Interesting, engrossing, absorbing, intriguing mean having a quality or qualities that secure attention and hold it for a length of time.
Interesting implies a power in a person or thing to awaken such a mental or emotional reaction involving attention as curiosity, sympathy, a desire to know or understand, or enthusiasm, but unless the adjective is qualified or there is a fuller explanation in the context, the degree or the cause of interest is not clear.
As applied to a book, a play, or a narrative the word usually means entertaining, diverting (compare verbs at AMUSE ), exciting, stimulating, or provocative (comapre verbs at PROVOKE ), but if the context provides no real clue as to the precise implication, the word may fail to hit the mark.
Engrossing (see also MONOPOLIZE ) suggests the power to grip the attention so as to exclude everything else, but it may or may not imply a power to please, divert, or entertain, and it refers almost always to things rather than persons; thus, an engrossing book may seize the whole attention from such dissimilar causes as that it requires deep study or serious reflection or that it is challenging or provocative.
Absorbing does not differ materially from engrossing, but its underlying notion is not the same, for it suggests in the thing that holds one’s attention a power to draw one in, as if by suction; thus, a pursuit may be engrossing, but not absorbing, when it occupies one’s attention to the exclusion of everything else; a book may be absorbing, rather than engrossing, when its attraction is strong enough to draw one away from attention to one’s surroundings.
Intriguing, sometimes used in the sense of interesting, more specifically applies to something that attracts attention by arousing one’s curiosity, by baffling one’s understanding, or by leading one on.