As we move from the nearly somber, yearning season of waiting — longing to get out of the “bleak mid-winter” even as we know we aren’t truly out, yet — and into the festive 12 days of Christmas (leading then into what Fleming Rutledge in her must-read little book Epiphany calls “the season of glory”) we are eager to celebrate some forthcoming titles that will be released soon in the month of January. See what I did there? I’m causing you to wait with eager expectation, hoping to bring even some joy here, now, along the way as we anticipate what’s just around the bend.
Maybe that’s a clever metaphor or maybe a down-to-Earth rehearsal of our awaiting God’s restoration of all things when the final climax of history unfolds, but for now, it’s fun, (isn’t it?) to pre-order some forthcoming books.
Or, maybe you can pre-order one as a special Christmastime gift for someone — print out the book cover and tell ‘em Hearts & Minds will be sending them one in a couple of weeks.
I will highlight seven that we are very, very excited about.
Naturally there are many more a-coming and plenty of good ones coming further out — think about the grand collection of Brueggemann pieces curated and edited by Conrad Kanagy to be called The Emancipation of God: Postmarks on Cultural Prophecy (January 30, 2024) or the moving memoir by Mike Cosper, Land of My Sojourn: The Landscape of a Faith Lost and Found (expected mid February from IVP) or the already much-discussed Reading Genesis by novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson (due March 12, 2024.) And I can hardly wait to see a major March release by Square Halo Books, which will surely be a fabulous work on the Holy Spirit in Narnia, called (what else?) Aslan’s Breath: Seeing the Holy Spirit in Narnia by Matthew Dickerson (with some illustrations by Ned Bustard.) April seems a long way off but some BookNotes readers will want to pre-order Thriving on a Riff: Jazz and the Spiritual Life by our friend Bill Carter, a Presbyterian pastor, preacher and jazzman. See what I mean!
HERE ARE 7 COMING IN JANUARY THAT YOU SHOULD PRE-ORDER NOW. ALL ARE 20% OFF.
If you pre-order these now we won’t send an invoice or charge your credit card until we actually send the books. A few have specific street-dates and we cannot send them early; others we will get early and we are allowed to send them. Order now and you will be among the first to receive them. We are grateful for your support.
It is helpful if you are pre-ordering more than one if you tell us if you want them consolidated and shipped together or, rather, as soon as each releases.
Black Liturgies: Prayers, Poems and Meditations for Staying Human Cole Arthur Riley (Convergent Books) $22.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $17.60 // ON SALE January 16, 2024
Granted, we have a number of friends and customers that have known Cole so her debut memoir, This Here Flesh, was a very good seller for us. It was very well received, got some serious attention by poets, black activists, folks who appreciate her theme that stories are how we best recall the meaning of our lives. That stunning book was nearly breathtaking at times as she ruminated on memories and her earlier and current life. She admits to issues of chronic pain and illness and yet loves the sensual embodiedness of this here life. What a book.
Another reason that book sold well and was eagerly received was because of her huge circle of folks engaged with her social media posts — started informally in the wake of the George Floyd murders and too much public discourse mocking anti-racist perspectives — followers of “Black Liturgies.” Sometimes poetic sayings, sometimes affirmations, sometimes more conventionally prayerful/liturgical forms, the project grew and many swore it meant the world to them. Quiet and humble Cole is, nonetheless, a born storyteller and a good writer and she continued to do good work and the project (I hate to call it a “brand”) expanded. Her Instagram “Black Liturgies” are impressive and meaningful.
Black Liturgies includes prayers and poems, yes. It has liturgies and short readings. We may stock it under “devotionals” or prayers I suppose. But it includes creatively rendered essays, introductions to each unit, and these are simply excellent, very moving, very honest, very well done. The opening chapter (a long introduction called “Architecture”is so captivating I have read it three times.
The first twenty-one entries (under the heading “By Story”) include reflections on calling, artistry, justice, rest, repair, body, fear, rage, memory, place, joy… Each chapter starts with an epigram or quotes by black authors, followed by her essay in the form of a letter. This is not a cheap contrivance (even if it may be in the hands of another author.) She writes as if she is talking right to you, dear reader, and I can tell you she is speaking with candor and spirit, from her heart and soul, to yours. It is beautiful and fierce.
