Best Reference Titles of 2016

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This year’s list, compiled by a group of LJ’s top reference reviewers and editors, spans a wide range of subject areas, from a dictionary of Shakespearean vocabulary and a journey through classic sf films to an encyclopedia of cheese and a collection of the year’s best infographics. Several prescient titles published in 2016 will continue to see strong usage in 2017, such as a guide to fact-checking, an in-depth look at the history of surveillance in America, an encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim world, and a work on the history and evolution of protest movements. While some selections are more relevant for scholars working in colleges and universities, several works also bring great appeal for more casual browsers and public library users. Included is a roundup of the best databases reviewed in LJ this past year as well as a listing of excellent—and free—online resources that should be bookmarked and at the fingertips of every reference librarian.

Arts & Literature

Berger, Sidney E. The Dictionary of the Book: A Glossary for Book Collectors, Booksellers, Librarians, and Others. Rowman & Littlefield. 334p. illus. index. ISBN 9781442263390. $125; ebk. ISBN 9781442263406.

Setting out to amend John Carter’s classic ABC for Book Collectors, Berger (director emeritus, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA) has created a dictionary for “anyone who wants to speak intelligently about books.” With more than 1,300 entries and 100 illustrations, this insightful work drills down to the specifics of everything from typefaces to legal issues to design and more. Whether readers are curious about the concertina fold or wondering about wood pulp, they’ll find answers to questions they never even thought of in this bibliophile’s bible.

The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare. 2 vols. Cambridge Univ. 2248p. ed. by Bruce R. Smith. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781107057258. $650.

A transhistorical, international, and interdisciplinary work that offers an in-depth exploration of Shakespeare’s own world (1500–1660), including language, science and technology, religion, medicine, contemporary popular culture, and his own critical reception. The second volume brings readers and researchers up through the present, focusing on Shakespeare as a cultural icon and his impact on everything from the visual arts to media history. This richly illustrated set offers a wide breadth of subjects with impressive depth. An excellent resource for scholars interested in the history and legacy of the Bard.

Hischak, Thomas S. Musicals in Film: A Guide to the Genre. Greenwood. 480p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781440844225. $89; ebk. ISBN 9781440844232.

Exploring a varied genre that includes The Jazz Singer and Les Misérables (with The Wizard of Oz, Bye Bye Birdie, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in between), Hischak (theater, SUNY at Cortland) pulls back the curtain on movie musicals. Decade by decade, the book offers an overview of each era, then focuses on noteworthy films, with each entry presenting both a summary and reasons why the movie remains part of the cultural consciousness. With further reading and watch-alikes for each production, this is ready-reference and viewers’ advisory all in one package. (LJ 2/15/17)

Literary Wonderlands: A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created. Black Dog & Leventhal. 320p. ed. by Laura Miller. illus. ISBN 9780316316385. $29.99.

Who doesn’t want to escape sometimes, to (or from) Oz, Gormenghast, IQ84, or other imagined worlds? Not an anthology, this tantalizing guide to popular and literary landmark texts offers thoughtful description, context, and analysis of almost 100 titles (most are Western, inviting debate about choices and omissions). Engagingly written, the volume is beautifully produced, with striking artwork, including original illustrations. Readers will revisit favorite—and discover new—realms in these attractive pages.

Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian. Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World. Bloomsbury Academic. 704p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780857853974. $240.

Winner of the 2017 Dartmouth Medal for “most outstanding reference work,” presented by the Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, this unique and visually sumptuous work details the history of embroidery from Ancient Egypt to the present day. Over 750 gorgeous full-color images offer enjoyment for both serious researchers and casual browsers. Smartly organized indexes and chapters allow readers to search for topics by country, religion, cultural event, or ceremony.


Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties; The 21st Century Edition. 2 vols. McFarland. 1040p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780786442300. $99; pap. ISBN 9781476666181. $45.

Film critic and historian Warren has assembled a seminal anthology of sf movies released in the United States from 1950 to 1962. This two-volume work, initially published in 1982 and 1986, respectively, is a one-man survey written from the perspective of a science fiction movie aficionado rather than a scholar. Updates include added content, entry revisions, and new film details. (LJ 5/1/16)

Business & Economics

Forbes Book of Quotations: 10,000 Thoughts on the Business of Life. Black Dog & Leventhal. 768p. ed. by Ted Goodman. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780316310048. $24.99.

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” Such is one nugget of managerial wisdom (from General George S. Patton, under “Action”) to be found in this revised and updated edition. At turns witty and inspirational, the words of Confucius and Cicero get equal billing with Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs, organized under topic headings such as “Adversity” and “Salesmanship.” An eminently handy compilation that will find use on any ready reference shelf.

Lind, Nancy S. & others. Today’s Economic Issues: Democrats and Republicans. Greenwood. 387p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781440839368. $97; ebk. ISBN 9781440839375.

Lind (political science), Erik T. Rankin (politics & government), and Gardenia Harris (Sch. of Social Work; all, Illinois State Univ.) explore the major political parties’ viewpoints on economic issues such as unemployment, corruption, job creation, and more. With a contentious election behind us and the rise of fake news and alternative facts, this evenhanded and accessible guide is necessary reading for those seeking to make sense of what may be confusing or arcane topics. (SLJ 3/17)

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Economics and Society. 4 vols. SAGE. 1984p. ed. by Frederick F. Wherry & Juliet Schor. index. ISBN 9781452226439. $650; ebk. ISBN 9781506346175.

Wherry (sociology, Yale Univ.) and Schor (sociology, Boston Coll.) examine social science topics through an economic lens, focusing not on analytical theories but on broader concepts, making this four-volume set particularly relevant and accessible. An excellent addition to reference collections, especially those serving high school and undergraduate students interested in the sociological implications of economics and vice versa. (LJ 10/15/16)

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Food

Lakshmi, Padma. The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs: An Essential Guide to the Flavors of the World. Ecco: HarperCollins. 352p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780062375230. $39.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062375247.

From the award-winning host of Top Chef, this work covers numerous herbs and spices in alphabetical order and includes detailed descriptions, place of origin, and recipes. Readers will find what to expect for taste and how products should look, feel, and smell for maximum flavor, whether fresh or dried. Besides entries for more familiar fare such as cinnamon, ginger, and parsley are those for epazote, pandan leaves, and zedoary. Full-color photos enhance the visual experience. (LJ 9/15/16)

The Oxford Companion to Cheese. Oxford Univ. 888p. ed. by Catherine Donnelly. photos. index. ISBN 9780199330881. $65.

Examining the topic through a variety of lenses—culinary, scientific, historical, cultural, and even literary and artistic—Donnelly (nutrition & food science, Univ. of Vermont) has left no stone unturned in her pursuit of all things cheese (yes, that includes Cheez Whiz). Boasting 855 signed entries from cheese makers, cheese mongers, food historians, anthropologists, and more; a thorough index; in-depth cross-referencing; and more than 100 illustrations, this extensive offering is a rich and robust smorgasbord. (LJ 2/15/17)

General Reference

The Best American Infographics 2016. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. 176p. ed. by Gareth Cook & Robert Krulwich. illus. ISBN 9780544556386. pap. $20.

The fourth and final edition to this series, annually thrilling all design and info maniacs, exhibits no slowdown in its riveting ride. Imagination and clarity in depicting information are equal criteria for this fascinating selection of lively graphics on topics such as politics, sports, religion, health, history, and even personal relationships. Artful and often colorful data presentations offer unexpected insights from such disparate fields as cartography, industry, science, marketing, and human behavior.

Borel, Brooke. The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking. Univ. of Chicago. 192p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226290768. $55; pap. ISBN 9780226290935. $17; ebk. ISBN 9780226291093.

An indispensable resource in the age of “fake news,” this slim but informative title offers writers, researchers, and journalists best practices for fact-checking in a wide variety of media. Taking into account the reality of shrinking newsroom staffs and the difficulties in sourcing content, Borel presents practical advice, tapping experts from the New Yorker, Popular Science, and This American Life, among others. An essential guide for working writers and editors as well as students interested in information literacy.

Foer, Joshua & others. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. Workman. 480p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9780761169086. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780761189671.

In 2009, Foer cofounded the site Atlas Obscura with Dylan Thuras, with the aim of crowdsourcing descriptions of intriguing, off-the-beaten-path places all over the world (coauthor Ella Morton is the site’s associate editor). This volume lists more than 700 of the best entries, which are arranged by region and accompanied by color photographs and maps. A guide for the most adventurous of tourists, or a wonderful browse to be relished by armchair travelers. (LJ 6/1/16)

Health & Medicine

Medicine: The Definitive Illustrated History. DK. 320p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781465453419. $40.

Boasting the dazzling graphics that the publisher is known for, this informative volume provides a sprawling yet accessible look at the evolution of medical history. Profiling relevant individuals (Galen, Margaret Sanger) and spotlighting such medical breakthroughs as the first vaccination, this title will entice casual and more serious readers alike. Well-chosen photographs and reproductions are a sumptuous feast for the eyes and a valuable visual aid. (LJ 1/17)

The Pregnancy Encyclopedia. DK. 352p. illus. index. ISBN 9781465443786. $40.

