Much of what makes books work for readers and makes them continue to work for generations of readers over long periods of time is the transfer of emotion. Often, when trying to work out why a book appeals, people will point to particular characters, or the plot, or the invented world, or the prose. All these things are of course vital parts of how a book delivers its effect, but I think readers often forget that what they like most is what all the nuts and bolts of the writing are making, the overall experience they create.
Books can make us laugh, cry, smile, curl up in contentment or despair, jump up and shriek, run out of the room, and recite passages to friends and family. They can provide relief or ratchet up anxiety; they can deliver hope and triumph and deep satisfaction at a world set to rights. Books help us feel an enormous range of emotions as we experience the lives of others through the medium of story.
It’s how we feel as we read a book that makes it memorable (or not).