One of my favourites, for a variety of reasons.
Most readers would say that the first line "Scarlett O' Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the tarleton twins were" was captivating. For me, however, the end of the first para "...magnolia white skin- that skin so carefully guarded by bonnets, veils and mittens from the hot Georgia suns." was the decider. I knew that the book would be good.
Sometimes I wish I'd never read the book, for the sheer joy of being caught up in the magic and reading the book for the first time. I never really had any idea what the book was about, except the ending- which was wonderful and still made me long to change it- and never had any idea whom the love story was about, till the ending.
Of course, there was a lot more to it than the romance, the only one that's managed to captivate me so far in my reading. There's the whole beauty of the way it's written, that dreamy, exquisite way, the description of the war, the sheer sweep of it.
Some have called the book racist. Personally, I didn't find it so. Of course, the views expressed in it are racist, but since the book is essentially from the viewpoint of the Southerners in the Civil War, it's expected. Some people's views is politically correct, giving both sides of the question.
The characters are wonderfully three dimensional, living, breathing, sometimes without the help of the author. Rhett Butler, Scarlett, Melanie Wilkes and the main characters are there of course while some not so important others are also well drawn out. But in certain cases, like in the case of slaves, or aunts, or sisters, it's rather stereotyped, but they still manage to breathe.
The most intriguing thing about this book is that it was the first- and last- of the author. It's amazing how it managed to become that popular, and win the Pulitzer Prize. Worth reading merely to know what's in it to make it that.