My boyfriend and I have wanted to start Discworld for AGES and I keep seeing all these flowcharts of the proper reading order, but none of them match each other. Is there a proper order in which to read the books, or is Discworld a series you can just read as you find the books?
Oh man, flowcharts are a dime-a-dozen and everyone has their favorite ‘series’ within the discworld books. There isn’t a correct place to start, but if you’re planning on reading multiple books then you’d want to start at the beginning of a series.
So like, the earliest books that Pratchett wrote were focused Rincewind, who is a terrible wizard and does a lot of running away and manages to see a lot of the world in the process. I don’t recommend starting here because the first few are some of Pratchett’s oldest books and therefore lack the kind of cleverness and subtlety that he becomes famous for. But the Rincewind books are, in order:
The Color of Magic (deals with tourism/travel story, dragons, kind of classic fantasy satire)
The Light Fantastic (directly follows tCoM, apocalyptic story, cthulu/lovecraftian mythos)
Sourcery (old-fashion epic high fantasy satire, like Conan the Barbarian)
Eric (directly follows Sourcery, parody of the story of Faust)
Interesting Times (basically the Conan-the-barbarian-equivalent is trying to take over discworld’s China-equivalent and dragging Rincewind along)
The Last Continent (time travel and Crocodile Dundee parody)
The Last Hero (illustrated story— aged heroes are going to blow up Discworld’s mount olympus-equivalent because they’re pissed the way life turned out— Rincewind has to stop them)
Unseen Academicals (not really Rincewind book, but wizard-centric and deals with the wizard’s university. sports culture and the fashion industry)
Another series of his focuses on the character Death, who TALKS IN ALL CAPS and is generally a pretty nice guy who finds humanity interesting. These books have a lot of existential discussions and what it means to be human— plus Susan, Death’s granddaughter, shows up later and she’s FANTASTIC; very smart and wit so sharp she could cut you with it, and the ability to see through every kind of bullshit.
Mort (Death gets an apprentice so that he can experience living like a human, the apprentice keeps trying to save this chick he likes, Death’s adopted daughter thinks he’s an idiot)
Reaper Man (Death gets fired from his job, people don’t die and get angry about it)
Soul Music (rock & roll, introduction of Susan! focuses more on her than Death tbh)
Hogfather (an assassin is hired to kill the Discworld Santa Claus equivalent, Death & Susan save the day)
Thief of Time (a race to save the world from beings that want to freeze time permanently)
My second favorite series features the Witches— they are these incredibly badass ladies that makes sure shit. gets. done. There are a lot of fairy tales and Shakespeare stories that get covered by the witches’ series, but get flipped upside down because none of them have ever been the sort to give people what they want but rather what they need. Which people don’t always appreciate. Granny Weatherwax is the bomb btw.
Equal Rites* (girls are witches and boys are wizards— but a girl is born with wizard powers)
Wyrd Sisters (shakespeare!!!)
Witches Abroad (fairy tales! fairy godmothers! marti gras! voodoo!)
Lords and Ladies (motherfucking elves)
Maskerade (phantom of the opera parody)
Carpe Jugulum (vampires! not the twilight kind)
*not the best to start with— I recommend skipping and returning to later
Pratchett also writes a young adult series that I actually HIGHLY recommend, like seriously, the only difference between his kids books and adult books is that the kids books have chapters and only from one POV. This series takes place after the Witches series, because it’s about a young witch that learns a lot from the older witches. I recommend reading the Witches books first but it’s not completely necessary.
The Wee Free Men (fairy tale hodgepodge plus the Labyrinth and Narnia)
A Hat Full of Sky (what it means to do for people what needs to be done instead of what they want done. also alien possession)
Wintersmith (nature spirits, kind of Jack Frost but much worse, greek quests)
I Shall Wear Midnight (witch hunts, evil spirits)
My favorite, favorite, favorite series is the City Watch. It’s kind of a bunch of cop stories, which I love, and the Captain of the Watch (Sam Vimes) is this adorable grumpy badass who’s not bright but fucking determined, and his cops are all these diverse characters, and the leader of the city, Vimes’ boss, is even smarter and better than Machiavelli.
Guards! Guards! (dragons, royalty, Casablanca)
Men At Arms (dwarf-troll race relations, the Discworld’s first gun)
Feet of Clay (attempted assassination whodunit, introduction of Golems—argument of what qualifies personhood, basically an “I, Robot” kind of thing)
Jingo (war with the Discworld’s Middle-East equivalent— written pre-9/11)
The Fifth Elephant (vampire-dwarf-werewolf politics, hard core action-adventure)
Night Watch (time travel! french revolution/les miserables)
Thud! (dwarf-troll race relations, riots, murder mystery)
Snuff (cop on holiday, crime happens, hidden slave trade ring)
Another series that takes places around the same time as the later City Watch books and in the same city, are the Moist von Lipwig books. If you like stories about the redemption of the con man (like the tv show White Collar), these are good. I find them very funny, because he definitely is redeemed in spite of himself.
Going Postal (Moist is forced to take over the defunct postal service, politics, big business)
Making Money (Moist is forced to take over the defunct mint, banking, money politics, economics)
Raising Steam (invention of the steam engine, politics, terrorism
There are also books that are stand-alones, that you can just read one and decide if you want to read more Discworld books.
Pyramids (an assassin finds himself with god-powers and has to save the Discworld equivalent of Egypt)
Moving Pictures (invention of movie-making! but the movies are warping reality)
Small Gods (religion, the spanish inquisition, what makes a saint, greek city-states, what do the people in power (gods or otherwise) owe the people beholden to them)
The Truth (invention of the newspaper, freedom of the press, mistaken identity, murder mystery)
Monstrous Regiment (a girl joins the army as a boy to find her brother; covers military/warfare, feminism, human stupidity)
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (a YA book that’s a take on the pied piper story)
….So, that was a lot of words. I dunno if any of it is helpful, but I hope so! And if it might be useful to you, my top 6 favorite discworld books of all time are: Night Watch, Small Gods, Monstrous Regiment, Thud!, Feet of Clay, Witches Abroad.
tl;dr I love the City Watch books the best, so you should start with Guards! Guards!