10 Influential Books That Were the Most Controversial


The history of books has been linked to political and economical contingencies, as well as the history of ideas and religion.  In the ancient world, humans developed writings as a desire to create a lasting record.  In the 1450s, The Gutenberg Bible became the first major book printed with a movable type printing press, marking the start of the age of the printed book.  Since that time, a large collection of controversial books have been published.  Many of these texts are known to have been written for the strict purpose of propaganda.  Conspiracy theory researchers have also put together written collections that examine controversial subjects.  This article will examine 10 influential books that have been labeled controversial.

10. The Frost King


Helen Keller was an American author, political activist, and lecturer.  She was not born blind and deaf, but when Helen was 19 months old she contracted an illness described by doctors as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain”, which might have been scarlet fever or meningitis.  The illness left Helen Keller deaf and blind.  In 1887, when Helen was only seven years old, a young woman named Anne Sullivan became her instructor.  When Sullivan first arrived at Keller’s house, she began to teach Helen how to communicate by spelling words into her hand.  The story of how Anne Sullivan helped the isolation imposed by Keller’s near complete lack of language is widely known through the dramatic play The Miracle Worker.

The Controversy

In 1892, at the age of 11, Helen Keller published her first short story titled The Frost King.  The book tells the tale of King Jack Frost and a cask of jewels that are being transported by a collection of fairy servants.  At the time of the stories publication, Helen Keller largely communicated only with Anne Sullivan.  In fact, Sullivan dictated the entire Frost King story for Keller.  After the book gained popularity, it soon became evident that the Frost King was a direct reproduction of Frost Fairies by Margaret Canby.  The revelation was important, with many articles proclaiming that the story was a deliberate fraud by Keller’s handlers.

People all over the world were surprised that Helen Keller was able to produce The Frost King at such a young age.  Keller adamantly denied that she had heard Canby’s story before.  However, Sullivan claimed that Keller read the book through finger spelling with the help Sophia Hopkins.  An investigation into the matter concluded that Helen Keller may have experienced a case of cryptomnesia, in that she had read Canby’s story before, but forgot about it.  Joseph Lash’s book Helen and Teacher states that Anne Sullivan read Helen Keller Frost Fairies the previous fall and that she had adapted her own story out of the original.  Because of the accusations, an in-house trial ensued at the Perkins School to determine whether or not Sullivan had deliberately falsified Keller’s abilities.

At the time, eight separate teachers interrogated the twelve-year-old Helen Keller for two hours.  They returned a verdict of undecided, with some members calling foul play and others not.  Apparently, Keller had a visible nervous breakdown over the incident, and decided to never publish fiction again.  Michael Anagnos, head of the Perkins School for the Blind, never regained his faith in Sullivan or Keller and described them as “a living lie”.  Anagnos claimed to have found inconsistencies in Helen Keller’s letters and was fully suspicious that Anne Sullivan checked her writings before allowing them to be mailed.  In 1903, Mark Twain described the controversy as “owlishly idiotic and grotesque”.

9. Trail of the Octopus

trail of the octopus

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was scheduled to travel from London to New York.  The plane was transporting 243 passengers and 16 crew members.  While flying over Lockerbie, in southern Scotland, the flight experienced a catastrophic explosion which punched a 20-inch (0.51 m)-wide hole on the left side of the fuselage.  The aircraft rapidly disintegrated and crashed into Lockerble killing all passengers onboard and eleven people on the ground.  The subsequent investigation determined that the flight was targeted by a terrorist group.  Certain events pertaining to the case have been riddled with controversy.  Published statements have accused the United States CIA in having foreknowledge of the attack.  On February 24, 2011, Libya’s former justice minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil claimed that Muammar Gaddafi had personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing.

