HAVE I EVER.
I can definitely understand how it would be daunting…when I first started reading him fifteen years ago or so, I had an uncle basically spoon-feeding me Pratchett on every birthday and Christmas until I had a handle on it enough (and the income) to buy them myself.
Alright, so, starting out, I’d start with Good Omens. He wrote that with neil-gaiman, and the two are a lovely match for cleverness and wit to create an extraordinarily funny apocalypse.
(Incidentally, that’s also the book that got me reading Neil Gaiman, which was a delight to the bibliophile in me, but murder on my bank account. C’est la vie.)
Nation, last I checked, is also standalone.
If you want to start with a shorter series than the behemoth universe of Discworld, you can try The Bromeliad Trilogy or The Johnny Maxwell series. Both are very good, and I think categorized as young adult. The former has more of a series feel to it, I think, with a more obvious continuity from book to book. Johnny’s books are a bit more subtle on that front and mostly background–it effects him, but not necessarily the story as a whole.
Now, as far as Discworld goes, it looks scary if you just are staring at a list of books, but they’re all sort of subdivided into mini-series within the larger one. The main subcategories are, in no particular order:
- The City Watch
- The Wizards
- The Witches
- Moist Von Lipwig
- The standalones
Those describe the main characters involved with the series, although there’s always some crossover, since they are all in the same universe.
I’d start with the City Watch books first; they come in around the middle of the series as a whole, and Pratchett seems to have really hit his stride in his knowledge of the world he created and the major players within it at that time. That series contains Guards! Guards, Men At Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, Thud!, and Snuff. Because of the nature of it, sort of crime drama with fantasy elements, you’ll be able to meet a lot of other characters such as Havelock Vetinari (The Patrician) and Mustrum Ridicully (Arch chancellor of Unseen University, the wizard school). It’ll give you a pretty good handle on how Ankh-Morpork, the main setting used, works (surprisingly well).
After that, based mostly on personal preference, I’d go with the Death books (Mort, Reaper Man, Soul Music, Hogfather, and Thief of Time), because Death is one of my favorite characters, as is his granddaughter Susan. They can be very…existential at times, but in the best way. (I also have a lot of very strong feelings about the similarities between Pratchett’s Death and the Doctor from Doctor Who, but that’s a discussion for another time.)
After that, it’s mostly go with your gut. Moist has a lot more action in his series, and is ridiculously funny and charismatic and will lie about pretty much anything. The Wizards really kicked off the series with Rincewind in The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, and therefor are possibly some of the most fascinating, because you can see the evolution the greatest, from sort of dark age dabblers to the leading authority on magic, which is basically the Discworld science. (There’s a whole companion series, The Science of Discworld, that explores this, and that I may or may not also own. I am nothing if not
obsessively thorough.) The Witches are amazingly uncouth and unrepentant and deceptively powerful, especially Granny Weatherwax–their series is especially fun for it’s cultural allusions to things like Shakespeare and The Phantom of the Opera. The standalones can be read more or less whenever, but are definitely worthwile–I think my favorites are Moving Pictures and The Truth.
Whew…that got…long-winded, I apologize. But it’s really hard not to with someone as prolific and talented as Sir Terry Pratchett.
Also, word of warning. Don’t read Good Omens in the bath. It has an amazing proclivity to fall in. No one knows why.