Hi Chris and Gail! I think it is as you suggest ‘obtaining that deep sense of reader capture’. In addition, I also think what works for some readers won’t necessarily work for others. I definitely agree on Watership Down — it’s one of my favourite books of all time. When I first read it, I couldn’t wait to leave real life behind and find out what was happening ot Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig and the rest. I re-read occasionally to reconnect with that sense of wonder.
Have also read some Michener, but not Hawaii. The one I encountered is The Source, a novel which tackles the history of Israel from pre-historic times to the 1960s. This had a different effect on me — it created a sense of deep time (I also remember my dad enthusing about when I was very young). Unfortunately, I have to say I didn’t get on with Tolkien at all.
Another author who stands out here is David Mitchell, who likes to play aroudn with time and character whilst creating very immediate, accessible stories. If you’re interested, and haven’t read any David Mitchell, then Cloud Atlas is a good place to start.