Pratchett's Discworld: a reading-order guide

In yesterday's review of Terry Pratchett's latest Discworld book, Making Money, I mentioned how daunting it must be to be confronted with Pratchett's 33 Discworld novels and try to figure out where to start. Part of the charm of these books is that they're not written in any main sequence, but rather in several interrelated series that follow the lives of many different characters and subplots. Each book does a pretty good job of standing alone, and they all incorporate major characters from other lines as minor characters in their own, which makes the whole thing very meaty and extra fun to read.

In the comments for the post, Techbuzz pointed out the Discworld Reading Order Guide, maintained in several languages by Krzysztof Kietzman of (Pratchett readers will recognize the reference to "Library Space" -- the virtual Borgesian world in which all potential libraries exist simultaneously). This is a remarkably handy little chart -- all the main lines of the Discworld books are laid out in their chronological sequence, with dotted lines showing how each line intersects with the rest. This is an indispensable guide for the Pratchett novice. Link


  1. Garg! Too bad the Excel version is locked down tight so it can’t be played with.

    Otherwise very lovely. :)

  2. While the chart is very helpful if you want to follow (or avoid) a particular storyline, I’d highly recommend sticking mostly to the order of publication. A lot of minor characters, bits of Discworld mythology and (maybe most importantly) running gags cross between storylines, and it’s always a shame to spoil a good joke because you read the punchline first.

  3. I wanted to start reading the discworld books once and picked up a used copy at a local bookstore. A friend yelled “YOU CAN NOT READ THEM OUT OF ORDER!” and I’ve been afraid to pick them back up ever since.

    This chart gives me hope again.

  4. Have you noticed that their are two characters who appear in almost every Discworld book? Death and the orangutan librarian. In Small Gods, which takes place many years before the main sequence novels the librarian used secret librarian L-Space time travel in order to travel back in time to appear in the story.

  5. I agree with Charles. Read them in whatever order you like, but just be aware you could be setting yourself up for a let-down later on.

  6. There are a lot of recommended reading orders. I tried to start with print order, but gave up on that. Instead, I just made sure I read each one twice after I finished reading all of them. I’d probably start with Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, but after that there are few that require a specific order.

  7. Well now, it looks like I might have my next big reading project lined up for me!

    I’ve wondered where all this started AND where to begin, and I’ll take the print order road, if I can.

    I’m taking a second run through the “Dark Tower” series at the moment, and would like to take on something new when I’m done.

    Great article!

  8. Personally, I think the order written is the best way to read them. Sure they are not chronologically in order, but when you are reading them you know as much as Pratchett does about what is going on, at least in the large scale of things. If there is a cameo by a character, you’ll have read the book they were introduced. There are tons of little cameos and inside jokes that are from earlier books, that if you don’t read in written order you’ll miss out on.

  9. IM currently reading the whole series of 33. In chronological order. I read most of them when I was at school, so its awesome to reread

  10. The Colour of Magic and to a lesser degree The Light Fantastic have a different feel than the later books. There’s a great deal of world-building-on-display — slower than sound light speed, the mystical eighth color, and even the way trolls act. This stuff provides background in the later books, but except where it’s important for a particular story is mostly left precisely there — in the background. The more recent Ankh-Morpork books and especially the Tiffany Aching young adult series (kicks Harry Potter’s butt, by the way) take place in a world which feels much more like our own than not.

  11. I would tend to recommend reading them in published order the first time through, because although there’s not necessarily direct crossover among them, there are in-jokes and references introduced in some series of the books that are repeated or referred back to in others. Not exactly world-shattering, but I think it lets you fully appreciate the cleverness of some of the touches.

  12. Matt Miller’s right on the money, the very first two books are quite different from the others, not better or worse, just different. They’re a bit more whimsical, and are more likely to invent huge ideas for the sake of little jokes. They’re also more straight-forward fantasy quest books, perhaps the only two in the whole series.

    My favorites are the Rincewind and Watch series, but I find few Discworld books completely unpalatable… except for the Witches novels. For some reason, they really bug me.

  13. An invaluable resource for those of us foisting pratchett on others many thanks.

    I’m beginning to think Hat Full of Sky and company are my favorites in the series. They may be aimed at “young adults” but they feel morally weightier than many of the “adult” books.

  14. Go read them in whatever order you want. I certainly didn’t start at the beginning, and I haven’t regretted it. In fact, I’d strongly recommend against reading ‘The Colour of Magic’ and ‘The Light Fantastic’ before the rest of the books. They’re not bad by any account, but they’re not very representative of the series either.

    A great place to start are the books that aren’t as tightly connected to the rest of the series (dotted lines on the chart). ‘The Truth’ and ‘Going Postal’ both stand out in this regard. (Although it should be confessed that ‘The Truth’ was my first, and ‘Going Postal’ was my favorite)

    On the other hand, it does make sense if you keep some order when reading through the main plotlines (sold lines on the chart). It’s not absolutely necessary, and you can definitely get away with skipping, swapping, or jumping ahead — however, you risk losing a bit of the backstory, although Pratchett does a remarkably good job of keeping new readers informed without boring dedicated fans to death. The Watch novels were my favorite line.

    ‘Good Omens’ was a non-discworld novel that Pratchett co-authored, and is one of the funniest and wittiest things I’ve ever read (ranks up there with The Hitchhikers Guide). Many Discworld fans tend to overlook it completely, which is a crying shame.

  15. Thank you for this nice picture and image. Amazon wasn’t nice on keeping the miniseries together.

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