Discworld Reading Order: The magical fantasy world of Terry Pratchett

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Discworld is a classic fantasy series written by English author Terry Pratchett.

The Story of Discworld

41 novels. A collection of short stories. Several science books and “mapp” books. An encyclopedia. A collection of recipes. An almanac. A picture book. And more. Let’s just say that whatever you are in need of, the Discworld has it.

This long-running fantasy series written by Sir Terry Pratchett (R.I.P.) was at first a straightforward parody of Heroic Fantasy tropes. It didn’t take long to begin to evolve to become something more. Pratchett himself advised starting reading the Discworld series with Sourcery, the fifth book in the series, and he also stated that Mort (the fourth in the whole series) was the first one he was personally pleased with, as it was the first book where the plot didn’t exist just to hold up his jokes.

So the Discworld series was first a parody and continued to use and parodied fantasy clichés throughout the series, playing with our ideas of fairy tales, witches, vampires and so on. Books after books, the Discworld world was subverting and playing with all the tropes in the world, but also exploring humanity in all its beauty and ugliness. From the representation of mundane life and its challenge to all aspects of culture and entertainment, the place of technology and religion, and the more philosophical question, the Discworld stories explore everything. Sometimes, I think if you read carefully, you could almost find the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything (yes, I know, it’s 42! But it’s nice to think you can arrive at that result by yourself!)

Put on your boots and let’s go exploring the Discworld!

Discworld Reading Order Guide

The Discworld series is one of the greatest fantasy adventures you can go on, and, you can explore this world the way you want! In chronological order or following specific characters or choosing a book because you like the synopsis!

Which Discworld Novel Should I Start With? A Flowchart by goddamnshinyrock

I. Discworld in Publication order (only the novels)

What follows is the chronological order, also publication order. This way, you can discover the saga in the order in which it was narrated. If you take this route, be aware that the tone of the Discworld and the characters have changed over the course of the books. It is a magical world composed of alternate pasts and some rules are evolved throughout the series, as well as Terry Pratchett’s style.

The Colour of Magic (1983)
The Light Fantastic (1986)
Equal Rites (1987)
Mort (1987)
Sourcery (1988) <- According to the author, you should start here.
Wyrd Sisters (1988)
Pyramids (1989)
Guards! Guards! (1989)
Eric (1990)
Moving Pictures (1990)
Reaper Man (1991)
Witches Abroad (1991)
Small Gods (1992)
Lords and Ladies (1992)
Men at Arms (1993)
Soul Music (1994)
Interesting times (1994)
Maskerade (1995)
Feet of Clay (1996)
Hogfather (1996)
Jingo (1997)
The Last Continent (1998)
Carpe Jugulum (1998)
The Fifth Elephant (1999)
The Truth (2000)
Thief of Time (2001)
The Last Hero (2001)
The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents (2001)
Night Watch (2002)
The Wee Free Men (2003)
Monstrous Regiment (2003)
A Hat Full of Sky (2004)
Going Postal (2004)
Thud! (2005)
Wintersmith (2006)
Making Money (2007)
Unseen Academicals (2009)
I Shall Wear Midnight (2010)
Snuff (2011)
Raising Steam (2013)
The Shepherd’s Crown (2015)

Discworld Short Writing

Throughout the years, Terry Pratchett wrote a few short stories and other short Discworld writings, all collected in A Blink of the Screen (with other non-Disworld short stories):

– “Troll Bridge” (1992), stars Cohen the Barbarian.
– “Theatre of Cruelty” (1993), a City Watch story.
– “The Sea and Little Fishes” (1998), a witch story
– “The Ankh-Morpork National Anthem” (1999)
– “Medical Notes” (2002)
– “Thud: A Historical Perspective” (2002)
– “A Few Words from Lord Havelock Vetinari” (2002)
– “Death and What Comes Next” (2002)
– “A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices” (2005), a Death story.
– “Minutes of the Meeting to Form the Proposed Ankh-Morpork Federation of Scouts” (2007)
– “The Ankh-Morpork Football Association Hall of Fame playing cards” (2009)

A Discworld Reading Order Guide by Series

II. Discworld by Characters

Although many characters make cameo appearances throughout the series, what follows is a character-based list allowing you to read the books centered around your favorite characters and type of adventures…

Rincewind/The wizards – Rincewind wants only one thing in life: be a wizard! But this failing student at Ankh-Unseen Morpork’s University for wizards is well known for his penchant to solve minor problems by turning them into big calamities. All he wants is to lead a boring life, but trouble likes to find him so he spends the majority of his time fleeing from groups of individuals who want to kill him.

