I’ve seen a bunch of people mention they haven’t read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and that they’d like to start, but are intimidated by the 41 books he’s published in the series.
It’s a lot of books, true. And if you’re one of those people who must do things in order, they’re numbered–good luck!
This post is for everyone else. The series arcs are character-focused, so you can read one and then move onto another without missing anything. Or only read the character arcs that appeal, since there are only so many hours in a day.
These books cover the City Watch in Ankh-Morpork, the place where multiple species–trolls, dwarves, vampires, humans, and more live uneasily together, working and finding common ground. Well, when they’re not fighting. The Watch, like Death, were only suposed to be minor characters, but ran away with the books. For which I am grateful.
Favorites of mine are Sam Vimes, who holds the Watch together despite his small ambitions, Carrot Ironfoundersson, the adopted (human) dwarf who really outgrew the tunnels, and Cheery Littlebottom, a dwarf with a flair for fashion.
Guards! Guards! (#8) A “noble” dragon shows up in the city, and burns anyone it wants on its path to kinghood. Captain Vimes, and the rest of the city’s Night Watch have to stop this fiery ruler before it’s too late. This introduces the Watch in all its weird glory.
Men at Arms. (#15) Corporal Carrot of the Night Watch has been promoted! Now he’s in charge of the new recruits, a job made a little difficult by the unusual nature of the group. As if that wasn’t enough work, a prophecy has surfaced about a hidden heir to the city’s throne. You get to see more of Carrot, who’s an honestly good person who doesn’t take goodness to saccharine levels.
Feet of Clay. (#19) The city’s clay golems, animated tools, are acting strangely–which isn’t supposed to be possible. And people are dying across the city, with strange evidence left behind. And the city’s leader, the Patrician, is being poisoned. How are these strange events connected? The City Watch will have to find out. This book has a fascinating discussion about personhood and identity, and some really nifty golems.
Jingo. (#21) Jingo is an inhospitable rock island, which rises and falls from the sea, of no real use or importance–except for the bloody war that’s been fought over it, and which will be fought again now that it has emerged again. Commander Vimes, and others from the city of Ankh-Morpork are trying to prevent the war from starting. It’s always fun to travel outside the city, even if it never ends well.
Fifth Elephant. (#24) The Discworld is on top of four elephants on top of a turtle swimming through space, but once there were five. Commander Vimes is forced to work as a diplomat when he’d rather be doing honest policework–and along the way, he’ll have to figure out what happened to the fifth elephant, which at least is a mystery he can dig into. Watching Vimes deal with diplomacy and politics is always fun.
Night Watch. (#29) Commander Vimes finally has a good life, but now a murderer has traveled to his past to destroy it–so he has to live in the dark past of thirty years ago, and most importantly, not get killed. Does he save people from his past, or let the it happen unchanged to preserve his future? This one is a bit darker, and thought-provoking.
Thud! (#34) In Koom Valley, far away from the city, the dwarves ambushed the trolls. Or maybe the trolls ambushed the dwarves–neither can agree–and the battle is about to be fought all over again in Ankh-Morpork if Commander Vimes doesn’t find out who killed a dwarf. Soon. This one has a lot of interesting insight and interaction between the trolls and dwarves.
Snuff. (#39) Commander Vimes is on vacation with his wife, and doesn’t want to deal with any crimes while he’s there–so, of course, he’s barely unpacked before the dead bodies start piling up. It’ll take all of his strained diplomatic skills to solve the problem. This is Vimes at his grumpy best.