people are endlessly fascinated by people. My notion, then, is that people read stories about people because people capture our interest. Short stories and novels have plots and devices and structures and language and voice and all those technical bits, but above all they must have interesting people to succeed.
What do you think? What draws you to novels? Do you read to learn about a place or a way of being, for the structure and ideas alone, for a clever plot? I think Jeff is right; I'll read almost any genre if the characters are gripping. I am also drawn to atmosphere; an interesting and vibrantly evoked setting plus multidimensional characterization is more important than a plot, for me. Although plot is good, too, as long as it is supported by the other elements.
But the reason I choose fiction over factual reading, most of the time, is because I want to get inside other people and see the world from their perspective. It's the fascination of seeing things differently, of learning different ways to puzzle out the world, that I find enlivening in fiction. And that is why I will never run out of new novels to read.