Everything you always wanted to know about pregnancy and birth. The Q&A format covers all stages of pregnancy, including prepartum and postpartum periods, shopping for mother and baby, and labor and delivery, along with gorgeous photography and excellent illustrations. Medical yet highly readable, suitable for ages 14 through adult. (LJ 11/15/16)

Salem Health: Cancer. 4 vols. Salem. 1500p. ed. by Michael A. Buratovich & Laurie Jackson-Grusby. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781619259508. $493.75.

Part of the “Salem Health” series, this set provides an encyclopedic overview of a wide variety of cancer issues, for instance, the various diseases, symptoms and conditions; biology; the oncology team and its specialties; carcinogens; lifestyle; prevention; treatments; chemotherapy and alternatives; and social and personal concerns.

History

Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography. Oxford Univ. 3192p. ed. by Franklin W. Knight & Henry Louis Gates Jr. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199935796. $1,195; ebk. ISBN 9780199935802.

Noted scholar Gates lends his talents to this comprehensive tome about people of African descent (e.g., Haitian leader Toussaint L’Ouverture, Cuban singer Celia Cruz, and Peruvian saint Martin de Porres) who impacted the Latin American and Caribbean world—and beyond. Owing to a collaboration with the Oxford African American Studies Center, this first volume features 2,000-plus bibliographic records, filling in the need for detailed information about prominent people of the largest African diaspora.

Lynch, Jack. You Could Look It Up: The Reference Shelf from Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia. Bloomsbury. 464p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780802777522. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780802777942.

Lynch (English, Rutgers Univ.; The Lexicographer’s Dilemma) relates the stories of 50 major reference works spanning 1754 BCE to the present, defining “reference” sources as titles that are designed to be used piecemeal to answer a query rather than read cover to cover. Categories of reference texts explored include law codes, dictionaries, atlases, encyclopedias, quotation treasuries, and trivia compilations. Specific titles range from the familiar (Code of Hammurabi, Wikipedia, Gray’s Anatomy) to the lesser known (Historia Plantarum, Bald’s Leechbook). An absorbing and illuminating journey into the wide world of reference. (LJ 2/15/16)

Language & Linguistics

Crystal, David. The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation. Oxford Univ. 780p. ISBN 9780199668427. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780191835087.

Crystal (Think on My Words: Exploring Shakespeare’s Languages) offers the first comprehensive guide to original pronunciation of Shakespeare’s words, taken from more than 20,000 words appearing in the First Folio. Each entry includes the phonetic transcription, variant spellings, and rhymes. Most useful is the companion website, which features sound files. A superb resource for thespians, directors, and Shakespeare scholars.

Jourist, Igor. Firefly 5 Language Visual Dictionary. Firefly. 832p. illus. index. ISBN 9781770857681. $35.

Five Indo-European languages—English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish—are covered in this highly usable visual dictionary. Organized into browser-friendly topic areas such as “Animal Kingdom,” “The Human Being,” and “Transportation,” each entry features clear illustrations and diagrams, with simple labels identifying the word in each language. Language learners as well as world travelers will find this an economical and practical title.

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Law & Politics

The Central Intelligence Agency: An Encyclopedia of Covert Ops, Intelligence Gathering, and Spies. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 911p. ed. by Jan Goldman. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781610690911. $189; ebk. ISBN 9781610690928.

The CIA serves America by gathering data to assist in making decisions with the central mission to protect its citizens. This two-volume work provides content that objectively examines the agency’s impact on world events, including the Cold War and up through present-day threats of terrorism. The successes and failures of this covert organization are presented, providing a reflection of its 75-year history.

Crimes of the Centuries: Notorious Crimes, Criminals, and Criminal Trials in American History. 3 vols. ABC-CLIO. 1080p. ed. Steven Chermak & Frankie Y. Bailey. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781610695930. $310; ebk. ISBN 9781610695947.

Offers a fascinating view of American society, culture, and history in one- to two-page articles that provide a succinct look at American crime between 1637 and 2015. Includes reprints of some primary documents including a Salem Witch Trial arrest warrant. Will be popular with trivia buffs. (LJ 5/15/16)

Latinos and Criminal Justice: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood. 506p. ed. by José Luis Morín. bibliog. ISBN 9780313356605. $100; ebk. ISBN 9780313356612.

