Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright (Vintage). Originally published in the US, this history of scientology isn’t available in UK bookshops. Buy it online. Hilarious, hair-raising and amazingly evenhanded, given the subject matter, it describes how the science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard turned his toxic neuroses into the basis for an utterly bogus belief system designed to extract money from dupes. This is the guy who punched his wife for smiling in her sleep. This is the guy Tom Cruise refers to, with reverential affection, as ‘LRH’.
If you’re looking for an elegantly written book that will transform your understanding of the British national character, try Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears by Thomas Dixon (OUP, £25). Turns out the phenomenon of the stiff upper lip was a lot more fleeting than one might have thought: it arose at the same time as the empire, and declined with it too.