Ten Of The Most Controversial Books


Some books attract a lot of controversy and even calls for banning the book from members of the public or those in religious or political organizations. Some qualities common in the most controversial books include religious degradation or slurs, foul language, violence, racism, extreme political views, and vivid or graphic sexual descriptions.

Here are some of the most controversial books that have fueled the flames of controversy ever since they were published.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain (1884)


A controversial book for years, Twain’s novel shows a contrast between indulgent childhood dreams and blatant cruel realities, bringing out the themes of equality, justice and human rights. In this book, Huck fakes his own death to run away to the river. There he meets an escaped slave named Jim. Together, they seek liberation and their journey tests them at every turn.

While Huck looks forward to returning to a freewheeling life, Jim looks for the personal freedom he has never known. With the entry of Tom Sawyer, Huck faces a dilemma of whether to return home or risk his life to help Jim achieve freedom.

Because the word “nigger” appears more than 200 times in the book and it was perceived as racial, it initially caused a lot of controversy, especially in the 20th century. This book was also criticized for its coarse language. Earnest Hemingway, however, called it “the best book we’ve had.”

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (1932)


Published in 1932, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is his most popular novel, although it might not have been his most important. It was frequently challenged with banning attempts, and is still considered controversial. The reader is swept into Huxley’s vision of a future based on science and technology. The novel depicts drugs, sexuality, and suicide and reveals Huxley’s disdain for the culture of the United States. A group of parents attempted to get the book banned because they felt there was an overemphasis on negativity.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell (1949)


Written in 1949 by George Orwell while he was dying of tuberculosis, the book brings to light the sad state and future of a society that is robbed of privacy, truth, or free will. This book forces us to re-examine our lives, lifestyles, and how our governments work. It offers a fresh perspective on many topics; totalitarianism, torture, mind control, the United States, the Soviet Union, privacy, technology, power, human emotions, organized religion, censorship, sex, and more.

It was a controversial book right from publication and remains so today. Many people claim that the work is unnatural and intense because it was written by a man choked with a subconscious death-wish. Many American reviewers also assumed that the book represented a repudiation of his democratic socialism.

The Catcher In The Rye – J.D. Salinger (1951)


This novel was topping the New York Times best-seller list almost immediately upon release in 1951. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye is an account of three days in a 16-year-old boy’s life. It was originally meant for adults but eventually became a part of the curriculum in many high schools and colleges. It was also translated into many languages. There were several controversies for several reasons, such as the portrayal of sexuality and teenage angst, the use of profanity, the anti-white sentiment, and the excessive violence. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist, became an icon for defiance and rebellion. In fact Mark David Chapman, who shot John Lennon in 1980, cited the book as his reason for doing it.

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov (1955)


Nabokov’s Lolita caused a storm of controversy when it was published in 1955 in France, and those controversies have shadowed the book ever since. This novel explores the mind of a pedophile named Humbert Humbert, who narrates his life and obsession for nymphets like the 12-year-old Dolores Haze. It was banned in France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina. But in America, it was a huge success and is said to be the first book since Gone With The Wind to have sold 100,000 copies in the first three weeks.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (1970)


This is the first of the five autobiographical works by Maya Angelou and was published in 1970. The title of the book was taken from the poem “Sympathy” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and it describes perseverance even in the face of oppression. Maya Angelou, through this book, gives an account of her youth filled with trauma, tragedy, frustration, disappointment and eventually independence.

Angelou describes the racism she and her grandmother encountered in the town of Stamps and other places, in spite of her grandmother having more money than the whites. There are passages in the books that describe how she was raped when she was just eight years old by her mother’s boyfriend. Her grandmother’s influence was what helped her overcome the hardships in her life. The graphic nature of the book, depicting details of abuse and rape was considered controversial by many. However, the book was widely hailed and even taught in schools. This book was also nominated for the National Book Award.

The Anarchist Cookbook – William Powell – (1971)


This 1971 cult classic is a guerrilla how-to book that provides strategies useful for activists — including violent activists. It covers several sections that describe organizing demonstrations, sabotage, affinity groups, stenciling, and other topics like supporting survivors of domestic violence and mental health.