The Controversy

Lester Coleman is a former U.S. DEA agent who co-author the 1993 book Trail of the Octopus, The Untold Story of Pan Am 103.  In the book, it is claimed that a secret drug operation enabled terrorists to evade airport security in the 1988 bombing of Pan American Flight 103.  It has been alleged that a compromised American covert drug smuggling organization allowed Iranian-backed terrorists, led by Ahmed Jibril, to slip a Semtex bomb aboard the plane.  In 1990, before the release of the book, Lester Coleman made national headlines when he exposed a CIA double agent to the press.  As a result of the published photograph, the U.S. government sued Time Magazine for $26 million.  In 1991, as part of a civil lawsuit between Pan American World Airways and the families of Flight 103, Lester Coleman made a sworn statement accusing the Drug Enforcement Administration of allowing PA103 to be bombed.  In response, the federal court imposed a gag order on the defendants and plaintiffs in the case.

In 1993, Trail of the Octopus was first published in the United Kingdom.  The book holds the famous quote, “No one knows what is really going on.  If they ever did, it would make Watergate look like Alice in Wonderland.”  Coleman claims that he sought and was granted political sanctuary in Sweden in order to complete the novel.   When he was under Swedish protection, he provided Pan American World Airways with a civil affidavit which cleared them of full responsibility in the Lockerbie bombing.  In response to the book, the DEA sued Bloomsbury publishing in a London court.  After a settlement, thousands of copies of the text were destroyed.  On September 11, 1997, Lester Coleman stated to a New York Federal court that “…he lied when he claimed that a secret drug sting enabled terrorists to evade airport security in the bombing…”  In a plea agreement, Coleman was sentenced to time served.

As of 2011, Kindle and Nook are the new publishers of Trail of the Octopus, which holds a 2009 United States release.  Over the years, conspiracy theorists have latched onto the fact that there were at least four U.S. intelligence officers on the passenger list, claiming they were targeted for assassination.  A number of security alerts were posted shortly before the bombing, with many people avoiding the deadly flight.  The South African foreign minister Pik Botha and a minor delegation of 22 was supposed to board Pan Am 103, but managed to take the earlier Pan Am 101 flight.  In 2003, Libya took responsibility for the bombing.  In a remarkable occurrence, the Libyan government compensated each family of the victims US$8 million.  As a result of this, the UN agreed to cancel sanctions that had been imposed four years earlier.  A collection of U.S. trade restrictions were also lifted due to the settlement.

8. English as She Is Spoke

english as she is spoke

When English as She Is Spoke was published in 1883 it raised controversy, but it was due to the funny content and didn’t involve serious issues.  In the middle of the 19thcentury, a Portuguese author named Jose da Fonseca became notable for writing phrase books that were used to help travelers and people interesting in learning multiple languages.  His most famous publication was a successful Portuguese-French phrase book, which was adapted by a man named Pedro Carolino.  After the popularity of the initial book, Carolino decided to write his own Portuguese to English conversational guide.  However, he placed the more popular Jose da Fonseca’s name as the author without his knowledge.  Problems began to arise when it was realized that Pedro Carolino didn’t speak English.

The Controversy

English as She Is Spoke is regarded as one of the funniest books written in the 19th century and a classic source of unintentional humor, due to the fact that the given English translations in the book are generally completely incoherent and wrong.  It is widely believed that Pedro Carolino used a French-English dictionary to translate the earlier Portuguese-French phrase book that was written by José da Fonseca.  The attempt failed to produce coherent English speech.  It seems that the dictionary-aided literal use of the words caused many expressions to be translated wildly inappropriately.  For example, the Portuguese phrase chover a cântaros is translated as raining in jars, when the English translation should be “raining buckets.”

Here are some more notable examples of phrases used in the book.  The walls have hearsay, should be “the walls have ears.”  He go to four feet, should be “he is crawling.”  Is sure the road, should be “is the road safe.”  That pond it seems me many multiplied of fishes.  Let us amuse rather to the fishing.  The English translation should have been, “This pond seems like it’s full of fish.  Let’s have some fun fishing.”  Mark Twain said of English as She Is Spoke, “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, and nobody can hope to produce its fellow.  It is perfect.”

7. Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers


Jacques Vallée is a French-born venture capitalist, computer scientist, author, ufologist and former astronomer.  For over 50 years, he has been a predominant authority on extraterrestrial life.  In Steven Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Vallée served as the model for the French character Lacombe.  He is a respected researcher that has made significant contributions to the field of scientific exploration.  Vallée is notable for co-developing the first computerized mapping of Mars and for his work as the principal investigator at SRI International in creating ARPANET, a precursor to the modern Internet.  He served on the National Advisory Committee at the University of Michigan, College of Engineering, and was involved in early work on artificial intelligence.  Vallée has authored four books on high technology and is a venture capitalist.  He has invested in over 60 start-up companies, 18 of which have become traded on public markets.

One of these companies is Accuray Systems (Nasdaq:ARAY), which is a medical device company developing surgical robots.  Along with his mentor, astronomer J. Allen Hynek, Vallée has carefully studied the phenomenon of UFOs for many years and his research has taken him to all areas of the world.  Initially, Jacques Vallée published works supporting the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH).  ETH states that some unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are best explained as being extraterrestrial life or non-human aliens from other planets occupying physical spacecraft visiting Earth.  However, by 1969, Vallée’s conclusions had changed, and he publicly announced that the ETH was too narrow and ignored too much data.  In his next novel, Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, Vallée explored a different angle on UFO encounters.

The Controversy

In Passport to Magonia, Vallée examines the commonalities between UFOs, cults, religious movements, demons, angels, ghosts, cryptid sightings, and psychic phenomena.  In the text, he suggests the interdimensional visitation hypothesis.  The theory states that unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and related events involve visitations from other “realities” or “dimensions” that coexist separately alongside our own.  It holds that UFOs are a modern manifestation of a phenomenon that has occurred throughout recorded human history, which in prior ages was ascribed to mythological or supernatural creatures.  The interdimensional visitation hypothesis alleges that extraterrestrials could be living beyond space-time, and thus could coexist with humans, yet remain undetected.  Vallée’s opposition to the popular ETH hypothesis was not well received by prominent U.S. ufologists, hence he is viewed as something of an outcast.

Given Jacques Vallée’s scientific history and documented intellect, many have lent prominence to his theories.  Let’s examine his ideas.  Claims are made that the distance between stars makes interstellar travel impractical without an antigravity or faster-than-light travel hypothesis.  Vallée points out that unexplained close encounters are far more numerous than required for any physical survey of the earth.  The humanoid body structure of the alleged “aliens” is not likely to have originated on another planet and is not biologically adapted to space travel.  The apparent ability of UFOs to manipulate space and time suggests radically different and richer alternatives.  Vallée has contributed to the investigation of the Miracle at Fatima and Marian apparitions.  His work has been used to support the Fatima UFO Hypothesis.

One advantage of IDH proffered by Hilary Evans is its ability to explain the apparent ability of UFOs to appear and disappear from sight and radar, explained as the UFO enters and leaves our dimension.  Moreover, Evans argues that other dimensions might be slightly more advanced than ours, explaining the UFOs’ tendency to represent near future technologies.  In a conversation with Steven Spielberg, Vallée suggested that he make the phenomenon in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, real, physical, but not ET.  Vallée also proposes that a secondary aspect of the UFO phenomenon involves human manipulation by humans.  He advocates a stronger and more serious involvement of science in the UFO research and debate, in order to let people understand the real aspects of multidimensional travel.

6. Brahmastra


The ancient world has produced some of the most controversial books in existence, including religious text across multiple faiths.  This article will examine one aspect of Sanskrit literature.  Sanskrit is an Indo-Aryan dialect and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.  Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and Hindu religious texts.  A large collection of researchers have devoted their lives to understanding ancient Sanskrit literature.  A great example of Sanskrit is The Puranas, which is a genre of important Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religious texts, consisting of narratives on the history of the universe from creation to destruction, genealogies of kings, heroes, sages, and demigods.  In some of these texts, a weapon is mentioned that has sparked interest and controversy.

