Stewart Bell Jr. Archives
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HE’S AMAZING, HE’S WONDERFUL, YOU SHOULD READ HIS BOOKS, JUST TRUST ME…
is what I would say if I were talking to a friend about Terry Pratchett, one of my all-time favorite authors. Since you can’t see me excitedly waving my hands around, or bear witness to the stupid grin on my face, I will have to explain with words why I love Terry Pratchett so much, and why you should love him too (or at least give him a chance). His books are always funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes silly parodies, and sometimes cutting satire. He touches on culture, politics, and human nature without getting preachy or staid. He’s got a little something for everyone, so read on to get started on your Terry Pratchett journey!
WHERE DO I START? HE’S WRITTEN LIKE, A MILLION BOOKS…
Pratchett is best known for his Discworld series, a sprawling, satirical fantasy series set on a flat disc-shaped planet which rests on the backs of four elephants, which in turn stand on the back of the cosmic turtle (as is common knowledge). The majority of his books (41 of them!) take place in this universe, and I highly recommend starting there. You can read the Discworld novels in any order, as each book stands on its own, but many of them are centered on recurring characters and are best enjoyed chronologically. Here’s a couple of links to get you started! I’m also including a handy reference chart down at the bottom of this post, to look at when you inevitably fall in love with a specific character and need to read every book in which they appear.
There truly is something for everyone in the Discworld series. Do you enjoy parodies that (lovingly) mock some of the sillier tropes and characters of the fantasy genre? Terry’s got books for you! (The Light Fantastic, Maskerade, and Carpe Jugulum, to name a few.) Do you like police procedurals and whodunits? Pratchett’s got you covered! (Thud!, Feet of Clay, and Night Watch are some of my favorites.) Do you like novels that feature badass ladies doing cool deeds? He’s got a whole SLEW of those. (Monstrous Regiment is my absolute favorite, but the Witches novels are also fantastic, including Wyrd Sisters, Lords and Ladies, and Witches Abroad.) All of these are set in the fantastical Discworld, and all of them deliver on laughs as well as story.
OKAY, THAT’S NEAT, BUT I DON’T HAVE TIME TO SORT THROUGH FORTY-ONE BOOKS RIGHT NOW!
If the prospect of conquering a mountain of books doesn’t immediately fill you with excitement and determination, perhaps I can recommend some of Pratchett’s standalone novels to you. There’s a handy little guide here. His most popular novel outside of the Discworld is Good Omens, a humorous apocalyptic novel co-written with Neil Gaiman. Recently adapted as a TV miniseries, the book centers on an angel (Aziraphale) and a demon (Crowley) who have spent so much time on Earth that they have “gone native,” enjoying human comforts and habits and forgetting their own divinely ordained rivalry. When the Antichrist is born and preparations for the Apocalypse begin, Aziraphale and Crowley are deeply worried about losing their human comforts, and they must decide whether to aid in the destruction of the world or to try and stop it. Trust me when I say it’s MUCH funnier than I make it sound.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE, EH? WELL WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?!
Pratchett also wrote numerous children’s and young adult fiction books, a list of which you can find here, and several of which we have here at the library! I did not discover Pratchett until I was in my early twenties, so most of his books for younger readers I have not personally read. However, I can personally vouch for Nation, a touching and funny coming-of-age novel. It follows a young boy who loses his entire family and way of life as he strikes out anew to rebuild his community and find his place in the world. Pratchett handles difficult topics like religion, family, and loss with grace and humor, never talking down to his younger audience but also striking the right balance of tone so the novel feels upbeat rather than dreary.
OH, ALL RIGHT. ANYTHING ELSE TO ADD?
I could talk myself blue in the face telling you everything that I love about Terry Pratchett and his books. Telling you that Pratchett is uproariously funny, that his satire remains biting and topical to this day, and that you will love all of his characters doesn’t quite cut it. There is a quality to Terry Pratchett’s writing which is unique to him: it’s a profound knowledge of human nature and how we operate, coupled with his deep and obvious love for human beings and all our foibles that bleeds into every page. He will make you laugh until you cry, and he will make you cry too.