58) Jonathan Swift — Gulliver’s Travels
Or to give it its full and proper title, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. Like many children, I had an abridged version with just the Lilliput section (probably bowdlerised), and I’d also read excerpts from the other sections. I have very fond memories, and since the complete text is available on public domain ebook sites, I decided that it was time to read the whole thing from start to finish.
I don’t have the background in history to know exactly who and what Swift was lampooning without having to look it up on Wikipedia, but it doesn’t matter. His biting satire is just as relevant to today’s politics, even if the exact targets have changed. There are places where the modern reader will probably cringe at Swift’s own prejudices, but by and large this is a hilarious take-down of bigotry, prejudice and hypocrisy that rings just as true now as it must have in 1726. The parody of the traveller’s tales books popular at the time isn’t quite as accessible, but it doesn’t require very much effort to draw a parallel with modern writing. I found the fourth section dragged a bit, but that’s partly because Swift had quite thoroughly made his point by then, and was repeating himself to some extent. But this book is a classic for good reason.