This text parodies everyone from eminent classical authors and schoolmen to Rabelais's own acquaintances. But the brilliance of the book lies not merely in these learned references, but in the story into which they are woven.
The use of the humor in this book is like slapstick is to comedy, its most outrageous and least restrained form.
No one can stay grumpy while reading this book. It may be the only literary solution for depression ever developed.
Obviously, if you can read French, it is even better in the original.
Many people will choose not to read this book because of the earthy nature of the language. That is probably a mistake, because those who make that choice are suffering from the unattractiveness stall, not seeing the swan in the ugly duckling. Earthy humor can be a great way to communicate, in the appropriate circumstances. You owe it to yourself to learn how a master, Rabelais, does it.
As a tip to the reader who has more sensitive tastes, I suggest you skip through to the end of sections that are bothering you. The very next section may well be one that leaves you in uncontrolled laughter, irresistibly lightening your mood.
Have a great laugh!