This book angered government officials and anarchist groups felt it misrepresented anarchist ideals. Others criticized the book for the bomb-making recipes, which they said were dangerously inaccurate. Later, when Powell was older, he tried to censor his own book and said that this book was “a misguided product of my adolescent anger at the prospect of being drafted and sent to Vietnam to fight in a war that I did not believe in.”

The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie (1989)


This book by Salman Rushdie sparked controversies galore because of the controversial topic it touched. The title, The Satanic Verses, refers to an incident that is disputed between fact and fiction. Some called it a blasphemous treatment of the Islamic faith as Rushdie refers to the Prophet Muhammad as Mahound, which is the medieval name for the devil. In Pakistan, there were riots in 1989 over the book where a few people were killed, and many were injured in India.

In spite of Rushdie issuing an apology, the Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini condemned the author publicly, and went to the extent of putting a $1 million bounty for killing the author, increasing that to $3 million if the assassin was Iranian. Even Venezuelan officials threatened 15 months of prison for anyone who owned or even read the book. Japan imposed a fine on anyone selling the English edition and a Japanese translator was said to be stabbed to death for getting involved with the book. Major U.S. booksellers removed this book from the shelves because they received death threats. Rushdie himself lived in hiding for almost a decade. Such was the animosity towards the book, and in a way it makes it all the more appealing.

The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling (2001)


J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is wildly popular and seen generally as adventurous and harmless tales for children. However, this series has caused controversies over the past few years, from many different groups of people who look at them as stories that inspire children to become involved in witchcraft and the occult.

These novels follow the life of a young wizard, whose parents were killed by the evil Lord Voldermort. The young boy receives an invitation to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft on his eleventh birthday and each book represents a year of his life at the school. These books have their fair share of opponents (not to mention hoards of fans). Some parents and religious groups feel that these books can take children deep into the unwanted land of fantasy.

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (2003)


A recent book that surrounded by controversy since its publication is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. The book gives a fictional account of characters revealing a hidden truth concealed by the Catholic Church for centuries, including the divinity of Christ, his celibacy, and the possibility of a genetic heritage. Most of the complaints against the book are due to the speculation and misrepresentation of the history of Roman Catholic Church and the basic questioning of the tenets of Christianity. The book was also criticized for inaccurate description of history, geography, European art, and architecture.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the controversial books as there are many more. But these are certainly some of the books that have been considered some of the most controversial books ever published.


  1. the most controversial books are very good i don’t like this list though going to find a better more satisfying site. a book thats very good and my favorite book is hero and the crown


  3. julliette is plain stupid. bible being the most controversial? the oldest? banned in multiple countries?heh.have u heard about the Torah and Quran.at least u can find a bible in a hotel room’s drawer.but not Quran.how bout that.

  4. well it does seem that the Bible is causing loads of controversy even on this page. Juli im on ur side on this one

  5. Jay – while I don’t agree with all Juliette’s facts, some of them are true. Don’t write them all off because some are wrong or because of her attitude.

    The Bible is banned outright in some countries. For example, In Saudi Arabia owning a Bible can lead to arrest, deportation or death. In North Korea on July 24, 2009 a woman was executed for distributing the Bible. In many other countries it is restricted, or, while it is perfectly ‘legal’, to own one it is socially unacceptable and dangerous.

  6. These comments are the reason no one can reasonably discuss religion….. Not that this is the forum for that.

  7. Add to this list Strange Fruit.It caused an uproar in my high school in 1977 East Texas.I’m sorry that I can’t remember the author right now.

  8. I’m sad to see “supposed” Christians arguing with such hurtful attitudes. Yes, the Bible is controversial. If anyone disagrees with us, that’s ok. No big deal! The Bible also says, “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels … because these are unprofitable and useless.” Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t voice our opinion, but voicing an opinion is different than forcing an opinion.

  9. Religious texts in it of themselves controversial because they espouse a belief system that is not the same for everyone. Even religions that try and incorporate every religious belief (Unitarians come to mind) are controversial to some because most religions require that you reject other systems of belief. If you’re Christian, you have to believe Jesus is the Son of God, which is rejected by every other religion.
    I think the problem with the list itself is that there’s no listed criteria. A good starting point would be that only books of significant literary or artistic value should be included. Otherwise, I think you would have to include “Mein Kampf,” “The Turner Diaries,” “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and other extremist books which are all controversial, widely published, and absolute drivel.