An authoritative, compelling, and informative encyclopedia that dispels many inconsistences, misperceptions, and myths about Latinas/Latinos (Latinx) and American criminal justice. Part 1 consists of nine lengthy essays that explore the historical and social contexts of the Latinx experience. Part 2 is an alphabetical listing of short entries from legal specialists and criminal justice scholars whose focus is on issues that most directly affect that population. Timely, comprehensive, and important. (LJ 6/1/16)

The SAGE Handbook of Resistance. SAGE. 530p. ed. by David Courpasson & Steven Vallas. index. ISBN 9781473906433. $165.

Courpasson (EMLYON Business Sch., France) and Vallas (sociology, Northeastern Univ.) present a timely and erudite look at the history and evolution of protests and resistance movements, from Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party to the Arab Spring. Essays are divided into six major areas—foundations, sites of resistance, technologies of resistance, languages of resistance, geographies of resistance, and consequences of resistance—offering a unique and accessible entry point for researchers working in a wide variety of social science disciplines.

Surveillance in America: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, and the Law. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 743p. ed. by Pam Dixon. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781440840548. $189.

The 21st century has provided the American public with controversy in relation to governmental surveillance programs. In an effort to provide heightened security measures, the privacy rights of our citizens have arguably become more ambiguous. This two-volume set impartially explores many of the key issues swirling around government surveillance in this country. This ranges from the Fourth Amendment to the high-tech methods currently being employed. (LJ 5/1/16)

Religion & Philosophy

Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. 2d ed. 2 vols. Macmillan. 823p. ed. by Richard Martin. illus. bibliog. maps. index. ISBN 9780028656045. $481.25.

Up-to-date and accessible, this authoritative overview is also timely. Superb editing of almost 350 scholars’ works guarantees clarity despite information density. Cultural, historical, economic, and political coverage is wide-ranging, e.g. capitalism, comics, reform, gender, Islamophobia, graffiti, clothing, and Muslim-interacting regional religions (Baha’i, Druze, Zoroastrian, Alawite, Judaism, and Buddhism). Overlapping articles by a variety of experts assure depth and sometimes reflect disagreement. This ambitious work will appeal to intellectually inquisitive readers. (LJ 5/1/16)

Miracles: An Encyclopedia of People, Places, and Supernatural Events from Antiquity to the Present. ABC-CLIO. 478p. ed. by Patrick J. Hayes. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781610695985. $89; ebk. ISBN 9781610695992.

Miracles have cultural significance in history and religion, having affected society over the course of human experience. This multidisciplinary encyclopedia draws on entries from the humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and the hard sciences. The highlighted entries explore the provenance, cultural dynamics, and psychology behind them. This single volume provides content that emphasizes a potentially controversial subject in an accessibly organized format. (LJ 6/1/16)

Religion and Politics in America: An Encyclopedia of Church and State in American Life. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 899p. ed. by Frank J. Smith. ISBN 9781598844351. $189; ebk. ISBN 9781598844368.

More than 100 writers from a wide range of professions, including college professors, theologians, and independent scholars, cover the relationship between church and state in America from the Mayflower Compact in the early Colonial era to the culture wars of modern times. This wide-reaching set helps make sense of the political and cultural conflicts in the United States today. Includes 20 primary sources. (LJ 9/15/16)

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Sciences

The Bee Book. DK. 224p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781465443830. $25.

This book will enthrall middle school researchers, as well as science-minded older readers. From bee evolution through the “waggle dance” and information on Colony Collapse Disorder, the book moves smoothly on to bee-friendly gardens and beekeeping. Project instructions (beeswax candles; honey lemon cough drops) complete the package. Intelligent text interacts with eye-catching photographs, charts, colored pages, illustrations, boxed text, and other visuals to captivate readers. (SLJ 4/16)

Pell, Susan K. & Bobbi Angell. A Botanist’s Vocabulary: 1300 Terms Explained and Illustrated. Timber. 228p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781604695632. $24.95.

This handy and elegant illustrated glossary features over 1,300 terms used by botanists and home gardeners. Beautiful and finely detailed black-and-white drawings illuminate the minute differences among everything from aggregate fruits to zygo­morphic flowers. A splendid ready-reference title that will be eagerly embraced by the green-thumbed.

Shunk, Stephen A. Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America. Houghton Mifflin. 320p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780618739950. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780547840246.

This guide thoroughly covers all 23 species of woodpeckers in North America. Each entry provides detailed information on anatomy, behavior, size, and habitat for each species. A comprehensive resource for both amateur birders and experts alike. (LJ 3/1/16)

The Stars: The Definitive Visual Guide to the Cosmos. DK. 256p. illus. maps. index. ISBN 9781465453402. $30.

