• Ayanna

How to Read Terry Pratchett's Discworld



Granny grinned. “That’s one form of magic, of course.”

“What, just knowing things?”

“Knowing things that other people don’t know.”

-Equal Rites (1987) by Terry Pratchett


Were you aware that the earth is, in fact, NOT round? Or flat? We’re more disc-shaped, I’d say. We are held aloft by four elephants on the back of Great A’Tuin, our beloved Giant Star Turtle hurtling (slowly) through space to find another Giant Star Turtle with a different world on its back to then *ahem* mate (the next Big Bang). At least this is all true if you’re a lowly inhabitant of the Discworld.


Brought into creation by Sir Terry Pratchett in 1983 with the first of forty-one books (yes, forty-one), The Colour of Magic, the Discworld series is beloved by many science fiction and fantasy readers. Pratchett himself was brought into this world in 1948 and passed in 2015, just before his sixty-seventh birthday. In his time as an author, he wrote many more books than just these, with his first one published in 1971. His writing style can be defined as comedy-fantasy, meaning he would write in a fantasy setting while making sure his books were drenched in satire and puns. At times, he goes so far as to make fun of the genre even while writing it.


As someone who loves sci-fi/fantasy and has a good sense of humor, it’s no wonder to me that I’ve become enthralled with Discworld. The world, ever-evolving yet stuck in its ways, is captivating and full to the brim with all sorts of zany characters. In Discworld, you can read about anything and anyone from wizards with performance issues, dragons as kings, and even Death and his companions. Each book is its own story and surrounds the characters involved, with little Easter egg appearances of other characters you’ll come to know.


Now, with forty-one books in the series, how is someone to go about reading it in the correct order? It’s not as simple as looking for the identifying hints such as “sequel to” or “finale”, so what do you look for?


There are many ways to read the series, and one of them to ignore order entirely. Something that’s pretty magical about Pratchett’s Discworld series is that each book could be read as a stand-alone. There aren’t a lot of spoilers from previous books, but Pratchett makes sure that the reader is aware of any previous events that changed the course of the story. He takes advantage of footnotes and through those, he not only provides background information, but he also uses these as an opportunity to add extra jokes in his writing. So if you only have access to certain titles from the series, rest assured that you can read them on their own if you’d like.


As I mentioned above, along with each book having the ability to be a stand-alone, they each follow different characters and their own paths. This means that Rincewind, who is introduced in The Colour of Magic, makes appearances in other books throughout the series, though not necessarily back-to-back. What that means is that if you decide to read the series in publication order (listed below), you will jump around from character to character in each book. I don’t mind this, as each adventure following the characters changes so I don’t fear I’ll forget something from a previous book. However, there is the option to read the books based on which character they follow. If you fall deeply, madly in love with Rincewind (first, are you okay?) you can follow his storyline directly. Looking below, you can find a character you like or are interested in, and read those titles listed to follow them around.



First, let’s start in order of publication, which is my preferred way of reading the series.


The Colour of Magic (1983)

The Light Fantastic (1986)

Equal Rites (1987)

Mort (1987)

Sourcery (1988)

Wyrd Sisters (1988)

Pyramids (1989)

Guards! Guards! (1989)

Eric (1990)

Moving Pictures (1990)

Reaper Man (1991)

Witches Abroad (1991)

Small Gods (1992)

Lords and Ladies (1992)

Men at Arms (1993)

Soul Music (1994)

Interesting Times (1994)

Maskerade (1995)

Feet of Clay (1996)

Hogfather (1996)

Jingo (1997)

The Last Continent (1998)

Carpe Jugulum (1998)

The Fifth Elephant (1999)

The Truth (2000)

Thief of Time (2001)

The Last Hero (2001)

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001)

Night Watch (2002)

The Wee Free Men (2003)

Monstrous Regiment (2003)

A Hat Full of Sky (2004)

Going Postal (2004)

Thud! (2005)

Wintersmith (2006)

Making Money (2007)

Unseen Academicals (2009)

I Shall Wear Midnight (2010)

Snuff (2011)

Raising Steam (2013)

The Shepherd’s Crown (2015)


Now let's take a look at a reading order based on the characters involved. Again, there are usually easter egg appearances of some of the well-known characters throughout the series, but these tend to really follow particular characters or groups.


Rincewind (or the Wizards)

The Colour of Magic

The Light Fantastic

Sourcery

Eric

Interesting Times

The Last Continent

Unseen Academicals


The Witches

Equal Rites

Wyrd Sisters

Lords and Ladies

Maskerade

Carpe Jugulum


Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegles

The Wee Free Men

A Hat Full of Sky

Wintersmith

I Shall Wear Midnight

The Shepherd’s Crown


Death

Mort

Reaper Man

Soul Music

Hogfather

Thief of Time


The City Watch

Guards! Guards!

Men At Arms

Feet of Clay

Jingo

The Fifth Elephant

Night Watch

Thud!

Snuff


Moist Von Lipwig

Going Postal

Making Money

Raising Steam


Now that you’ve got an idea of how to dig in, dig in! This series is wonderful, magical, and beautiful (just don’t look too closely at Ankh-Morpork). Each book is roughly around 200-300 pages long, which makes them nice and compact, and easy to bring with you. If you’re interested, there are also companion books that I recommend and have listed below.


The Discworld Companion, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs (1994)

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Imaginarium, by Paul Kidby (2018)

The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld, by Terry Pratchett (2008)

The Complete Discworld Atlas: Of General and Descriptive Geography Which Together With New Maps and Gazetteer Forms a Complete Guide to Our World and All It Encompasses, by Terry Pratchett (2015)

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