The Colour of Magic (1983)
The Light Fantastic (1986)
Sourcery (1988)
Eric (1990)
Interesting times (1994)
The Last Continent (1998)
The Last Hero (2001)
Unseen Academicals (2009)

The City Watch – It focuses on the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, and, in particular the captain, and later commander of the Watch, Samuel Vimes, usually when he is being manipulated by Lord Vetinari. Vimes is a cynic who still believes in justice.

Guards! Guards! (1989)
Men at Arms (1993)
Feet of Clay (1996)
Jingo (1997)
The Fifth Elephant (1999)
Night Watch (2002)
Thud! (2005)
Snuff (2011)

The Witches – There are wizards… and there are witches? The two are not to be confused. Witch magic is quite different from wizard magic, and actually, witches rarely do any magic, their craft relies on facts, common sense, and a peculiar brand of psychology known as headology. We follow the Lancre Witches — crone Esme Weatherwax, mother Nanny Ogg and maiden Magrat Garlick — in those books.

Equal Rites (1987)
Wyrd Sisters (1988)
Witches Abroad (1991)
Lords and Ladies (1992)
Maskerade (1995)

See also Tiffany Aching, a young witch.

Death – Death appears in almost all Discworld books, as death is inevitable. Our favorite Grim reaper is a black-robed skeleton who usually carries a scythe, and comes with some philosophical observation about life.

Mort (1987)
Reaper Man (1991)
Soul Music (1994)
Hogfather (1996)
Thief of Time (2001)

Moist Von Lipwig – A con man, Moist von Lipwig was to be hanged when we met him. But Lord Vetinari offered him a job as Ankh-Morpork’s Postmaster General, as we all know that the line between thievery and respectability is just a question of perception. And Moist Von Lipwig was destined to use his wit for the good of the City.

Going Postal (2004)
Making Money (2007)
Raising Steam (2013)

Tiffany Aching – Meet Tiffany Aching, a young witch in training, learning about witchery, life and what it means to grow up on the Discworld.

The Wee Free Men (2003)
A Hat Full of Sky (2004)
Wintersmith (2006)
I Shall Wear Midnight (2010)
The Shepherd’s Crown (2015)

One-Book Stand – Longing for just one adventure, no strings attached? Those stand-alone books are for you:

Pyramids (1989)
Moving Pictures (1990)
Small Gods (1992)
The Truth (2000)
Monstrous Regiment (2003)

You can also read one of the books below, part of a character arc, but still making a good entry point

Guards! Guards! (1989)
Mort (1987)
Going Postal (2004)
Wyrd Sisters (1988)

Young-readers – Some people aren’t lucky enough to be old yet and may prefer to delve into stories written specifically for them.

The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents (2001)
The Wee Free Men (2003)
A Hat Full of Sky (2004)
Wintersmith (2006)
I Shall Wear Midnight (2010)
The Shepherd’s Crown (2015)

Discworld Massive Massif, by Paul Kidby (available on print)

III. Companion Books

The Science of Discworld – Pratchett collaborated with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen on four books, using the Discworld to illuminate popular science topics. Each book alternates chapters of a Discworld story and notes on real science related to it. The books are:

The Science of The Discworld
The Science of the Discworld II: The Globe
The Science of the Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch
The Science of the Discworld IV: Judgement Day

Maps of Discworld – The old GPS to find your way on the Discworld.

The Streets of Ankh Morpork (with Stephen Briggs)
Death’s Domain (with Paul Kidby)
A Tourist Guide to Lancre (with Stephen Briggs)
The Discworld Mapp (with Stephen Briggs)
The Compleat Ankh Morpork
The Compleat Discworld Atlas

Other Books – From cookbook to picture book and more, enrich you Discworld journey with those books.

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Coloring Book (with Paul Kidby)
Nanny Ogg’s Cook Book (with Stephen Briggs)
The World of Poo
Where’s My Cow? (with Melvyn Grant)
Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook
The Art of The Discworld (with Paul Kidby)
The Pratchett Portfolio (with Paul Kidby)
The Josh Kirby Discworld Portfolio
The Unseen University Cut Out Book (with Bernard Pearson & Alan Batley)
The Folklore of Discworld (with Jacqueline Simpson)
Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion …So Far (with Stephen Briggs)
The Wit And Wisdom of Discworld (with Stephen Briggs)

Graphic Novels – The same story with drawings.

