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Book Report: The Latest Must-Reads by Tom McCarthy, Jonathan Franzen, and More

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C, by Tom McCarthy

The Brit author rocked the literary world with his last novel, Remainder, and he proves it was no fluke with this follow-up. Reminiscent of late Kubrick and early Beckett in its intense conceptual focus, C is a period coming-of-age story about a boy raised in an experimental school for the deaf and an exploration of everything from mechanization to mass communications. [Knopf, $26]

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Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
In the nine years since The Corrections came out, Franzen's Oprah gaffes and off-putting personal essays have dimmed his luster. But this long-awaited epic, which studies an apparently perfect family's disintegration--complete with neighbor-vs.-neighbor wars, aging rocker wannabes, and ill-suited teen romance--is the kind of potboiler that will have you giving up sleep to see how it ends. [Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28]

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How to Become a Scandal, by Laura Kipnis
A professional provocateur who deplored monogamy in Against Love and celebrated Larry Flynt in Bound and Gagged, Kipnis now pens a paean to scandals. She focuses on infamous people such as Linda Tripp and James Frey and delivers better juice and more guilty pleasure than the tabloids themselves. It's the Slow Food equivalent of TMZ. [Metropolitan, $24]

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Secret Historian, by Justin Spring
A fascinating biography of Samuel Steward: professor, alcoholic, pornographer, and sexual superman. The man kept records of his every erotic conquest, including Rudolph Valentino and Thornton Wilder, and became one of Alfred Kinsey's most infamous sources. From his stint as the Hell's Angels' tattoo artist to his friendship with Gertrude Stein, he tackled life with awe-inspiring abandon. [Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30]

Photographs, from top: Courtesy of Knopf; Courtesy of Farrar Straus and Giroux; Courtesy of Metropolitan; Courtesy of Farrar Straus and Giroux
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