Upton Sinclair creates a portrait of something that none of us wants to admit existed, but, history must not allow us to forget that it did: it did exist, just as the suffering portrayed in "The Jungle" existed. The first time I read this book (by choice, it was recommended by my mother), when I was in college, I stopped eating meat for several months - something that made family dinners a bit interesting, but that was a small price to pay for how I felt about meat after reading Sinclair's portrayal of the meat-packing industry.
To this day I cannot help but feel a sense of revulsion at the thought of canned "meat", and of the byproducts used to make things like "bologna" and other "sausage" that is of questionable quality.
Should you read this book? Only if you care about the food you eat, and if you want to read one of the original "insiders" - a "whistleblower" ... and see what true "reality" is like - not the TV shows that fill the screens these days.
Sinclair based his work on real immigrant workers, which is why the book continues to resonate with readers of conscience. It is a work of enduring importance that should continue to warn us of the need for for stronger regulations in the area of food safety and inspection.
The recent outbreak of E. Coli in agricultural products in Europe is a perfect example of why we cannot relax our guard against food-borne illnesses. Read the book - and pretend you're reading a documentary. It's well worth the time.