is no shortage of spin-off material to keep everyone busy.