The first time I read this book I was around 12-14. This was right around the year 2000, so it was the popular thing to do. My brother actually had a 2001 party that New Years where all of his friends got together and played a massive game of Starcraft. That was back in the day where it took about five hours just to get the games connected. No wireless in those days!
At any rate, I have fond memories of the 2001 story.
For people less nerdy than myself, here is a brief overview of the story:
A type of alien life form sends down a monolith that gives the people who touch it intelligent thoughts. According to the book this is how we turned into people from monkeys. On a visit to the moon the people uncover one of these monolith things, which then transmits a signal to somewhere around Jupiter. People decide to follow the signal and send a spacecraft towards the signal.
At this point the story becomes a little hard to understand for me. Somehow the computer decides he has to take over the mission by killing the crew. The only surviving member of the crew gets taken inside the monolith (or some other alien invention) and turns into something really strange.
Anyway, people in the 60s thought this story was so interesting that they made a movie from it. It is the fault of this movie that the Beautiful Blue Danube and Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 by Richard Strauss are forever identified with space travel and science fiction.
Honestly as far as I am concerned you can either read the book or watch the movie. There are some differences between the two, but the book doesn’t provide the sensory attraction for the story like the movie does.