controversial The Most Controversial Writers of All Time  

Ranker Books
1.7k votes 168 voters 4.2k views 138 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! 

1
48 7
Marquis de Sade is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Marquis de Sade The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinism, Juliette

2
54 16
Ayn Rand is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Fountainhead

3
44 13
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Vladimir Nabokov Lolita, Pale Fire, Speak

4
31 6
Karl Marx is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
PaulOlsen added Karl Marx The Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, The Poverty of Philosophy

5
22 5
Charles Darwin is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Charles Darwin On the origin of species by means of natural selection, The Voyage of the Beagle, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms

6
27 11
Oscar Wilde is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray, The importance of being Earnest and other plays, An Ideal Husband

7
28 12
H. P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
H. P. Lovecraft The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, At the Mountains of Madness, The Dunwich Horror and Others

8
23 8
D. H. Lawrence is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
D. H. Lawrence Lady Chatterley's Lover, Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow

9
23 8
V. C. Andrews is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
V. C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic, Melody, Dawn

10
31 15
George Orwell is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
George Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm, Down and Out in Paris and London

11
25 10
Allen Ginsberg is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Allen Ginsberg Howl, Collected poems 1947-1980, Kaddish

12
33 17
Salman Rushdie is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Salman Rushdie The Satanic Verses, Midnight's Children, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

13
30 15
Christopher Hitchens is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Christopher Hitchens The Missionary Position, Blaming the Victims, Left Hooks

14
21 8
Donald Trump is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
maggers added Donald Trump Why We Want You to Be Rich: Two Men, One Message, Trump: How to Get Rich - Big Deals from the Star of The Apprentice

20 Books to Read in Your 20s

15
15 3
Friedrich Nietzsche is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
PaulOlsen added Friedrich Nietzsche Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, On the Genealogy of Morality

16
21 9
Bret Easton Ellis is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Bret Easton Ellis American Psycho, The Canyons, Glamorama

17
13 2
Hunter S. Thompson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
BrandenShort added Hunter S. Thompson Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

18
16 5
Adolf Hitler is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
PaulOlsen added Adolf Hitler Mein Kampf, Zweites Buch, The Complete Hitler: A Digital Desktop Reference to His Speeches & Proclamations 1932-1945

19
17 6
Jay Asher is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Jay Asher Thirteen Reasons Why, The Future of Us

20
17 6
Kurt Vonnegut is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle, Breakfast of Champions

21
18 7
Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar, Ariel, The Collected Poems

The Greatest Horror Books of All Time

22
20 9
Henry Miller is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Henry Miller Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Sexus

23
17 7
Truman Capote is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Truman Capote The Innocents, In Cold Blood, Utterly Cold Blooded

24
34 23
J. D. Salinger is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
J. D. Salinger The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories

25
14 5
Richard Dawkins is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

26
15 6
Voltaire is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Voltaire Candide, Zaïre, The age of Louis XIV

27
8 1
John Locke is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added John Locke An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Two Treatises of Government, A Letter Concerning Toleration

28
11 4
William Golding is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
William Golding Lord of the Flies, The Spire, Rites of Passage

The Best Rolling Stone Covers

29
14 7
Chuck Palahniuk is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Chuck Palahniuk Fight Club, Haunted, Choke

30
14 7
Ezra Pound is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Ezra Pound Social Credit. An Impact, The Cantos, A B C of economics

31
8 2
Dante Alighieri is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Dante Alighieri Divine Comedy, Inferno, Convivio

32
11 5
Joseph Heller is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Joseph Heller Catch-22, Casino Royale, Sex and the Single Girl

33
16 10
James Joyce is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
James Joyce Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

34
12 7
Aldous Huxley is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Aldous Huxley Brave New World, Island, Point Counter Point

35
20 15
E. L. James is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
E. L. James Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed

The Most Heartbreaking Novels Ever Written

36
21 16
Dan Brown is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dan Brown The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, The Lost Symbol

37
6 1
David Hume is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added David Hume An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Four Dissertations, Essays

38
8 3
Orson Scott Card is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Orson Scott Card Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Ender's Shadow

39
5 0
Edward Gibbon is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Edward Gibbon The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Private Letters of Edward Gibbon 1753 to 1794, On Christianity

40
10 5
Dorothy Parker is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dorothy Parker Saboteur, A Star Is Born, A Star Is Born

41
8 3
David Icke is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
David Icke The David Icke Guide to the Global Conspiracy (and how to end it), Children of the Matrix, Tales from the Time Loop

42
18 14
Ernest Hemingway is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Ernest Hemingway The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls

The Most Beautiful Full-Figured Women on Earth

43
13 9
Judy Blume is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Judy Blume Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

44
10 6
Taslima Nasrin is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Taslima Nasrin Meyebela, My Bengali Girlhood, Lajjā

45
10 6
Jack Kerouac is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Jack Kerouac On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Visions of Cody

46
8 4
Philip Roth is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Philip Roth American Pastoral, Portnoy's Complaint, The Human Stain

47
8 4
Sam Harris is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Sam Harris The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape

48
7 3
Jeanette Winterson is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Jeanette Winterson Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry, Written on the Body

49
6 2
René Descartes is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added René Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy, Discourse on the Method, Rules for the Direction of the Mind

50
6 2
Jean-Paul Sartre is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Jean-Paul Sartre Nausea, The Reprieve, Critique of Dialectical Reason