These quotes and the letter set the stage for a poem and prayers. There are many prayers under each chapter’s topic, and they are themselves creatively imagined and well-crafted. She then gives you some questions to muse over, ponder, consider, in the section called “Contemplation.” This first portion is offered in almost 200 pages.
The second portion of the book — about the next 80-some pages — is under the heading ‘By Time” and here she arranges Biblical texts and the prayers around times (dawn, day, dusk) and seasons (the main seasons of the Christian liturgical calendar, including Kwanzaa and Juneteenth) and a few occasions such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, birth, reunion, home going. This is extraordinary stuff, deeply Christian but with a generous, expansive tone.
At the end she offers a “liturgical template for alternative occasions” so you can reliably make your own poetical liturgies. There is even an index so you can easily find her prayerful words by topic or occasions
Black Liturgies: Prayers, Poems and Meditations for Staying Human is amazing and I invite you to pre-order it now. It will be much-discussed in some circles this year, I am sure. Order your copies today.
I am delighted that several prominent black scholars, historians, and spiritual leaders have endorsed Cole’s good work. It is an honor for her that I’m sure she doesn’t take lightly. This is impressive; very impressive. Read on, please:
Readers will be deeply moved by the beauty of Arthur Riley’s writing and her moral clarity, tenderness, and wisdom. — Imani Perry, National Book Award-winning author of South to America and columnist at The Atlantic
Cole Arthur Riley is a spiritual guide and a gift in our lives. Restoring us to ourselves and reminding us of our humanness, our fragility, and the strength of faith, she calls us back to community, to breath, to our god-given selves. Black Liturgies is true spiritual balm for our troubled times. — Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times bestselling author of What Truth Sounds Like and Entertaining Race
Black Liturgies is a garden for the soul. With rare wisdom, beautiful clarity, and generous vulnerability, Cole Riley brings her whole self to these letters, verses, and promptings, offering bright, deep truths about who we are and can be as Black women, Black people, and human beings. Hold these luminous words close and let them be your balm. — Tiya Miles, National Book Award-winning author of All That She Carried
Practicing the Way: Be With Jesus, Become Like Him, Do as He Did John Mark Comer (Waterbrook) $26.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $20.80 // ON SALE January 16, 2024
Well, if the previous book was by a very excellent writer, a former English major sharing her faith from her embodied black experience — informed, yes, by some of which she told about, like growing up in Pittsburgh, in This Here Flesh — this one is by another excellent writer I like, a very white guy from a very white town (Portland, OR.) Okay, groovy rock star that he nearly is, John Mark Comer has now moved to LA where he works at Vintage Church. The book’s title draws on the name of a nonprofit he started which is designed to help folks clearly understand and embrace deep stuff about spirituality and being an on-the-ground follower of Jesus. In a way, Comer is a hip version of the late, great Dallas Willard. He’s like Rob Bell but with a straight-arrow, utterly orthodox theology. His books are all really great; Garden City remains an often-recommended title on work and rest (“and what it means to be human.’) So good.
This “practicing the way” by following so closely behind Jesus that he starts to rub off on you is not new news for those wanting deep spiritual formation to become more Christ-like. From Willard and John Ortberg to Ruth Haley Barton, Tish Warren, and Ronald Rolheiser, from Richard Foster to Kallistos Ware, he draws on a careful appropriation of the best work out there. The footnotes are tremendous (and when he says, “my favorite book on this topic is such and such” because…” you know you are reading somebody who has studied well and is sharing insights gleaned and offered as a true gift. Don’t you love an author who cites a lesser known Henri Nouwen book and tells a story about Dorothy Sayers and recalls a sermon by Tim Keller and explains why the Philokalia still matters for serious seekers? He knows the church fathers, the mystics, and yet is in good conversation with modern psychologists and cultural critics, from Janet Hagberg to Jamie Smith.
