Controversial The Most Controversial Writers of All Time  

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List Rules Vote up the writers and authors whose careers were most embroiled in controversy.

As writing can be a provocative practice that often requires challenging social norms and common convention, it's no surprise history has given us so many controversial novelists. Love them or hate them, no one can argue the infamous authors below were sources of great public scrutiny and debate. These scribes penned some of the most commonly banned books and took a lot of heat from the public, their contemporaries, literary critics, and the occasional frantic parent high on moral panic

What makes an author controversial? Sometimes, the ideas they present spark outrage. Ayn Rand has a long history of provoking anger amongst those who do not take kindly to her impassioned libertarian ideals and Christopher Hitchens certainly did not make many friends of the religiously inclined. Sometimes, however, it's less the content and more the execution that makes an author debate-worthy. Some of the most controversial writers of the 21st century, like Stephenie Meyer and E.L. James, have been panned for their subpar prose. There are also children and young adult authors whose work is thought to be a little too raunchy for impressionable minds. There's a reason Judy Blume's work frequently shows up on banned books lists. 

Which of the below authors do you think is the most controversial? From recent writers to historic scribes, cast your vote below to decide on the most controversial writer of all time! 

list ordered by

1
56 10
Marquis de Sade is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 74 (1740-1814) Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade, was a French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher and writer, famous for his libertine sexuality. His works include novels, short ...more

2
61 18
Ayn Rand is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 77 (1905-1982) Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a ...more

3
49 15
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 78 (1899-1977) Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a Russian-American novelist. While Nabokov's first nine novels were in Russian, he later rose to international prominence as a writer of English prose. He also ...more

4
40 10
Karl Marx is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
PaulOlsen added Died at 65 (1818-1883) Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. Marx's work in economics laid the basis for much of the current understanding of labour and ...more

5
28 6
Charles Darwin is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 73 (1809-1882) Charles Robert Darwin, FRS was an English naturalist and geologist, best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory. He established that all species of life have descended over time from ...more

6
38 16
George Orwell is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 47 (1903-1950) Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 21 January 1950), better known by his psuedonymGeorge Orwell, was an English author. His work is marked by a profound conscientiousness of social injustice, an ...more

7
32 13
Oscar Wilde is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 46 (1854-1900) Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish author, playwright and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the ...more

8
33 15
H. P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 47 (1890-1937) Howard Phillips Lovecraft —known as H. P. Lovecraft—was an American author who achieved posthumous fame through his influential works of horror fiction. He is now regarded as one of the most ...more

9
32 15
Christopher Hitchens is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 62 (1949-2011) Christopher Eric Hitchens was an Anglo-American author, literary critic and journalist. He contributed to New Statesman, The Nation, The Atlantic, London Review of Books, The Times Literary ...more

10
20 5
Friedrich Nietzsche is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
PaulOlsen added Died at 56 (1844-1900) Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, poet, composer and Latin and Greek scholar. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, ...more

11
22 7
Kurt Vonnegut is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 85 (1922-2007) Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was an American writer. His works, such as Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Breakfast of Champions, blend satire, gallows humor, and science fiction. As a citizen, he ...more

12
18 4
Hunter S. Thompson is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
BrandenShort added Died at 68 (1937-2005) Hunter Stockton Thompson was an American journalist and author. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, to a middle-class family. He was unable to formally finish high school as he was incarcerated for 60 ...more

13
36 20
Salman Rushdie is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
age 71 Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is a British Indian novelist and essayist. His second novel, Midnight's Children, won the Booker Prize in 1981. Much of his fiction is set on the Indian subcontinent. He ...more

14
20 7
Voltaire is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 84 (1694-1778) François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plume Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic ...more

15
21 9
Truman Capote is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 60 (1924-1984) Truman Streckfus Persons, known as Truman Capote, was an American author, screenwriter, playwright, actor, many of whose short stories, novels, plays, and nonfiction are recognized literary ...more

16
23 11
Henry Miller is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 89 (1891-1980) Henry Valentine Miller was an American writer. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms, developing a new sort of semi-autobiographical novel that blended character study, social ...more

17
23 11
D. H. Lawrence is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 45 (1885-1930) David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works, among other things, ...more

18
23 11
Bret Easton Ellis is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
age 54 Bret Easton Ellis is an American novelist, screenwriter, and short story writer. His works have been translated into 27 languages. He was at first regarded as one of the so-called literary Brat ...more

19
23 11
V. C. Andrews is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 63 (1923-1986) Cleo Virginia Andrews, better known as V. C. Andrews or Virginia C. Andrews, was an American novelist. She was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. Andrews died of breast cancer at the age of 63. ...more

