An appreciation of the Discworld books

For the last 1,5 years I’ve been making my way through the Discworld series of books by Sir Terry Pratchett. And I felt like sharing how I feel about the series. It’s become quite important to me.

For those who don’t know it, it’s a massive series of books with 41 books. The only reason there aren’t more of them is because of Sir Terry’s untimely death at 66 at the hands of the “embuggerance”, a.k.a. early-onset alzheimer’s disease.

Although the books are set in a fantasy setting, its stories are so human. There is a lot of satire, but it’s never the focus, just decoration, a fun lens to see reality through 1.

Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

Death, as written by Terry Pratchett

For someone like me, who is often strongly affected by things in the news, it’s reassuring to read stories of people who do have the position and the power to skillfully deal with people’s stupidity, greed, or worse. Wether it’s through the work of a cop, a benevolent tyrant, or witches with hard truths, hard work, and a bit of headology.

Almost all of the books are really good, but it is especially with the books featuring the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and Samuel Vimes that I so often find myself deeply stirred, because these themes are the strongest there.

In a way, these books are a bandaid. They might not cover the entire wound, but there’s a bit more hope at least.

I was aware of the series probably for most of my life, but never really started. Especially the cover art made me sceptical (I now realised it’s not representative of how the series feels to me). Now — after some pushing from my partner — I’m very glad that I started. I started for the humour, but stayed for characters, wit, running jokes, and the overall heart and soul of these books.

Now that I’m approaching the final two books in the series, I already know I’m going to miss them.

As a small token of my appreciation, my website sports the HTTP header GNU Terry Pratchett.

If you’re interested in starting…

Know that you do not have to start at book one. In fact, many people recommend you don’t (that includes the author!). There are different subseries, and it doesn’t hurt to start with one of those. There are many reading guides on the internet, but my personal recommendations for starting points are:

  • Mort
  • Guards! Guards!
  • Equal Rites

I do recommend reading through books in the publishing order at some point (especially in the later half), mostly because between the different books the world will progress and develop, and there are small references. That said: the author does a really good job at setting the stage and explaining things you might have missed if you missed a book.

I also recommend the audiobooks as a way of going through the series. They’re really good as well. Just ignore the TV show for now, it’s barely related.

  1. There’s this oft-quoted rant by Terry Pratchett in response to the question “Why Fantasy?”. It’s great.