Terry Pratchett, The Truth (2000, Harper)
The first book you read by a favorite author has a special quality. Even if there are other books by the same author that you realize are more worthy of recognition, the joy of discovery lends your "first" a lingering glow. Sometimes, the particular circumstances of finding the book are stamped on the memory as well. I'm revisiting some of these "first reads" and giving some second (or fifth or twentieth) impressions.
Terry Pratchett has written a LOT of books. And a lot of people have read them. He's one of the most popular and prolific fantasy authors of our time, but while "popular" and "prolific" may call up a certain image (one that does not necessarily include literary quality), he is in a category all his own. I don't know of another author who can both inspire laughter and provoke thought on so many levels, from the lowest of the lowbrow on up. At his best, he is brilliantly satirical without being cynical, which is no mean feat.
I don't remember exactly why I picked up my first Pratchett. I suppose I had passed by their steadily multiplying ranks in the library often enough that curiosity finally got to me. The one I took home was The Truth, which plunged me right in the middle of the "Discworld" universe. How to explain Discworld? Well, besides being a flat earth on the back of a giant tortoise, on top of four elephants (after which "it's elephants all the way down..."), it's a place where Pratchett can play around with all kinds of tropes of genre fiction, inhabited as it is by witches, wizards, dwarfs, vampires, werewolves, policemen, politicians, journalists, and other strange creatures.