20
25 13
Allen Ginsberg is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 71 (1926-1997) Irwin Allen Ginsberg was an American poet and one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the counterculture that soon would follow. He vigorously opposed economic ...more

21
6 0
John Stuart Mill is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 67 (1806-1873) John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, political economist and civil servant. He was an influential contributor to social theory, political theory and political economy. He has been called ...more

22
20 9
Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 31 (1932-1963) Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short-story writer. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College at the University of Cambridge, before ...more

23
12 2
John Locke is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 72 (1632-1704) John Locke FRS, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and known as the "Father of Classical Liberalism". Considered ...more

24
14 4
Dante Alighieri is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 56 (1265-1321) Durante degli Alighieri, simply called Dante, was a major Italian poet of the late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy, originally called Comedìa and later called Divina by Boccaccio, is ...more

25
16 6
Richard Dawkins is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
age 77 Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and writer. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was the University of Oxford's Professor for ...more

26
18 8
Aldous Huxley is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 69 (1894-1963) Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer, philosopher and a prominent member of the Huxley family. He was best known for his novels including Brave New World, set in a dystopian London, and ...more

27
35 24
J. D. Salinger is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 91 (1919-2010) Jerome David "J. D." Salinger was an American writer who won acclaim early in life. He led a very private life for more than a half-century. He published his final original work in ...more

28
17 8
Ezra Pound is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 87 (1885-1972) Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an expatriate American poet and critic who was a major figure of the early modernist movement. His contribution to poetry began with his development of Imagism, a ...more

29
17 8
Jay Asher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
age 43 Jay Asher is an American writer of contemporary novels for teens. He has one major publication in the genre of young adult literature.

30
9 1
Nicolaus Copernicus is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 70 (1473-1543) Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at its center. The publication of this model ...more

31
13 5
Joseph Heller is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 76 (1923-1999) Joseph Heller was an American satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. The title of one of his works, Catch-22, entered the English lexicon to refer to a vicious circle wherein an ...more

32
13 5
William Golding is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 82 (1911-1993) Sir William Gerald Golding CBE was an English novelist, playwright, and poet. Best known for his novel Lord of the Flies, he won a Nobel Prize in Literature, and was also awarded the Booker ...more

33
9 2
Simone de Beauvoir is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 78 (1908-1986) Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, commonly known as Simone de Beauvoir, was a French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist and social ...more

34
18 11
Mark Twain is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 75 (1835-1910) Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the ...more

35
19 12
James Joyce is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 59 (1882-1941) James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century. Joyce is best known ...more

36
7 1
Jean-Jacques Rousseau is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 66 (1712-1778) Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of the 18th century. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern ...more

37
7 1
John Calvin is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 55 (1509-1564) John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called ...more

38
8 2
Immanuel Kant is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 80 (1724-1804) Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who is widely considered to be a central figure of modern philosophy. He argued that fundamental concepts structure human experience, and that reason is ...more

39
9 3
René Descartes is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 54 (1596-1650) René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician and writer who spent most of his life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the father of modern philosophy, and much subsequent ...more

40
9 3
Jean-Paul Sartre is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 75 (1905-1980) Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of ...more

41
12 6
Dorothy Parker is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 74 (1893-1967) Dorothy Parker was an American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist, best known for her wit, wisecracks, and eye for 20th-century urban foibles. From a conflicted and unhappy childhood, ...more

42
23 17
Ernest Hemingway is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Died at 62 (1899-1961) Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public ...more

43
9 4
Philip Roth is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
age 85 Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He first gained attention with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, an irreverent and humorous portrait of American-Jewish life for which he received ...more

44
7 2
John Milton is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 66 (1608-1674) John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell. He wrote at a time of religious flux and political ...more

45
7 2
Edward Gibbon is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 57 (1737-1794) Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament. His most important work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes between 1776 and ...more

46
10 5
David Icke is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
age 66 David Vaughan Icke is an English writer, public speaker and a former professional footballer and sports broadcaster. He promotes conspiracy theories about global politics and has written ...more

47
15 10
Chuck Palahniuk is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
age 56 Charles Michael "Chuck" Palahniuk is an American novelist and freelance journalist, who describes his work as transgressional fiction. He is the author of the award-winning novel Fight ...more

48
6 1
Francis Bacon is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 65 (1561-1626) Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St. Alban, QC, was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist and author. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of ...more

49
8 3
Galileo Galilei is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 78 (1564-1642) Galileo Galilei, often known mononymously as Galileo, was an Italian physicist, mathematician, engineer, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the scientific revolution during ...more

50
7 2
David Hume is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 65 (1711-1776) David Hume was a Scottish historian, philosopher, economist, diplomat and essayist known today especially for his radical philosophical empiricism and scepticism. In light of Hume's central role ...more