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“Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief”
By Lawrence Wright (Knopf, $28.95)
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Looming Tower” offers a gripping, clear-sighted and devastating look into the world of Scientology. Wright’s masterful narrative revolves around two men: science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who invented the religion, and David Miscavige, Hubbard’s driven, hard-nosed successor. Wright describes Scientology’s complicated cosmology and how it advances its goals by recruiting celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
“Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami”
By Gretel Ehrlich (Pantheon, $25)
A passionate student of Japanese culture, Ehrlich returned to the earthquake-and-tsunami-devastated nation in order to bear witness to its radioactive landscape, listen to survivors and seek to understand their traumatizing experiences. Ehrlich’s eloquent narrative combines strong reportage, lyrical observations and deeply felt reflection. The result is unique and stunningly engaging.
“Gun Guys: A Road Trip”
By Dan Baum (Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95)
A self-described Jewish Democrat from New Jersey, Baum plays cultural anthropologist, exploring our nation’s fascination with guns and bringing back valuable, eye-opening insights from “gun country.” In his thoroughly open-minded and balanced narrative, Baum makes firsthand observations by visiting gun stores, shooting ranges and gun shows, asking simple, probing questions. By listening with an open mind, Baum (and his readers) learn valuable lessons.
“The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America”
By George Packer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27)
An ambitious, kaleidoscopic look at a nation in crisis. The renowned Packer chronicles the lives of several Americans, including a factory worker trying to survive the collapse of her Rust Belt city, a Washington insider caught between political idealism and the attractions of money and a high-tech billionaire who develops a radical vision of the future. Interweaving these smaller stories, Packer skillfully explores our nation’s deeper, troubling undercurrents.
Chuck Leddy is a Boston book critic and a member of the National Book Critics Circle.