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Top five reads for 2014

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Dec 17, 2014, 12:27pm Top

Continuing one of my favorite LT traditions, I asked the staff to come list their top five books of 2014, and the results are over on the blog.

What were your top five reads for 2014? Tell us all about it here, or add yours to the list!

Edited: Dec 17, 2014, 12:59pm Top

Jón Kalman Stefánsson: Hjarta mannsins (not available in English, but in French, Dutch, German, and Italian)
Kristine Tofte: Vargtid (only available in Norwegian)
Kevin Barry: City of Bohane
Shaun Tan: The Arrival
Tom Gauld: You're all just jealous of my jetpack

Edited: Dec 17, 2014, 1:44pm Top

Here were my favorite reads:

1. The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
2. Rivers by Michael Farris Smith
3. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
4. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
5. Revival by Stephen King

Many other favorites as well, notably The Burn Palace, Hyperbole and a Half, Gaudy Night (disqualified as it was a reread), The Big Sleep and Cold Comfort Farm.

Dishonorable mentions go to Harvest Home and The Happiest People in the World.

Edited: Dec 17, 2014, 1:28pm Top

Wow, tough choice! I had about 20 on the original list but got it down to 5 by limiting to authors that were new to me.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (also Ancillary Sword but it's a sequel so I left if off the list)
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
The Martian by Andy Weir
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett.

Honourable mentions include John Scalzi's Lock In and everything I ready by Seanan McGuire, Ben Aaronovitch, Mary Robinette Kowal, Connie Willis.

Also, the year isn't over yet, and I've got a lovely pile of library books to get through :)

Edited: Dec 17, 2014, 1:27pm Top

1. Alberta and Jacob by Cora Sandel
2. The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector
3. The Blind Owl by Sadiq Hidayat
4. Marta Oulie by Sigrid Undset
5. The Ice Palace by Tarjet Vesaas

Honorable mentions to The Secret History and Season of Migration to the North. This was a good year for me. I didn't get as much read as I usually do, but how lucky I was with what I chose made up for it.

Dec 17, 2014, 2:01pm Top

I also really liked Rivers and the Martian mentioned above.

Didn't like Lock In as much as I liked Scalzi's Fuzzy Nation!

Dec 17, 2014, 2:34pm Top

Oh, fun!

In no particular order:

My Real Children by Jo Walton
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (late on this one, but it's amazing)
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
Twenty-First Century Science Fiction edited by David Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Dec 17, 2014, 2:49pm Top

5 top YA reads -

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Chains by Laurie Anderson
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

I'm still trying to narrow down my adult favorites . . .

Dec 17, 2014, 3:02pm Top

The first three are easy:

Learning to Walk in the Dark
The Given Day
Molly Fox's Birthday

Then there are a whole bunch that it's hard to distinguish. I think these were next:

Ancillary Justice
Tropic of Night

but these were just barely behind: The Long Way Home, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, The Good Lord Bird, Dreaming of the Bones, The Martian

Edited: Dec 20, 2014, 4:18am Top

Dec 17, 2014, 3:22pm Top

I didn't read as many books as usual this year, partly because I was trying to teach myself Spanish at the start of the year, and trying to catch up with about forty years of German literature that I'd missed at the end of the year...

Coasting by Jonathan Raban (Raban was my most "I wish I'd heard of him 20 years ago" writer of 2014)
Die Klavierspielerin by Elfriede Jelinek
Los Enamoramientos by Javier Marías
Wittgensteins Neffe by Thomas Bernhard
Rummelplatz by Werner Bräunig

Oddest book of the year:
Coryat's crudities by Thomas Coryat

Dec 17, 2014, 5:16pm Top

Starlight by Stella Gibbons
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household
Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
A Fairly Honourable Defeat by Iris Murdoch
The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

Wasp Factory by Iain Banks and Eye of the needle by Ken Follett were also good.

Household, Ambler and Follett are authors I wasn't familiar with but I'm actively searching out their other works.

Edited: Dec 22, 2014, 4:17pm Top

From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman
Prague Winter: A Personal Story by Madeleine Albright
Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh
While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age during the Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn Maull McKinstry

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Peony by Pearl S. Buck
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Dalai Lama's Cat and the Art of Purring by David Michie

Wow! I simply can not choose the top 5 from this list. I didn't realize how good a reading year it has been until I tried to come up with just 5 books. And I am in the middle of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, which is looking good.


ETA: I decided to separate them into fiction and non-fiction although they are in no particular order in these categories.

