Where Should I Start With Terry Pratchett?

For various reasons, one of which is very exciting but I don’t want to jinx it yet, I have decided it is high time that I read some Terry Pratchett. The thing is… where does someone start with his books? It all seems rather complicated and so I thought that I would ask all of you.

You see, the easiest option would be to start at the start of his career but I went off to do some research and couldn’t really work out what his first book was. ‘The Colour of Magic’ kept coming up, and I know that is the first Discworld book more on that shortly, then I heard that actually he wrote some other books before that. I think ‘The Carpet People’ was the very first wasn’t it? This leaves me puzzled. Should I simply be heading straight to the Discworld series? However that doesn’t seem simple either.

I generally like to start a series at the beginning, in this case it would be with the aforementioned ‘The Colour of Magic’ yet every single fan I have encountered, mainly on twitter yesterday, said ‘oh no, don’t start with that one’. Ok, then where should I start? The lovely Gavin, my co-host on The Readers, has said that I should start with ‘The Wyrd Sisters’ (and he is the fountain of all Terry Pratchett novels to my mind) is he right? Or would you start elsewhere and if so why? I should add here I did get ‘The Wyrd Sisters’ from the library last Christmas and then someone ordered it before I had gotten round to it so I have been contemplating finally reading Pratchett for a while.

I do actually own a Terry Pratchett book already, so this throws another twist into the mix. It is one of his collaborations ‘The Long Earth’ which he has written with acclaimed science fiction writer Stephen Baxter. Should I simply start with that, or head to ‘Good Omens’ which he wrote with Neil Gaiman?

It is all so confusing, can you help?

64 Comments

Filed under Terry Pratchett

64 responses to “Where Should I Start With Terry Pratchett?

  1. Start with the traditional ones so light fantastic

  2. Kats

    Reading Terry Pratchett never appealed to me, but in my “genre book club”, someone picked “Going Postal” (somewhere in the disc world series) for the “Fantasy Genre” month, and I had to read it.
    Firstly, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, and even though I haven’t read any more of his, I can totally understand why fans of this genre are massive fans of TP. He is so witty and clever, there are oodles of subtle jokes, and some not so subtle that had me snorting with laughter.
    Secondly, the chap in book club who’d chosen the book has read ALL of TP’s books, and he explained that it doesn’t really matter which one you read first as there is no linear plot, but characters reappear in different books, and he had picked “Going postal” for us simply because it was one of his personal favourites of the DW series.

    Have fun!!!

    • Thanks Kats, it is the humour that I have picked up on in The World of Poo and in some parts of The Long Earth that I have found most promising. Looking forward to stepping into Discworld properly with Wyrd Sisters.

  3. Discworld – his best books are a few in, once he’s warmed up. However, appreciation of them benefits from knowing the earlier books. Thus, I vote Wyrd Sisters.
    Good Omens is very good. But very different. If you want a taste of his writing without a whole world, go there.

    … hang on – why are you sitting here writing/waiting for answers? Why haven’t you just started reading him already? And why don’t you know his books off by heart already? SACRILEGE

  4. Good Omens is the book I started with and can definitely recommend it!🙂

  5. Well, if you plan to read ALL the Discworld books, I’d suggest doing them in the order published and start with “The Colour of Magic”. -The first time. Almost everyone re-reads Pratchett.
    However, I think if you want to “sample” a Pratchett book, I would suggest starting with “Small Gods”. I think it is his best novel, it is a standalone Discworld novel, and it is in many ways representative of both the early and the recent Discworld novels.

    Or if you want to start elsewhere, read “Strata”. It’s a great book, and it is a “proto-Discworld” book.

  6. Jodie

    I always say stat with Witches Abroad. It’s the second witches book, but you don’t need the background of the first one to understand it and it’s a really easy access text if you already like fairytales. If you want to start outside Discworld, you can’t go wrong with Carpet People or Truckers (which is the first of a short trilogy). Good Omens is amazing, but I think if you go for that first then hit Discworld you might be surprised by the difference in style….

  7. I read the first two Discworld books and couldn’t be bothered to go any further, yet I’ve heard that Mort (which is the 4th??) would have been a better place to start. But I’ve decided I don’t actually need to read any more Discworld. I do intend to read Good Omens though, one day.

    • I think we all learn what does nd doesnt work for us don’t we and if two discworld books are enough for you thats all good. Least you have tried them… I will be soon.

    • AJ

      I haven’t read any others but I read Mort and it was pretty delightful. I’ve bought 2-3 others and look forward to them but my TBR table is groaning under the weight of other items at the mo.

  8. I read the first 10 or so during a TP phase but then got bored with the whole thing and haven’t picked up another one for 7 or so years. I now regret it as I hear so much about the newer books but I don’t feel I should jump straight in and think I should start again from the very beginning. ‘Color of Magic’ is a great book and very funny and explains a lot of what you need to know about the Discworld etc etc. the characters do get better as you go on but I do think COM is a first and must.

    Mort is my favourite character – and the Wyrd Sisters. Oh, and the Truckers series is great too and funnily enough, I’ve just started reading ‘Truckers’ to the Grade 3/4 class i teach once a week. So far, it’s going well and most are into it. It also means that I get to spend time reading whilst working😉

    • The fact there are so many of them does worry me somewhat. Mind you least you have lots and lots to go but I would imagine there were some duds, however not so from what most fans say, maybe that is because there are so many of the strands now.

  9. Good Omens is excellent and a good place to start if it’s not a genre you’re particularly keen on – you get two great writers doing their thing for you which has to be good value. Otherwise go straight to the discworld books and start at the beginning so you can watch the whole thing grow and build.

  10. Some excellent advice in the comments already, so I will just repeat it: if you want to focus on the Discworld (i.e. more grown-up ones) then the first in the series is The Colour of Magic, although I didn’t read them in order, and don’t feel it’s made much of a difference. ‘Small Gods’, however, is my personal favourite. There is another series for children – Wee Free Men, Hat full of Sky and so on – perhaps one for hard-core fans if you are not a child.

    • My little brother is a huge fan of his young adult books, I told him at the dinner table I was meeting him and he went bonkers hahaha. I have managed to get him a signed book but the blurb alone of Wee Free Men made me giggle twice.

  11. Deborah

    I would say Guards Guards and then all the guards books because to me Sam Vimes is the best Ptratchett lead character. Having said that Thief of Time is one of those books which has everything you would want in a book and is not a guards book. So for a stand alone maybe Thief first and then if you like it the guards then going postal or The Truth. I would also highly recommend Good Omens which is Wonderful! Do it! start reading now!!

  12. I wouldn’t start with Colour of Magic. It’s not that similar to the rest of his work, and it’s only really funny if you recognize all the material he was spoofing, which you probably wouldn’t. He has several series within the series, so it depends. I agree with Jodie that Witches Abroad is better than Wyrd Sisters, if you want to start with the Witches. I think that Guards! Guards! is also a good starting place, and is the beginning of the City Watch novels. Though I think I might prefer the one that followed it, Feet of Clay. It’s got more depth and maturity, whereas Guards! Guards! is earlier and sillier. Many people think that Small Gods is quite good, but personally I didn’t like it at all — I don’t find religious intolerance funny, ever. Going Postal is a good late Pratchett that might work as a starting point, too.

  13. I read both Colour of Magic and Good Omens and didn’t get on with either…which resulted in me coming to the conclusion that Pratchett just isn’t for me! Funnily enough though, I did really enjoy the television adaptation of The Hogfather! But generally, I find his humour a little too silly for my liking…

    But good luck! I hope you like whatever you decide to start with🙂

  14. The thing about Discworld, Simon, is that it’s not one continuous series, but a number of overlapping sub-series whose volumes more or less stand alone (at least to begin with) – you can probably read the first dozen independently, then you start to miss out on continuity.

    The series took a few books to hit its stride, and the earliest ones are the closest Pratchett has come to straight-up parody of genre fantasy – so, if you start with The Colour of Magic, you’re not going to see Pratchett at his best; and, if you’re not a fantasy fan, you probably won’t appreciate what he’s doing.

    The best Discworld books are in the middle of the series – from Wyrd Sisters to Hogfather (plus Mort), in my opinion. Wyrd Sisters would be a great place to start; you might appreciate its riffs on Shakespeare, or its exploration of how we use stories to shape our world (which became one of Pratchett’s main themes). Pyramids or Small Gods are also probably decent starting-points.

    If you were going to start with a non-Discworld book, Good Omens is the one to go for. The Long Earth is nothing like Pratchett’s other work – and it’s not one of his best. You’re right that The Carpet People was his first book (though you can only buy the revised version these days); it’s okay, but there are much better ones.

