Discworld, and where to start.

For the uninitiated here, Discworld is a comic fantasy series that spans 41 novels. Written by Sir Terry Pratchett from 1983 till his passing in 2015 (The 41st book was released posthumously in 2015), these books have captivated people, old and young, with their witty dialogue and loveable characters. The books rely on satire to draw parallels with various scientific and cultural issues, while also taking inspiration from a variety of other novels, media etc. I’ve added a few quotes here and there to give you a feel for the writing and what one can expect in these novels.

“In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded”

– Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies

I started Discworld quite late actually (in 2016), and almost by accident. I was on my way to an exam and while waiting in the metro decided to start a book, to get my mind of the exam ahead. That book happened to be the Colour of Magic, and nothing has ever been the same since. From being slightly nervous for the exam ahead, to laughing out loud without realising, this book opened up a magical world in the shape of a disk supported on the backs of 4 elephants that stand atop a giant turtle as it swims through space. The writing, if I remember correctly, took a bit of getting used to at the time, but once the rhythm had set in, it was full steam ahead.

“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”

Terry Pratchett

Discworld was there for me during some low moments. I knew I could pick up a Discworld book / audiobook and, no matter the situation I’d be in, it would make me smile and laugh. The sheer absurdness of the writing coupled with how real life events are portrayed shows the comedic genius that is Sir Terry Pratchett. I would have ploughed through the 41 books but the only thing that made me slow down was the fact that once they’re done, they’re done. Sure, I could read them again and what not, but the joy of reading and discovering something for the first time is on a whole other level. But I digress, back to the topic at hand.

A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”

– Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

The Discworld novels have also been adapted into audiobooks, and boy are they a treat. Unabridged recordings of books 1-24 (except 3,6,9) are read by Nigel Planer, while books 3 and 6 were read by Celia Imrie. Book 9, and onward from 24 were read by Stephen Briggs. I mention this because once someone gets hooked onto audiobooks, it becomes very important who is narrating which book (you tend to start having favourites and looking for books narrated by the same people). These narrators have done a phenomenal job in bringing Discworld to life. I would, without a doubt, recommend the Discworld audiobooks to anyone; but only after you’ve read a few of the novels cause otherwise it gets a bit difficult to fully grasp the characters and whatever is happening at the time.

Now, where to start you ask? Well everyone has their own opinion on where to start the series, whether they have to read in order, to read as stand-alone novels, etc. Below is my two cents on the topic and why I feel so, but in the end it’s entirely up to the reader. Hopefully this will give some insight and help with whatever decision you take.

The 41 books of Discworld can broadly be categorised into the following sub-series. These include:

  1. The Rincewind Series
  2. The Witches Series
  3. The Death Series
  4. The Industrial Revolution Series
  5. The Ankh-Morpork City Watch Series
  6. The Tiffany Aching Series

There are other companion books as well, including the Science of Discworld series but they are not part of the main 41 books of the series.

There is a very helpful guide on the internet that basically shows the above in a handy graphic while also suggesting reading orders by following the various sub-series. This is one way to experience the series, but in my opinion not necessarily the best way. The main reason this comes up is because most people do not particularly like the first few books of the discworld series. I’ll admit the writing isn’t perfect (lol, like I’m an expert) and the characters aren’t nearly as fleshed out but considering its the first few books of the series that is to be expected. Hence people are more likely to suggest starting from any of the other books, most popular being Mort, Guards Guards, or the Tiffany aching series. Since each of the novels are self contained stories, they could be read as standalone but there is a very small overarching plot involving character development that can only be appreciated if read in order.

But what order would I feel is best? Why, the order of publication of course. There is no better way (in my opinion) to get a grasp of how the author fleshes out his characters, and in turn his own writing, as more and more of the universe starts to fall into place. You can see how the writing begins to improve and how easily it is to fall into a story as compared to the earlier novels. Not to mention the journey you take with the characters, when you get back to a novel with familiar characters its like seeing old friends we didn’t know we missed. You see how they’ve changed (evolved?) and the character growth of some always makes me smile (Looking at you Captain Vimes).

I could go into the specifics of the novels but that would take a while to pen down so for now I guess this will have to do. As usual I’ll add some links below to further reading material for those interested. I hope this helps someone wondering where to start, and for those on the fence, nervous at the daunting task of starting a series of 41 books, don’t be. You’d be surprised at how quickly they breeze by. I was sad the day the series ended for me, with the notion that there will be no more novels and that never again will a series captivate me like this (The only one that comes close is the Dresden Files but for a whole other reason). Discworld is, and forever will be, that friend I go back to when I’m feeling down and in need of a laugh. Thank you Sir Terry Pratchett. Thank you.

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.”

– Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Links:

  1. Goodreads – Discworld
  2. L-space
  3. Discworld Reading Order Guide 3.0
  4. Discworld Emporium

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