Summer is on the horizon, and there's no better companion for a trip to the beach or a lazy day off than a good book. To get you ready for the (hopefully) relaxed months ahead, we're sharing our recommendations for books to add to your reading pile. Whether you’re a fan of true crime, sci-fi, comic books, or non-fiction, we've got a book for you.

1. Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl // Jonathan C. Slaght; $18

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Amazon

Take a break from the summer heat and transport your mind to Russia’s Far East, where the endangered Blakiston’s fish owl hides within the snowy forests. You don’t need to be a birder to enjoy this book: Jonathan C. Slaght’s account of his research on these elusive animals is a captivating introduction to not only the owls, but also to the people who call this fascinating region of the world home.

Buy it: Amazon

2. 44 Scotland Street // Alexander McCall Smith; $12

Anchor/Amazon

A fake address on a real Edinburgh street, 44 Scotland Street is home to an array of eclectic characters. Their stories were originally serialized in The Scotsman, making for a collection of delightful, easily digestible tales you’ll breeze through.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Florida // Lauren Groff; $11

Riverhead Books/Amazon

Florida—the state—is practically synonymous with summer heat. Lauren Groff conjures a roster of compelling characters in this collection of short stories. But it is Florida, with its hot, sticky air and wild, wet landscape, that remains the star of the show.

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4. Mexican Gothic // Silvia Moreno-Garcia; $15

Del Rey/Amazon

Set in a decrepit mansion in 1950s Mexico, Mexican Gothic feels like a classic Gothic horror tale, but author Silvia Moreno-Garcia adds some unique twists to the genre. The enemies heroine Noemí Taboada faces include supernatural mushrooms and a family of eugenicists. Even when the imagery gets gruesome, the book is hard to put down.

Buy it: Amazon

5. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World // Steve Brusatte; $22

William Morrow/Amazon

A span of 165 million years is a lot to cover, but paleontologist Steve Brusatte manages to do it with The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. In this nonfiction book, the author traces how dinosaurs became the dominant animals on Earth and how they were dramatically wiped off the face of it. It's a must-read for anyone who wants to turn their casual interest in dinosaurs into an obsession.

Buy it: Amazon

6. The Fifth Season // N. K. Jemisin; $15

Orbit/Amazon

Author N. K. Jemisin introduces readers to an engrossing fantasy universe in The Fifth Season. The book's dystopian world is structured around seismic events that trigger catastrophic "Fifth Seasons" every few centuries. In this society, Orogenes—people with the ability to control tectonic activity—are both feared and exploited for their powers. The novel is just the first entry in Jemisin's award-winning Broken Earth trilogy.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Everything is Fine // Vince Granata; $22

Atria Books/Amazon

At the heart of Vince Granata's memoir is an unthinkable tragedy: The death of his mother at the hands of his brother Tim, who lived with—and resisted treatment for—schizophrenia. In Everything is Fine (a phrase often spoken by his mother), Granata examines his own feelings of grief and loss and delves into the insidious way his brother's disease works in a search for understanding. It's a heartbreaking—but ultimately hopeful—read.

Buy it: Amazon

8. A Dark and Secret Place // Jen Williams; $22

Crooked Lane Books/Amazon

After her mother dies by suicide, Heather Evans discovers that she had been exchanging letters with a serial killer for decades—and that's just the first of many surprises in Jen Williams's creepy thriller. A Dark and Secret Place never quite goes where you're expecting, and is sure to leave you sleeping with one eye open.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Circe // Madeline Miller; $11

Back Bay Books/Amazon

The often misunderstood child of the sun titan Helios, Circe is banished to a secluded island where she discovers she has magical powers she can hone. The classic myth about the Greek witch is turned on its head as she interacts with notable figures like Daedalus and his son, Icarus; the Minotaur; and Odysseus, as he journeys home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Madeline Miller brings a captivating perspective to this underappreciated character that will have you turning the page to learn more.

