Can you enjoy difficult books? {Discussion}

When I finished reading Asking for It by Louise O’Neill a few weeks ago, I realised how much I had actually enjoyed it. I gave the book five stars in my review, so you’d think it’s obvious I enjoyed it. However, when it comes to books that deal with difficult topics, books that have terrible things happen to the characters, the ratings are often based on the importance of the book as opposed to the actual enjoyment of reading it. So today I want to ask you this: can you actually, genuinely enjoy difficult books?


I will spoil the discussion by out-right saying that, personally, I can. I am a sucker for tragedy and dark stuff, so I love difficult books. I am also rarely disgusted or emotionally affected by the things I read. It might sound rather cold, but while I know that the things that happen in Asking for It are terrible, and I was infuriated a lot of the time while reading it, I never felt so affected that I had to put the book down. I enjoyed reading it, I wanted to know how the main character would deal with the situation, and I loved it. I am aware that this is quite a privileged position to come from, as a lot of people have to deal with triggering topics. On the downside, however, it makes me feel like I’m a terrible person sometimes – is it wrong for me to find enjoyment in difficult books? Should I hate reading about terrible things and give the books good ratings because of their importance? Or is it okay to enjoy them despite everything?

There is so much more to books than the difficult things they deal with. There is the writing, the character development, the dialogue, the setting. If an author is good at what they do, all these things should form a beautiful whole, and that will inevitably bring joy to the reader. So, technically, enjoying a difficult book is just a sign that there’s a brilliant writer behind it … right?



I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time, so I’m curious to know what you guys have to say about it. Do you usually enjoy difficult books? Do you think enjoying them is a bit of a sick thing to do? Let me know!

‘Till next time and happy reading!


Featured image: Freepik

25 thoughts on “Can you enjoy difficult books? {Discussion}

  1. That’s so funny. I just reviewed a book this morning that covers very difficult issues and said “enjoy” might not be the right word but the book is so good I really did enjoy it. So in my case, I think you can enjoy difficult books!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a great question! I think you absolutely can. I tend gravitate toward lighter books, but there have been difficult books I have very much enjoyed. I think for me it has a lot to do with the way it’s written. If the prose is flat and gives off a hopeless tone, then I’m less likely to enjoy it. But if the prose is stylistically interesting, I will love it. I’m big on writing stlye in general in books, so I guess that makes sense lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an interesting discussion, one I honestly hadn’t thought about before.

    I definitely gravitate toward “issue-heavy” books. Part of that is that I enjoy seeing characters struggle with something that I’ve struggled with in the past, even when the specific issues are different. But I think the clincher for me is the enjoyment that comes from watching a character grow. If a book is just issue after issue and the character is just miserable, that’s not as enjoyable as if we get to watch them grow stronger because of what they’re dealing with.

    I don’t think it makes you a bad person. Sometimes reading about someone struggling and coming out on the other side can be incredibly cathartic.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m 100% a character reader. I’d rather have well-developed characters over well-developed plot any day. So as long as I get to see inside that person’s head, I can appreciate their journey. I do agree with what you said about difficult books sometimes being triggering, but for me I think it depends how it’s handled in the writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t really thought of this before! I don’t usually pick up heavy or difficult books, mostly because it lies outside my preferred genre, but when I do, I’ll admit that it can be a bit tough to get through. Although, I can also clearly see what is trying to be achieved. And if the writing is good and the characters are well-rendered, then I can enjoy it, even if it hurts my heart. So, yes, I think it’s entirely possible to enjoy difficult books. I think that’s what the author would want. I don’t think that makes you or anyone else who enjoys heavy books to be “cold” or “unfeeling” 🙂

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  5. This is a great discussion topic Izzi. I think when it comes to enjoying difficult books everyone is different. There are going to be subjects individual people have that they can’t deal with, there’s a reason I haven’t picked up 13 Reasons Why and have no desire to, but for the most part I do enjoy difficult subjects in books providing they’ve been written and handled well you know? 🙂

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  6. This is a very important topic. Enjoy might not always be the right word, but it certainly depends on the book and the situations in the book. I do tend to read lighter books, but Exit Pursed by a Bear by E.K. Johnston was an amazing novel that touched on an important topic. I usually say that the book is important for X reasons and then discuss those reasons, if that makes sense.

    I’m new to blogging and book reviewing, and am very impressed by your blog. I was wondering if you had any tips for newbie bloggers and book reviewers.

    If you have the time, please check out my blog @breenysbooks. I’d love any feedback. Have a wonderful day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heya, thank you for the comment! I’m glad you like my blog, it means a lot. 😃
      I read your review of The Hate U Give and think you’re off to a good start! You’re also interacting with other bloggers, which would be my number one tip. I look forward to more of your posts! Good luck xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve often asked myself the same thing – is it wrong for me to genuinely enjoy reading books about terrible things? It does make me feel guilty sometimes because, like you said, I know that real people deal with these things and so finding enjoyment in these stories can make me feel guilty even though I obviously wouldn’t wish these things on anyone in real life. I think the reason why I enjoy these stories so much is simply because I like seeing the character(s) come to terms with what’s happened and learn to move on and be happy despite their past. When it comes down to it, I don’t think we have any reason to feel bad for enjoying these stories as long as we make sure to talk and think about them in a way that’s sensitive and understanding to people who actually have gone through similar situations.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very interesting discussion and questions raised. I think you can absolutely enjoy difficult books (by that I thought you meant difficult language at first). When I read books, I’ll usually rate them according to the question and issues they raise (philosophical questions, in particular)! I don’t think I’d enjoy a book that’s just entertaining as much — although that can be a good thing sometimes.

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  9. Okay this discussion was made for ME because some of my favourite books are ones that deal with really heavy/difficult issues. I think as long as things aren’t being glamorised and people use trigger warnings when talking about the books, then it’s totally okay to enjoy them – even though that seems like such a wrong word to use, haha. I love reading books about mental illness because it makes me feel less alone especially with those books I appreciate when things don’t have a super cookie cutter clean ending because it’s way more relatable for me. I appreciate other heavy issues too because I feel like just because they’re horrible it doesn’t mean we should be ignoring them? If done right I think it can really help bring awareness to certain things especially in the terms of books that deal with rape.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked it! And I really appreciate you reading my post, I know blogging hasn’t been super easy lately! ❤
      Glamorising is definitely a big issue. I have often seen reviews of books that point out how mental illness and other stuff isn’t handled well at all. Fortunately I haven’t read anything that does that (at least nothing that comes to mind). x


  10. I am a reading masochist. Like you, I love book that deal with topics that not most would dare write or even read about. I read, and enjoy, them because I feel that these are important stories to tell. Books about suicide, depression, autism, terrorism, racism – and a bunch of other stuff that deals that needs deep and thorough realization. However, I only enjoy them, if they’re done right. There are authors (believe me, I’ve read some of them) that use these just for the sake of added drama to their books, which I hate. Authors need to be more sensitive to the topic that they’re writing about. It should be as close, if not nearly like, how it is going to happen in the real world because readers deserve that. I am not a fan of writings that embellish things that shouldn’t be.
    I think I got carried away there. Great post, by the way! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, some authors like to add tragedy or certain respresentations of marginalised people to their stories purely for shock value, and that just ends up being annoying to read as well as damaging to the represented people.


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