I've thought about your question, Steven. No, I don't think that people need to be warned. I can certainly see why one would not want their eight-year-old to see nudity in the movies. There is no nudity in the written word. Similarly, I personally do not like a lot of gore at the movies. I don't mind a warning. But on the page, it can only be described. If done well, it may be even more shocking or horrifying, but you're not exposed to gross-out special effects.
I think that parents should monitor their children's reading, as they should their music, TV, movies, and video games. For adults, generally you can guess what you're getting in to. A noir novel is likely to be violent, a romance novel is likely to have surprisingly explicit sex (a new revelation for a male like me), a literary novel, written post-World War II, could have about anything. I agree that Rabbit, Run blindsides you with graphic scenes, but I wouldn't like to have been warned in advance.
In an Amazon review, I once alerted the public that the Phillip Pullman trilogy is an explicit attempt to make atheism palatable to children. You wouldn't know it reading the covers. It's not as though a child could read them and not be aware of the allegory, as I had no idea as a child that the Narnia books were Christian allegories. But I wouldn't mind if the Narnia books were labeled as such, in case persons of other faiths didn't wish their children to read them.
So, I guess what I'm saying is that books aimed at children have a responsibility to alert parents to controversial subjects, themes, or language so that they may make informed choices. Once you're an adult, my vote is you're on your own.
A personal story: After my mother died, I was going through her books. I opened her copy of God Knows by Joseph Heller. Inside the front cover was a Post-It note that read: "This is a dirty book. You have been warned."
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