I was talking to a friend recently about why we read. When she reads a book, she’s looking for plot: a good story that grabs her and pulls her headlong through the book. When her boyfriend reads, he’s looking for interesting use of language and, most of all, characters: realistic, interesting people whose psychological depths are plumbed. There isn’t much overlap in their favorite books; not because one of them has bad taste in books, but because they want something very different out of the books they read.
We readers want it all, of course—I’m a plot person, but bad writing or flat characters will make me put down a book fast—but there are differences in priority. So, what do you look for most in a book? What aspect is most important to you, most likely to grab—and hold—your interest?
Elaboration in comments is, of course, encouraged!