Rincewind stared at the glass sphere that was the current above of Hex. “Hex, is the world ready for the William Shakespeare of whom we spoke?” “It is.” “And he exists?” “No. Two of his grandparents did not meet. His mother was never born.” “In his hollow voice, Hex recounted the sad history, in detail. The wizards took notes. “Right,” said Ridcully, rubbing his hands together when Hex finished. “This at least is a simple problem. We shall need a length of string, a leather ball of some kind, and a large bunch of flowers…”
Later, Rincewind stared at the glass sphere that was the current abode of Hex. “Hex, now is this wold ready for the William Shakespeare of whom we spoke?” “It is.” “And he exists?” “Violet Shakespeare exists. She married Josiah Slink at the age of sixteen. No plays have been written, but there have been eight children of which five have survived. Her time is fully occupied.” The wizards exchanged glances. “Perhaps if we offered to babysit?” said Rincewind. “Too many problems,” said Ridcully firmly. “Still it’s a change to have an easy one for once. We will need the probable date of conception, a stepladder and a gallon of black paint.”
Rincewind stared at the glass sphere that was the current abode of Hex. “Hex, is this world ready for the William Shakespeare of whom we spoke?” “It is.” “And he exists?” “He was born, but died at the age of 18 months. Details follow…” The wizards listened. Ridcully looked thoughtful for a moment. “This will require some strong disinfectant,” he said. “And a lot of carbolic soap.”
Rincewind stared at the glass sphere that was the current abode of Hex. “Hex, is this world ready for the William Shakespeare of whom we spoke?” “It is.” “And he exists?” “No. He was born, successfully survived several childhood illnesses, but was shot dead one night while poaching game at the age of thirteen. Details follow…” “Another easy one,” said Ridcully, standing up. “We shall need… let me see… some drab clothing, a dark lantern and a very large cosh.”
Rincewind stared at the glass sphere that was the current abode of Hex. “Hex, is this world ready for the William Shakespeare of whom we spoke? Please?” “It is.” “And he exists?” “Yes.” The wizards tried not to look hopeful. There had been too many false dawns in the last week. “Alive?” said Rincewind. “Male? Sane? Not in the Americas? Not struck by a meteorite? Not left incapacitated by a hake during an unusual fall of fish? Or killed in a duel?” “No. At this moment he is in the tavern that you gentlemen frequent.” “Does he have all his arms and legs?” “Yes,” said Hex. “And… Rincewind?” “Yes?” “As one of two unexpected collateral events to this latest interference, the potato has been brought to these shores.” “Hot damn!” “And Arthur J. Nightingale is a ploughman and never learned to write.” “Near miss there,” said Ridcully.
– shenanigans |
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld II: The Globe
I think everyone has a different reading order recommendation for the 41 novels in the Discworld Series but I thought I would share mine. I have to say that the first two sections are actually interchangeable in my head and which I would recommend depends on the mode I’m in and whether you as a reader would prefer to start with the best male characters in the Discworld (Vimes and Vetinari), or the best female characters (Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching).
I have listed the books in publishing order within the sections because they need to be read in order within each section to get the proper character arc. Except for the stand alone section, where I’ve listed them in the order I chose to re-read them.
Numbers on the left are my preferred (at the moment, because I’ve just started my annual re-read of the series with the Vimes books) reading order and the numbers in brackets after the titles give you the order in which they were published.
If you’ve never read any Discworld just want to dip in and see if you like Terry’s style with a standalone novel rather than picking a section then that’s absolutely a viable option and in all honesty you could start with any of the first five in the standalone section and have a cracking read!
Mags’ reading order for the Discworld Novels
Vimes/Vetinari/City Watch books
1. Guards! Guards! (8)
2. Men at Arms (15)
3. Feet of Clay (19)
4. Jingo (21)
5. Fifth Elephant (24)
6. Night Watch (29)
7. Thud! (34)
8. Snuff (39)
Witches/Granny Weatherwax/Tiffany Aching Books
9. Equal Rites (3)
10. Wyrd Sisters (6)
11. Witches Abroad (12)
12. Lords and Ladies (14)
13. Maskerade (18)
14. Carpe Jugulum (23)
15. Wee Free Men (30)
16. A Hat Full of Sky (32)
17. The Wintersmith (35)
18. I Shall Wear Midnight (38)
19. Shepherd’s Crown (41)
(If you want to split Tiffany from the Witches and read those later – given that they end with Shepherd’s Crown which was published after Terry’s death - then the first Tiffany book is Wee Free Men)
20. Mort (4)
21. Reaper Man (11)
22. Soul Music (16)
23. Hogfather (20)
24. Thief of Time (26)
Moist von Lipwig Books
25. Going Postal (33)
26. Making Money (36)
27. Raising Steam (40)
(Also contains Vimes & Vetinari)
28. Colour of Magic (1)
29. Light Fantastic (2)
30. Sourcery (5)
31. Eric (9)
32. Interesting Times (17)
33. The Last Continent (22)
34. The Last Hero (27)
35. Pyramids (7)
36. Small Gods (13)
37. Moving Pictures (10)
38. The Truth (25)
39. Monstrous Regiment (31)
40. Unseen Academicals (37)
41. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (28)
Discworld Related books which are not actual Discworld novels
As well as the novels there are quite a few other books (some novel length, some tiny, some not really books at all but actually maps) that are tied into the Discworld series and I thought I should include them on this list at all.
