Beginners guide to the Terry Pratchett Discworld series

When you look for the next best book to read you may have considered the Discworld by Terry Pratchett but shied away because the whole series sounds like too much. You may be thinking “Must read books, you say? How I am supposed to start reading a new series with 30-40 books!? It would take me ages.”

At this point many fans (including me) would rush in to tell you three things:

  1. There are separate series within the Discworld. Each can be read independently.
  2. Most of the books in the series are also an independent story, you can start where ever you want (and stop whenever you want, if you want).
  3. It’s 41 books to read. Nowhere near enough, thank you very much.

Here is an overview of the five main series to help beginners to get started reading the Discworld books.

 

City Watch, the men behind and beyond the uniform

Guards Guards
Four man against the dragon, talking about stacking up the odds against the protagonist.

You know how in the stories, when somebody calls out “Guards!” a group of nameless thugs in uniforms appear to try to arrest the protagonist. Well this series is about these men. However, when called, their appearance might be little delayed. Their job is to keep peace after all, and do keep something you first need to have it. Preferably in large quantities and in the shade out of elements, where you can have a little smoke break.

At least that’s how it used to be until the Carrot Ironfinderson came to join the watch. A young human man from the mountains, raised (all the way) up by dwarfs. After all, if adventures will not befall a young lad in his own village, he must seek them abroad. He joins the night watch, bunch of misfits led by one of the most cynical men in the city, Sam Vimes.  Adventures starts with dragons and goes from there. Not always into a better and more sophisticated places, nor necessarily even uphill, but through eight books of hilarious adventures.

“They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they want to.
This book is dedicated to those fine men.”
― Guards! Guards!
………………………………………………………………………………………….
“No! Please! I’ll tell you whatever you want to know!” the man yelled.
“Really?” said Vimes. “What’s the orbital velocity of the moon?”
“What?”
“Oh, you’d like something simpler?”
― Night Watch
………………………………………………………………………………………….

“I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are good people and bad people. You’re wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides.
― Guards! Guards!
………………………………………………………………………………………….
“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchmen? Me. I watch him. Always.”
― Thud!
………………………………………………………………………………………….
“I assure you I will not kill you,” said Inigo.
“I know that,” said Vimes. “But will you try?”
― The Fifth Elephant
………………………………………………………………………………………….
“I’m not a natural killer! See this? See what it says? I’m supposed to keep the peace, I am! If I kill people to do it, I’m reading the wrong manual!”
― Jingo

Death series, a compassion and curiosity

Mort-cover
The Death of the Discworld takes a mortal as an apprentice.

Nothing morbid about this series, Discworld death is one of the most beloved characters for a good reason. He made a first episodic appearances in first Discworld book, The Colour of Magic, where he decided to get a hobby, to make sure that the protagonist finally makes it to their appointment, i.e. dies.

Despite the somewhat vindictive origin Death series are hopeful, inspiring and incredibly funny. The first book of the series is the “Mort” where Death decided to take himself an apprentice.  A true must read book among the Discworld that’s a great read also for younger readers.

 

Through the series Death becomes more and more philosophical and acquires a family. Discworld’s Death is wise, curious of humanity and with a soft spot and a pitcher of milk for cats, he speaks LIKE THIS.

“YOU MUST LEARN THE COMPASSION PROPER TO YOUR TRADE”
“And what’s that?”
“A SHARP EDGE.”
― Mort
………………………………………………………………………………………….

– I USHERED SOULS INTO THE NEXT WORLD. I WAS THE GRAVE OF ALL HOPE. I
WAS THE ULTIMATE REALITY. I WAS THE ASSASSIN AGAINST WHOM NO LOCK
WOULD HOLD.
– “Yes, point taken, but do you have any particular skills?”
— Death consults a job broker (Mort)
………………………………………………………………………………………….

“WHO KNOWS WHAT EVIL LURKS IN THE HEART OF MEN?
The Death of Rats looked up from the feast of the potato. SQUEAK, he said.
Death waved a hand dismissively. WELL, YES, OBVIOUSLY ME, he said. I JUST WONDERED IF THERE WAS ANYONE ELSE.”
― The Truth

The witches of Lancre

equal rites book cover
If group of witches is know as an “argument”, what is group of wizards called?

First book of the Witch series is “Equal rites”. As a bridge between the witches and wizard series, it grows out by asking a question “why are there only male wizards around”. Story starts when a newborn girl is given a wizard’s staff and powers, by an accident. What is done can’t be undone, and the old system better get ready to  some new ideas. The Eskarina Smith, the first female wizard of the Discworld is on her way to the Unseen University,  the place where wizards study, and she got  the most powerful witch of the mountains on her side.

First introduction of the Granny Weatherwax who becomes a prominent character through two series (Witches and Tiffany Arching). In later books Granny gangs up with cheerful and cheeky  Gytha “Nanny” Ogg, and Magrat Garlic who is talented with herbs and appearing to be “a wet hen”. Between helping out people with illnesses and having cups of tea and sweet biscuits they scare the heck out of anybody smart enough to know whats good for them and save the the kingdom a few times.

