November 25th, 2012


Book Review: The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

The book that turned millions into vegetarians was meant to turn them into socialists.

The Jungle

Originally published in 1906, approximately 149,000 words. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.

Few books have so affected radical social changes as The Jungle, first published serially in 1906. Exposing unsanitary conditions in the meat–packing industry in Chicago, Sinclair's novel gripped Americans by the stomach, contributing to the passage of the first Food and Drug Act. If you’ve never read this classic novel, don’t be put off by its gruesome reputation. Upton Sinclair was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who could turn even an exposé into a tender and moving novel.

Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant, comes to America in search of a fortune for his family. He accepts the harsh realities of a working man’s lot, laboring with naive vigor—until, his health and family sacrificed, he understands how the heavy wheels of the industrial machine can crush the strongest spirit.

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Verdict: Most books written by an author on a soapbox suffer for it. The Jungle is a fine novel, and Upton Sinclair is quite good at presenting a dramatic, brutally gripping story that only starts really whacking you over the head with an explicit political message towards the end. Sinclair a far better writer, and a far more effective one, than Ayn Rand, that's for sure.

Also by Upton Sinclair: My review of Oil!.

My complete list of book reviews.