Controversial The Most Controversial Writers of All Time  

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2.3k votes 225 voters 8.2k views 136 items

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
60 12
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
66 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
55 16
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
43 11
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
32 7
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
42 17
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
38 16
Christopher Hitchens is listed (or ranked) 7 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

8
35 14
Oscar Wilde is listed (or ranked) 8 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

9
36 15
H. P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 9 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

10
22 4
Hunter S. Thompson is listed (or ranked) 10 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

11
23 6
Friedrich Nietzsche is listed (or ranked) 11 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

12
25 9
Kurt Vonnegut is listed (or ranked) 12 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

13
26 11
D. H. Lawrence is listed (or ranked) 13 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

14
23 9
Truman Capote is listed (or ranked) 14 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

15
25 11
Henry Miller is listed (or ranked) 15 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

16
27 13
Allen Ginsberg is listed (or ranked) 16 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

17
37 22
Salman Rushdie is listed (or ranked) 17 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

18
21 8
Voltaire is listed (or ranked) 18 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

19
24 11
Bret Easton Ellis is listed (or ranked) 19 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

20
18 6
Richard Dawkins is listed (or ranked) 20 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

21
20 8
Aldous Huxley is listed (or ranked) 21 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

22
21 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
23 11
V. C. Andrews is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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

24
6 0
Jeremy Bentham is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Died at 84 (1748-1832)
Jeremy Bentham was a British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism. Bentham became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of ...more

25
18 8
Ezra Pound is listed (or ranked) 25 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