'Going Clear' by Lawrence Wright
The first takeaway from this mind-bending history of Scientology is that all the strangest things you've heard are true. Scientologists really do believe in an evil alien named Xenu. Their elite Sea Org members sign billion-year labor contracts, and the church has accumulated billions in cash and real estate. But founder L. Ron Hubbard's best creation was himself. From his beginnings as a sci-fi writer who ran with Isaac Asimov to his paranoid final years hiding in an RV, his life is so compelling, the Hollywood elite in his church would have trouble inventing it.
'Difficult Men' by Brett Martin
With all the praise heaped onto 'Breaking Bad' antihero Walter White, it's hard to remember there was once a time when men behaving badly was not acceptable entertainment on television. Martin chronicles this dramatic revolution – and takes us behind the scenes to meet the cranky scribes who created characters like Tony Soprano and Don Draper. Along the way, he makes a convincing argument that all their kvetching has been for good, making weekly TV shows as artful as anything on the big screen.–Greg Emmanuel
'The Skies Belong to Us' by Brendan I. Koerner
In the 1960s and '70s, hijackings were so routine that during one five-year period there was nearly one every week. In gripping detail, 'Skies' zeroes in on the saga of Vietnam vet Roger Holder and party girl Cathy Kerkow, who captured Western Airlines Flight 701 in June 1972. Koerner's tale moves at supersonic speed, with cameos by the likes of Tim Leary and Marlon Brando. But his best "get" is Holder, whom he found living in San Diego. As the story enters the present day, it makes pre-9/11 air travel seem quaint.–Tom Clavin