Let me tell you something: I freaking love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. I love the wacky universe that somehow manages to make sense (a disc balanced on four elephants riding a turtle through space – really?), I love the characters that start out like clichés but grow into so much more, I love Pratchett’s philosophy about human kindness and belief and the wonders of imagination, and I love the fact that all of this is packed into dozens of books that make me giggle from one cover to the other.
But when I recommend Discworld to people, they tend to view them the same way people view comics. By which I mean, they look at the sheer number of them and panic. How the hell am I meant to read all those? Where do I even START?
The nice thing about the Discworld books is that, technically, you can start them anywhere. The books run chronologically, and certain groups of characters pop up repeatedly (there are the Guards Books and the Death Books and the Witches Books …), but it doesn’t matter which book you actually start on, because they all explain themselves fully. I started on Hogfather, the 22nd book in the Discworld series and the fourth in the Death Books series.
This, however, tends to terrify people even more, because now they really, really don’t know where to start. So here’s my informal, quick guide on some of the best books to start with, and why.
1) If you like reading chronologically, or you like wizards, magic and Conan the Barbarian: The Colour of Magic
The first book in the Discworld series overall, this story is about Rincewind the cowardly wizard exploring the entire world of the disc. This is also the beginning of the Rincewind books, so if you’re particularly fond if him, you can skim on through his stories:
2) If you like murder mysteries, cop shows and urban drama: Guards! Guards!
These books follow the police force in the Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork (a dirtier, smellier and more magical Victorian London). I’m always amazed at how magical crimes featuring dragons and golems can be solved using real common sense and detective work. A lot of my favourite characters come from this series, from werewolves to dwarves to human men who are just damn fed up with all this magical nonsense.
More books in this series include:
3) If you like Shakespeare, fairy tales and witchcraft: Wyrd Sisters
This series is about a coven of witches in the Lancre countryside, solving everything from their neighbour’s backache to an army of supernatural monsters on midsummer’s day. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg’s stories revolve around parodies of various magical stories, from Midsummer Night’s Dream to Dracula to Phantom of the Opera, but usually end up using practicality and common sense over hand-waving everything away with magic.
Technically, Granny Weatherwax first appears in Equal Rites, but I’d actually advise starting with her next book (when Nanny Ogg also appears) and then going back:
4) If you like sympathetic monsters, philosophy and spookiness: Mort
Mort is the first in the series of books about Death – Terry Pratchett’s Grim Reaper is actually a pretty friendly fellow, and thus has several books about him and his family. These usually involve either Death going on holiday, and someone else having to take up his (not particularly pleasant) job, or Death’s family having to battle the Auditors – nasty creatures that want to wipe out humanity for the crime of being just too darn complicated.
These are the books I started on, and Death will forever be one of my favourite characters.
So that’s it! To me, those are the best places you could start with Terry Pratchett, if you’re not sure where to go. (If anybody’s crying ‘but Tiffany Aching!’ I’m so sorry, I haven’t read them yet! I know, I know, shame on me.)
Is anyone else a Terry Pratchett fan? Where did you start, and where do you recommend people begin?