Culture

The Most Controversial Writers of All Time  

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3k votes 296 voters 11.9k 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
Marquis de Sade is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
Karl Marx is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
PaulOlsen added Dec. 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
3
Ayn Rand is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
4
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
5
Charles Darwin is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Dec. 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
Friedrich Nietzsche is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
PaulOlsen added Dec. 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
7
George Orwell is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
8
H. P. Lovecraft is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
Oscar Wilde is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
10
Christopher Hitchens is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
11
Hunter S. Thompson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
BrandenShort added Dec. 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
12
D. H. Lawrence is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
13
Allen Ginsberg is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
14
Salman Rushdie is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
age 72
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
15
Nicolaus Copernicus is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Dec. 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
16
Henry Miller is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
Truman Capote is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
18
Voltaire is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
Dante Alighieri is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Dec. 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
20
James Joyce is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
21
Ezra Pound is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
22
Aldous Huxley is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
23
Sylvia Plath is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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
24
Immanuel Kant is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dimos Dicoudis added Dec. 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
25
Kurt Vonnegut is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Controversial Writers of All Time
Dec. 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