Discworld Reading Order Demystified

Without a doubt, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is one of the most notable fantasy works of the second half of the 20th century. It’s in no way an exaggeration to put it alongside the likes of The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Harry Potter. And if these series were to be scored on their humor, then Discworld easily leaves them all in the dust.

However, unlike those other series that go from point A to point B in a more or less linear fashion until they reach their conclusion after barely half a dozen entries, there are over 40 mainline Discworld books. And the numerous narrative threads woven throughout them can match their author’s writing style in how delightfully roundabout they can be.

Then, there are also various companion books, short stories, and science books – yep, you read that right, there’s an entire sub-series that combines Terry Pratchett’s signature Discworld humor with an educational angle dedicated to various popular science topics. And once you add into that mix the official movies, animated series, and video games – you may find yourself utterly stupefied and confused, as if you’d just been Ook’ed at by an orangutan Librarian from across the bar counter.

discworld reading order colour of magic movie poster
That’s one solid cast for a TV movie.

Because of that, we now bring you this article that will help you sort through the available options when it comes to the Discworld reading order and find the shortest path to experiencing Sir Terry Pratchett’s books that will resonate with you the most.

Know that this article goes into great detail about which books to read first, and why. If you’re just here for the basic list, here are the Discworld books to read first:

  • The Colour of Magic
  • The Light Fantastic
  • Equal Rites
  • Mort

If you find you enjoy the books, we then recommend you read the rest of the books in chronological order.

Discworld Introduction

If you’re looking for help in finding the right Discworld book to start with, chances are you know at least a bit about the series and its author. But on the off-chance that you’ve just randomly stumbled in here, allow me to paint you a picture. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but those are your regular everyday words. When it comes to the words of someone like Terry Pratchett, you can paint a vivid picture using a significantly more modest number:

In a distant and second-hand set of dimensions, in an astral plane that was never meant to fly, the curling star-mists waver and part…


Great A’Tuin the turtle comes, swimming slowly through the interstellar gulf, hydrogen frost on his ponderous limbs, his huge and ancient shell pocked with meteor craters. Through sea-sized eyes that are crusted with rheum and asteroid dust He stares fixedly at the Destination.

In a brain bigger than a city, with geological slowness, He thinks only of the Weight.

Most of the weight is of course accounted for by Berilia, Tubul, Great T’Phon and Jerakeen, the four giant elephants upon whose broad and startanned shoulders the disc of the World rests, garlanded by the long waterfall at its vast circumference and domed by the baby-blue vault of Heaven.

Terry Pratchett – The Colour of Magic (1983)

And there we have it – the first few paragraphs of the first-ever Discworld novel. Instantly we’re treated to a sample of the series’ signature style where utter absurdity (regardless of what a certain subset of internet dwellers might tell you, a scientifically sound flat disc of a world is absurd) is played straight and makes perfect internal sense. This juxtaposition allows Pratchett to have a fully functional setting where outlandish things happen on the regular, but instead of crumbling into some cheap farce, his world keeps trucking along undeterred.

Only in a setting like this a roughly 7-foot tall stand-in for King Arthur who works as a lowly guardsman and is fully convinced he’s actually a dwarf can act as the straight man to a cast of even more crazy characters. And all these characters, regardless of how ridiculous they are or how little “screen time” they get, can instantly endear themselves to you, even when a lot of them are quite unsavory once you stop to think about it.

discworld reading order guards guards
Now these are some heroes you can root for.

This perfectly logical yet logic-defying setting allows Pratchett to parody, mock, and satirize in a matter only an Englishman can. Fantasy tropes, storytelling clichés, common household appliances, social issues and movements, inflation, religion, technological progress, metaphysical concepts, and interpersonal relationships romantic and otherwise have all been examined by Pratchett’s wry eye at one point or another. And this is far from an exhaustive list of topics Discworld deals with on a regular basis with the help of a never-ending barrage of jokes, references, double entendres, and amusingly clever linguistic constructions.

You can read Discworld for its outlandish stories. You can read Discworld for its clever characters. You can read Discworld to be in awe of Pratchett’s command of the English language or his incisive yet disarmingly affable sense of humor. But at the end of the day, whatever your reasons for getting into Discworld may be, you’re in for a wild and infinitely enjoyable ride.

