Last week Steph Curtis shared some of the 2013 year-end books lists, but there are so many great recommendations out there, we wanted to pass on a few more.
Staff at the National Journal compiled a best political books list and staff writer Brian Resnick recommended Lawrence Wright’s “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief”:
Going Clear is a book about power.
Yes, it is also an expose of a money-flushed, litigal-happy organization as told by the people it has steamrolled. And yes, there are tantalizing details about John Travolta (possibly gay) and Tom Cruise (who may have held auditions for the role of his wife).
But centrally, it’s about how one man turned an idea into a movement, and how that idea—like a new life form—sustained itself, protected itself, and ensured its longevity. Whatever you think about Scientology, Going Clear provokes a powerful question: How easily could these disciples of Hubbard have been me? Because rational thoughts fall aside in the face of self affirmation. And the powerful know this implicitly. Lawrence subtitled the book Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Strike out the first two and fill in your own blanks. Belief isn’t always rational. And therein lies the power.
Saunders’s wickedly entertaining stories veer from the deadpan to the flat-out demented: Prisoners are force-fed mood-altering drugs; ordinary saps cling to delusions of grandeur; third-world women, held aloft on surgical wire, become the latest in bourgeois lawn ornaments. Beneath the comedy, though, Saunders writes with profound empathy, and this impressive collection advances his abiding interest in questions of class, power and justice.
It’s hard to write well about modern friendship — as hard, perhaps, as it is to nurture one. Meg Wolitzer’s latest — and probably finest — follows a group of friends who meet at arts camp in upstate New York, and go on to a mixture of great successes and minor failures. The characters remain friends for the rest of their lives, and the nature of those friendships and how they ebb and flow within those successes and failures are the novel’s most striking achievement. What does it mean to covet a beloved friend’s accomplishment, and to really envy his success? Wolitzer writes convincingly about teenagers, and who they become as grown-ups. And she really captures that magical period where all teenagers thought they would grow up to be as special as they were the night of the school play — only to find that life is less exciting, and more interesting (ha!) than they even thought.