Dec 17, 2014, 8:43pm Top

Hmmm . . . looking back over my 2014 reading, I'm struck by the number of books that I didn't finish, or was unimpressed by if I did. Not sure if I'm getting pickier, or if it was just a slow year. :-)

My top five bright spots, in alphabetical order:

Across the Pond: An Englishman's View of America by Terry Eagleton
The Dawn Patrol by Don Winslow
Dove Season and Plaster City by Johnny Shaw
How I Killed Pluto (and Why It Had It Coming) by Mike Brown
Video Revolutions: On the History of a Medium by Michael Z. Newman

Dec 17, 2014, 9:42pm Top

My top 2014 reads in no particular order:

Stoner by John Williams
The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

2014 isn't over. The next great book awaits me!

Dec 17, 2014, 10:28pm Top

The best book I read this year is A White Wind Blew by James Market. The rest shift with my mood. These are worth mentioning:
~Pirates of Pensacola by Keith Thomson
~Still Life by Louise Penny
~Bat Wing by Sax Rohmer
~The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

Dec 18, 2014, 11:59am Top

Mostly re-reads and series continuations for me which I've added to the list. New find was the pendragon protocol which I really enjoyed. Really clever take at the dan brown/king Arthur style themes.

Wool / Shift / Dust gets an honourable mention but the ending is somewhat poorer.

Edited: Dec 18, 2014, 12:42pm Top


Seeing Flowers using a new photographic technique, text by Teri Dunn Chace
Making Home - Sharon Astyk
What the Dog Saw - Malcolm Gladwell - missed my exit twice while listening to the audio.
Countrymen - Bo Lidegaard, not so much for the writing as for the factual material.
Love Wins- Rob Bell

Is A Thatched Roof non-fiction? Loved it. Beverley Nichols


The Martian - Andy Weir - working on listen 3.
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion, another premiere author.
A Madness of Angels - Kate Griffin
The Motor Maid - Charles and A. M. Williamson
Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater

I've read close to 200 books, so I had to spread them out.

Dec 18, 2014, 4:34pm Top

1. Ancillary Justice
2. We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Seriously, how have I only just discovered this book?)
3. The City & the City
4. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
5. The Golem and the Djinni

Honorable mentions: The Martian, The Man With the Compound Eyes (which I'm currently in the middle of)

Edited: Dec 18, 2014, 4:43pm Top

I don't read as much as I used to, so an offbeat collection from me, but I heartily recommend them all, with reservations only about the last because Mr. Kendall forgot that he was writing a biography and started writing a novel. Beware also of his book's misleading, sensational subtitle. I think I've grown to hate subtitles.

All non-fiction:

A Literary Education and Other Essays by Joseph Epstein
The One World Schoolhouse by Salman Khan
The News: A User's Manual by Alain De Botton
Garner's Modern American Usage by Bryan Garner
The Man Who Made Lists by Joshua Kendall

Edited: Dec 18, 2014, 11:21pm Top

Dec 18, 2014, 11:53pm Top

1. Nineteenth-Century European Paintings at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute by Sarah Lees -- The most gorgeous art book I've seen in a long time. Reproductions are outstanding and book design is superlatively done.

2. A Village Lost and Found by Brian May -- A rock star (bassist for Queen) tells the tale of 19th-century photographer TR Williams, who became the rock-star equivalent of his day through stereoscopic photography.

3. French Illuminated Manuscripts in the J. Paul Getty Museum by Thomas Kren -- One of my Santa Thing gifts. Bullseye!

4. Tennyson, A Selected edition by Alfred Tennyson -- Annotated edition with definitive textual commentary by Christopher Ricks, "the man!"

5. Great Tew by Simon Rae -- Simon Rae was poet in residence at Warwickshire County Cricket Club.

Dec 19, 2014, 6:57am Top

Um, hate to tell you but John Deacon was the bassist for Queen. Brian is a guitarist. Cool book though in a total geek way.

Edited: Dec 19, 2014, 4:24pm Top

Bring Up the Bodies. The further history of Thomas Cromwell is sympathetic but unvarnished.
The adventures of Mr. Verdant Green. Magnificent humourous account of a fictional student in 19th century Oxford.
Richard Stark's Parker : the Outfit : a graphic novel. Compelling adaptation of an effectively sparse novel.
Handling sin. Picaresque humanity shot through with warmth and absurdity.
S.. Ingenious delivery of cleverly layered story.
Guns, germs and steel : a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years. Wide-ranging intersection of anthropology, archaeology, history, and genetics.
Bushido : samurai ethics and the soul of Japan. Still valuable after more than a century.
From afar it is an island. Delicious artistic exploration of perception and creativity.
English Farming and why I turned it up. Droll memoir of limited success at farming.
To the river : A journey beneath the surface. SantaThing brought me this pleasing interface of memoir, psychogeography, and riverine landscape history.