Discworld Reading Order

No, this section won’t be dedicated to a Masonic lodge that’s all about studying humorous fantasy. Sadly. Instead, it will examine the various options you have when you’re just looking to get into Discworld. Why do you need it, you ask? Well, because getting through a series of 40-something novels is no easy task, even if those novels are an absolute breeze and a joy to read. And considering that Discworld features what are essentially several sub-series dedicated to particular characters, locales or aspects of the eponymous Discworld, and those can differ greatly in their tone and approach, you’re much better off with at least some structure.

If you’ve done any research before stumbling onto our article, chances are you’ve seen the flowchart below that makes Discworld look like the Path of Exile of fantasy series. While certainly well-made and helpful if you know what you’re looking at, an image like this can make the series seem less approachable than it actually is.

discworld reading order flowchart
It’s like that thing Avril Lavigne talked about – Complicated.

The more straightforward lists you can find on sites like the official Discworld Emporium are certainly clearer, but they don’t really help in making an informed decision as to which jumping-on point will be best for you. This is where we come in.

Keep in mind that as there is no definitively correct way to read this series, everything you find here is filtered through the lens of one particular Discworld enthusiast. As such, adjust your expectations accordingly.

With that little disclaimer out of the way, these are the most sensible ways of making your initial plunge into Discworld:

  • Chronologically
  • By Sub-series
  • Through Introductory Novels

Let’s examine them individually and see if they’re right for you.


This here is the most clear-cut approach. Grab yourself a copy of The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic (these two are two parts of the same story and should be treated as a single novel), then go down the list in publication order. The one you can find over at Discworld Emporium is quite convenient, but we’ve transcribed it here for further convenience. Here’s the chronological Discworld reading order:

  • The Colour of Magic
  • The Light Fantastic
  • Equal Rites
  • Mort
  • Sourcery
  • Wyrd Sisters
  • Pyramids
  • Guards! Guards!
  • Faust Eric
  • Moving Pictures
  • Reaper Man
  • Witches Abroad
  • Small Gods
  • Lords and Ladies
  • Men at Arms
  • Soul Music
  • Interesting times
  • Maskerade
  • Feet of Clay
  • Hogfather
  • Jingo
  • The Last Continent
  • Carpe Jugulum
  • The Fifth Elephant
  • The Truth
  • Thief of Time
  • The Last Hero
  • The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents
  • Night Watch
  • The Wee Free Men
  • Monstrous Regiment
  • A Hat Full of Sky
  • Going Postal
  • Thud!
  • Wintersmith
  • Making Money
  • Unseen Academicals
  • I Shall Wear Midnight
  • Snuff
  • Raising Steam
  • The Shepherd’s Crown
discworld reading order colour of magic the light fantastic
The best place to start is at the beginning. Shocking.

If you’ve done any preliminary research, you might’ve encountered quite a few people advising against this approach. In fact, even the Emporium link above comes with a quick warning to temper your expectations.

And here is where we diverge from the common wisdom on the matter. As far as we’re concerned, reading Discworld chronologically is the best way to do it. Not only will you get a proper introduction to the setting and its inhabitants this way, you will quickly go through most of the introductory novels and will then know which sub-series you like the most.

We also don’t subscribe to the idea that the earlier Discworld entries differ all that much from the ones that follow them. Sure, each novel tends to have its own bag of topics it likes to poke fun at, plus some novels tend to be more character-driven and focused while others take a more big-picture approach, but the general style and structure remain the same throughout the series. As such, we see this particular avenue of criticism as similar to that often directed at the Parks and Recreation sitcom, where there are those who consider the first season to almost be a different show when in reality it just becomes more ambitious and gets a better feel for its characters as time goes by. But even at the very beginning, it’s a good show. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t have gotten those additional seasons. The same applies to Discworld.

There’s a reason why Rincewind – the cowardly wizzard – is somewhat of a Discworld mascot. And there’s a reason why games like NetHack and Dungeons of Dredmor have the Tourist as a playable class. And that reason is The Colour of Magic (and The Light Fantastic) are terrific books that resonated with a lot of people and are most definitely worth reading. Whenever someone suggests you skip those early books and jump straight into Mort, Guards! Guards! or Small Gods (which are all great books by the way), they do the same thing as those who start with Fallout 3 or Baldur’s Gate 3 and then do their darndest to convince anyone who would listen that those are the best entries in their respective series.

discworld reading order tourist
This be Dungeons of Dredmor. And this is what a NetHack Tourist looks like – @.

