Written by Jonathan Swift (an Irish clergyman) and published in 1726, this book has never been out of print. It contains four volumes, each detailing a voyage to a different fantasy land. First and foremost, I want to say that this is NOT a children’s book.
Many of us grew up with a fragment or two of this book in our literature program. Maybe we have watched the cartoon or seen a picture of Gulliver as a giant surrounded by six-inch Liliputians. However, this book was written as a satire on human nature, English politics, and travelling books so prevalent during Swift’s time. Until you read the unabridged book, you don’t really get the whole meaning behind it.
By the way, the free Kindle version you may see on Amazon only has two volumes. Dover Thrift Editions should give you an inexpensive paperback of the unabridged text. Your local library is bound to carry this classic as well.
I believe that such a classic should be read at least once in a lifetime. I plan on including it in my children’s reading list but they need to be a lot older. Since it has such deep meaning behind what is actually happening in these fantastic tales of travels, this book cannot quite be fully understood by children younger than seventh grade.
There are abridged and adapted versions which could be read to younger children just so they have the benefit of being introduced to the book and its author, especially since “Gulliver” has become a symbol and metaphor used in newspapers, magazines, online, TV and everywhere else. They need to have that concept in their vocabulary.
I read it as part of my own fantastic voyage through the titles in The Well-Educated Mind. I quite relished reading that Gulliver was a polyglot and learned even more languages as he traveled. I also enjoyed the mockery of human nature and the different points of view Gulliver experienced as he dealt with giants, tiny people, flying islands and wise horses. I did find his English a bit difficult, but that is a stretch I was willing to put my mind through for its own sake.
All in all, I highly recommend this book to anybody age 13 and up. It can definitely be read in a week, despite the archaic English.
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