Buy it: Amazon

10. The Rosie Project // Graeme Simsion; $10

Simon & Schuster/Amazon

Can science help you find a wife? In Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project, his protagonist, Don Tillman, a genetics professor who can't hack social situations, sets out to find the answer. He creates the Wife Project, a 16-page survey to scientifically weed out the party-goers, smokers, and tardy people and determine who Don should marry. Rosie is all the things Don doesn't want in a wife, so he eliminates her from the pool of potential suitors. Despite this, they form a friendship as Rosie sets out to find her biological father, which Don calls the Father Project. Rosie turns Don's world upside-down and makes him rethink if love can be solved through science. This book is perfect for those looking for a romantic comedy that is also brainy and embraces life's awkwardness.

Buy it: Amazon

11. From the Corner of the Oval // Beck Dorey-Stein; $15

Random House/Amazon

Beck Dorey-Stein's memoir is a book for those who wish they could have been a fly on the wall during the Obama Administration. As a stenographer during President Obama's second term, Dorey-Stein traveled the world, became friends with some of the most elite people in politics, and had a saucy affair with a D.C. insider. For fans of The West Wing who wish the show played up the romances more than the politics, this book grants those wishes and more.

Buy it: Amazon

12. How Iceland Changed the World // Egill Bjarnason; $17

Penguin Books/Amazon

From its recently erupted volcano to its star turn in Netflix's Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (featuring the Oscar-nominated song "Husavik"), Iceland is certainly having a moment—but the many tourists who have visited the island might not be aware of its massive historical impact. Enter Egill Bjarnason's book, which outlines the role the country has played in everything from the French Revolution to the Apollo moon landing. It's a must-read for anyone who has been to Iceland or hopes to one day go.

Buy it: Amazon

13. Right Back Where We Started From // Joy Lanzendorfer; $22

Blackstone Publishing/Amazon

Right Back Where We Started From is Mental Floss contributor Joy Lanzendorfer's debut novel. Engagingly written and deeply researched (part of the novel was inspired by Old Hollywood's most infamous sex scandal, and both the Oregon Trail and the Great Depression factor into the story), you won't be able to put it down—and when it's over, you'll wish you had just a few more pages with these characters.

Buy it: Amazon

14. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration // Isabel Wilkerson; $9

Vintage/Amazon

The Great Migration was a period in American history from the 1910s through the ‘70s that saw nearly 6 million Black citizens move out of the South and into the northern and western parts of the country. While many had their fortunes change for the better in their new cities, countless others still faced the same prejudices they were trying to escape. This National Book Critics Circle Award winner contextualizes this historic migration and explains how it helped shape the U.S. in ways that are still felt today.

Buy it: Amazon

15. The Babysitter: My Summers With a Serial Killer // Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan; $21

Atria Books/Amazon

Part memoir, part true-crime thriller, The Babysitter interweaves Liza Rodman's memories with the story of Tony Costa, a.k.a. the Cape Cod Cannibal—who also happened to be one of Rodman's babysitters during her childhood summers on the cape. Costa was picked up for the murder and dismemberment of at least four women in the late 1960s, and the details of his crimes are so horrific—and so well-told—that The Babysitter will send a chill down your spine, even reading it on a hot summer beach day.

Buy it: Amazon

16. Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving // Mo Rocca; $16

Simon & Schuster/Amazon

Humorist and CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Rocca takes a closer look at people who may not have gotten their proper due in the obituary pages, writing a series of send-offs of famous figures, historical heroes, and even a couple of trees. Editors may have ignored the passing of pioneering Black aviatrix Bessie Coleman or John F. Kennedy impersonator Vaughn Meader, but Rocca hasn’t. His tribute to the demise of the family station wagon is a highlight. Rest in peace, car with wood paneling.

Buy it: Amazon

17. Pure Invention: How Japan's Pop Culture Conquered the World // Matt Alt; $19

Crown/Amazon

Japan has long been a hub of technology and pop culture, which America has often perceived as a distant influence. But as Alt argues, Japan’s sensibilities have strongly informed Western life, from toys to entertainment to information. Pure Invention will have you thinking—or rethinking—how dramatically one culture can impact another.

Buy it: Amazon

18. The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy // Kliph Nesteroff; $11

Grove Press/Amazon

The evolution of 20th-century comedy is charted in this entertaining overview of professionals who made laughter their currency, from the earliest days of vaudeville to the rise of stand-up. Following comedy is like following history—comedians both reflect and react to changing times, and Nesteroff succeeds in chronicling both.