ETA 'pleasing' not 'please'. Sigh ...

Dec 19, 2014, 12:14pm Top

I had no idea Bramah wrote such a wide variety of books. English Farming and why I turned it up sounds fun.

Dec 19, 2014, 3:44pm Top

There's now also a "Dishonourable Mentions of 2014" list, courtesy of Zoe: https://www.librarything.com/list/10034/all/Dishonourable-Mentions-of-2014

Dec 19, 2014, 4:23pm Top

>30 anglemark: English farming was Bramah's first book. He left farming to take up journalism (working for Jerome K Jerome) and wrote his Kai Kung books, the Max Carrados detective stories and some definitive volumes on numismatics. Sadly, little is known of his personal life.

Dec 19, 2014, 6:33pm Top

>28 Bookmarque: hate to tell you but John Deacon was the bassist for Queen

No cause for concern; I'm glad you told me. I somehow got the idea otherwise from promotional material for the book and didn't bother to check it out; so, not being a Queen fan, I took it on faith. My ignorance is no doubt the result of the same geeky impulses that make me love the book.

Dec 19, 2014, 7:54pm Top

The Abominable: A Novel The information about Mt. Everest climbers and geography was outstanding.

Red Sox Strong 1975 and 1986 are no big deal anymore.

Caught Stealing: A Novel There was some humor/funny lines thrown in that I enjoyed.

11/22/63: A Novel Stephen King and time travel.

Now You See Me This was well done.

Dec 20, 2014, 1:37am Top

1. Faithful Place by Tana French Listened on audio with brilliant narration of a gut-wrenching story by the favorite new writer I discovered this year.
2. The Martian by Andy Weir So much fun with the perfect blend of science, action and humor and one of my favorite characters of all time.
3. Lock In by John Scalzi Scalzi is simply brilliant. It takes hard work to make writing seem this effortless. Great characters, fascinating ideas. One day he'll be remembered with all the other giants of science fiction.
4. Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence Another great listen on audio with a wonderful narrator, a great story, and characters you can't help loving.
5. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes This is a seriously talented writer. Broken Monsters is gritty and fascinating with a handful of storylines and characters that are fully developed separately and then all tied together in the end.

This was tough. Just missing the top 5 were City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

Dec 20, 2014, 7:22pm Top

1. The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding The Origins Of Music In The World's Wild Places - Bernie Krause
2. The End Of Night: Searching For Natural Darkness In An Age Of Artificial Light - Paul Bogard
3. The Alchemy Of Air: A Jewish Genius, A Doomed Tycoon, And The Scientific Discovery That Fed The World But Fueled The Rise Of Hitler - Thomas Hager
4. Three Day Road - Joseph Boyden
5. One Summer: America, 1927 - Bill Bryson

Dec 20, 2014, 7:51pm Top

>37 tropics: Ah! Good to know another author writing on light pollution.

Edited: Dec 20, 2014, 8:46pm Top

I read a lot of books, most of which I liked, so as a token of special regard I'll mention the four I actively "promoted" to other people (in order they were read, with original date of publication):

1. Out (1997) by Natsuo Kirino

Four women become entangled in grisly events. Features an unusually compelling female protagonist. I mean unusual mostly in how the writer treats her.

2. In the miso soup (1997) by Ryu Murakami

A young Tokyo tourist guide is taken on an increasingly macabre--and unexpectedly revealing--tour of his city by an odd visiting American.

3. Dororo (1967) by Osamu Tezuka

Tezuka manages yet again a kind of miracle--a story as lyrical, beautiful and sad as it is horrible. Maybe double the miracle for a reader like me, who viscerally detests manga/anime's visual style. A boy whose own father sacrificed him for glory, reducing him to a limbless, senseless, barely alive clump of flesh, fights to become human again.

4. Capital in the Twenty-First century( 2013) by Thomas Piketty

Them that's got shall get, them that don't shall lose, so the Bible says, and it still is news...

Edited: Dec 21, 2014, 8:07am Top

My bookforum asked the same question, so it's a matter of copy and paste (and translate...)

