Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I can see why RUSA recommended this: it's exhaustively researched (loved - LOVED - the notes for each chapter; why more NF can't be like this I don't know!) and relatively balanced. So why only 3 stars? Because I'd hoped for something more on Scientology itself (what happens in auditing? how do you move up the Bridge? what did LRH create "theologically"? etc.) and this was more like reading a book about Catholicism and getting 90% on the Papacy and inner workings of the Curia and only 10% on what Catholics believe and how they practice. In other words, what would life for me, a 'regular' (in other words, non-Sea Org) member of the COS be like? What happens during Sunday worship (which is alluded to, but never fleshed out)? And also there was some missing: what happened to LRH's children and wives? why was DM's wife removed from Int (there must be gossip about that!)? and why no glossary? The acronyms and Scientology-speak got to be a little overwhelming, and rather than flipping around in the book being able to just go to one place for all of them would have been really helpful.
As for the content, it was interesting to hear from people who still believe, who are trying to be "good" Scientologists outside the money-hungry church structure (what that means, exactly, is part of the "missing"). Obviously this is an organization with a ton of misconceptions and bad press - the author does a great job of trying to sort through it to be unbiased. She doesn't quite succeed because access to current members appears to have been limited. Having said that, in a few of her notes she mentions that she was actually at Int and that she has met with a few officials.
So not the comprehensive book I'd hoped for, but a very interesting read all the same.