Buy it: Amazon

19. Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 // Lizzy Goodman; $23

Dey Street Books/Amazon

In order to truly appreciate the revitalization of New York’s music scene in the early 2000s, you either had to be there yourself or you have to read this oral history. Journalist Lizzy Goodman (who was there herself) interviewed members from just about every band that lived through it: The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the White Stripes, Vampire Weekend, The National, and many more.

Buy it: Amazon

20. Klara and the Sun // Kazuo Ishiguro; $17

Knopf/Amazon

Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest masterpiece follows an especially perceptive AI humanoid as she tries her best to understand human behavior and care for her charge, a sickly teenager named Josie. It touches on some familiar topics—what it means to be human, what we’re willing to do to preserve what we love, etc.—but seeing ourselves through the eyes of someone who isn’t quite human is especially affecting.

Buy it: Amazon

21. The Glass Hotel // Emily St. John Mandel; $13

Knopf/Amazon

The Glass Hotel is technically a cross between a mystery and a financial thriller, but it’s much less about crimes or suspense and much more about the characters’ motivations and complexities. St. John Mandel is a master at juggling multiple perspectives and weaving various narratives together while maintaining an overall sense of momentum.

Buy it: Amazon

22. Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World // Andrea Pitzer; $19

Scribner/Amazon

If the Mental Floss podcast The Quest for the North Pole has whetted your appetite for chilly adventures, look no further than Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World. Author Andrea Pitzer tells the story of William Barents, a Dutch explorer determined to navigate a passage from Europe to Asia in the 16th century. After battling icebergs and extreme cold, Barents and his men are forced to spend an unplanned winter in the Arctic, and that’s when things really go downhill.

Buy it: Amazon

23. The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey Into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred // Chanda Prescod-Weinstein; $23

Bold Type Books/Amazon

Theoretical physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a forceful voice for decolonizing science and confronting anti-Black racism in physics (for which she was named one of the 10 most influential people in science by Nature in 2020). In her first book, she explores the intersection of particle physics, dark matter, and identity, and argues that the universe itself is surprisingly inclusive.

Buy it: Amazon

24. Forces of Nature: The Women Who Changed Science // Anna Reser and Leila McNeill; $30

Frances Lincoln/Amazon

In this attractive volume, Reser and McNeill—two historians of science—bring to life dozens of unsung and underappreciated female scientists. The thematic chapters go beyond individual discoveries to examine how social, political, and economic forces —in addition to sex—shaped their research. From midwives in antiquity to astronauts in the 21st century, the scientists in this lively book inspire and fascinate.

Buy it: Amazon

25. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War // Nathaniel Philbrick; $20

Large Print Press/Amazon

In Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, Nathaniel Philbrick offers a nuanced account of the first European settlers in New England. Beginning with the Puritans’ attempts to build mutually beneficial relationships for trade and defense with the Wampanoag, and ending with the devastating King Philip’s War in the 1670s, Philbrick shows how these early encounters shaped what would become the United States.

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26. The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King // Jerome Charyn; $15

Liverright/Amazon

Even the most buttoned-up Teddy Roosevelt biographies read like far-off adventure tales—that’s just a testament to the kind of derring-do life the man lived. But in his latest work of historical fiction, author Jerome Charyn infuses TR’s pre-president years with a pulpy sense of high-stakes adventure, romance, and humor that’s easy to zoom through in a few days. The book is still well-rooted in history—you’ll learn about Roosevelt’s fascination with zoology, his affection for his father, and his early battles with asthma—but you’ll also get to see a much more mythic take on his life, complete with daring battle scenes during the Spanish-American War and scraps in the Badlands.

Buy it: Amazon

27. Cowboys and East Indians // Nina McConigley; $11

Curtis Brown Unlimited/Amazon

This collection of short stories examines the immigrant experience in rural Wyoming from the perspective of multiple characters of Indian descent, each of whom is impacted in a different way. Some struggle to retain their cultural identity, while others gladly dive head-first into their new surroundings. And some, including one adopted cowgirl who never even visited her home country, find themselves caught between worlds.

