There are a few regular internet wormholes I can fall into for hours, and while some are more common, like searching for sloths on youtube.com or just "boots" on zappos.com (that's my usual cure for jetlag), I can also lose hours to reading anti-Scientology websites. I've long been fascinated with the organization; once you really get into its mythology, language ("this tech is enterbulating!"), and overall strategy, the whole Xenu/thetan we all know from South Park thing seems pretty dull in comparison. Being Clear, Lawrence Wright's Scientology exposé, was released recently to much fanfare, but if you're looking for specific dirt on the church and have decided that you aren't willing to invest a lot of time in the Scientology canon, I would A, first urge you to reconsider that choice, then B, guide you to the recent book that has the information you require.
*If You Saw The Master And Want The Most Complete Picture of L. Ron Hubbard: While Wright does an admirable job of covering the history of Scientology's creator, Janet Reitman's depiction of Hubbard and his bizarre past in her 2011 book, Inside Scientology, is much more compelling. She spends more time writing about his post-war days, living in a mansion in Pasadena and performing pagan rituals with the sci-fi writers and actual scientists whose life stories he would later borrow from for his own biography. She also does a more thorough job writing about Hubbard's decline and how David Miscaviage, the current leader of the religion, staged an ad hoc coup as Hubbard's health was failing. All books do include the fact that, when Scientologists salute a photograph of Hubbard (and they do frequently), they do so by chanting, "hip hip—horray!" Which would be charming if it also weren't totally creepy.
*If You Want The Best Insider's Account: While Wright frames his book around the experience of former-Scientologist Paul Haggis, and Reitman fills the last chapter of Inside Scientology with profiles and interviews with current and former Scientologists, Jenna Miscaviage Hill's book, Beyond Belief, is the only recent book about the group written by someone who wasn't just an insider, but raised as a Scientologist from the time she was a toddler. She's also the niece of David Miscaviage, Scientology's aforementioned leader and guy who those with even the most casual interest in the world of Scientology understand to be a dude who is completely bonkers. Growing up in the church as well as being related to the head of the church gave Ms. Hill insight into the extremes of church life; she had some perks others didn't because her uncle and parents were church officials, but the scientology school she went to included hours of physical labor and months without seeing any family from a very young age. Plus the last chunk of the book, which describes her escape from the church, is a suspenseful read.
*If You Want The Most Celebrity Dirt: Then Lawrence Wright is probably your best bet, if only because his book came out more recently than Reitman's, so he gets to include the whole incident with Nazanin Boniadi, the young Scientologist who was selected by church officials to be Tom Cruise's girlfriend (and then be dumped and punished for her failure, forced to sell Dianetics on a street corner near the church's headquarters in Clearwater, Florida). Being framed by Haggis' story also means that more celebrity details are included in Going Clear, since the director's involvement with Scientology, and his experience getting out of it, involve a lot of personal anecdotes, including recrimination, from the successful director's celebrity friends within the church. Reitman does have plenty of information about Tom Cruise, including his close relationship with David Miscaviage and his Oprah meltdown, but because celebrities are shielded from seeing what life is like for those who live within church, Hill has very little information about famous/"public" Scientologists. Julia Langbein will be giving us her thoughts on Going Clear later this month, so if you really can't help yourself, at least promise you'll read her review before you drop $28.95 on the hardback.
Best of the three overall?: While I enjoyed Wright's book, I felt it was pretty repetitive after reading Reitman's book and not nearly as enjoyable, and while Hill's book was a fascinating read, it's obviously not as thorough as the other books since it's based entirely on her personal experience. So if you're going to read any recent book about Scientology, go with Janet Reitman. And prepare to be enturbulated.