Behavior like this simply leads to people who are looking for guidance missing out on some amazing experiences. After all, you wouldn’t want to read the entirety of Discworld simply nodding along and offering faint “ha-has” anytime the Librarian makes an appearance, while not having a clue how he became an orangutan in the first place and why it’s supposed to be funny.

discworld reading order librarian
Ook. Just don’t call him a monkey.

If you’re still unconvinced, you might want to employ a hybrid approach here. Start with The Colour of Magic, then go down the list. By the time you reach Mort (the fourth book by publication date), you will have been introduced to three major sub-series and should be hooked on Discworld. If you’re not, there’s a good chance it’s just not for you. If you are, keep going until Guards! Guards! which is book number eight. By the time you get there, you’ll be a proper Discworld aficionado and will be able to make an informed decision on where to go from there.

By Sub-series

While there are a lot of similarities, callbacks, and common threads between all Discworld books, they tend to differ greatly in their focus and style. Because of that, there’s a good chance you might enjoy certain Discworld sub-series significantly more than others. Especially if you know yourself and your preferences well. With that in mind, here are the major Discworld sub-series you can read in a more or less standalone fashion:

  • Rincewind
  • Witches
  • Death
  • Watch
  • Industrial Revolution

With the above list, keep in mind that it can be a bit tricky to properly classify every book. Some of them can be considered a part of multiple sub-series, and some stand alone and simply refuse classification. As such, some of the Rincewind books can also be considered the Unseen University books, where it’s not just his adventure, but he’s simply one of the many wizards present. Similarly, the young-adult stories featuring Tiffany Aching are considered a part of the bigger Witches series, but they’re different enough that it feels wrong to lump them together. The same principle applies to the so-called Ancient Civilizations books. When the only thing connecting them is the fact that they explore the Discworld version of some historical locale, there’s no guarantee a new reader will find them all equally enjoyable. And this leaves us with a somewhat truncated list shown above.


The original Discworld protagonist, Rincewind is endearing because his approach to dealing with all the craziness routinely present in fantasy worlds is very sensible and relatable to us, the readers. When encountering something crazy, outlandish, and dangerous, his first reaction is to run away. But even though he has running away down to a science, he keeps stumbling onto crazy scenarios where despite his proclivity to panic he has to be the hero and save the day. Which leads to plenty of amusing and entertaining sequences.

discworld reading order rincewind
The Luggage is also a notable character, believe it or not.

The Rincewind novels are also the most “fantasy” among the Discworld sub-series. They frequently deal with various widely accepted tropes, feature plentiful references to the greater fantasy landscape of the early 20th century, and have a lot to say about the inherently humorous nature of spellcasting.

As the original and to some extent “main” sub-series, the Rincewind novels also frequently introduce characters and organizations that will eventually be expanded upon in various ways. So if you want to know exactly who’s who and what’s what when it comes to Discworld, the Rincewind books should be your first stop.


The Witches sub-series can be seen as the underrated dark horse of the bunch. Compared to the Rincewind stories, Witches tend to replace fantasy tropes with a potpourri of Shakespearean motifs, while still dealing with a lot of (mis)conceptions about magic and those who use it. Only instead of scheming bearded old men, the spellcasters put on blast here tend to belong to the finer sex and range from your classic cauldron-stirring crones to the much trendier Wiccan specimens.

discworld reading order witches
The main trio of Discworld Witches.

When originally reading Discworld, we weren’t exactly enamored with the Witches books. Re-reading them recently, with all the advantages offered by advanced age, they were some of our favorite stories to revisit. They also introduce quite an unexpected number of very memorable lines you would want to experience first-hand if at any point you want to have a conversation with your fellow Pratchett enthusiasts. These include such memorable double and triple entendres like “The Hedgehog Can Never be Buggered at All” and “A Wizards Staff Has a Knob on the End.” And those are just fun to say.


The Death stories offer a slightly different experience when compared to the Rincewind and Witches books. While those sub-series often deal with big concepts and have wide casts of characters to support them, the Death stories tend to be more character-driven and personal. They primarily follow a single family of humans whose destinies get firmly intertwined with the anthropomorphized representation of Death. You get plenty of action, intrigue, betrayal and romance – all very human things that are easy to read and enjoy. Which is fittingly ironic for a sub-series that on the surface deals with a lot of metaphysical concepts and the inevitability of mortality.

discworld reading order hogfather death
Hard to argue with that logic.

