The Jungle by Upton Sinclair is a very powerful, very disturbing book that everyone should read. It should not be read until you are a little older so that the subject matter can be understood. If you have never tried to find a job, if you have never tried to support a family, if you have never had to uphold your morality in the face of possible sever consequences then you may not be ready to read this book. Then again, you may want to read it knowing that you may need to do these things in the future.
The Jungle is an intense discussion about the horrors that humanity inflicts upon itself in the name of greed. It points out the destructive behavior of capitalism. It brings to light the problem of the inhumane treatment of a poor, ignorant workforce. It points out the deceitful nature of politics when connected to monetary gain. It speaks of the apathetic, arrogant, and disillusioned rich in their efforts to subdue the poor more fully and elevate their position to greater heights. If you think this sounds like the book may be propaganda for socialism, you're right. Interestingly, being written in 1906 it was yet to be seen if socialism would solve the ills of capitalism. Having the history we have today allows us to note that socialism, at least that backed by communism, exhibited many of the same problems attributed strictly to capitalism in this book.
A push for socialism was clearly not the only purpose in the writing of The Jungle. The topic of socialism is really only discussed in the last three chapters of the book. Most of the book describes the hopeless plight of the working class, the disgusting circumstances that they lived in and their fight for survival. The descriptive nature of the writing deliberately turns your stomach and tears at your heart. This major purpose, to create an awareness and sympathy for the poor workers of America, was delivered very successfully.
Producing an awareness of the struggle that the poor constantly have is critical in our world today. While there is still a great struggle between labor groups and businesses, America has come a long way in creating more reasonable working conditions. But America is not the only country in the world. Much of the world is rapidly developing and falling into the exact same destructive behaviors described by Upton Sinclair in 1906. A quick look at the Human Rights Watch website shows that there is still a lot of work to be done.
If you have not read The Jungle, you should. I have added a link to purchase the book on Amazon above, or if you would like to listen to it, Librivox has a great recording available.