So you’ve finally heard of Discworld, and want to know what book to start with.
First off, let me say welcome to Discworld. It is one of the greatest Fantasy series ever created. I’ve personally gained much enjoyment by reading through the Discworld books, and I consider it my favorite fantasy book series.
That being said, Discworld is huge. Sir Terry Pratchett wrote 41 novels in the series and plenty of other books, including short story collections, science books, and quiz books to read. But you don’t have to read the books in order (and I highly recommend you don’t). Also, it is almost universally accepted that you don’t begin with the first book The Colour of Magic.
There are many ways to approach reading Discworld, but I want to give you 5 recommendations for which Discworld book to start with.
What is Discworld?
The important thing in this series is the location. They all take place on the Discworld, which is a large flat world that sits on the backs of four elephants. The elephants themselves are on a giant turtle that is flying through space.
The world has every fantasy creature you could think of (witches, wizards, trolls, etc.), and is governed by magic.
Each of the novels takes place on the Discworld but doesn’t necessarily have the same characters. The interesting thing about the series is that Terry Pratchett started writing books around similar groups of people on the Discworld, and created mini-series you can read through.
For example, a major character in Discworld is Death (think a human skeleton with a giant scythe). Death appears in countless books, but he also has 5 books in which he is the main character. We essentially see the world through his eyes in these 5 books. These books about Death were not published in chronological order, but can be read in order.
There are other groupings of books around witches, a city watch (guards who guard the largest city in Discworld), Wizards, and various different groups.
There are also standalone novels in Discworld. These are books that are kind of one-and-done books about characters.
Best Discworld Books to Start With
Here are the 5 books I suggest you could start with when beginning Discworld. Each of these books displays some of Terry Pratchett’s best writing and has some of Discworld’s most memorable characters.
Discworld Recommendation #1: Mort
Mort is my favorite Discworld book. It is the first book in the Death series. Death is one of the best characters in all of Discworld. Because of his job as the collector of dead souls, he doesn’t understand human emotion (i.e., what it is to be alive). When he speaks in the books it’s in all caps. For example, here is how death speaks in the books:
DON”T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.
The book is about a boy named Mort who is chosen to become Death’s apprentice. The story follows Mort as he begins to work for Death.
I think this is a place to start because it’s funny, and introduces you to Death.
Discworld Recommendation #2: Guards! Guards!
Guards! Guards! Is another great option to begin Discworld with.
It is the first book, in the Night Watch series. Out of all the series, I think the Night Watch has the best books. They are all wonderful.
This book is about a character named Carrot, who joins the night watch in Ahnk-Morpork. The largest, rowdiest city on the Discworld. The watch isn’t very efficient and doesn’t do much about the crime in Ahnk-Morpork. There are dozens of memorable characters in this book. You will find it incredibly funny and entertaining.
Discworld Recommendation #3: Small Gods
Small Gods is one of the best Discworld books. But this recommendation comes with one caveat, it is a standalone novel. There are no recurring characters in it. It also doesn’t take place in Ahnk-Morpork, which the majority of Discworld books do.
Nevertheless, this book will highlight the writing style of Sir Terry Pratchett, and it has an incredible plot. It explores the idea of religion on the Discworld.
Discworld Recommendation #4: The Colour of Magic
I know in the intro, I said don’t start with the first book, but I will still add it here because this is the first book I read in Discworld.
The Colour of Magic was the first Discworld book and was written in 1983. In my opinion, it took Sir Terry Pratchett a few books to really hit his stride with Discworld. He hadn’t quite found his voice in The Colour of Magic.
But it’s still a great book. I was hooked after reading it, and although I wouldn’t consider it one of the best Discworld books, it still has many redeeming qualities.
The book introduces the Discworld and tells the story of a wizard named Rincewind. It is the first book in the Wizard series. Rincewind is not a good wizard and can hardly do magic. He runs into a tourist (the first-ever on the Discworld), who wants to see the sights around Ahnk-Morpork.
Discworld Recommendation #5: Going Postal
Going Postal is the newest book on this list. It was published in 2004. The book introduces a fan-favorite character Moist Von Lipwig. There are two more books after Going Postal, which follow the Moist Von Lipwig character arc.
This is one of the first books I read in the Discworld series. This was the 33rd book published by Sir Terry Pratchett. By this time, he had truly found his voice. It’s a perfect example of Terry Pratchett’s writing style.
Von Lipwig is a former criminal from Ahnk-Morpork who is given an opportunity to work for the city to turn around its dilapidated postal system. I love the Von Lipwig series, and he is one of my favorite characters in Discworld.
If I Could Only Recommend One Discworld Book
After reading these books go read them in chronological order, or focus on reading one of the mini-series in Discworld.