  10. First things first, this was an ok list but was missing some of the most controversial and banned works of literature. However, this is not a cue to bible bash and bring up illogical arguements about how you are right and the world is wrong!

    I agree that the bible is controversial but so is any scripture, book etc which requires faith and religion. The bible is not the only book to cause millions of deaths and this is not a free for all slagging match. If you believe in God/Allah/whoever then so be it. All you are doing by thrusting your opinions on to other people is showing why there is such conflict between people.

    I have my beliefs but why would anyone on here care what they are? By moaning, you are simply giving a bad name to the religion. Beliefs are beliefs because thats exactly what they are…your own opinions and faith. Don’t be one of those annoying people who harrass you on the street during your lunch break. Believe what you want and don’t be naive enough to think that just because you believe it, so does everyone else. No more oppression, no more fighting and then maybe one day, humanity will finally be able to live together.

    Thanks…oh and by the way…I truly respect anyone who simply stated the facts and didn’t rise to the bait. Showed extreme maturity and intelligence. :)

  11. What about the Babylonian Talmud? The ultimate white supremacist manual, it has brought two classes of humans – those with the spirit and those empty vessles, it has brought master and slave, death or tribute, it has brought about all that is anti-gentile, look at where its gotten the world. Did anyone blink an eye when Palestine was wiped of the face of the earth – no the workd collected money to arm the “freedom makers”, the worls elite cheered at the slaughter of palestinians – what would today be terrorism and funding for terrorists was gods people, doing gods work – how disgusting is that book?

  12. Well, I was hoping to get more book suggestions from replies, not people arguing over religion. Opinions aren’t worth arguing over because everyone thinks that they’re opinion is right. This is a controversial book review, not a politics/religious rant. So, anywho… Surprised I didn’t see any Judy Blume books here, but I suppose they’re not quite as controversial as some of the others listed. Well, if anyone has any more suggestions, please post!


  13. First of all, I would like to thank the author of the post for a good list. There are a couple on here that I haven’t read, but now my curiosity has peaked, so I will be adding them to my reading list. Secondly, I was under the impression that this forum was supposed to be about controversial books, not a religious roast. We get that the Bible is controversial. Obviously. Most people on here posted about that. However, isn’t it blantantly obvious that it IS controversial? Why waste the space to mention something that most people are already aware of? And perhaps this kind of banter is exactly what the author was attempting to avoid. I came to this site hoping for suggestions and maybe a little discussion about the titles that were mentioned. I didn’t come to this site expecting to be subjected to ridiculous arguments. So. I’ve spoken my opionion.

    Here are a couple of other titles to consider in regards to controversial books: I agree with Alexander, I would have thought that A Clockwork Orange would have made the list. Also maybe Fahrenheit 451. Personally, I find the thought of destroying books completely offensive. But that’s just me.

  14. Rushdie has no sense of privacy!!!!he even refer Muhammad as the devil which is not, though. ifi were not mistaken, he is a free-mason perhaps. I think, he really deserve to be punished!!!!

  15. Bible can’t be termed as the most controvesial book because of its more than fifty versions for, they are not versions but translations. But, Bible could be termed controversial because of ten cases of INCEST described in the first chapter GENESIS, which still are considered to be authentic, a jewish conspiracy against their own Holy Prophets.

  16. Firstly, Brave New World depicts the future shock which is now the computerization that is factual so that it is recommended for public info. Second is the 1984 similar to the above.

  17. Can I simply say what a aid to seek out someone who actually is aware of what theyre talking about on the internet. You positively know the right way to deliver a problem to mild and make it important. More folks need to learn this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more common because you undoubtedly have the gift.

  18. the most controversial book is of course “the satanic verses”
    and the second one is “the da vinci code”

  19. I like controversial books. Another book of this kind is “The Bridage” by Harold A. Convington: “White nationalist rebels found their own aryan state in the Northwestern USA.”