The Controversy

In ancient Sanskrit writings, a Brahmastra is a weapon created by Brahma, who is the Hindu God of creation.  Brahmastra is considered the deadliest weapon of all and when it is discharged there is neither a counter attack nor a defense that may stop it.  The Brahmastra never misses and must be used with very specific intent, as the target will face complete annihilation.  According to Sanskrit writings, the Brahmastra is invoked by a key phrase that is bestowed upon the user when given the weapon.  It causes severe environmental damage.  The land where the Brahmastra is used becomes barren for eons and all life in and around that area ceases to exist.

Upon release of the weapon, women and men become infertile.  The area experiences a severe decrease in rainfall and the land develops cracks like in a drought.  The survivors lose their nails and hair, and their food becomes unfit for eating.  For several subsequent years, the Sun, the stars and the sky remain shrouded with clouds and produce bad weather.  It doesn’t take an expert to notice that the weapon holds similar characteristics to modern day nuclear weapons.  The Brahmastra is mentioned in multiple Sanskrit scriptures, often times acting as a deterrent simply with the threat of use.  In the Ramayana, a Brahmastra is used by Rama as the “final blow” against Rakshasa Ravana during their battle in Lanka.  It is said that the collision between two Brahmastras will destroy the universe.

5. The Report from Iron Mountain

report from iron mountain

In 1967, the war in Vietnam was escalating and a large amount of civil unrest was spreading in major U.S. cities.  On October 16, a bizarre book appeared titled The Report from Iron Mountain: On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace.  Itwas published by Dial Press, which is a division of Simon & Schuster.  The book claims to be an authentic U.S. government report compiled by secret officials.  The introduction to the book was written by a man named Leonard C. Lewin, who at the time was a New York freelance writer.  In the opening of the book, Lewin explains that the report was compiled by 15 experts known as the Special Study Group (SSG).

According to the text, the SSG was a collection of men put together by the U.S. government.  The group first met in 1963 at a secret underground nuclear hideout called Iron Mountain.  The book claims that the Special Study Group held periodic meetings during the middle of the 1960s to discuss the problems that would confront the United States if it entered into an era of permanent peace.  The mystery of who wrote the report was revealed in 1972, when the Harvard educated Leonard C. Lewin declared in a New York Times article that he had invented it as a hoax.

The Controversy

The Report from Iron Mountain is put together to look like an actual top secret document.  It includes language that is full of think-tank jargon.  In the text the SSG comes to the conclusion that peace “would almost certainly not be in the best interest of a stable society.”  War, they argued, was simply too important to the world’s economy, and therefore necessary for the United States to continue in a state of war indefinitely.  The report claims that a member of the panel, John Doe, who is a professor from a college in the Midwest, decided to release the report to the public.  In the book, the group theorized that world governments would not exist without war and that conflict serves as a vital function to divert collective aggression.  The SSG also recommend blood games and suggest that the government should create alternative foes that would scare the public, such as reports of aliens and out-of-control pollution.

Another proposal by the SSG is the reinstitution of slavery.  In detail, the report identifies reasons why war is necessary.  Far from being used to only settle disputes between nation-states, the book claims that war is used to control unemployment, reduce the population, drive scientific and artistic development, provide legitimacy and growth to the government, and to control crime, gangs, and vagrancy by providing a publicly acceptable outlet for society’s undesirables.  The book suggests that we must find substitutes for all of war’s functions in order to transition into an era of peace and prevent society’s collapse.  It specifically mentions pumping pollution into the environment to create a disaster society that we can all unite over.  The report proposes that the government create fake UFO incidents.

Report from Iron Mountain contains a seemingly serious discussion on the necessity of a eugenics program.  The book suggests that without war, human reproduction would have to be strictly controlled, perhaps through artificial insemination administered by the government.  Upon release of the document, it caused panic among many government officials.  President Lyndon B. Johnson supposedly “hit the roof” when he learned of it.  Cables were sent to U.S. embassies throughout the world instructing them to play down public discussion and to emphasize that it had nothing at all to do with official U.S. policy.  Today, the book is believed to be a hoax authored by one man, Leonard Lewin.  In 1996, the novel was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Successful Literary Hoax.  Upon its release, the book was a New York Times bestseller and it has been translated into fifteen languages.  Some people continue to believe that the report is a leaked U.S. document.

4. Germany Must Perish!

germany must perish

During World War II, many pieces of political propaganda were released to the general public.  As Hitler took control of Germany, Nazi propaganda was heavily used in schools and businesses.  In Russia, England, America, and many other world locations, anti-German text was widely distributed.  During the war, an American Jewish businessman named Theodore Kaufman began to publish pamphlets under the auspices of the American Federation of Peace.  In 1939, Kaufman was determined to prevent American involvement in the war.

One pamphlet, titled Passive Purchase, advocated for the establishment of a two-week period during which Americans would curtail their spending in order to demonstrate public opposition to American intervention in the war.  Another of Kaufman’s pamphlets stated, “A possible plea to Congress. … Have Us All Sterilized! … If You Plan On Sending Us to A Foreign War … Spare Us Any Possibility Of Ever Bringing Children Into This World.”  However, as World War II intensified, Theodore Kaufman turned his attention to the destruction of the German people, publishing one of the most well known books of the war era, Germany Must Perish!

The Controversy

Germany Must Perish is a 104-page book written and self-published by Theodore Kaufman in 1941.  The text advocates for the genocide of the German population and the territorial dismemberment of the country.  Specifically, it mentions the forced mass-sterilization of all men under 65 and women under 45. In the text, Kaufman promotes the distribution of German lands, which he claims would solve a great deal of humanity’s problems.  During the war, the book had a minimal impact in the United States, but it achieved notoriety in Nazi Germany, where it was widely used as evidence of an international Jewish plan to destroy the German people.  On July 24, 1941, the Nazi Party’s newspaper, Volkischer Beobachter, published a front-page article on the book titled, The Product of Criminal Jewish Sadism: Roosevelt Demands the Sterilization of the German People.

The article claimed that Theodore Kaufman had a direct connection with President Roosevelt and U.S. policy, which was a gross fabrication.  At the time, the German leadership was engaged in a campaign to rally popular support for the invasion of the Soviet Union.  Kaufman’s ideas became a large focus of the campaign.  For this reason, many Germans, even today, know who Theodore Kaufman is, while the majority of people are being introduced to him for the first time.  Germany Must Perish was specifically cited as an excuse to round up the Jews of Hanover.  On September 1, 1941, the Nazis required German Jews to wear a yellow badge on their clothing, they published a flyer explaining to the German people that those individuals wearing the star were conspiring to implement Kaufman’s plan for the destruction of Germany.

3. Poem of the Man God

poem of the man god

In 1897, Maria Valtorta was born in Caserta, in the Campania region of Italy.  On March 17, 1920, at the age of 23, Maria was attacked by a delinquent youth while on the street with her family.  She was hit with an iron bar for no apparent reason and was confined to a bed for three months.  At the age of 27, Maria’s family settled in the town of Viareggio, on the coast of Tuscany.  She was able to move around for over a decade after being assaulted, but complications from the injury eventually confined Valtorta to a bed for the last 28 years of her life.  During the height of World War II, on the morning of Good Friday April 23, 1943, Maria Valtorta reported a sudden voice speaking to her and asking her to write.

Thereafter, Maria Valtorta wrote almost every day until 1947 and intermittently in the following years until 1951. She would use a fountain pen and write in multiple notebooks.  It has been reported that Maria did not prepare outlines.  She did not know what she would write from one day to another and did not reread to correct.  One of her declarations is stated, “I can affirm that I have had no human source to be able to know what I write, and what, even while writing, I often do not understand.”  From 1943 to 1951, Valtorta produced over 15,000 handwritten pages in 122 notebooks.  These pages became the basis of her major work, the Poem of the Man God, and constitute about two thirds of her literary publications.

The Controversy

The Poem of the Man God gives a detailed account of the life of Jesus from his birth to crucifixion.  In many instances, the text is more elaborate than the Holy Gospels.  The book describes the many journeys of Jesus and his conversations with people such as the apostles.  Valtorta’s handwritten pages had no overwrites, corrections or revisions of any kind.  Her writings were not in sequence, some of the last chapters of the Poem of the Man God were written before the early chapters, yet the text flows smoothly between them.  Most of the episodes she wrote about have a uniform format and structure.  Maria first describes a scene, often with picturesque details of the background, the trees, the mountains and the weather conditions on that day.  Her writings display a surprising knowledge of the Holy Land.

A geologist, Vittorio Tredici, stated that Valtorta’s detailed account of the topographic, geological and mineralogical aspects of Palestine seems unexplainable.  The book names 255 specific locations in Palestine, but 52 have no biblical reference at all.  Since publication, the existence of some of these places has been confirmed using ancient documents.  In some cases, such as the Passion, Maria’s descriptions are very detailed and graphic.  Dr. Nicholas Pende expressed his surprise at the level of detail in which Valtorta depicted Christ’s spasms in Crucifixion, saying that she described “a phenomenon which only a few informed physicians would know how to explain, and she does it in an authentic medical style.”  The Poem of the Man God clears up some biblical mysteries.  The Trial of Jesus by Caiphas is discussed in all Gospels.  However, the fact that some put the event at night, while others refer to it as happening in the day has at times been viewed as a problem.

In Valtorta’s version, there are two trials, one at night and the other after daybreak.  The narrative of the Poem of the Man God includes a number of specific observations on the positions of stars and the moon.  In 1992, Purdue University physicist Lonnie VanZandt analyzed the text to estimate a date for the astronomical event described and came to the startling conclusion that it could have only occurred in AD33, which supports the book’s timeline.  In 1959, the text was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Holy Office.  However, since that time the Catholic Church has been neutral on the subject.  They do not endorse the Poem of the Man God or ban it.  The six children who have reported visions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje have strongly supported the authenticity of the book.  It remains a mysterious achievement, as Maria Valtorta was able to produce a text similar to the Holy Bible. Chiseled on Maria’s tombstone are the words: “DIVINARUM RERUM SCRIPTRIX” (Writer of Divine Things).

2. Malleus Maleficarum


In the 12th century, the Inquisition was started by the Roman Catholic Church.  During this time, several sectors within the justice system of the Catholic Church enforced a strict set of laws.  The Inquisition was characterized by the use of torture and executions to prevent religious heresy.  By the start of the 16th century, the Catholic Church had reached a dominant position as religious authority in western and central Europe.  Many policies were adopted during this time in history, but one of the most controversial is a set of laws regarding witches.

Between the 15th and 18th centuries, a series of witch hunts were carried out across Early Modern Europe, and to some extent in the European colonies of North America.  People believed that malevolent satanic witches were operating as an organized threat to the Catholic Church.  As one would expect, the idea that witches were a harmful and dangerous aspect to society was published in multiple novels and pamphlets.  The most notorious being the 1487 book Malleus Maleficarum.

The Controversy

People accused of witchcraft were portrayed as being worshippers of the Devil, who engaged in such acts as malevolent sorcery, and orgies at meetings known as Witches’ Sabbaths.  Many people were subsequently accused of being witches, and put on trial for their crime.  Over the entire duration of the phenomenon, an estimated total of 40,000 to 60,000 people were executed.  The psychological impact was enormous, with women having to act appropriately or fear accusations of witchcraft.  In 1487, an Inquisitor of the Catholic Church named Heinrich Kramer wrote Malleus Maleficarum.  The purpose of the text was to systematically refute arguments claiming that witchcraft does not exist, discredit those who expressed skepticism about its reality, to claim that witches were more often women than men, and to educate magistrates on the procedures to find and convict witches.

A connection between this book and the Catholic Church has raised controversy.  Kramer claimed to gain endorsement from the top theologians of the Inquision, but later the group condemned the book as unethical.  A German priest named Jacob Sprenger is attributed as an author of Malleus Maleficarum.  Historians have suggested that Kramer used Sprenger’s name without his consent to gain prominence for the work.  The preface of the book also includes endorsements from the University of Cologne’s Faculty of Theology.  Like everything else surrounding this text, claims have been made that the Catholic endorsements were a forgery by Heinrich Kramer.  The book became the law abiding handbook for secular courts throughout Renaissance Europe.  Section three describes how to prosecute a witch.

Between the years 1487 and 1520, the text was published thirteen times.  It was again published between the years of 1574 to 1669 a total of sixteen times.  Regardless of the authenticity and controversy surrounding the book’s Catholic endorsements, which appear at the beginning of the novel, their presence was never removed and strongly contributed to the popularity of the text.  Persecution of witches became more constant and brutal following the publication of the Malleus, with witchcraft being accepted as a real and dangerous phenomenon.  The text asserts that three elements are necessary for witchcraft, the evil-intentioned witch, the help of the Devil, and the Permission of God.

The book is full of erroneous statements, including the implication that all women who don’t cry during their trial were witches.  In modern times the book has been condemned as a work of hatred towards women, as it specifically mentions individual characteristics of female witches, including all ladies with a strong personality.  The very title of the Malleus Maleficarum is feminine, alluding to the idea that it was women who were the villains.  Otherwise, it would be the Malleus Maleficorum, which is the masculine form of the Latin noun for witch.  The book accuses witches of infanticide, cannibalism, casting evil spells to harm their enemies, and having the power to steal men’s penises.  It gives detailed accounts of witches committing these crimes.  How the text became so popular and accepted as fact remains a bit of a mystery.

1. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male

sexual behavior in the human male

Alfred Kinsey was an American biologist who in 1947 founded the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.  Before launching one of the largest studies on sexual reproduction in United States history, Kinsey was a professor of entomology and zoology.  He wrote two of the most controversial books of the 20th century, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953).  In the publications, Kinsey analyzes data on the frequency with which people participate in various types of sexual activity and looks at how factors such as age, social-economic status and religious adherence influence sexual behavior.  Kinsey makes many comparisons between female and male sexual activities.

In the 1940s, the book astounded the general public and was immediately controversial.  It caused shock and outrage, both because it challenged the conventional belief about sexuality and because the book discussed subjects that had previously been taboo.  Alfred Kinsey is generally regarded as the father of sexology, which is the systematic, scientific study of human sexuality.  His work has profoundly influenced social and cultural values in the United States and many other countries.  However, after examining his subject data, people have began to wonder how Alfred Kinsey was able to obtain the information.

The Controversy

Alfred Kinsey’s sex research went far beyond interviews with participants.  It included direct observation and sexual activity.  He engaged in a large amount of direct homosexual behavior in his research.  Kinsey justified this as being necessary to gain the confidence of his subjects.  He encouraged his staff to do likewise, and to experiment with a wide range of sexual acts.  Kinsey argued that the experience would help his staff understand the participant responses.  As part of his research, Alfred Kinsey set up an area in his attic to privately film sexual acts.  In response to this, author James H. Jones and British psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple, amongst others, have speculated that Kinsey was driven by his own sexual needs.

After Alfred Kinsey’s untimely death in 1956, the real controversy started to emerge regarding data in tables 30 to 34 of the male volume.  In the text, Kinsey calculated numbers surrounding pre-adolescent orgasms.  He reported observations of orgasms in over three-hundred children between the ages of five months and fourteen years.  The information was said to have come from childhood memories or from parent and teacher observations.  Kinsey also said that he interviewed nine men who had previous sexual experiences with kids.  These men described the children’s responses and reactions to Kinsey.  These facts have raised immediate concerns regarding Alfred Kinsey’s overall approach to research.

The information included in the male volume could not have been obtained without collaboration from a child molester.  The Kinsey Institute denies the charge, claiming that Alfred used information from one participant and presented it as being from various individuals.  Additionally, people have concerns over the sample population that was selected by Alfred Kinsey.  In experimentation, the collection of a sample is a simple statistical procedure.  However, it seems that Kinsey used a disproportionate number of prisoners, prostitutes, and especially gay men.  He didn’t use any black people in the work.  All of this evidence has given rise to an anti-Kinsey movement around the world, which was started in 1981 by Judith Reisman.