They’re not in any particular order but it they are related to one particular Discworld novel I’ve mentioned which one and I’ve tried to include the year of publication for each one as well, in case you’re interested.
Science of Discworld Series (with Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen):
1. The Science of Discworld (1999)
2. The Science of Discworld II: The Globe (2002)
3. The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch (2005)
4. The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day (2013)
Folklore of Discworld (with Dr Jacqueline Simpson) (2008)
Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook (1999 after Maskerade)
Discworld Almanak (with Bernard Pearson)
Where’s My Cow (illustrated by Melvyn Grant) (2005 after Thud!)
The World of Poo (2012 after Snuff)
Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook (2014 after Raising Steam)
“I lost my way, I forgot to call on your name. The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for my lost victory. But you are here. You have always been here. The world is all forgetting, and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place. Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller’s heart for his turning.”
—Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 10, 2016), “Poem #50,” from The Book of Mercy, (McClelland & Stewart, 1984)
‘What? I distinctly heard the hooded people say they were going to kill him!’
Angua shook her head, and said, 'People TRY occasionally; sometimes he lets them live–even with all their bits if they are entertaining enough: he has what they call a mercurial sense of fun. On this occasion I can report that the group of zealous Omnians who attacked him were defenestrated.' Angua smiled and added, 'You have to hand it to his Lordship. He has style and is remarkably stronger than you might think. Lord Vetinari jumped out of the window and REFENESTRATED them back into the hall!’
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, “The Science of Discworld IV: Judgment Day”
There are creatures which have evolved to live in coral reefs and simply could not survive in the rough, tooth-filled wastes of the open sea. They continue to exist by lurking among the dangerous tentacles of the sea anemone or around the lips of the giant clam and other perilous crevices shunned by all sensible fish. A university is very much like a coral reef. It provides calm waters and food particles for delicate yet marvellously constructed organisms that could not possibly survive in the pounding surf of reality, where people ask questions like ‘Is what you do of any use?’ and other nonsense.
– on universities |
Terry Pratchett,Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld
Narrativium is not an element in the accepted sense. It is an attribute of every other element, thus turning them into, in an occult sense, molecules. Iron contains not just iron, but also the story of iron, the history of iron, the part of iron that ensures that it will continue to be iron and has an iron-like job to do, and is not for example, cheese. Without narrativium, the cosmos has no story, no purpose, no destination.
The Science of Discworld III, Pratchett Stewart & Cohen
Magicians and scientists are, on the face of it, poles apart. Certainly, a group of people who often dress strangely, live in a world of their own, speak a specialised language and frequently make statements that appear to be in flagrant breach of common-sense have nothing in common with a group of people who often dress strangely, speak a specialised language, live in… er…
Terry Pratchett (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen) - The Science of Discworld
Sometimes scientists change their minds. New developments cause a rethink. If this bothers you, consider how much damage is being done to the world by people for whom new developments do not cause a rethink.
Terry Pratchet, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, from “The Science of Discworld”, second edition
Rincewind was in his new office, filing rocks. He’d worked out quite a good system, based on size, shape, colour and twenty-seven other qualities including whether or not he felt that it was a friendly sort of rock.
– on important rock qualities |
Terry Pratchett,Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld
It is also important to appreciate that individual organisms do not compete in isolation, or against a fixed background. Billions of competitions go on all the time, and their outcome may be affected by the results of other competitions. It’s not like the Olympics, where the javelin-throwers politely wait for the marathon-runners to stream past. It’s more like a version of the Olympics where the javelin-throwers try to spear as many marathon-runners as they can, while the steeplechasers are trying to steal their javelins to turn each hurdle into a miniature pole vault, and the marathon-runners’ main aim in life is to drink the water-jump before the steeplechasers get to it and drink it first. This is the Evolympics, where everything happens at once.
Terry Pratchett (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen) - The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch