Book Review: Going Clear – Lawrence Wright

going clear - lawrence wrightTitle: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Author: Lawrence Wright
ISBN: 9780307745309
Pages: 560
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Vintage
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: .4.5 out of 5


In this comprehensive exploration of Scientology, Lawrence Wright traces the life of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, and how the religion developed and changed over the years, during his life and after his death.

Snapshot Review:

Going Clear is a well-written and informative look at Scientology. It gives the reader a comprehensive look at the history of the religion and how it’s been practiced, using interviews with prominent former members to sketch out a full portrait of the organization.

Full Review:

When my book club chose Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief as our monthly pick, I was excited. This was a book I’d wanted to read for awhile, and I was glad to be doing it knowing there’d be some serious discussion after I was finished. I wasn’t sure what I’d find within its pages, but honestly, nothing could have prepared me for just how strange and weird the contents of this book were.

Let’s start with the journalism. It’s easy to see just how comprehensive Wright was in Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. The last 1/3 or so of the book is just his notes from interviews and such. Of course, the Church of Scientology denies pretty much everything he prints in the book (and he checks with them for comments on many of the claims), but given Wright’s sources, he’s credible. Not only that, but the book is well-written; it certainly keeps the reader hooked.

Now for the content of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. There were honestly times I forgot I was reading nonfiction—that’s just how crazy this book was. I couldn’t believe what I was reading actually occurred, and recently at that. It simply boggles the mind over and over again. Wright delves into many different aspects of Scientology, including the Hollywood angle, and he provides insight into why so many celebrities are initially attracted to the church. It’s interesting, to be sure.

The aspect of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief that was the most interesting to me was the reason that a normal person would be attracted to the church in the first place, and Wright delves into this. Hubbard’s charismatic leadership was part of the draw, but also, it wasn’t presented as a church at the beginning, just a logical way to solve problems. The church/alien aspects of Scientology (which are pretty strange) came later. All in all, this was an interesting read that was really informative, and it made a great book club pick.

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  1. I have this book in my Audible library and want to listen to it. Good to hear your thoughts. I suspect I will find it fascinating.

  2. My book club read this one last year and had a great discussion…ranging from serious questions like “is Scientology even a religion?” to frivolously Googling which celebs had dabbled in Scientology. I loved the book – it’s absolutely crazy! Looking forward to the HBO doc coming out soon.

  3. I haven’t seen this cover of Going Clear before, and I love it. It is a book i still want to read and will get to it someday, hopefully before I see the doc.

  4. I thought this book was so insane. As I was reading it all I kept thinking is … WTF is even happening here. I thought the book was exceptionally well-researched and well-written but wow it’s almost hard to believe that this is a real thing. Like you said, from time to time I forgot I was reading nonfiction!

  5. It was a pretty engrossing read – especially the parts when Hubbard was still alive. Miscavige was not as interesting, so the last part of the book wasn’t as interesting to me.

  6. I thought I was maxed out on how insane I thought scientology was, and like you, I found this book exceeded ALL my expectations of how insane it could be. I’m excited that HBO is doing a companion documentary with this book — even if it doesn’t contain new information, I’ll be interested to revisit the church’s history in video format. (And I do still want to own the book. It’s just so WEIRD.)

  7. I’ve always been intrigued by Scientology. This is going on my library hold list for sure.

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