Books: Art or Entertainment?

In my opinion, fiction authors have one of two intentions when they write a book.

  1. To entertain
  2. To create art for art’s sake

Now, obviously, most authors include a little of both. To me it’s kind of like a continuum with super artsy books like The Color Purple or The Goldfinch on one side, books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or The Princess Diaries on the other side, and the vast majority of books falling somewhere in the middle.

book continuum

Interestingly, I think this same idea applies to most forms of art, especially movies and music.

Clearly there are additional intentions an author might have for their book. They might want to educate, or to move you emotionally, or to satirize. But I would argue all those are in addition to art or entertainment, not separate from.

So my question is: which is better?

Clearly, a ridiculous question. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. And besides, different people like different things! Better is an opinion and we’re all entitled to our own. Yet… obviously the “genre” literary fiction wouldn’t exist if a great number of people didn’t think one was more worthwhile than the other. MY opinion is that’s hogwash. Pure snobbery.

Better question: which do you like better?

Personally, I like to be entertained by my books. I love anything that will make me laugh, wild adventure rides, romances that make my heart melt, and anything fun. But I would put most of my favorites midway down the spectrum. They still have something meaningful and artistic to offer, in addition to being entertaining as heck. But that’s me.

What about you? Let me know in the comments!

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11 thoughts on “Books: Art or Entertainment?

  1. Madam Mim says:

    You’re so right about there being a spectrum of literature. I think “literature” can be fun and entertaining. Pride & Prejudice I must have read a thousand times, and love. North & South, The Cranwell Chronicles, the same. But there does tend to be a theme with modern books that fall into the “literary” side of things to be super heavy. Impenetrable, even. So most of the things I read, like you, fall somewhere in the middle. I agree as well, I don’t think one is “better” than the other. Although… some things are just better written. And I think that’s less debateable…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pride and Prejudice was the exact book that I mentioned to my husband as being high entertainment AND high art. It’s definitely possible! But I agree with you, modern “literature” tends to ignore the entertainment aspect all together.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. LA says:

    I think about this topic a lot…good post. I think all books are both, but there are a wide variety of books because everyone’s opinion of what is art and what is entertainment is different

    Liked by 1 person

      • LA says:

        I know! I’ve stopped asking friends for book recommendations because I find that there taste is so different from mine. We read a book for book club the other day, and the group was literally all over the place on inbecause it was very lyrical and descriptive (which I hate) but someone else hated that the ending wasn’t happy, and on and in

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve become kind of hyper aware of this since becoming a book blogger, and it’s really changed the way I talk about and even think about books. My reviews used to be all about how good or bad I thought a book was, and maybe only a little about my personal taste. But lately I talk mostly about what I liked or didn’t, and what I think other people might like or dislike.

          Liked by 1 person

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