This eye-popping comprehensive guide to the cosmos is supplemented with historical information, sky charts, and beautiful photos from the Hubble telescope. An ideal resource for stargazers young and old.

Water Planet: The Culture, Politics, Economics, and Sustainability of Water on Earth. ABC-CLIO. 469p. ed. by Camille Gaskin-Reyes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781440838163. $89; ebk. ISBN 9781440838170.

Aiming to provide “an integrated picture of the role of water in everyday existence,” Gaskin-Reyes (Latin American studies, Georgetown Univ.) takes a deep dive, exploring a variety of topics: climate change; water governance; the role of gender in water distribution, access, and ownership; weather phenomena such as storms and hurricanes; and more. Distinguishing the work from similar titles is the inclusion of varying perspectives. Case studies and annotated documents round out this comprehensive, no-nonsense examination. (LJ 1/17)

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Social Science

Encyclopedia of Modern Ethnic Conflicts. 2d ed. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 847p. ed. by Joseph R. Rudolph Jr. bibliog. ISBN 9781610695527. $189.

Ethnic conflicts have inspired violence inside individual states since the mid-20th century. This updated two-volume work explores many of these skirmishes, including recent ones. The coverage includes a wide geographical range with nearly every continent represented. Time lines for each conflict are provided, with the evolution and historical significance explored. This content has had an impact on policies that have shaped the world.

People of Color in the United States: Contemporary Issues in Education, Work, Communities, Health, and Immigration. 4 vols. Greenwood. 1986p. ed. by Kofi Lomotey & others. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781610698542. $399; ebk. ISBN 9781610698559.

Representing a wide range of perspectives, the articles in this set are provocative and stimulating. They provide an outstanding overview of the current cultural, economic, political, and social forces that impact the life experiences of people of color in America. In particular, student researchers will find the breadth and depth of the work immensely helpful for projects and reports. A distinguished work of succinct writing, balanced viewpoints, and effective supporting materials. (LJ 2/1/17)

The SAGE Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies. 3 vols. SAGE. 1480p. ed. Abbie E. Goldberg. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781483371306. $595; ebk. ISBN 9781483371320.

An exceptional and exhaustive work that addresses LGBTQ experiences, key concepts, systems that impact LGBTQ lives, and theories and methods of research used in LGBTQ research. Its 440 entries cover not only the most compelling and well-developed topics in the field but also new issues of emerging significance, e.g., transgender rights. Distinctive features, knowledgeable writing, and sweeping content establish this work as an essential resource and reference standard. (LJ 2/1/17)

“White” Washing American Education: The New Culture Wars in Ethnic Studies. 2 vols. ABC-CLIO. 613p. ed. by Denise M. Sandoval & others. bibliog. notes. index. ISBN 9781440832550. $131; ebk. ISBN 9781440832567.

Noting that the rise of ethnic studies has been met with “reluctance, hostility, and opposition,” the editors of this thought-provoking work (which also include Anthony J. Ratcliff, Tracy Lachica Buenavista, and James R. Marín) seek to shed light on relevant research and the issues that this field has faced. Scholarly essays tackle cerebral subjects—Africana studies and the carceral state, cultural pedagogy—with a passion that will excite readers and, ultimately, energize a much-needed conversation about the study of race and ethnicity. (LJ 12/16)

Williams, Victoria. Celebrating Life Customs Around the World: From Baby Showers to Funerals. 3 vols. ABC-CLIO. 1295p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781440836589. $294; ebk. ISBN 9781440836596.

From lullabies to shrunken heads, London-based author Williams provides commentary on rituals, customs, and traditions, with a focus on those likely to be less familiar to American readers. The writing is academic enough for research but accessible to most audiences. Inset color photographs and the wide variety of topics will draw in browsers. Williams writes intelligently on controversial topics (circumcision, female genital cutting) as well as walkabouts and the tooth fairy.

Mahnaz Dar is Assistant Managing Editor, School Library Journal (SLJ); Maggie Knapp is a Librarian,Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX; Patricia Lothrop is a retired school librarian, formerly with St. George’s School, Newport, RI; Gary Medina is a Librarian, El Camino College, Torrance, CA; Kiera Parrott is Reviews Director, LJ & SLJ; Dave Pugl is a Librarian, Ela Area Public Library, Lake Zurich, IL; Laurie Selwyn formerly worked at Grayson County Law Library, Sherman, TX; Stephanie Sendaula is Associate Editor, LJ; and Rob Tench is a Librarian, Old Dominion Univ. Library, Norfolk, VA

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