Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
Reading Challenge: A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy
Also, everything ends somewhere, and this is where my reading challenge, and most likely the blog, hits that point. Back in January I decided to complete this reading challenge. I also decided to try an experiment, something to keep me sane through the last months of graduate school. It was a long year with ups and downs and a whole month where I just felt like I couldn’t finish a book. But I managed to complete the challenge, just clocking in under the wire with a final completed book on December 30th.
So that’s what there is to say about the reading challenge. Now on to the book, which is one of my very favorites. Terry Pratchett (Sir Terry to you) was a great writer, and Hogfather, his take on Christmas, is one of his very best. The plot is relatively simple: an Assassin is hired to dispose of the Hogfather (Discworld’s version of Santa Claus), and Death and Death’s granddaughter try to stop him.
However, there’s so much more going on, it’s impossible to actually list it all. There’s humor, much of it contained in footnotes, and puns. There’s action and excitement, there’s an orangutan playing the organ, there’s a computer of sorts, there are wizards, there are children and some true observations about childhood, and loads of holiday spirit. There’s a lot of fairly deep stuff about the importance of stories and fantasy and how myths and legends evolve. There’s also a skeleton in a Santa Claus outfit, who somehow manages to be completely different from the one in The Nightmare Before Christmas except perhaps with a shared difficulty in delivering a convincing “ho ho ho.”
There’s also, for you fans of strong female characters, a very interesting lead in Susan Sto Helit, Death’s granddaughter. Susan is currently a governess trying to be more or less normal. She is self-possessed, educated, clever, and not a natural at this whole “normal” thing. She’s the closest thing to a grown-up in most scenes: as is noted at one point, if other characters are listening to their inner child, she is the inner babysitter. She also shares certain talents with her grandfather.
She shares some moments with her grandfather, as well. In one of my favorite scenes in all of books, Susan learns the real importance of Christmas (okay, Hogswatch):
HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE, AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”
MY POINT EXACTLY.
Listen. It’s just – it’s good. It’s really good. You should read Terry Pratchett. And you should definitely read this one.
Recommended pairing: Sherry appears to be the beverage of choice. Or a nice mug of cocoa would be appropriate.
Well, that’s been my year, thanks for playing. For the curious, I’m listing below the entire reading challenge with links to the appropriate review. It was fun, but I’m not doing it next year. Next year my goal is to read a lot of new books, because I don’t usually read a lot of new books.
- A book based on a fairy tale
- A National Book Award winner
- A YA bestseller
- A book you haven’t read since high school
- A book set in your home state
- A book translated to English
- A romance set in the future
- A book set in Europe
- A book that’s under 150 pages
- A New York Times bestseller
- A book that’s becoming a movie this year
- A book recommended by someone you just met
- A self-improvement book
- A book you can finish in a day
- A book written by a celebrity
- A political memoir
- A book at least 100 years older than you
- A book that’s more than 600 pages
- A book from Oprah’s Book Club
- A science-fiction novel
- A book recommended by a family member
- A graphic novel
- A book that is published in 2016
- A book with a protagonist who has your occupation
- A book that takes place during summer
- A book and its prequel
- A murder mystery
- A book written by a comedian
- A dystopian novel
- A book with a blue cover
- A book of poetry
- The first book you see in a bookstore
- A classic from the 20th century
- A book from the library
- An autobiography
- A book about a road trip
- A book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with
- A satirical book
- A book that takes place on an island
- A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy – The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett