From Octavian Report:
Octavian Report: Why should we read the Odyssey?
Daniel Mendelsohn: There’s a reason the classics are classics — and it’s not because they have better agents than books that aren’t classics. The classics are classics because they pose in a way that is lively and narratively interesting and challenging the most basic questions about human experience. The Greek and Roman classics are the foundation for our way of seeing the world. And therefore we read them because they tell us something true about life. In the case of the Odyssey, aside from everything else it is, it’s one of the great family dramas. It’s about homecoming, it’s about the meaning of home, it’s about how you know and how you prove your intimacy with members of your family. It’s about the bonds that connect family members over many years despite time and distance.
Beyond that, it’s in a certain sense the first science-fiction narrative. It envisions an adventurer who’s exposed to strange new civilizations (to quote the opening of Star Trek). Odysseus is the person from Greek civilization, from Western culture, touring abroad through alternative and new civilizations.