  • Ancillary justice - Ann Leckie. Very nice protagonist, the last part of what was once a large multi-bodied AI. Intriguiing world.
  • A red heart of memories - Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Gorgeous urban, lovely magic. I think this book is really super-charming.
  • Dealing with dragons - Patricia C. Wrede. Great and original book about a princess who knows how to stand up for herself. Charming, and a book every girl should read.
  • Scriber - Ben S. Dobson. Unusual characters (a scholar and a group of female soldiers) that are well worked out and develop in a believable way.
  • Old man's war - John Scalzi. Fun and original, octogenarians in a space war...

edit: Say, should there be books on that list that nobody has voted for?

Dec 21, 2014, 11:05am Top

>40 zjakkelien: I think that happens when people put books on their lists and then remove them and replace them with different books.

Dec 21, 2014, 11:17am Top

1. Lamentation by C.J.Sansom
2. My brilliant friend by Elena Ferrante
3. Het Mussolinikanaal by Antonio Pennacchi
4. An officer and a spy by Robert Harris
5. We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Jay Fowler

Edited: Dec 21, 2014, 2:12pm Top

Here are the books that kept me up far too late at night:

1. A Map of The World by Jane Hamilton. A quiet look at a family torn apart by grief, blame, and anger.
2. After Visiting Friends; A Son's Story by Michael Hainey. A non-fiction book about finding out that sometimes our parents are not what they seem to be.
3. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear. The last mystery (at least for now) in one of my favorite series. Reading each Maisie Dobbs book is like visiting an old friend.
4. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. Science fiction, fantasy, dystopian: whatever genre this falls in, this is one of the most intriguing books I have ever read. Now I need to start stockpiling more of her novels.
5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. A lovely look at the people and times during WWII on a tiny island off the coast of England.

Honorable Mentions:
1. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I finally got around to reading this and found that, while the story was fascinating, the authors writing style was a tad hard to keep up with.
2. Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar. One of my ARC's from the Early Reviewer program, this is a beautifully written story of sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.

Dec 21, 2014, 3:18pm Top

>41 tottman: Ah, that explains it!

Dec 21, 2014, 4:54pm Top

Not in any particular order:

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
The Martian by Andy Weir
Fangirl by Rainbow Riall

Dec 21, 2014, 6:17pm Top

>44 TheFlamingoReads: I love your list! I could have made it myself, so I had to go browse through your library. We only have 25 books in common, but they are all really good ones.

My list came off the top of my head--things I've read and enjoyed recently--but now that I've seen everyone else's choices I want a redo.

Dec 22, 2014, 9:22am Top

>48 tess_schoolmarm:

Bill O'Reilly and Octavia Butler? That is a most unusual combination of favorites.

Dec 22, 2014, 12:18pm Top

Here is my list as of today:

1. Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
2. Broken Angel by Sara Samarasinghe
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
5. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Honorable mention:

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Dec 22, 2014, 2:15pm Top

I read a lot of books this year I can't pick a top 5 tho. #elliottshifmanl

Edited: Dec 22, 2014, 3:23pm Top

1. The Miseducation of Cameron Post - Emily M. Danforth
2. Lost Daughters - J.M. Redmann
3. And Playing the Role of Herself - K.E. Lane
4. The Pyramid Waltz - Barbara Ann Wright
5. The Parfit Knight - Juliet Blyth

1. The Birth of Britain - Winston S. Churchill
2. One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season - Chris Ballard
3. Happy Accidents - Jane Lynch
4. The New World - Winston S. Churchill
5. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride - Cary Elwes

Honorable mention:
Superman: Secret Identity - Kurt Busiek
I don't normally give graphic novels 5 stars.

Edited: Dec 22, 2014, 4:54pm Top

Tough, but I think I'll go with, in chronological order:

Captain Marryat, Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836).
Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897).
Gavin Maxwell, Harpoon at a venture (1952).
Harper Lee, To kill a mockingbird (1960).
MacLiesh & Krieger, Fabulous voyage (1963).

And for what it's worth, two I really didn't get on with. My first book by each of these authors, and my last:

Evelyn Waugh, Vile bodies (1930).
Henry James, Fourteen stories by Henry James (1946).

Edited: Dec 23, 2014, 9:50am Top

Confining myself to fiction and after some hard choices, in no particular order here are the books that I found to be the best this year. Each of them was immersing, memorable and (for me) did something different than other books.

