Words Apart


Say I have a favorite book.  Say it’s The Lord of the Rings.  I’ve read it a bunch of times, and I can honestly say it’s the best book ever.

Over the years I meet other people who think The Lord of the Rings is the best book ever.  We share our enthusiasm.  We talk about the parts we like best.  We talk about what it means to us.  We just talk.  We’re happy to have found people who think the same way we do.

But I also meet people who don’t think The Lord of the Rings is the best book ever.  Maybe they’ve never read it.  Maybe they never finished it.  Maybe they did and just didn’t like it.  And they suggest other books that they swear up and down are the best books ever.  Even better than my book.

Now there are two ways I can react to this.

I can get angry and say, “But my book is the best book ever.  You’re wrong for thinking your book is.  You shouldn’t be able to feel that way.  We should make everybody think my book is the best book ever, because it is.”  And we spend more time arguing about who’s right than we do talking about what we like, and nobody is happy.

Or I can shrug and say, “Oh well, I guess you just didn’t like my book.  That doesn’t change the way I feel about my book, or the way the people who feel the same way I do feel about it.  My book is still there and still filled with the same things that make it the best book ever.”  And we all like the books we like and find other things to talk about.

I really hope I don’t have to spell out what I’m trying to get at here.  Because really, it all comes down  to just disagreeing about books.

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One thought on “Words Apart

  1. Well, you’ve illustrated pretty well why “favorite” and “best” aren’t the same things. We choose favorites because of who we are and what gets through to us personally, not by what is exceptional or objectively superior about a work of art. That’s also why we can look at critics’ “Best of” lists and disagree, even though the critics choices can be better qualified.

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