John has been on a bit of a trajectory since his wonderful, hard-hitting (but still fun) book called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World which then moved into the excellent (if a bit surprising, what with his exploration of evil and the demonic, even) Live No Lies: Recognize and Resist the Three Enemies That Sabotage Your Peace. You should know those two sharp hardbacks (sans dust jackets) and, now, consider this forthcoming one.
In this spacious, eminently readable volume, John Mark Comer meditates on how Christian discipleship is, at its root, the radical task of becoming an apprentice of Jesus — to be with him, to become like him, and to do as he did. The deceptively simple call is to take Jesus at his word, to open ourselves fully to him, to organize our schedules, our routines, our study, our daily practices around him, and, by doing so, to become people who can do as he would in our day and our culture. Comer’s experiences as a pastor, teacher, thinker, and an apprentice himself are helpfully on display here. Sit with this book slowly and let it be your guide into a life of apprenticeship to Jesus. — Tish Harrison Warren, Anglican priest and author of Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night
Have a Beautiful Terrible Day! Daily Meditations for the Ups, Downs & In-Betweens Kate Bowler (Convergent Books) $26.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $20.80 // ON SALE January 23, 2024
Don’t let the goofy, clever title or the purdy book cover fool you. (And, yep, those are thistles on that pastel cover — yikes.) Bowler is known for her pair of brilliant memoirs about having terminal brain cancer while a young theological faculty member at Duke Divinity School — those are, as I hope you know, Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved) and No Cure for Being Human: (And Other Truths I Need to Hear) and I highly recommend them. Not as serious or Reformed (let alone seriously Reformed) as some good studies that some of our customers tend to like, she is a wordsmith with a wit on par with Anne Lamott.
She’s got a fairly scholarly work on Oxford University Press (nearly an ethnography of women prosperity preachers) and a great, honest, down-to-earth devotional called Good Enough. Catch the subtitle: “40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection.” She just recently co-authored a slightly oversized hardback book of blessings and affirmations called The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days. I suspect you’ve caught her glorious, human and quite humane theme: we are loved by God, ragamuffins that we are, and life in this fallen world can be a bitch. And we need some help attending to some of this in real-world prose that honors our “beautiful terrible days.”
Is this a bit of a snorting nod to Mary Oliver? I don’t know — it might be like her, snarky saint that she is. But it’s good and rich stuff. We can’t just tell people to “have a nice day” or for God’s sake, to “cheer up.” But yet, she knows the gospel is good news, truly good news, and to walk into that tension of the fallen-being-redeemed, and the now-and-not-yet of God’s Kingdom’s presence, well, it’s complicated. And so best to proceed with some snark and bluster.
And yet, hear this: her good writing allows her to embrace really painful stuff; not just being witty and light-hearted, altho she is at times. She looks honestly at regret and grief; she knows sorry and literal pain. She knows that you are often overwhelmed. She dares not make light of your anxiety or fears; she knows some have done us harm.
These poetic reflections are Bible based and the prayers are honest and raw. The “reflection prompt” is not cheesy or simple. She draws (even in these little closing prompts) thoughts from Tolkien and Tina Fey. She invites, gives permission, encourages, and the book just sings. Pre-order it today, why don’t you?
The Servant Lawyer: Facing the Challenges of Christian Faith in Everyday Law Practice Robert F. Cochran (IVP Academic) $28.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $22.40 // AVAILABLE NOW
This tremendous 2024 release just arrived. Hooray!
I often mention that we have books to help ordinary Christian folks live out their faith in the work-world, thinking Christianly about various vocations, callings, and occupations. From the proverbial butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers, to school teachers and engineers, doctors and sociologists, artists and counselors, we’ve got something for almost everybody. Alas, these books don’t sell well — there is a huge gap between Sunday and Monday, worship and work, it seems — and most pastors don’t buy them for the young disciples they are mentoring. Even campus ministers, who work with thoughtful, energetic students who want to learn everything about following King Jesus, often fail to relate faith and studies, spirituality and jobs.
One reason, by the way, I’ll admit, is that some books about faith and the marketplace are a bit complex, heady, theoretical. And this is good, helping professionals grapple hard with foundational stuff. But, still, some workers need resources that are not academic tomes. I get it. This brand new book is an example of just exactly what we need, serious but practical, not too scholarly and aimed at the ordinary working attorney. Thanks be to God.