The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic
Mort A Discworld Big Comic (Graphic Novel)
Guards! Guards! (Graphic Novel)
Small Gods (Graphic Novel)

Death’s Study

More about The Discworld series

Does the Discworld need to be read in order?

As you must have noticed at this point, no! You don’t have to read the Discworld series in order. Though, there are advantages to following the publication order: you can see Pratchett’s style and the world of Discworld progressing, and you can notice the appearances of some recurring characters, jokes, and thematics.

But you don’t have to follow any orders. You can pick a book and read it. They are all, in a way, stand-alone, as Sir Terry Pratchett gave you all the details you need to understand the dynamics. You’ll maybe miss some inside jokes or references to past events, but you will have no problem following the story!

Of course, if you become particularly attach to a character, you can read only his adventures. If this character is Death like a good cameo like no one else, and he appears in every Discworld book.

How many books are there in the Discworld series?

Terry Pratchett wrote 41 Discworld novels over 32 years. There is also several short stories and a lot of companion books to explore in more depth the Discworld. See our listing above!

Has the Discworld books series ended?

It is indeed finished. The Shepherd’s Crown is the 41st book in the series, the sixth YA book, and was published posthumously in 2015. Terry Pratchett died in March 2015.

One inspiration behind the Discworld

As it has already been written, Discworld was at first a straightforward parody of Heroic Fantasy tropes. The books also took inspiration from classic works, from Shakespeare to fairy tales, folklore and mythology. You’ll also find elements coming from our own history, for satirical parallels or exploration of cultural, political and scientific issues.

Is there a Film or Television adaptation of the Discworld book series?

Some Discworld books have been adapted for television throughout the years.

In the nineties, the animation studio Cosgrove Hall produced several animated adaptations for Channel 4:
Welcome to the Discworld (1996), an 8-minute animated short adaptation of a fragment of Reaper Man, with Christopher Lee as the voice of Death.
Soul Music (1997), a seven part animated adaptation featuring Christopher Lee (Death), Neil Morrissey (Mort), and Debra Gillett (Susan Sto Helit)
Wyrd Sisters (1997), a six part animated adaptation featuring Annette Crosbie (Granny), June Whitfield (Nanny Ogg), and Jane Horrocks (Magrat Garlick).

In the noughties, Sky commissioned three miniseries (in two parts):

Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (2006), featuring Ian Richardson (Death), David Jason (Albert), and Michelle Dockery as Susan Sto Helit.
Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic (2008), featuring David Jason (Rincewind), Sean Astin (Twoflower), and Christopher Lee (Death)
Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal (2010), featuring Richard Coyle (Moist von Lipwig), David Suchet (Reacher Gilt), Charles Dance (Vetinari), and Claire Foy (Adora Belle Dearheart).

The cast of Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal (2010)

About the author of the Discworld series

Who was Terry Pratchett?

Best known for his Discworld series, Terry Pratchett was a renowned British author born on April 28, 1948, in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England.

He wrote his first book at the old age of 17, but didn’t instantly become a famous writer. He first worked numerous years as a journalist, where he wrote newspaper columns and short stories. Then, he became Press Officer for the Central Electricity Generating Board at Hinkley Point, North Somerset.

During that time, Pratchett was writing voraciously. He produced Strata, Dark Side of the Sun, and put his feet for the first time on a Discworld…

Published in 1985, The Colour of Magic was the beginning of a great fantasy adventure and phenomenon. At first, it was just a fantasy satire, but it evolves quickly to explore the human conditions and all our imperfections. There was magic in action, and the Discworld spanned, as you know it, 41 books, and over 40 companions volumes and non-Discworld titles.

Terry Pratchett sold more than 100 million books all over the world in 43 languages. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1998 and knighted for ‘Services to Literature’ in 2010.

After a long battle with Post Cortical Atrophy, Terry died at his home on the 12 March 2015. He was 66 years old. GNU Terry Pratchett.

What has Terry Pratchett written beyond the Discworld series?

Terry Pratchett has written several books outside the Discworld. His most famous non-Discworld novel is certainly Good Omens (1990), co-written with Neil Gaiman, about the Apocalypse. The author also collaborated with Stephen Baxter for the five-book parallel-Earth series The Long Earth.

Other books written by Sir Terry Pratchett include the two science fiction books The Dark Side of the Sun (1976) and Strata (1981); Nation (2008), a low fantasy set in an alternative history of our world; the Johnny Maxwell trilogy; Dodger, a children’s novel set in Victorian London.