The movies establish that Denethor doesn't really like Faramir, without offering any explanation of motive.

Are we really given any reason in the books for why Denethor seemed to always favour Boromir over Faramir?


This is discussed in Appendix A (emphasis mine):

Faramir the younger was like [Denethor] in looks but otherwise in mind. He read the hearts of men as shrewdly as his father, but what he read moved him sooner to pity than to scorn. He was gentle in bearing, and a lover of lore and of music, and therefore by many in those days his courage was judged less than his brother's. But it was not so, except that he did not seek glory in danger without a purpose. He welcomed Gandalf at such times as he came to the City, and he learned what he could from his wisdom; and in this as in many other matters he displeased his father.

Return of the King Appendix A: "Annals of the Kings and Rulers" I "The Númenórean Kings" (iv) Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion The Stewards

It isn't really that Denethor disliked Faramir, it's that he failed to live up to Denethor's standards for manliness, especially when compared to Boromir, so he was always kind of a disappointment. Boromir's death grieved Denethor greatly, and he responded by lashing out at the disappointing son he had left.

In fairness, some of this is covered in the extended edition of the Return of the King film:

Denethor: Ever you [Faramir] desire to appear lordly and gracious as a King of old. Boromir would have remembered his father's need.


Denethor: Boromir was loyal to me! Not some wizard's pupil.

Return of the King (2003)

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    There's also the issue that Faramir probably reminded Denethor more of Finduilas, who would appear to have never fully recovered from giving birth to Faramir and died a few years afterward. – chepner Dec 17 '16 at 17:40

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