The Servant Lawyer is for ordinary lawyers who go to work in ordinary law practices. As the back cover says, most lawyers “spend their days drafting documents, negotiating with other attorneys, trying cases, researching the law, and counseling clients.” The book sets out to answer how this “everyday law practices relates to Jesus’s call to follow him in servanthood.”
My, my, this is brilliant; this is good. Cochran is a published legal scholar and has written and edited other work on how a robust understanding of the Scriptures might shape our jurisprudence and theories of justice. He has clerked for the important Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals but mostly, he has practiced law with a real law firm in a medium sized city. He takes seriously the call (as he has written in academic works) questions of moral responsibility and care but here he distills a lifetime of experience into this huge, basic question — what does it mean to be a servant in this career? He is a master teacher and has been a practitioner. Every field should have a book like this written by a servant-leader of thoughtfulness and integrity like this.
It is fascinating to me that the Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon says it is “a much needed-book… Lawyers of all faiths and no faith will find valuable guidance in this wise book.”
Yes, Cochran has ringing endorsements of his rich scholar by the likes of heavy-weight thinkers like John Witt (of Emory University.) It has a great forward by John Inazu of the University of Chicago. But, happily, he also gets a rave review by the fun-loving, down-to-Earth, “love does” guy, Bob Goff.
Listen to what Goff says, noting that Bob understands the “monumental and mundane” about being a Christian professional in a world of temptations. Goff summarizes The Servant Lawyer nicely:
“Cochran winsomely shares his wisdom and experience. The unexpected key, he reveals, is service — serving clients, serving the common good, and most of all, serving Jesus.” — Bob Goff, author of Love Does, Everybody Always, Dream Big
This book officially releases in February 2024 but we have it now! Maybe it is because I, too, have an endorsement on it or maybe they just got it out early. In any case, we have it. And we are thrilled. If you pre-order it now, we can actually send it right now. Hooray.
Flannery O’Connor’s Why Do the Heathen Rage? A Behind-The-Scenes Look at a Work in Progress Jessica Hooten Wilson; with illustrations by Steve Prince (Brazos Press) $24.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.99 // ON SALE January 23, 2024
Well, if you have any literature-loving folks you want to give a gift to that will shock their socks off, as we used to say, man, this is a literary event that will be unmatched in 2024. Yes, believe it or not, an unfinished work of fiction by Flannery O’Connor is seeing the light of day, explained, explored, and in some ways brought to greater fruition, if not actually finished, by the great scholar and teacher Jessica Wilson Hooten. The publisher calls it an excavation.
Esau McCaulley calls it a “part detective story” and the Booker Prize award winner George Saunders says it is “a true labor of love” for which “the literary world will be wildly grateful.”
Here is what Brazos say about it — get this!
In this work of literary excavation, an award-winning author transcribes, compiles, and organizes a final, unfinished novel by celebrated American fiction writer Flannery O’Connor. This book introduces O’Connor’s final work to the public for the first time and imagines themes and directions the novel might have taken.
Ms Hooten WIlson is the right person for the job, too, believe me. She is an incredibly smart, very well read literary critic, an excellent teacher and a very good writer. You may know her exceptional Reading for the Love of God: How to Read as a Spiritual Practice — on our list for Best Books of 2023 that we will share before long — and her 2022 treasure, The Scandal of Holiness: Renewing Your Imagination in the Company of Literary Saints (with a lovely, astute forward by Lauren Winner.) I am fond of her big, co-edited book Learning the Good Life: Wisdom from the Great Hearts and Minds That Came Before where, of course, there is an introduction to and excerpt of O’Connor alongside nearly 40 other key writers.
What an honor for her to get to be the one to explore and arrange and share this rarely seen novel of Flannery O’Connor with the world. (O’Connor died in 1964, leaving Why Do the Heathen Rage unfinished.) How fun to see excerpts and insights about the famously cranky, Catholic woman illuminating excerpts of this “work in progress.” I assume the literary world will be agog — there should be stories in The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, The Southern Review (famously founded by Robert Penn Warren),The New Yorker, and the like.