If you’re looking for a more adventurous take on Discworld with clearly defined and likable characters, the Death stories are it. And let’s not forget that on top of everything, these stories do prominently feature Death himself (inspired by the take on the character conceived by Fritz Leiber), who likes cats, SPEAKS IN ALL CAPS, and is such a fun character he transcends Discworld and makes an appearance in the real-world-set Good Omens.


The Watch books are considered by many to be the best introduction to Discworld. And it’s easy to see why. They combine the wide colorful casts of the Rincewind and Witches novels with the strong characterization of the Death stories. And on top of that, they largely replace the fantastical parodies with the more relatable to some real-world issues of not getting paid enough to be poor, and wanting to do a good job while dealing with the red tape of bureaucracy hell-bent on preventing you from doing it.

If you’re looking for a more grounded and effortlessly relatable take on Discworld, the Watch stories should be your go-to.

Industrial Revolution

Where the Watch has its inadequately-priced boots firmly placed on the ground, the Industrial Revolution books proudly wear the concrete shoes of sleeping with the fishes. These books tend to follow characters of varying stages of shadiness as they explore some field set to mirror an important technological advancement of our real world, like the advent of the movie industry or the challenges of establishing and maintaining the postal service.

discworld reading order going postal movie
Another impressive cast for a Discworld TV movie.

While they certainly have their moments, as a general rule we would advise against taking your first steps into Discworld through the Industrial Revolution books. They’re simply too specific and grounded to serve as a good example of what to expect from the greater series.

Through Introductory Novels

If you prefer a buffet approach, or if you simply would like to know what Discworld has to offer without reading all 40-something books it has in store for you, you should also feel free to jump around between various introductory books and notable standalone novels. That way you’ll be able to sample all the distinct styles and flavors Sir Terry Pratchett has on tap. And then armed with that knowledge, it should be easy to decide where to go from there.

The flowchart displayed near the beginning of this article is a decent starting point for this approach. Simply pick the books marked by the orange seal and read them in whichever order you like. We would, however, offer some adjustments to that list and supply you with a clearer order:

  • The Colour of Magic plus The Light Fantastic
  • Mort
  • Equal Rites
  • Guards! Guards!
  • Small Gods
  • Moving Pictures

Now to clarify why we choose these particular books in this particular order.

We start at the beginning with the Colour of Magic and immediately follow it up with The Light Fantastic to finish that story instead of dropping it halfway through. We then skip ahead to Mort, as it’s still an early introductory book, but it’s a more character-driven one, providing some welcome contrast after the previous two. Then we go back to Equal Rites to get our fill of the Witches. Then it’s off to the Watch with Guards! Guards!

In a complete divergence from the flowchart, we’ll be reading Small Gods as our sample of the Ancient Civilizations cycle – this book easily stands alone even if you don’t read any other Discworld stories.

Finally, we get to Moving Pictures. As mentioned earlier, we don’t advise reading the Industrial Revolution books early on in your Discworld journey, so we leave it for last here. What’s also helpful is that Moving Pictures can be seen as a transitory book that deals more with the themes of wizards than the other Industrial Revolution books, and so it can be seen as a bridge allowing you to get more enjoyment out of the further stories in the industrial sub-series.

discworld reading order terry pratchett
The man we have to thank for it all.

As you can see, it can be quite tricky to unravel the many mysteries of Discworld. But, if after all of that you just want a simple piece of advice telling you what to read without any asides or poetic waxing — and you forgot what we told you at the beginning of the article — just read:

  • The Colour of Magic
  • The Light Fantastic
  • Equal Rites
  • Mort

In that order. This should give you a good taste of what’s to come and help you figure out if Discworld is a series for you.

Whichever approach you choose, just remember to have a good time and enjoy the stories. Don’t sweat the small details. And soon enough you’ll have your own strong opinions for why our list is wrong and yours is the correct one.

Share this article:
Val Hull
Val Hull

Resident role-playing RPG game expert. Knows where trolls and paladins come from. You must fight for your right to gather your party before venturing forth.

Articles: 2
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments