Provocative Books

A good book has the power to inspire or terrify, influence the way you think and promote change in society. These works have been the source of major controversy over the years -- read them for yourself and make up your own mind.

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The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie

This book is infamous for being one of the most controversial books ever written. Written by the British author Salman Rushdie in the late 1980s, it sparked anger in the Islamic world. Many believed the author's fourth novel was blasphemous, anti-Islamic and highly offensive to Muslims, although Rushdie denied that these were his intentions. The fictional novel follows two survivors of a terrorist bombing and explores their doubts about the Islamic faith. The book was banned in many countries including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Venezuela, Japan and Indonesia. Rushdie's U.S. publisher received bomb threats; a price was put on the author's head and there were mass book burnings and public protests around the world. Rushdie went into hiding in fear of his life, and the book not only became a bestseller but also shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

Published in the early 1990s, this graphic novel depicted the life of a cashed-up, materialistic American serial killer. Its critics argued that it was too violent and explicit, and should be taken off the shelves. It included many scenes of violence and sexual torture, which led to the author reportedly receiving death threats and hate mail.

The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown

Published in 2003, Dan Brown's bestselling book, which later became a feature film starring Tom Hanks, came under intense criticism for a number of reasons. Its detractors argued that it attacked the Roman Catholic Church and contained many historical inaccuracies, while another author tried to sue Brown for plagiarism. The mystery novel follows two key characters as they investigate a murder in Paris's Louvre; secrets long held by the Catholic Church are uncovered by the characters, which leads to an exploration of alternative religious history. The book has since been translated into 35 different languages.

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

First published in France in the 1950s, Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita centres on the character Humbert Humbert -- a paedophile obsessed with a 12-year-old girl. The book was banned in areas such as New Zealand, South Africa and the U.K., and copped much condemnation worldwide. It has since been made into two feature films.

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