10 Most Controversial Books Ever Written

Books Being Burned
Image From Wikipedia

Yes, it’s 2016 and people still get annoyed by the fictional, printed words of others. Even if a book has been around for a long time, it still manages to get people riled up.

This was a tough list to put together, and it has refrained from unauthorized biographies about a PM, and also sequels that may have been cash grabs from famous authors. Instead, it focuses on people who have received a lot of hatred for their work since its publication. Some reaped the rewards of this, and others lived in fear.


1. American Psycho

AmericanPsycho Book Cover
Imagefrom The Reader’s Room

Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho was so controversial that the original publisher didn’t even release it. The book was criticized for its violence, homophobia, racism, classist behaviour, misogyny – pretty much the whole works. Interestingly enough, the controversy slowed down once the novel was actually released, and people understood that it was all up to perception what events transpired. Still, Ellis deserves credit for making every reader shudder when they see a new page titled ‘Girls’.

What to consider: Whether any of it actually happened. Bateman is pretty unreliable as they come, and the novel plays on his struggle to grasp reality. Despite the depictions being more gruesome than most films, it’s possible it’s all in his head.


2 . Lolita

Image from the Cover of Lolita
Image from the Huffington Post

Nabokov’s novel about a man seducing a young girl is as poetic as it is hilarious. That didn’t stop many people from debating whether it was literature and not allowing it to be taught in schools. Lolita was held in controversy for its sexualisation of little Delores. Though, that’s only a small part of what makes this such an outstanding novel, and one that was almost banned from existence is now considered one of the best pieces of literature of all time.

What to consider: That Lolita wasn’t as sexual as we’re initially led to believe. It can be read as the narrator justifying his horrible actions.


3. The Anarchist Cookbook

Cover for the Anarchists Cook Book
Image from Amazon

A nonfiction book that is a collection of how to make explosives, manufacture drugs and other inclusions that labelled it as a collection of paranoia by the FBI. It’s been blamed for school shootings, and also leading people into crime. The writer wishes the book would go out of print, but it has taken on a life of its own, and become somewhat of a collectable item.

What to consider: Is it really that bad considering what can be accessed on the internet?


4. 120 Days of Sodom

Cover for 120 Days of Sodom
Image from Amazon

Marquis De Sade is an author who was so controversial in his writing, that they literally named sadism after him. 120 Days of Sodom is essentially the dictionary of depraved acts, extreme sex and violence. Originally written in 1785 on a roll of toilet paper, it is the definition of excess and indulgence.

What to consider: BDSM and other turn-ons probably owe a lot to De Sade for coining the actions.


5. Slaughterhouse-Five

Cover for Slaughterhouse-Five
Image from InTheseTimes

Vonnegut’s novel is a classic in many regards. Besides blurring genre and literary fiction, it is hilarious, but does also show the harrowing aspects of war. It was banned in the USA because people thought it would be easier to ban the book then expose children to the themes. Plus, it’s not flattering to any of the sides it depicts.

What to consider: All this happened, more or less.


6. The Catcher In The Rye

Cover for Catcher In The Rye
Image from The Edges USU

Not just for the fact that it inspired Mark Chapman to kill John Lennon, Catcher In The Rye was deemed offensive for its language. Back in the day, “damn” was considered a pretty big curse word, and it appears in this novel more than you’d think. Plus, featuring adult themes and a teenage boy, it was seen as a bad influence.

What to consider: Often called the perfect coming of age story.


7. Harry Potter Series

Harry Potter Book Cover
Image from the Harry Potter Wikia

Magic, good versus evil, witches and wizards, friendship – the Harry Potter series does have it all. Despite that, it’s been the foundation of many childhoods, and indeed adulthoods, worldwide. It’s also had its fair share of criticism. The biggest controversy is based on that it supposedly encourages children to practice witchcraft.

What to consider: Harry Potter captivated the minds and hearts of millions of people. Also, how big a problem is witchcraft?


8. The Satanic Verses

Cover of The Satanic Verses
Image from Watching America

Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses quickly put the author under the intense spotlight of criticism for its portrayal of Islam. Rushdie was the subject of a fatwa, lived under a pseudonym and one of his translators was murdered. Rushdie claims he is lucky he didn’t release The Satanic Verses now, due to the internet, and that the web may have made his infamy spread even further.

What to consider:  Family Guy didn’t do it first.


9. Tropic of Cancer

Cover for TheTropic of Cancer
Image from Pinterest

Notorious for its use of sex and sexuality, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer led to obscenity trials that debated whether the book was pornography or literature. Despite the trial taking place in the 60s, the novel was actually published in France in 1934. Despite all this, many consider it one of the best books of the 20th century.

What to consider: Sex and sexuality is a big common theme on this list, particularly in the USA. What is so scary about sex in a book?


10. Brave New World

Cover of Brave New World
Image from Cargo Collective

Brave New World came under fire for its foul language and has been banned in Ireland for its anti-family views, as well as being anti-religion. Like many books, (and this isn’t even a trend that’s stopped) it was banned in many schools in the United States. Similarly to 1984, Brave New World made many predictions of the time to come. So much so that 30 years after its release, Huxley looked into how accurate his themes have become.

What to consider: How far the role of literature to challenge and push boundaries should be taken.

That’s our list of controversial books. Do you have any that made you organise a local book burning? Do let us know in the comments section.

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