Pre-order it now and brag a bit about it over the holidays. It will be a handsomely designed volume, too, with black and white etchings/woodcuts by a son of the deep south, and former Pennsylvanian artist, Steve Prince, now at William and Mary, who has also penned a moving afterword.
The Spirit of Our Politics: Spiritual Formation and the Renovation of Public Life Michael Wear (Zondervan) $18.99 OUR SALE PRICE = $15.19 // ON SALE January 23, 2024
Oh how I wish I had an advanced copy of this to tell you about. Trust me, though, I’m sure it is going to be excellent, one I will surely promote all year long as we move into this tense election cycle. Michael is a young man I admire as much as most politicos and his career and thoughtfulness is exceptional.
You may know a bit about his story — some of our local friends will remember when we crowded in to hear him here at the shop when we had him in Dallastown to share about his first book, Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House about the Future of Faith in America. A white guy converted mostly by black music, the youngest person to ever find employment in a White House administration, he both worked for and loved Barack Obama and left before the second term due to his own personal disappointment about a few policy shifts. Some of our local folks came out because they loved the idea that he worked for Obama. Others came out because he had quit his job with Obama. All in all, our bi-partisan crowd appreciated that Mike invited us to think about Christians in politics as agents of God’s Kingdom — not primarily carrying water for any secular party or ideological movement — and exploring how working out a public theology as we serve for the common good can give us insights about the nature of hope in a fallen world. Geesh, I thought we had a light-hearted Saint Augustine on our hands, if Augustine like soul music and knew what kind of healthier iced tea Michelle Obama wanted her husband to drink.
Michael has subsequently started a nonprofit educational organization and has been consulting, speaking, networking, and helping deepen a conversation about civic life from an ecumenical, balanced, nonpartisan Christian perspective. A few years back he co-wrote the excellent, clear-headed primer, Compassion (&) Conviction: The “And” Campaign’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement and now serves as the CEO of the Center for Christianity and Public Life.
The Spirit of Our Politics looks to be just what it says; literally it is about spiritual formation as our souls are shaped for public engagement. I know he likes and draws on Dallas Willard; I know he has been influenced by the teaching about spiritual disciplines from Renovate (founded by Richard Foster.) There are a few such books deeply relating spirituality and justice, but very few will do what I imagine this book will do.
Here is a line from the book that seems evidently true enough, but a notion we simply must grapple with:
“We cannot separate out the kind of politics we have — our laws, our political leaders and institutions, our political culture — from the kind of people we are.”
The endorsements on the back are from all across the legitimate political spectrum, with names like Josh Dubois and Ben Sasse and Tim Shriver on the back. Here is a blurb by Senator Chris Coons:
The Spirit of Our Politics gets to the heart of our current divided politics. Michael Wear has written a powerful call that affirms the agency each citizen has to contribute to a healthier and more just politics and society. As a Christian, I found here an inspiring path to return to the heart of our faith and build a culture of engaged, faithful service. Our politics would be dramatically healthier if The Spirit of Our Politics was our guide, and I encourage my colleagues, and all readers who seek a positive future for our politics, to read it. —Chris Coons, US Senator from Delaware
Listen to another writer, exceptionally wise for her age, the great Kaitlyn Schiess (author of the wonderful Liturgy of Politics and the recent The Ballot and the Bible) who says this:
If you are exhausted by and exasperated with politics, this book is for you. The Spirit of Our Politics won’t try to drum up your enthusiasm for our broken political system; it will draw your attention to a greater and truer story–and the way that story should then shape our common life together. Michael Wear has given us the gift of diagnosing the deeper spiritual problems underneath our divisions and disagreements–and proposing a better path forward.
The Wood Between the Worlds: A Poetic Theology of the Cross Brian Zahnd (IVP) $24.00 OUR SALE PRICE = $19.20 // ON SALE February 6, 2024
This is another precious, provocative work that is going to be one of the key titles of this winter (into Lent, which starts early this year, by the way.) The Wood Between the Worlds as a title comes from an allusive phrase found in Lewis’s Magician’s Nephew, of course; I can’t wait to hear what author Zahnd (who is quite the literature lover) makes of it.
