No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away – Or which Terry Pratchett books you should really read

3
4307

I was 11 on my first trip to the Discworld and it was via Wyrd Sisters. The drama-group at our school had put the stage-version on and it was simply hilarious. Though for a while I had no idea that it was based on a book, let alone that the author had written a lot more.

Only a few month later, when I was browsing in a bookstore, I found books by a certain Pratchett there. I remembered that name from that great play with witches and full of Macbeth-allusions (yeah…I was 11 back then but my mother had already told me so much about her favourite Shakespeare play that I understood most of them…it didn’t seem that odd back then). Of course I had to buy it and read it immediately. I can’t remember any more if that book was The Colour of Magic or The Light Fantastic but I do know that I loved it. I remember how my parents gave me funny looks because while I occasionally giggled and grinned while reading I had never laughed so loudly at a book. I remember trying to read the funny passages aloud to my parents so that they would understand why I was laughing so uncontrollably but failed because even when reading them the second time I still couldn’t stop laughing about them.

After that I kept reading Discworld and never stopped. I’m 27 now so that means this series has been with me for more than half of my life. No other series held my interest so long, no other author had a top-place on my ‘favourite authors’ list and never dropped off.

I knew it would happen but that doesn’t mean I was really prepared for the news of his death. I had hoped for just one more book (and after that I would have hoped for another and another…) and I will be sad about the unfairness of it all for a few more days (thankfully I have chocolate. Chocolate makes everything slightly less bad).

Chris Riddle's cartoon.
Chris Riddle’s cartoon.

But while the thought of how much more books we could have had is very depressing, the thought of how much we have is far more cheerful as Terry Pratchett wrote a lot. If you haven’t read any of them you’re very lucky because you have so much awesomeness still ahead of you. However you might also be slightly intimidated by the huge number of books and you have no idea where to start. Here are some suggestions as to which you could pick up first:

Men at Arms

By which I mean Guards! Guards! Or rather all the City Watch books.

833425

 

Then Carrot said, “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness, captain. That’s what they say.”

“What?” Vimes sudden rage was like a thunderclap. “Who says that? When has that ever been true? It’s never been true! It’s the kind of thing people without power say to make it all seem less bloody awful, but it’s just words, it never makes any difference -“

It is very hard to pick just one and I know that especially Guards! Guards! is also a favourite of many Discworld-fans and I don’t deny that it is amazing but Men at Arms has something, or rather somebody, Guards! Guards! hasn’t: Corporal Angua who is my favourite Discworld-character.  I adore her and so her first appearance always has a special place in my heart. Add to that a hilarious plot that plays with the hidden heir to the throne-trope and I’m sold.

Nation

2424593

They didn’t know why these things were funny. Sometimes you laugh because you’ve got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you’re alive, when you really shouldn’t be.

This book is a lot quieter than Pratchett’s other works. Which doesn’t mean it’s not funny, but it has less of the laugh out loud-subverting tropes and great puns-humour. Instead it has a more restrained and less quotable humour. Less single funny sentences or paragraphs and more jokes that only work with the context of several pages or even chapters. It is also somewhat darker than the Discworld books. Not in the ‘darker and edgier’-way where everybody is a cynic who hates life but in the ‘this book opened with a flood wave that killed almost a whole village and sank a ship and afterwards things aren’t especially cheerful’-way.

Reaper Man

833424Most species do their own evolving, making it up as they go along, which is the way Nature intended. And this is all very natural and organic and in tune with mysterious cycles of the cosmos, which believes that there’s nothing like millions of years of really frustrating trial and error to give a species moral fibre and, in some cases, backbone.

Uhm. Death gets fired from his job as…well Death and has to find another one. Things get chaotic because people don’t really die anymore. If you do not think that this sounds like one of the most hilarious plot-ideas ever I’m not sure how else I could convince you that this book is worth reading. Perhaps by mentioning Binky? Death’s horse. Binky is awesome as well. Binky is a real horse because Death considers fiery and skeletal ones rather impractical (the one keep accidentally setting fire to things and the other keep loosing single bones and falling apart).

 

Good Omens

20493713And the Lord spake unto the Angel that guarded the eastern gate, saying ‘Where is the flaming sword that was given unto thee?’
And the Angel said, ‘I had it here only a moment ago, I must have put it down some where, forget my own head next.’
And the Lord did not ask him again.

The apocalypse is near! But don’t worry, a book-loving angel and his best friend, a demon with a fondness for expensive cars are trying to stop it. They are aided by a witch and a (reluctant) witchfinder so what could possibly go wrong? We should probably be grateful for the fact that the Antichrist and his hell-hound named Dog are in no hurry to start the apocalypse anyway.

Going Postal

395949If he’d been a hero, he would have taken the opportunity to say, “That’s what I call sorted!”
Since he wasn’t a hero, he threw up.

Moist von Lipwig very quickly grew on me and that says something considering I’m not a fan of reformed villain-narratives and even less of con-man protagonists (no matter how charming they are). But Going Postal takes these tropes and does them right. It doesn’t shy away from pointing out that just because you never physical hurt somebody you never ruined somebody’s life but it does it without dropping the anvil of morality on you and still has all the humour you expect from a Discworld-book

3 COMMENTS

  1. “What can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the Reaper Man?”

    One of my favourite authors, I don’t even like lending the books out for long because I miss them while they’re gone.

    ‘Soul Music’ was my first Pratchett book, what I love about Discworld is mostly you can pick them up and read them without needing the others. It wasn’t until I read “Reaper Man’ that the fields of grain in Death’s Domain had context, but they didn’t need to have context to enjoy the book. I would pick ‘Hogfather’ for what it teaches about the little lies and the big lies. ‘

    I think it is ‘Men at Arms’ which contains one of my favourite lines – it is better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness.

    He will be much missed, but he left a wonderful legacy.

    • I thought long about whether I should put Reaper Man or Soul Music on the list because I loved that one as well. Eventually I had to make a decision if I didn’t want to end up with a 50 book list *sighs*

      He will be much missed, but he left a wonderful legacy.
      That he did…

  2. Thanks so much for this list! I know that there are lots of diagrams out there of how to read the Discworld books, but it’ll take me a long while to get through them all so a nice short list to start with is reassuring ;-). I’m not going to bother trying to borrow these from the library though since it seems likely everyone is going to be wanting to read them even more in these coming months. I wonder if the audiobooks are any good…

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here