This is a list of controversial non-fiction books
aimed at the general reader which discuss controversial issues, or have been (or were at the time of writing) discussed for other reasons. For controversial fictional books, see list of banned books
What makes a book controversial will typically be that it allegedly presents reports of facts or scientific evidence, but in a way which circumvents scientific evaluation. Instead of having the book being discussed in scientific fora to clarify pending issues, it is published with the aim of being read directly by the general public, short-circuiting the usual scientific quality control before scientific results are popularized for the general public. This means that discussion will have to take place afterwards, in the media, instead of in closed scientific circles.
When the ensuing discussion appears in the media, the controversy becomes apparent.
Various means may be used to forward relevant criticism. These can be critical book reviews, debate in scientific journals or popular magazines, or publication of error lists on the internet.
- In 1983, five years after Mead had died, Derek Freeman published Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth, in which he challenged all of Mead's major findings. In 1983, the American Anthropological Association passed a motion declaring Freeman's Margaret Mead and Samoa "poorly written, unscientific, irresponsible and misleading. In 1987, Lowell D. Holmes published a book in which he defends Mead, saying that Freeman exaggerates his points, but also criticizes Mead for exaggerating her points and making factual errors.
- Accuses James Neel and Napoleon Chagnon, among other things, of exacerbating an epidemic among the Yanomamo people. A panel at the University of Michigan found the "claims are false".
- The book is widely used by creationists to defend the hypothesis of intelligent design. It deals with ten `icons´ of evolution, i.e. examples that are widely used, for instance in textbooks, to illustrate or support Darwinian evolution. An example of a refutation of the claims in the book is here .
Mathematics and Computation
- The book has attracted several types of criticism and some critics have labeled the book crankery.
- This book popularized environmentalism by exposing to the public the dangers of chemical pesticides, and accusing the chemical industry of unethical behavior. This led to a subsequent ban of the pesticide DDT; however, some claim that this ban is responsible for a worldwide resurgence in malaria and millions of human deaths.
- Predicted disaster for humanity due to overpopulation and the "population explosion". Critics have compared Ehrlich to Thomas Malthus for his multiple predictions of famine and economic catastrophe. Traditional conservatives have been especially critical of the ideas of the book: The Population Bomb made the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's "50 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century" in 2003 and was #11 ("honorable" mention) in Human Events "Ten Most Harmful Books of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries".
- In this book, the author presents the conception that there is a "litany" saying that everything in the environment is becoming worse. He postulates that whereas the worry expressed in the "litany" will lead to no improvements, economic growth will solve nearly all problems. The facts in the book have been heavily disputed and criticized; for example, by the review and ensuing discussion in Scientific American, by reviews in Science and Nature, and by the production of a counter-book.
- Al Gore was given a Nobel Prize for this film, but the film was also criticized by many global warming skeptics, and there was a decision in a high court in London that some of the points made in the film needed supplementary guidance notes before they could be shown to school children.
- The author claims that although man-made global warming is a reality, it is not dangerous, and we should use money on something else rather than use them on carbon cuts. The book was warmly supported by some climate skeptics, but heavily criticized in reviews by The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, and in Nature.
- Posits that ordinary Germans not only knew about, but also supported, the Holocaust. The most common general complaints are that his primary hypothesis is simplistic and either unprovable or ill-formed. Raul Hilberg has written that Goldhagen is "totally wrong about everything. Totally wrong. Exceptionally wrong.
- An account of what he maintains was the Catholic Church's role in the Holocaust, amassing withering criticism. The book has been criticised, including by prominent Jews, as being a "misuse of the Holocaust to advance [his] anti-Catholic agenda" and as being poor scholarship, including a lack of any primary sources and being riddled with factual errors. Because of these criticisms and because he says the recommendations of the book would mean the end of the Church as it has been for two millennia, William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has labeled Goldhagen an "anti-Catholic bigot".
- Examined the actions of Pope Pius XII during the Nazi era. Ken Woodward, speaking to Newsweek, stated that Hitler's Pope has "errors of fact and ignorance of context [that] appear on almost every page. More recently, Cornwell recanted, acknowledging that he had erred in ascribing evil motives to Pius when writing Hitler's Pope, and said he now found it "impossible to judge" the wartime pontiff's motives.
- Purports that there is a secret society know as the Priory of Sion that protects the Merovingian dynasty because they may be the literal descendants of the historical Jesus and his alleged wife, Mary Magdalene. The thesis has been debunked when it was demonstrated to have been based on a hoax by a French con man named Pierre Plantard.
- Controversial with conservatives as promoting degeneracy. #3 on Intercollegiate Studies Institute's "55 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century" in 2003 and was #4 in Human Events "Ten Most Harmful Books of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries" . There are academic criticisms that pertain to sample selection and sample bias;
- The book investigates the social consequences of purported differences in heritable intelligence between different groups of people. It raised so much controversy that the American Psychological Association formed a task force to elucidate which postulates in the book could be verified .