Columns, Opinion

World of Literati: It’s possible to appreciate a book but not like it

Over the years I have read many books, some of which I loved, hated or thought were mediocre. There were also some that I appreciated and could discuss their merits, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that I liked them.

Many people believe that saying a book is good or well-written is analogous to saying that they liked it. However, that is not the case. It is possible to believe that a book has value but to have not derived enjoyment from reading it. When I use the words “like” and “enjoyment,” I’m referring to being entertained by a story and wanting to read it again.

There are several classics that fall under the “appreciated but didn’t like category.” Take for example, “The Catcher in the Rye,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Lord of the Flies.” All three are replete with complex themes and messages that make for interesting discussion.

However, when reading these books, I was not entertained. In fact, I was quite bored and either didn’t like or didn’t care about the characters. These are not books that I would want to read again, but I can recognize they are important in the literary world and have a lot to offer.   

Appreciating but not liking is equivalent to recognizing a well-crafted character but not calling them a favorite. Liking seems to be more about one’s preference while appreciating is about the objective value. While I may not have liked “Animal Farm,” I can see how others would.

The opposite can also be true. It’s possible to have liked a book but acknowledge that its not the best book in the world. For example, there are hundreds of people who still unapologetically like “Twilight,” even if they now recognize the series is far from a literary masterpiece.

When discussing literature it is important to bring up the distinction between like and appreciation because it helps frame the conversation. When I was a part of a book club, we read “Feed,” which the discussion leader recognized would be disliked because the main character was extremely unlikable.

However, we were still able to have a discussion about the objective value of the book because the themes of consumerism and technology were nicely explored.

Having a distinction also allows people to question themselves in regards to their reading tastes. For instance, they can ask themselves: What was it about this book that prevented me from loving it even though it’s well-written? How can I say this is a good book if I didn’t like it?

The latter question is an interesting one because a well-written book will keep people entertained and captivated. However, people have preferences that can interfere with their enjoyment of the story or prevent them from loving the book completely.

Someone who doesn’t normally love or even read fantasy, contemporary or thriller stories already has a bias when going into these types of books. Knowing about any preferences or biases that prevent appreciation of a book is important when recommending books to others.

When we read a book, it’s important to recognize that while it may not have impacted us or been to our personal taste, we shouldn’t completely write it off. We should take a second to question whether or not we believe the book has objective value.

This is especially true of someone who has a platform where they discuss and recommend books. The words “like” and “appreciate” should not be used interchangeably, and we should be more cognizant of the difference when thinking about literature.

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