    I think you really need to start off by seeing how good Pratchett can be, so I’d recommend Wyrd Sisters first, or Good Omens< if you’d rather read a non-Discworld.

  15. Sue N

    Wyrd sisters definitely. Not Good Omens, it doesn’t sparkle as much as thr others and it’s not Discworld. I love the witch and the watch books. Vines is wonderful and I want to be Grannies Weatherwax!

  16. Kristen M.

    Have you seen this diagram of the Discworld books?

    It gives you an idea of which you can pick up that are starts of their own mini-series. I’ve read The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic and Mort so far. But, if you’re nervous of the grand scale of all things Discworld, definitely start with Good Omens which is a book that I’ve shipped many copies of out to other bloggers. It’s brilliant.

  17. David H is right about Discworld not being a continuous – it doesn’t really matter which order you read them in, and whilst knowing some of the background does make them more enjoyable, each will stand alone. My own favourite is The Thief of Time, which I think is by far and away the best written, and has some really interesting philosophical ideas. Personally, much as I love Discworld, I’d avoid the later novels (with the exception of Tiffany Aching). I’ll probably get lynched for saying this, but perhaps there is a point at which any series should finish.

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  19. Telling us the exciting thing won’t jinx it.

    As a writer, you know that writing it helps make it happen!

  20. I would start with Good Omens or Mort-both excellent books and great introductions to the Pratchett oeuvre.

  21. I love Terry Pratchett, but sometimes the Discworld novels can get a bit too funny, as in the laughes keep coming along and it becomes too much fun, less everything else. That said I think Mort is brilliant, it’s my favourite so far. The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic are good, but perhaps because they were the first ones they don’t really show you how good the series really is. Reading about a Grim Reaper who likes cats always has a big possibility to brighten my day.

  22. mcresswell

    Essentially Discworld has a couple of main ‘series’ within it–they’re all linked together, but there are runs following different characters. The Colour of Magic is the first that follows the wizard Rincewind, but most fans say don’t start with it because it’s more of a parody than outright funny in and of itself. The Witches series starts with Wyrd Sisters, Mort is the first of a few centring on Death (one of the absolute best characters) and is frequently people’s favourite. My favourite set of characters is the Night Watch which starts with Guards! Guards! (and Night Watch, my favourite of all of his books, is part of those characters.) There are a few one-offs that slot in and around it (Maskerade is another favourite, which is a version of Phantom of the Opera and is absolutely wonderful.) So really, pick whichever set of character appeals the most, and start there.

    As to his non-Discworld books, they’re quite good, but Discworld is his best creation.

    Also, avoid Pyramids. Terrible.

  23. As a Pratchett dabbler, I don’t really follow the ordering and haven’t ever really encountered a major problem doing that, as most of the earlier ones take into account that you might not have read them all. Definitely going with the majority vote and suggesting Wyrd Sisters – it was the first one I read and sets up a lot of what you can expect from other Pratchett novels – plus Nanny Ogg is legendary.

  24. Can’t you just ask Gav?😉

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  26. I haven’t read any of Terry Pratchett’s books, but after looking through this discussion, I really have to look up his work.

  27. I would say to start with Guards! Guards!, which is the first of the City Watch Discworld books, or Wyrd Sisters, which is the first of the Witches series. Small Gods is a good standalone one too.

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  29. Adam Stone

    I have tried to read Pratchett on a number of occasions but just cannot get into his books. I have the same problem with Robert Rankin,

  30. I started with “The Colour of Magic”, which I thought was a fine enough place to start; it’s not his best, but it’s still entertaining. I would avoid “The Light Fantastic as a first read, as it is a direct continuation of “The Colour of Magic”. Otherwise, I’ve heard it doesn’t really matter that much.

  31. Thank you all for your recommendations. I ended up going with The Long Earth however I am definitely going to read Wyrd Sisters in the next few weeks or so as I managed to read The World of Poo and haven’t laughed that much in ages.

  32. 🙂 It was meant to be a threat. Along similar fear inducing levels to: Late, as in the late Dent Arthur Dent.

  33. I have read him from the start of the diskworld reprints in the early 90s. There are several threads to follow – Rincewind, Death, the Night Watch, the Witches, the hot countries, etc. If you read them in order you will see the threads evolve nicely. There is no additional benifit in reading them any other way. I have thoroughly enjoyed the sceries. The carpet people, strata, good omens and a few others are apart from the sceries – read them as you please. The carpet people was originally meant to be a childrens book, I think.

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