In any case, Zahnd is known for exceptionally interesting Bible teaching and for being a creative, solid communicator; I have an affection for him and his work (and his love of Bob Dylan) even though I know some find his Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God a bit troubling. I think he is right in insisting that we read the big, unfolding, Biblical narrative with a Christ-centered hermeneutic, and I like his high Christology. Like his friend Brad Jersak would put it, we need a more “Christ-like God” — which is not shallow, unbiblical, liberal theology but an effort at doing theology in light of true truths that we bank on: that the second person of the Trinity (you know the one we celebrate for the incarnation at Christmastime), the Lord Jesus Christ, is the best and fullest way to understand God the Father.
And such a Christ-centered orientation has hugely practical implications. Zahn has written about aesthetics (Beauty Will Save the World) and nonviolence (A Farewell to Mars) so is eager to show how radically Christ-centered discipleship can transform us, allowing us to bear witness to the work God is doing in the world.
The publisher has given us this much, for starters:
“Everything that can be known about God is in some way present at the cross. The cross of Christ is the wood between the worlds. There is the world that was and the world to come, and in between those two worlds is the wood upon which the Son of God was hung. As in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the wood between the worlds is a portal. In this world of sin and death we do not despair because we believe there is a portal that will transport us to a world where, in the beloved words of Lady Julian, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
In any case I am guessing that this book is, among other things, a reflection on the notions of the atonement, the work of the cross, the questions of how best to understand the sacrifice of Christ. I suspect he will draw on (among others) the scapegoat theories of Girard. I hope he engages the exegesis of N.T. Wright. I have watched several times a great Lenten sermon Zahnd preached at his Oklahoma church a few years ago on the cross of Christ and its beauty. If this book unpacks any of that it will be one of the books of the year! From the table of contents I note that he covers a lot of ground. Julie Canlis calls it “kaleidoscopic.”
Listen to this from Julie Canlis, a Calvin scholar and author of A Theology of the Ordinary:
In the liminal Wood Between the Worlds, Brian Zahnd encounters the inexhaustible cross. Perhaps you are more familiar with the absent Protestant Christ or the afflicted Catholic Christ or the victorious classical Christ? Each one is true and speaks a faithful message. (Which one speaks to you? Which one pushes you away?) Brian’s book invites us to contemplate the kaleidoscopic mystery of Christ. Will we stop and be still before the mystery? Will we let this irreligious symbol transform all our notions of religion?
Or this, from our friend Eric Peterson, a thoughtful, gracious, PC(USA) pastor:
With the heart of a pastor, the mind of a scholar, and the soul of a Jesus follower, Brian Zahnd here shares the fruit of his long, unhurried contemplation of the cross of Christ. His keen insights liberate us from flawed atonement theories based in retributive justice that have persisted for far too long, and he breathes new life into the mystery of the cross: the supreme centerpiece of God’s love that radiates redemption and ushers us into the peaceable kingdom. — Eric E. Peterson, pastor of Colbert Presbyterian Church, author of Letters to a Young Congregation: Nurturing the Growth of a Faithful Church
It is helpful if you are pre-ordering more than one if you tell us if you want them consolidated and shipped together or, rather, as soon as each release. We want to serve you well so please let us know your preferences. THANKS.
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Sadly, as of December 2023 we are still closed for in-store browsing. COVID is not fully over and is on the rise. Since few are reporting their illnesses anymore, it is tricky to know the reality but the best measurement is to check the waste water tables to see the amount of virus in the eco-system. It is bad and now getting worse. It’s important to be aware of how risks we take might effect the public good — those at risk, while not dying from the virus, are experiencing long-term health consequences. (Just check the latest reports of the rise of heart attacks and diabetes among younger adults, caused by Covid.) It is complicated, but we are still closed for in-store browsing due to our commitment to public health (and the safety of our family who live here, our staff, and customers.) Our store is a bit cramped without top-notch ventilation, so we are trying to be wise. Thanks for understanding.
We will keep you posted about our future plans… we are eager to reopen. Pray for us.
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