I think some people get all tied up in the old Faulkner versus Hemingway argument.
One of my greatest pet peeves when reading is when the author throws in words that characters would not normally use just to show off a vocabulary. An example would be a gas station attendant in rural Indiana who asks a customer to ‘elucidate’. (Unless he is an avid dictionary reader or a scholar who shunned his trained profession to enjoy the simple life.)
I don’t remember when I didn’t know how to read, so over the years I’ve read gazillions of books. When I read Toni Morrison, I know I’ll be captivated and sucked into the story. When I read Louis Menand, I know there might be a few words I have to stop to look up. I think the difference between the two is storytelling. Louis Menand wants to give me information to think about and Toni Morrison wants to engage me in the lives of others.