While we touched on the different ways and reading orders you can read Discworld, that doesn’t mean it is easier to pick which book to start with. Below I am going to go into each a little except the random order as that is a very personal thing as you often stumble upon it.
While Discworld is one of those few series that you don’t have to read in order if you don’t want to, many are still so used to reading books in release order that they find it hard to step away from. If that is the case for you, starting with the first book, The Colour of Magic, can be a good start.
The Colour of Magic was published way back in 1983, and while Pratchett is a great writer already then, it is clear that this book was his first jump into the Discworld books. It is an introduction to the world and Rincewind and some other key figures. In later books he still discovers many new things. Still, it is funny and steps away from some of the more conventional fantasy of its time.
If you like or love The Colour of Magic, great. You can totally continue on with the publication order. You’ll love it all.
If not, I advise you to pick a second book to read from one of the story arcs listed down below. It is just not completely representative of the whole series. Pratchett himself had said that he cringed to think about it being the first introduction to Discworld for new readers of him.
It was the first book I started with and for me it was not the best choice to start with, looking back. But picking the first book of one of the story arcs down below, and I fell in love. So at least commit to two books is my advice if you go the publication order route.
As shown in the previous Reading Guide on Discworld Reading Order, there are 7 story arcs and 3 standalone books within Discworld. One of the things I like the most about the story arcs is that it makes Discworld in more managable bite sizes. Either you commit to 5, 6 or 8 books per story arc. It is much more achievable to yourself than saying, oh I need to read 41 books total.
Most Advised Story Arcs to Start Discworld With
There is many advice and graphics on what the best place to start Discworld is but there are generally three that come forward the most. From these you can choose what fancies you and where you want to start.
The Witches arc focuses on Granny Weatherwax. The witches in Discworld are more herbologists and healers. While they can use magic, they’d rather just not. They usually are a pillar of a community where they help take care of the people in various situations.
Death is one of the most well known characters in the whole of Discworld, appearing in all but The Wee Free Men. But there are five books that focus on him. Death is of course the grim reaper and he appears as seven foot tall skeleton with a black robe, a scythe and a horse. He has gained an almost morbid fascination with humanity which causes some interesting situations…
The City Watch arcs focuses on the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. It often centers around the growing City Watch from just a few members to a complete police force. In Ankh-Morpork there is a clash between the classic magical society and the newer growing industrial and technological revolution. City Watch has to manouver that.
Not apart of what is usually recommend but this is my personal recommendation to you. Tiffany Aching is the young adult story arc of Discworld. Which I think is a great place to start if you want to jump on over to Discworld from mainly reading young adult books. It is a great introduction to Discworld in itself and you can still go back in time and meet some of the characters in this in the earlier arcs.
The main character of this arc is Tiffany Aching, a young smart girl who wants to become a witch. She is joined by the Nac Mac Feegle (the wee free men) who are loudmouthed pictsie creatures who serve her as guardians.
Other Story Arcs
Rincewind is an especially inept wizard who shows no talent for anything, accident prone and who has no desire to be a hero. Unfortunately he always accidentally falls into adventure.
The industrial revolution is as the name suggests about the industrial revolution in Discworld, or rather more in and around Ankh-Morpork. However I also added the title Moist Von Lipwig at the end there as the last 3 books focus on his character and so I also know that trio as that story arc.
The standalone books don’t quite fit into the other story arcs.
Pyramids is about an assassin, just out of the guild. His father has died and the building of his pyramids seems to be giving some trouble.
Small Gods talks about the religion in Discworld which is quite controversial. Everyone follows their own Gods, minor or big. It is quite a competive job, being a God, so how does one stand out?
The Amazing Maurice is yet another young adult novel, the first that Discworld ever had. Maurice is a cat, a smart one according to his own judgement. Rats are stupid. But when rats start eating wizard’s rubbish and start to talk, he seesn an opportunity.
There are many different opinions on how to read Discworld. But they are just that. Opinions. There are some that believe that they know best how to read Discworld but please don’t let these people discourage you from reading Discworld in your own way and picking out what interests you the most. That way you experience Discworld in the best way that suits you.