“I’m not a lady, I’m a witch.”
― Equal Rites
………………………………………………………………………………………….

“She knew a cutting, incisive, withering and above all a self-evident answer existed. It was just that, to her extreme annoyance, she couldn’t quite bring it to mind.”
― Equal Rites (on who says women can’t be wizards)
………………………………………………………………………………………….

“She’d never mastered the talent for apologizing, but she appreciated it in other people.”
― Wyrd Sisters

Tiffany Aching and Wee free men

Tiffany Aching
“I am taking care of my hills.”

If you have kids with age difference and you are looking for a story to read out loud  that would appeal to different age groups, you can start with Tiffany Arching series.

Tiffany is a young witch in training. In the first book of the series, „Wee Free Men“, she is 9-years old and has a good head on her shoulder with plenty of common sense to go with it. When monsters starts showing up she has no trouble in believing her own eyes. Equipped with a frying pan as a weapon she heads out to save her little, sticky brother from the fairy queen. Tiffany may generally think her brother useless and is not beyond using him a bait to ambush a river monster. Still, it’s HER brother and no ferry queen has a business to kidnapping him.

She is accompanied by the Nac Mac Feegles, another kind of fairy folk and they are even less pink or cute then the rest. Thrown out of the fairly land for being drunken and rowdy they think that earth is a heaven, how else would it be so awesome. They are on Tiffanie’s side,  keeping an eye out for the “big wee hag” whether she likes it or not.

“If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”
― The Wee Free Men
………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Zoology, eh? That’s a big word, isn’t it.”
“No, actually it isn’t,” said Tiffany. “Patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short.”
― The Wee Free Men

………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Yes! I’m me! I am careful and logical and I look up things I don’t understand! When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy! I am good with cheese. I read books fast! I think! And I always have a piece of string! That’s the kind of person I am!”
―  The Wee Free Men

………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Sometimes, Tiffany thought, I am so fed up with being young.”
― The Shepherd’s Crown

………………………………………………………………………………………….

“The stories never said why she was wicked. It was enough to be an old woman, enough to be all alone, enough to look strange because you have no teeth. It was enough to be called a witch. If it came to that, the book never gave you the evidence of anything. It talked about “a handsome prince”… was he really, or was it just because he was a prince that people called handsome? As for “a girl who was as beautiful as the day was long”… well, which day? In midwinter it hardly ever got light! The stories don’t want you to think, they just wanted you to believe what you were told…”
― The Wee Free Men

Wizards and the Unseen University

They started it!

The first Discworld novel.
What happens when gods decide to play dice.

The first book of the Discworld series is about a wizard, or more precisely a “Wizzard” as you can read from his hat, Rinchwind. Magical University drop-out and a professional screwup, he is assigned with a questionable honor to look after Discworlds first-ever tourist, Twoflower. This naive scribes chances in a place like Ankh-Morpok should be slim, even (or despite) Rinchwind’s best efforts.

Through the Wizard series Rinchwind make multiple appearances, mostly trying to run away from the trouble. The Unseen University would sound familiar to anybody who have had dealings with the academic world in our universe. Initial political intrigues calm down through the series, under the watchful hand of the archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully. This frees them up to spend the days sleeping, eating and occasionally solving the problems with the continuity in universe (that more often than not are caused by themselves in the first place).

Probably the most beloved character from the Unseen University is the Librarian, the orangutan. He makes many appearances through other storylines and is part of the City Watch.

“Twoflower was a tourist, the first ever seen on the discworld. Tourist, Rincewind had decided, meant ‘idiot’.”
― The Color of Magic
………………………………………………………………………………………….

“He’sh mad?”
“Sort of mad. But mad with lots of money.”
“Ah, then he can’t be mad. I’ve been around; if a man hash lotsh of money he’sh just ecshentric.”
―The Light Fantastic

………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Any true wizard, faced with a sign like ‘Do not open this door. Really. We mean it. We’re not kidding. Opening this door will mean the end of the universe,’ would automatically open the door in order to see what all the fuss is about. This made signs rather a waste of time, but at least it meant that when you handed what was left of the wizard to his grieving relatives you could say, as they grasped the jar, ‘We told him not to.”
― The Last Continent

………………………………………………………………………………………….

‘Oook’

― The Librarian, Unseen Academicals

____________________

As you probably know, the May 25th is an important day to celebrate a works of two amazing authors.  For the fans of Terry Pratchett around the world, it’s the Lilac day, an anniversary of the People’s Revolution of the Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May, a culmination day in the Discworld book “The Night Watch” by Sir Terry Pratchett. In honer of his work (and for an awareness for Alzheimer) all fans are encouraged to wear lilac blossom.

Second it’s the Towel Day, in honor of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, an other absolute must read book series by Douglas Adams. So crab your towel, fasten lilac blossom to your jacket and read a lot of books.

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