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If you were going to loan one Terry Pratchett book from the Discworld series to someone, which book would you use?

closed as not constructive by DVK-on-Ahch-To, dlanod, user366, phantom42, Gabe Willard Aug 27 '12 at 17:33

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  • I've edited your question so that it doesn't suggest an answer, which subjective questions generally shouldn't. If you think The Fifth Elephant is a good choice, consider answering your own question (with reasoning). If it was there to indicate a criterion/criteria for the choice, please explain that. – Tony Meyer Mar 16 '11 at 7:20
  • That's fine, I worded it that way because I was afraid of it being taken down for being too subjective. Thanks – Justin C Mar 16 '11 at 15:14

10 Answers 10

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This is a very often-debated subject… You'll want to tailor the choice to that person's taste.

Some novels have the same main characters as earlier ones, and they make more sense if you've read the earlier ones. There's a reading order guide on L-Space, with a dependency graph by Krzysztof Kietzman (also in picture form). Some of these dependencies are stronger than others, for example Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad make sense on their own, but Lords and Ladies is really a sequel to Wyrd Sisters. The Watch novels are really a series, I don't recommend starting in the middle (so, not The Fifth Elephant).

  • I'm partial towards The Colour of Magic (the first book in the series) myself, but I know a lot of people don't like it. It's a good point of entry for habitual fantasy readers (The Colour of Magic starts with a Leiber) spoof; Light Fantastic is a direct sequel.
  • Wyrd Sisters is a good introduction for a Shakespeare fan.
  • Soul Music for a rock-and-roll fan.
  • Witches Abroad is built on fairy tales.
  • Small Gods is good for someone who likes philosophy of religions.
  • Mort introduces Death, and Guards! Guards! introduces Vetinari (the ruler of Ankh-Morpork); both are endearing Pratchett characters.
  • Monstrous Regiment is good for a feminist.
  • Going Postal is set in Ankh-Morpork, but you don't need to have read the previous books to appreciate it; it shows the city confronted with modernity, 19th-century style.
  • Night Watch shows an earlier Ankh-Morpork in a revolution; it's almost independent from the other Watch books.
  • I guess I asked the question because I wasn't crazy about The Colour of Magic for a first read. I get that the Watch novels are a series, but I read them out of order and wasn't bothered. Great breakdown for possible niche matchup reads like Monstrous Regiment and Small Gods! – Justin C Mar 14 '11 at 1:11
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    Reading Night Watch without having built up an emotional connection to the characters makes it much less gripping, I think. It is easily my favourite Discworld novel but only – I believe – because I have read of the city guards books before. – Konrad Rudolph Mar 14 '11 at 12:03
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    Because parody is such a major factor in Discworld, the most enjoyable (and therefore best for hooking) is likely to be the one where the subject is very familiar to the reader. So if you know a lot about Shakespeare, then Wyrd Sisters, etc, as per Gilles's list. – Tony Meyer Mar 16 '11 at 7:16
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    I'd totally agree with the suggestions above, but up to a point. I actually started off with Soul Music (because I found it for cheap at a library sale), and once I was hooked I backtracked and started with The Colour of Magic/Light Fantastic. I understand that the original two may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I feel that I got more out of the subsequent novels by reading them in the order of release than if I had just jumped around and read "only the Watch novels" or "only the Rincewind novels". – TechParadox Oct 13 '11 at 13:46
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    Mort doesn't introduce Death. He is already present in The Colour of Magic and, in fact, almost all Discworld books. – b_jonas Apr 26 '12 at 16:49
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"Guards! Guards!".

Although I have other favorites, I think it stands alone well enough not to be confusing and require previous knowledge, but it is also a book in ther series where Pratchett has clearly honed his style. You could also read the Guards/Vimes books sequentially after that too.

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    Oddly enough that was my first – Justin C Mar 14 '11 at 1:08
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    Yes, this was the first one I read and this would also be my first choice. In addition to the above reasons, it's also very funny. – Wikis Mar 14 '11 at 8:21
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    Guards, Guards is usually what I recommend to people - starts from the beginning of Vimes' journey. – Katey HW May 30 '12 at 17:16
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For a younger reader---especially but not exclusively a young lady---consider Wee Free Men, the first of the Tiffany Achings novels.

My niece is sufficiently mannerly that receiving a thank you note was taken in course, but we heard through the grape-vine that she asked for the sequel, so I think it was a hit.

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First one I read was Mort. But to be honest, if they're new to Terry Pratchett altogether, maybe go with Good Omens. If they like the sense of humor there they should be good to go, and maybe pick up Gaiman as well.

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Two to consider are Equal Rites or Small Gods. The former covers more of the reoccurring characters, but Small Gods is arguable Pratchett at his best commentary on Round World.

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    Equal Rites doesn't have many recurring characters, actually. Even Granny Weatherwax is pretty different from what she becomes in the other books. – user56 Mar 14 '11 at 7:37
  • By now obsessive compulsive fans will have noted that Eskarina has a cameo in I Shall Wear Midnight. – dmckee Sep 13 '11 at 0:15
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I would always recommend Feet of Clay, I know its in the one of the watchmen series, but I find it's one of his most rounded books. It has a lot of the running jokes, that are funny when you encounter them in the different books, but stand very well on it's own.

I would also always recommend that you reread it after you've read a few of his other books.

I wouldn't start with the Colour of Magic, as I think that is better enjoyed by someone who's read a few of his books already.

  • Or a few of the books of which it is a parody. – OrangeDog Jun 11 at 12:48
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Pyramids, Small Gods, Wyrd Sisters. Those 3 are probably the best introductions into the Dyskworld multiverse.

Small Gods might be less appropriate for a strongly religious person for all the obvious reasons :)

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For me it would either be the Thief of time or Mort. I started with the former actually. In my opinion, both of them plunge you into the extremely defamiliarising Discworld. If you like the conceits and the humour, you'll know if you are sticking with Terry or not.

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The Truth is the first one I read. It's after Pratchett's mainstays like the Watch or Death have already been developed but those books don't have to be read beforehand to understand who they are in relevance to the story. It's very good at letting you get a taste of the series without being forced to jump into a whole sub-series.

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Start with the Rincewind cycle, continue with the early "stand-alones" (small gods. pyramids) and DEATH cycle, then launch into the Watch cycle, then finish off with the witches... but at least do the cycles chronologically, since it adds emotional connection with the characters. My suggestion is to start where he did, even though RIncewind overall is a somewhat weak character (the other university people are much more fun in the later stories), by the time you get to the best parts of the Discworld saga (namely the city watch) you will know all about the (disc)world. It's also fun to watch Pratchett develop his style from spoofing and light-hearted parody to the more bitter cynical humor of his later books. Oh, and Vetinari

and don't forget Strata!

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