Ever since the invention of the printing press gave people the ability to send out their thoughts and ideas to the masses, there have been people taking offense to certain books and pamphlets. Some books have stirred the waters more than others though. A few of these books have managed to maintain their ability to be controversial long past the date that some people would think possible however, and these books are those that gain something of a legendary standing in the literary world.
One of the most controversial books of all time was written at the beginning of the 20th century by the infamous occultist Anton Lavey. The book, “The Satanic Bible” has outsold the Holy Bible year after year for decades. The book details the rites and ideas of Satanism as Lavey, the founder of the Church of Satan, postulated them. This book has been associated with the ideas of rampant hedonism, murder, sexual deviancy, and of course with the idea of worshiping Satan (which a careful reading of the book will show isn’t the purpose of the manuscript). The biggest reason for the sales of “The Satanic Bible” though is the mystique that surrounds it, and most purchases come from the ranks of the curious.
Another famous book that stirred a lot of fear and anger, is “The Anarchist Cookbook”. First published in the year 1970, the original book was written by a man named William Powell and it was partially meant as a book to protest American involvement in the Vietnam War. The book contained instructions for building explosives, how to phreak (pirate control of or create mayhem with) basic telecommunication equipment, and other dangerous “how-to” items and ideas. This book was wildly popular among the young and rebellious, and it seemed to promise them the ability to wage a guerrilla war if they so desired. The rebelliousness and ideas of power more than any damage the book actually did were big sources of its controversy.
Some books cause controversy not because of their content, but because of the associations made with their authors. This is the cause of the argument that surrounds “Mein Kampf” which is a book that was written by the infamous Adolf Hitler while he was in prison after the first world war. Hitler, who rose to power as the head of Nazi Germany was a compelling speaker, but his book lacks the fire of his in person speeches. Still, while the book isn’t terribly interesting or inspired, it’s the author rather than the book itself that’s made the book something of a relic of history that always stirs up opinions whenever it comes up in literary debate.
Other books have stirred up their own controversies over the years. The “Maleus Maleficarum” Latin for The Witch’s Hammer, was a book that gave a criteria used for witch hunting released by the church. More recently the Harry Potter book series is said to induce children into practicing witchcraft and worshiping the devil. Then of course there were the arguments about Anne Rice’s vampire novels, nearly anything written by Stephen King, and a variety of other books have been chastised as not fit for public consumption. Most scandals fade away, but maybe in time some of these books will join the lists of the most controversial.