Sam Hamilton is the former Web Content Administrator at the Edmonton Public Library.
“The disc, being flat, has no real horizon. Any adventurous sailor who got funny ideas from staring at eggs and oranges for too long and set out for the antipodes soon learned that the reason why distant ships sometimes looked as though they were disappearing over the edge of the world was that they were disappearing over the edge of the world.” — Sir Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic
There are 41 novels in Sir Terry Pratchett’s comedic fantasy series, Discworld. Its publication history spans almost 30 years. (The first novel, The Colour of Magic, was published in 1983 and the final novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, was published after Pratchett’s death, in 2015.)
Each novel in the series is a self-contained, stand-alone story. However, there are several characters who reappear throughout the series and have their own story arcs, prompting some people to create thematic or character-driven reading orders. (Check out Discworld by Characters, Discworld Emporium or The Discworld Reading Order Guide for examples.)
If you’re just getting started with this delightful series or aren’t sure yet if you want to take the plunge, we’re here to be your guide. We’ll introduce you to Rincewind the wizard, the Lancre coven and other witches, the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and many more Discworld inhabitants, including Death himself.
“Luck is my middle name," said Rincewind, indistinctly. "Mind you, my first name is Bad.” — Interesting Times
Despite telling you to read this series out of order, we recommend starting with the first two books. They introduce the world of Discworld and our first character, Rincewind. He’s a wizard who failed out of the Unseen University and spends most of his time running from people and things that want to kill him. He also wears a hat that says “Wizzard.”
Novels featuring Rincewind / the Wizards
“Witches are not by nature gregarious, at least with other witches, and they certainly don't have leaders. Granny Weatherwax was the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn't have.” ― Wyrd Sisters
Esmerelda “Esme” Weatherwax (also known as Granny Weatherwax) is a powerful witch who, along with Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick, protects the small, mountainous country of Lancre. Unlike the wizards of Discworld, witches don’t generally practice magic. Instead, they use “headology”—a sort of folk-psychology that tricks people into believing that magic has been cast.
Novels featuring the Witches
Young Adult Novels
“Sometimes, Tiffany thought, I am so fed up with being young.” ― The Shepherd's Crown
If you have a young reader in your life who’s interested in fantasy, get them started with these stories featuring Tiffany Aching. Throughout these novels, she grows from a nine-year-old scouted by “witch finder” Miss Tick in The Wee Free Men, to an apprentice of the Lancre witches, to a full-fledged teenage witch in The Shepherd’s Crown (Pratchett’s last novel).
Novels featuring Tiffany Aching
Other YA Novels
From the story of a young assassin who inherits his father’s small desert kingdom in Pyramids to a gardener-turned-acolyte of a tortoise god in Small Gods, these novels are thematically tied by their pseudo-historical (and very satirical) stories.
Novels featuring Ancient Civilizations
"'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?'" — Mort
Like most Grim Reapers, Death is a skeletal figure who wears black robes and carries a scythe. His jurisdiction is Discworld itself and he appears in almost every book in the series.
While not invisible, only those who are magically inclined (i.e. witches and wizards), children and cats can see him—other people’s brains simply refuse to acknowledge his presence.
Novels featuring Death
The Ankh-Morpork City Watch
"'I get it,' said the prisoner. 'Good Cop, Bad Cop, eh?'
'If you like.' said Vimes. 'But we're a bit short staffed here, so if I give you a cigarette would you mind kicking yourself in the teeth?'" ― Night Watch
The City Watch is a group of (mostly) men, commanded by Samuel “Sam” Vines (famous outside the series for his boot theory of economics), that polices the crime-ridden city of Ankh-Morpork. Throughout the series, the City Watch grows as colourful characters join the ranks, starting with the optimistic, dwarf-raised Carrot Ironfoundersson.
Novels featuring the City Watch
From the invention of motion pictures by alchemists (Moving Pictures), to the perils of the printing press (The Truth), to the machinations of war (Monstrous Regiment), these novels are tied by their thematic connections to industry.
Novels featuring the Industrial Revolution
Moist von Lipwig
"He was 'about'. He was about twenty, or about thirty. On Watch reports across the continent he was anywhere between, oh, about six feet two inches and five feet nine inches tall, hair all shades from mid-brown to blond, and his lack of distinguishing features included his entire face." — Going Postal
Not much is known about Moist von Lipwig, other than that he comes from a town called Lipwig, he’s a former conman and he has no distinguishing features. When the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork offers him a job as Postmaster General, he of course accepts of his own free will (the alternative being death by hanging).
Novels featuring Moist von Lipwig
For a quick Discworld reading order reference, we recommend checking out this list: