I have been reading in Irish literature for about a two and half years now. I read Ulysses twice several decades ago. I have done Q and A sessions with about 75 Irish writers. I read some secondary works on Irish literature, most notably the post colonial work of Declan Kiberd. I have developed my own theories about Irish literature, half baked at best. I began to kind of train myself to reread Ulysses. I read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and parts of Dubliners. I read a brand new biography of Joyce. Everything I learned screamed out that all of Irish literature was and still is in the shadow of Joyce and Yeats. About six weeks ago I loaded Ulysses onto my IPAD and began reading it. I decided I would not at all stress if I felt I was, as of course I knew I would be, missing a lot. My plan was to try to follow Bloom's walk through Dublin, relate to the Homeric structure, and sort of look for post-colonial aspects. When I found myself lost, I just savored the exquisite language and went on. I read Ulysses much slower than I normally read.
I think my favorite section of Ulysses is the Night Town visit, which no doubt reveals more about me than the novel.
Academics spend decades on Joyce. Besides Kiberd I read another book that really helped me, Joyce's Revenge: History, Politics and Aesthetics in Ulysses by Andrew Gibson. I loved reading Ulysses. I hope to read it at least once more by Bloomsday 2014.
To those nervous about Ulysses, just try it, maybe read a few articles. Just let Joyce work his magic and get what you can. To those expert in Joyce, please offer us your guidance.