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  1. Peter Boucher on

    “The Origins Of Species” by Charles Darwin made him into by some religious sects the most evil man who ever lived just based on his theory of Evolution (which I am a firm and staunch believer in). Survival Of the Fittest is the term coined regarding that theory. Creationists are the evil looney birds when it comes to this subject

  2. Peter Boucher on

    “The Origins Of Species” by Charles Darwin made him into by some religious sects the most evil man who ever lived just based on his theory of Evolution (which I am a firm and staunch believer in). Survival Of the Fittest is the term coined regarding that theory

  3. Where’s the Bible? I’m not trolling, it’s the truth, saying otherwise would be trolling, millions of people believe in it, without reading it thoroughly and think everything is true, it is the most conversial book becuase the readers (who as well believe in the the religion) controverse themselves.

  4. What a thoroughly enjoyable list. I am in no way religious at all, but I wouldn’t mind reading some of the Poem of the Man-God

  5. Brahmastra is not a book. Doesn’t belong to this list.
    The “controversy” that you’ve pointed out is also too lame. This is what happens when people try to create data make it to the list complete with “10” items at all times

    • Technically, VivekM, you’re correct. But… I don’t think Bryan was just trying to fill out this list; I can think of a dozen books offhand that could have done that quite well. It’s a question of wanting to write about the Brahmastra and then having to find a list where he could shoehorn it in. Hehehe. To put the Brahmastra on a list where it actually fits well, he’d have had to come up with nine more items like it, and that might take months or years.

    • Good Call, the Turner Diaries is definitely a book that could have been included.

      The Turner Diaries is a novel written in 1978 by William Luther Pierce (former leader of the white nationalist organization National Alliance). It depicts a violent revolution in the United States which leads to the overthrow of the federal government, nuclear war, and, ultimately, to a race war leading to the extermination of all Jews and non-whites. The book was called “explicitly racist and anti-Semitic” by The New York Times and has been labeled the “bible of the racist right” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

      The Turner Diaries has been associated with a number of real-life violent crimes. Most notably, some have suggested that a scene depicting preparation for the bombing of the FBI national headquarters, served as the inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 by Timothy McVeigh, who had promoted the book.

    • Or how about “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” to stay in the racist, anti-semitic genre. It still sells countless copies all over the world today, even though it’s been revealed to have been created as an anti-semitic propaganda piece by the Russian Tsar.

      • Ian has made many positive comments on Toptenz.net so I don’t think he is trolling. I actually agree and probably most religious books could be on this list as religion is controversial by its very nature.

  6. Some great material here, Bryan. I really enjoyed this list a lot. There are some on here I’d never heard of. I would call them “obscure controversial” books, but that seems like an oxymoron. Ah, well…

    The Kinsey story is especially interesting due to the moral and legal questions it raises. We may never know what Kinsey’s real research methods were, because to admit to that might have subjected Kinsey and others to public shame and possible legal prosecution. So many lies and evasions have been given now that the truth may well be lost forever.

    English as She is Spoke is just baffling. NO ONE could be dumb enough to do that… could they?

    • I’m glad you liked it. I agree some of the information was pretty shocking. A large collection of books could have been used in the article. It was hard to narrow it down to only ten.

  7. I was born at raised less than 5 miles from “Ivy Green”, Helen Keller’s childhood home, and am quite familiar with the controversy over “The Frost King”. My personal opinion on the subject is that Annie “read” the Canby work to young Helen and Helen remembered it years later. Helen probably honestly did not realize that Canby was the true author. We may never know what the real truth is. In any case Annie and Helen are amazing women. What the two of them accomplished the two of them together did is truly a “miracle”. The contribution that these two women had to the acceptance in our society of the disabled is unquestioned and truly remarkable. Whatever the truth of this incident is, it does not diminish the contribution these two women had in our acceptance of the “handicapped” throughout the world.