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Beach bag refill: 12 books to get you to the end of summer

New books by Julia Whelan, Lawrence Osborne, Michael W. Twitty and more

(Princeton University Press; Bantam; Penguin Press)

Already, it’s August. Perhaps you’ve read all the books on that summer list you made back in May. Perhaps you have yet to begin. Perhaps you just want to start this whole summer reading thing over again. No matter. We’re here to help, with 12 books to carry you into fall — when you can start making a whole new list!

‘Alias Emma,’ by Ava Glass

British spy Emma Makepeace stars in Glass’s James Bond-inspired spy novel. Makepeace — not her real name, of course — gets her first big assignment: to track down an innocent man wanted by the Russian government and bring him safely to MI6. This proves no simple task, and readers are the better for it. Her target doesn’t want her protection — and there are spies all over London trying to stop Emma in her tracks. Glass, a.k.a. Christi Daugherty, author of the YA Cimmeria Academy mystery series, has written a fast-paced thriller in the spirit of Ian Fleming, with a very modern twist. (Bantam)

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‘Amy & Lan,’ by Sadie Jones

Amy and Lachlan, the child narrators of Jones’s sixth novel, live on a bucolic commune in England with their parents, refugees of city living. The kids come of age playing unsupervised, feeling like the king and queen of an untouched utopia. But the real world encroaches on their idyll when long-buried fault lines shake the community, and Amy and Lan try to make sense of some very grown-up problems in their own childlike ways. (Harper, Aug. 16)

‘Birds and Us: A 12,000-Year History From Cave Art to Conservation,’ by Tim Birkhead

Dogs may be man’s (or humanity’s) best friend, but birds hold another beloved place in our hearts and minds. In “Birds and Us,” Birkhead, a British bird behaviorist and scientific historian, explores the special relationship between birds and humans over 12,000 years. Birkhead, whose previous books include the delightful “Bird Sense,” which offered answers to the age-old question, What’s it like to be a bird?, has an approachable style, even when explaining complex scientific concepts. (Princeton)

‘The Book Eaters,’ by Sunyi Dean

Dean takes the idea of devouring a book to a whole other level in her fantastical new novel: The book eaters of the title are a cultlike group who literally eat books. When these part humans consume, for instance, a dictionary, they not only get a filling meal, but also the knowledge contained in the reference material. It sounds like a great way to satisfy many needs. But in this clever dystopian tale, one book eater named Devon, who was raised on a diet of fairy tales, finds that life is anything but when she tries to save her son from the machinations of book eaters who want him for their own. (Tor)

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‘The Boys,’ by Katie Hafner

Hafner, a journalist and nonfiction author (“Mother Daughter Me,” “A Romance on Three Legs”), makes a splash with her debut novel thanks to one stunning twist. No spoilers here, but this story about the bubbly Barb, her wallflower husband, Ethan, and the 8-year-old twins they decide to foster is a funny, poignant meditation on a timely topic: loneliness. It’s also nearly impossible to put down. (Spiegel & Grau)

‘Bronze Drum,’ by Phong Nguyen

In A.D. 40, two sisters in what is now Vietnam defended their homeland against the Han Chinese. One, Trung Tac, would become the first female Vietnamese monarch — though her reign wouldn’t last long. Ngyuen’s historical novel vividly explores the sisters’ lives as well as the ways their female-empowered society ran counter to the patriarchal norms of a Chinese culture constantly threatening their freedom. (Grand Central)

‘Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew,’ by Michael W. Twitty

Historian Twitty explores the crossroads of Black and Jewish culinary traditions in this follow-up to his award-winning 2018 book “The Cooking Gene.” As Twitty explains, his new book is “about a part of Black food that’s also Jewish food … a book about Jewish food that’s also Black food because it’s a book about Black people who are Jewish and Jewish people who are Black.” Twitty is himself Jewish and Black. In this fascinating book — which includes recipes — Twitty explores, as he puts it, “the intersections between food and identity.” (Amistad)

‘Love on the Brain,’ by Ali Hazelwood

A year after TikTok helped send Hazelwood’s debut, “The Love Hypothesis,” rocketing up the bestsellers list, the romance writer returns with an even funnier, steamier STEM-set love story. In this installment, neuroscientist and Marie Curie fangirl Bee Königswasser gets her dream job working at NASA. The only catch? She’ll have to make nice with her nemesis, who happens to be tall, brooding and dreamy in the nerdiest way. (Berkley, Aug. 23)

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‘A Map for the Missing,’ by Belinda Huijuan Tang

In this sweeping novel, Tang Yitian, a Chinese American math professor, is called home to find his father, who has gone missing from the family home in rural China. The search leads Yitian on a journey into a sometimes painful past. As he searches for his father, he reconnects with old friends, reopens old wounds and seeks to find not just his father but a better sense of his place in the family he left behind for America. (Penguin Press)

‘On Java Road,’ by Lawrence Osborne

Osborne’s latest novel is set in Hong Kong, where tensions are high, as protesters clash with government forces. When one protester disappears, a seasoned British reporter named Adrian Gyle sets out to find out what happened, and ideally, to find her. As it happens, the woman is the mistress of one of his friends. The entanglements tangle further as this atmospheric mystery unfolds. Osborne, author of “The Forgiven” (2012), “Beautiful Animals” (2017) and “The Glass Kingdom” (2020), again shows that he’s a master at capturing foreign locales and tricky moral conundrums. (Hogarth)

In Lawrence Osborne’s novels, tourists can’t escape their true natures

‘A Place in the World,’ by Frances Mayes

In her memoir Under the Tuscan Sun,” Mayes took us, of course, to Italy. In her latest outing, she stays much closer to home. “A Place in the World” is an homage of sorts to the South, where Mayes grew up — in Fitzgerald, Ga. She writes, too, about Chatwood, a house in Hillsborough, N.C., where she now lives after an extensive remodel. The experience is both a homecoming and a reckoning with the past. “I returned to the South after a long quarrel with the place,” she writes. “Racism, sexist zeitgeist, anti-intellectualism, self-satisfaction. … Those still hover, but this town, intolerant of such stupidity, is aspirational.” (Crown, Aug. 23)

‘Thank You for Listening,’ by Julia Whelan

Whelan is most famous for her voice: She’s the go-to audiobook narrator for countless best-selling authors. But she also has a distinctive voice in a writerly sense. In her feel-good second novel, an actress on the rise suffers a horrific accident that derails her career. For her second act, she becomes a successful — if ambivalent — audiobook narrator. But she finds a kindred spirit when she strikes up a flirtatious correspondence with an enigmatic man who narrates romance novels. (Avon)

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