In college, I participated in a Ulysses book-club. Some of the participants were frustrated with the obtuseness of the book and we had a debate whether popular, accessible classics had mroe value and were more worthwhile than more esoteric works because they have a greater audience and more of an impact. Beyond the intrinsic artistic of a novel like Uylsses, I think its social value is easy to determine. It only has to influence one person to be worthwhile, especially if that person is inspired to go on create a popular classic.
I'm a sucker for these types of books. I am also a sucker for esoteric types of science and theory that seem to have no real value while their being developed or are first enunciated but prove to be extremely valuable as they led to great breakthroughs. On Wired, theory comes to life again with the creation of the "memristor," a new type of circuit that could significantly improve and enhance the computer of the future. While we may be approaching the limits of Moore's Law, researchers seem to be finding new ways to hack the concept of the computer of possibly provide other directions to keep the innovation moving forward. As Peter Thiel puts it, we have to hit the accelerator really hard (more on Thiel later, link via Instapundit).