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Sir Terry Pratchett wrote over 70 books in a career spanning 44 years; 41 of those were set in Discworld. It can be hard to break into this series of comic fantasy novels if you don’t know where to start.
To help, here are the best Discworld novels for anyone new to the series.
What Is Discworld?
A fantasy-shrouded satire of contemporary and historical human society, the Discworld books feature a range of interesting characters. Wizards, policemen, witches, golems, dwarves, werewolves, con men, assassins, and Death himself (riding his horse Binky) occupy the Discworld.
The realm itself is a satire of the flat earth cult. It’s a disc, situated on the back of four giant elephants, who in turn sit atop a giant turtle. Known only as the Great A’Tuin, it swims through space.
Everything about the Discworld is grounded in our own world. This, along with the resident humor, makes it easier to get into than traditional, “dry” fantasy. These five books will help you on your way.
Rincewind is a wizard who appears, or is mentioned, in many Discworld novels. He’s really bad at being a wizard and is largely mocked or ignored by his peers at the Unseen University.
In Sourcery, Rincewind becomes embroiled in a fiendish plot by a dead wizard (occupying the staff of his own son) to take over the Discworld. With ice giants, gods, and new dimensions, Sourcery also features The Luggage (a sentient travel chest), which Rincewind encounters in the first Discworld tale, The Color Of Magic.
2. Going Postal
Starring the ridiculously named Moist von Lipwig, Going Postal is one of Pratchett’s “Industrial Revolution” books. Lipwig is charged by Ankh-Morpork’s ruler, Lord Vetinari, to revive the postal service. This takes place against a backdrop of a new telegraph-inspired service, the Clacks.
Lipwig combats haunted abandoned letters, assassins, the urge to run away, and his feelings for Golem liberator Adora Belle Dearheart. There’s also a thrilling conclusion in a race against the Clacks.
A TV adaption of Going Postal was produced in 2010, with Richard Coyle as Lipwig, Claire Foy as Adora Belle Dearheart, and Charles Dance as Vetinari.
Another novel that has been adapted for television, Hogfather presents us with Discworld’s own Christmas tradition. However, Hogswatch is being subverted by the Auditors of Reality, who have charged the Guild of Assassins with killing the Hogfather. This task is assigned to the glass-eyed Mr. Jonathan Teatime (pronounced “Teh-ah-tim-eh”).
Discovering something is amiss, with too much unfocused belief causing new paranormal entities, Death tricks granddaughter Susan to investigate while he and his servant, Albert, stand in for the Hogfather and deliver presents to the children across Discworld. If that description alone isn’t enough to make you order a copy, you’re reading the wrong list!
The 2006 TV adaption stars Ian Richardson, David Jason, Michelle Dockery, and Mark Warren.
The eighth Discworld novel is the first about the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork, the twin city state at the heart of many events in the series.
Guards! Guards! features a plot to usurp Lord Ventinari, sentient dragons, and a good dose of magic. It introduces Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, a six foot, six inches tall volunteer to the Watch who was raised by dwarves.
The imposing figure of Death stalks many of the Discworld books and we learn more about him in Mort. Despite much of this early book taking in place in Death’s domain, however, this is a surprisingly easy and amusing read. It’s a perfect introduction and the first book for many eventual fans of Discworld.
Title character Mort becomes Death’s apprentice, finding himself doing much of The Duty. Meanwhile Death himself spends some time with the living.
6. Night Watch
Hardened leader of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, Sam Vimes, finds himself sent back in time 30 years in a book that crosses fantasy and sci-fi.
Not only that, but he ends up meeting himself and portraying his mentor, John Keel. Essentially teaching himself, Vimes performs various acts that Sergeant Keel became remembered for on the night of his death.
Despite the mind-bending time travel, Night Watch is regarded as one of Pratchett’s finest Discworld tales.
Discworld books rarely use chapter breaks, Pratchett instead preferring natural breaks in the storytelling. However, for the handful of young adult Discworld novels, he added chapters.
Subtitled “A Story of Discworld” to differentiate it from the main Discworld releases, it tells the story of trainee witch Tiffany Aching, who encounters the Nac Mac Feegles. These are the Wee Free Men of the title, who are rough, rowdy, and possess Glaswegian accents.
If you’re new to Discworld and enjoy YA fantasy novels, The Wee Free Men is a great way in.
There’s a Discworld Story for Everyone
Sir Terry Pratchett’s strength—beyond the humor and fantasy—was creating books with an appealing theme. His bibliography includes books about movies, rock and roll music, soccer, postmen, journalists, vampires. And then there is the Unseen University that features in many of the books, a wizardy antidote to Harry Potter.
In short: there is a Discworld tale for you, whoever you are!