Based on my reading so far this year, I’m betting Sir Terry Pratchett will be my favorite author of the year. I’m a latecomer to the STP fan club, but I’m making up for my tardiness with an overabundance of enthusiasm, both for his books and for the author himself.
About the Author
Terry Pratchett called himself a non-descript student who was educated primarily by the local library. He was fascinated by astronomy (enough to have his own observation deck) and deliciously funny. My dad always said that humor is 90% timing and Terry Pratchett had his timing down perfectly. Terry Pratchett became Sir Terry Pratchett in 2009. After knighthood, he forged his own sword from iron ore he mined himself in a kiln he made from clay. If that sentence fills you with envy and longing, this may be the author for you. STP fought a public battle with Alzheimer’s disease for the last years of his life and spent considerable time and money working to improve Alzheimer’s and dementia research (in addition to the time and money he spent on libraries, schools, and more).
I recently read a story that just keeps coming to mind as I try to describe Terry Pratchett. For no one particular reason, he wrote The Librarian of Unseen University as an orangutan (or rather, a wizard who had been turned into an orangutan and opted to keep the form). After the book’s publication, orangutan conservation groups started asking him to speak and participate in their work. As he learned more about the species and their current plight, he took up the cause with gusto. This was a man who was not afraid to take a stand. Many fans continue donating to orangutan research and conversation in his honor.
About the Books
Sir Terry Pratchett is probably best known for his 41 Discworld novels, the first of which was published in 1983. The books play on fantasy cliches and societal norms in the best possible ways. For example, one novel features a clay golem that imagines itself as a woman (in a much funnier way than in the last book I read) and listens to the office gossip to figure out ladylike behavior…all while maintaining the strength and temperament of a man of clay. What really works with the play on fantasy tropes, though, is that they form the backdrop of the story itself. You could pick up any Discworld novel having never read another fantasy book before and still enjoy the plot. Meanwhile, the jokes are just under the surface, waiting to be discovered each time through the novel.
In addition to the Discworld novels, STP wrote children’s books (including a family favorite, Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Tales), non-fiction essays on everything from death to book tours, and a dense but funny take on the apocalypse with Neil Gaiman.
I picked up my first Discworld book, Thud!, after it was recommended as a superb example of how to structure a thriller with the added bonus of also being humorous. As promised, I was almost enjoying the book too much to notice how well it was written. His books are clever and well-thought without feeling too pleased with themselves. The best part of Discworld for me is that you can read them in any order. I started with the City Watch books (out of order, of course) and thought I could love no one so much as I love Commander Sam Vines until I got to the Nac Mac Feegles in A Hat Full of Sky (again, not the first book they appear in either. I’m still waiting on my library’s copy of The Wee Free Men). I’m already working on an entire post dedicated to my love for A Slip of the Keyboard, however, which may be my very favorite thing STP wrote.
You can find samples of Terry Pratchett’s writing all over the internet, but I especially enjoyed the pictures and quotes at terrypratchettbooks.com.