The New York Times - Notable Books of 2013

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Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (2013)

Written by Lawrence Wright

A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—both famous and less well known—and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

At the book’s center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige—tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.

We learn about Scientology’s complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church’s goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church’s clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.

In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is. (Copyright © Knopf/Random House. All rights reserved.)

Source:  Penguin Random House Company.

Lawrence Wright is an author, screenwriter, playwright, and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. He is a graduate of Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the American University in Cairo, where he taught English and received an M.A. in Applied Linguistics in 1969. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1971, Wright began his writing career at the Race Relations Reporter in Nashville, Tennessee. Two years later, he went to work for Southern Voices, a publication of the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta, Georgia, and began to freelance for various national magazines. In 1980, Wright returned to Texas to work for Texas Monthly. He also became a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. In December 1992, he joined the staff of The New Yorker, where he has published a number of notable articles, which have won the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism, Overseas Press Club's Ed Cunningham Award for best magazine reporting, and two National Magazine Awards.

Wright is the co-writer (with Ed Zwick and Menno Meyjes) of The Siege, starring Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis and Annette Bening, which appeared in November 1998. He also wrote the script of the Showtime movie, Noriega: God's Favorite, directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Bob Hoskins, which aired in April 2000.

His history of al-Qaeda, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Knopf, 2006) was published to immediate and widespread acclaim, spending eight weeks on The New York Times best seller list and being translated into twenty-five languages. It was nominated for the National Book Award and won the Lionel Gelber Award for nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Award for History, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Time Magazine pronounced it one of the 100 best nonfiction books ever written.

In 2006, he premiered his one-man play, "My Trip to al-Qaeda," at The New Yorker Festival, and then enjoyed a sold-out six-week run at the Culture Project in Soho. It was made into a documentary film, directed by Academy Award-winner Alex Gibney, which appeared on HBO in the fall of 2010. Wright also performed another one-man show, "The Human Scale," concerning the standoff between Israel and Hamas over the abduction of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. The Public Theater produced the play, which ran for a month off-Broadway in 2010 and for a week at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv.

Wright has published six previous books. City Children, Country Summer (Scribner's, 1979), In the New World: Growing Up with America, 1960-1984 (Knopf, 1988), Saints & Sinners (Knopf, 1993), Remembering Satan (Knopf, 1994), Twins: Genes, Environment, and the Mystery of Identity (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1997; Wiley & Sons, 1998), and God's Favorite (Simon & Schuster, 2000).

Wright’s latest book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, was published by Knopf on Jan. 17, 2013. It is based on a profile he wrote of the writer-director Paul Haggis in The New Yorker, which won the National Magazine Award in 2012.

Wright lives in Austin, Texas.

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