10 Most Controversial Guidebooks Ever Penned

POSTED BY Heather Johnson, UPDATED ON January 25th, 2024
Most Controversial Guide Books Ever Penned

Guidebooks are meant to be a source of education, inspiration, and, obviously, guidance. But there have been times when such examples have disrupted the moral fabric of society, or, in turn, offered nothing but ill-advised. Their controversial topics, ranging from political and sexual themes to religious and moral ideas, have been both applauded and damned. While a good guidebook should challenge preconceived notions, it also must bear the responsibility of being a mirror of society with its wide influence on readers. The following are the most controversial guidebooks whose merits have been debated the most.


10. The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli

The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Image Source: Wikipedia

Dating back to the sixteenth century, The Prince has maintained a legacy of controversy due to its difficult philosophical stance. In its pages, the author advises a young prince to be ruthless; encouraging torture and leading with an iron fist to instill fear in his people.

Since its initial release in 1532, it has been a common source of controversy and people have argued for centuries that the correct government does not threaten its citizens.


9. The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Image Source: Flickr/earthworm

Moving forward a few centuries, The Communist Manifesto is another guidebook to be argued extensively for its notions of political ideals. Written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the duo took a critical stance toward capitalism, thus creating a political rift in the world that continues to this day.

Their solution to the capitalist “problem” was met with wide-scale controversy and Marx was expelled from his home country of Germany while others, such as Russia, planned to put his ideas into practice.


8. The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin

The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin

Image Source: Wikipedia

At a time when the world was moving towards industrialization and looking for religion more than ever, the famous naturalist Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859.

Not necessarily intended as a guidebook, it immediately caused an uproar due to Darwin’s theory of evolution. It contradicted the literal history offered by the Bible, thus sparking a debate between religion and science that has continued for well over 150 years.


7. A Gift for a Muslim Couple, by Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

A Gift for a Muslim Couple, by Hazrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

Religious teachings in a guidebook can be controversial in other ways as well. A Gift for a Muslim Couple is meant to be a guide for newlyweds, but the controversy around it has led some to call it fitter for starting a fire than marital advice.

The book encourages a man to control his wife through violence and openly uses a highly misogynistic tone to get its message across. Released in Canada, the outrage caused sellers to pull the guidebook from shelves almost immediately.


6. Islamic Sex Manual, by the Malaysia Obedient Wife Club

Islamic Sex Manual, by the Malaysia Obedient Wife Club

Another Muslim guidebook that has become a major source of controversy was released in Malaysia in 2011. Made by the local chapter of the Islamic Obedient Wife Club, the small book guides women in how to provide sexual pleasure to their husbands, thus bringing plenty of ire from fundamentalist Muslim groups.

The guidebook also promotes polygamy.


5. Steal This Book, by Abbie Hoffman

Steal This Book, by Abbie Hoffman

Image Source: Wikipedia

In the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States, dissatisfaction with the government helped to spawn an anti-establishment movement, with several books appearing that challenged traditional thought.

Steal This Book was a prime example and encouraged readers to take part in illegal activities like growing marijuana, shoplifting, and starting pirate radio stations. While the cultural response was decidedly negative, the guidebook turned out to be quite successful and sold many copies. 


4. The Anarchist Cookbook, by William Powell

The Anarchist Cookbook, by William Powell

A book that was similar in idea to Steal This Book but took a more violent angle was The Anarchist Cookbook, written by 19-year-old William Powell in response to the American involvement in Vietnam.

First appearing in 1971, the book provided largely inaccurate plans for building explosive devices and techniques for turning ordinary items into narcotics. Widely decried as being a threat to normal societal values, experts see the book as being more dangerous than controversial due to its terrible bomb-building advice.


3. Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln

Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh & Henry Lincoln

Image Source: Wikipedia

Going back to the religious guidebook controversy, the Holy Blood, Holy Grail book, asked readers to forget the written history of the Christian church and embrace the idea that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had children together.

Without heavy evidence of fact, this book was immediately picked apart by experts and labeled as unprofessional at best and blasphemous at worst. Writer Dan Brown later used the ideas presented in the book as the basis for his successful book, The Da Vinci Code.


2. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

Image Source: Wikipedia

Of course, no description of controversial guidebooks would be complete without mentioning The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Commonly called the Atheist Bible, Dawkins takes a logical approach to deconstruct “the God question,” and ends up with the answer that God does not exist.

This idea has angered millions and several subsequent books have been written in response, both condemning and defending it.


1. The Holy Bible

The Holy Bible

Image Source: Wikipedia

Without a doubt, the single guidebook that has caused the most controversy around the world is The Holy Bible. With more printings than any other book in the world, the religious text is the source of many of the world’s most hotly debated topics, such as the morality of abortion and homosexuality.

Even since the beginning of its existence, individual lines and sections have been continuously debated. With so many people following The Holy Bible as a guide for their lives, it is no wonder that it generates such controversy.


  1. @#$! says:

    Marx and Engels didn’t state in The Communist Manifesto that everybody, regardless of what work they do, should get paid the same. I’m also pretty sure that Marx didn’t say we should have the same car. That hypocrite drove a delorean all over London when he penned wrote this thing after all. Also, anybody that calls the Manifesto the most boring book in history clearly has not f*cking read Moby Dick. Or Critique of Pure Reason. Or take any number of German books in the intellectual tradition Marx was educated in. Whatever.

  2. DONdon says:

    Why salman rushdie’s book – The Satanic Verses is not on the list?

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