The Long Home by William Gay - A quietly menacing novel about people caught in the grip of an evil man. As he tightens his fingers, things slip through including honesty and love. Great use of language, gothic and powerful. (1999)

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin - Stories of orphans and outsiders usually follow a predictable storyline, but this novel surprised me both in characterization and in plot. Set in an unusual location and time it is an introspective and engrossing novel. (2012)

A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin - I doubted a decades old psychological thriller could do anything to surprise me, but I was very wrong. Levin’s sleight of hand as an author is nothing short of amazing. When you realize what you’ve been reading and the penny drops, your jaw will also. I promise. (1954)

Death is a Lonely Business by Ray Bradbury - Infused with autobiographical insights and Bradbury’s trademark prose full of dark surprise, this detective novel doesn’t follow any rules. Sinister and light at the same time, full of delirium and friendship, worlds within worlds it is sure to delight any adventurous crime novel fan. (1985)

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng - Conveys the anguish of racially motivated social ostracism without beating you over the head with it. Creates a complex family dynamic without creating villains and victims. Well-written with plenty to think about after you’re done. (2014)

A few runners up -

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore - almost as hilarious and twisted as his first Pocket of Dog Snogging book, Fool, but somehow a bit more sinister. (2014)

San Miguel by T.C. Boyle - the story of a place, an island off the coast of California and the lives of the women who live there. Great stories told in a way only Boyle can pull off. (2012)

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian - a tale of 'modern witches' and the lengths they will go to to keep their powers. Quietly creepy with a superb ending. (2011)

Best non-Fiction

Great Catherine by Carolly Erickson - A well-written look at this amazing ruler's life.

Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey - Researcher goes looking for one story, finds another and it consumes her as her book about it did me.

Dec 23, 2014, 9:32am Top

Happily my favourites this year were mostly books I'd intended to read forever or was sorry to say I'd never read, and finally tackled:

Howards End, almost as good as Passage to India which I previously read and loved.
Dubliners, a collection I wouldn't have fully appreciated without help, but with that help I thought it was fantastic.
Victory, a Joseph Conrad title I wasn't familiar with and was happy to discover.
Winter's Tale, for the magic of the journey; don't let that lousy movie discourage you.
Ficciones, my first exposure to Jorge Borge's magnificent work.

...and too many runners up to mention. The only disappointment for me this year was The Sword in the Stone. It had a touching ending, but just seemed to bumble along without a lot of entertainment quality and didn't measure up to my expectations.

Edited: Dec 24, 2014, 8:19pm Top

>47 JackieCarroll: JackieCarroll I'm trying to read more contemporary fiction after months and months of historical novels (not that I'm complaining) and I have found I enjoy them more than I thought I would. Now I'm headed over to see which books you have listed because I'm still on the hunt for good, new books!

Dec 26, 2014, 2:11pm Top

I don't keep very close track of when I read what, but these I definitely read and loved in 2014:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
The Blackhouse by Peter May
All Clear by Connie Willis
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

Edited: Dec 30, 2014, 7:32am Top

Hey si - nice to see you around these parts. I'm curious about the Ackroyd. I've only ever read his fiction, but know he's a pretty competent biographer and for Collins in particular. Did you review it (I guess I could go check)?

I see you did...I have read a lot of Collins so am curious to read about the man. Thanks for making my wishlist even longer! lol

Dec 30, 2014, 12:15pm Top

my top five fictional works were:

The Dechronization of Sam Magruder: A Novel
The Metamorphosis
Great Expectations
Sycamore Row

and on another note, the best book of the year was

Hedgie Blasts Off!

Dec 31, 2014, 1:07pm Top

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Written In My Own Heart's Blood Diana Gabaldon
The Martian Andy Weir
Orphan Train Christina Kline
House Girl Tara Conklin

Edited: Dec 31, 2014, 11:03pm Top

Bennett, Robert Jackson. American Elsewhere
King, Stephen. Revival
Shriver, Lionel. The Post-Birthday World
Sorokin, Vladimir. The Queue
Zailckas, Koren. Mother, Mother

Of these, I think The Queue was the best, most important, and most enjoyable, by far. But all of them are phenomenal. Even Stephen King is back to form!

These are the three best nonfiction titles I read this year:

Cuneo, Michael W. American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty
Cuneo, Michael W.The Smoke of Satan: Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Catholicism
Edin, Kathryn. Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City

I'd read anything Kathryn Edin wrote, and I would read more religious sociology by Cuneo if it existed.

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