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28. The Complete Works of Fante Bukowski // Noah Van Sciver; $23

Fantagraphics/Amazon

Fante Bukowski is a hard-drinking, cynical writer who believes he’s perpetually on the cusp of being recognized as the generation’s next literary genius—the only problem is that he has no talent to go along with those delusions. Chances are you’ve met exactly the type of person cartoonist Noah Van Sciver is skewering with this character. He’s the arrogant, purposefully downtrodden artist who believes his work is too raw, too nuanced for agents and audiences to truly “get.” This edition covers all of Van Sciver’s material on the character, so you can watch Fante twist like a hammock in the wind as he desperately vies for recognition.

Buy it: Amazon

29. Black Hammer Book One // Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston; $27

Dark Horse Books/Amazon

After a team of superheroes saves Spiral City from the universe-destroying Anti-God, they’re banished to a strange farm in rural nowheresville. Seemingly meant to simply exist in this purgatory of wheat fields and dilapidated barns, the group—including a crimson alien, a retro robot, and a woman perpetually stuck as a 9-year-old—has to adjust to their new life without tights while trying to figure out what happened to them and why.

Buy it: Amazon

30. The Doctors Blackwell // Janice P. Nimura; $18

W.W. Norton Company/Amazon

As women growing up in the middle of the 19th century, Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell didn’t have many career options to choose from, but that didn’t stop the sisters from defying social conventions. In 1849, Elizabeth became the first woman in the U.S. to receive an M.D., with the younger Emily following soon after. This book tells the story of the sisters’ historic work while also laying out the realities of the medical field at the time (complete with quack cures and flimsy science).

Buy it: Amazon

31. Everything I Never Told You // Celeste Ng; $7

Penguin Press/Amazon

The subtle storytelling of a dysfunctional Chinese-American family starts with the tragic death of the middle child, Lydia. Her parents wanted a better life for their children, even if that meant pushing their hopes, dreams, and unfulfilled desires on them. Everything I Never Told You focuses on how each of the family members deals with their grief, which unravels the mystery little by little. It’s not fast-paced by any means, but it tackles gender, race, and familial relationships in a poignant way.

Buy it: Amazon

32. Nothing to See Here // Kevin Wilson; $14

Ecco/Amazon

The most interesting characters in Nothing to See Here are probably the kids who spontaneously combust when they're agitated, and that should be enough to convince you how delightfully strange and entertaining this novel is. Kevin Wilson delivers a brilliant tale about family dynamics and friendship, and while it is comical, it doesn't stray away from more serious matters of life. You’ll be hooked by the interesting premise, but you’ll keep reading for the heartwarming story.

Buy it: Amazon

33. Gingerbread // Helen Oyeyemi; $14

Riverhead Books/Amazon

Reimagining well-known and timeless fairy tales into something else altogether might be a little disorienting and unsettling at first, but Helen Oyeyemi takes the reader on an unforgettable, inventive, and overall brilliant journey with Gingerbread. It’s enchanting and metaphorical, and while it has its roots in fantasy, it still tells a lot about how modern society operates today. Rarely will you come across such an intelligent and original work of art.

Buy it: Amazon

34. The Only Good Indians // Stephen Graham Jones; $12

Gallary Saga Press/Amazon

One of the books that gained so much buzz in 2020 was Stephen Graham Jones's The Only Good Indians, a fast-paced horror and supernatural thriller about four American Indian men who are haunted by their past. It features themes of cultural identity, intergenerational trauma, racism, and injustice, and it most certainly will give you nightmares. You’ll love it if you love the horror genre in all its forms, but content warning—the book contains graphic animal deaths.

Buy it: Amazon

35. The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey // Derick Lugo; $18

Appalachian Mountain Club/Amazon

If you want to feel inspired and motivated to fulfill a seemingly unattainable dream, you should read Derick Lugo's debut memoir, The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey. You might think this wouldn't be interesting because you've never hiked a day in your life, but neither did Lugo before he decided to take on the Appalachian Trail. It’s easy to find yourself lost in the book, and you’ll even hope that his perseverance and determination somehow rub off on you.

Buy it: Amazon

36. Homegoing // Yaa Gyasi; $9

Vintage/Amazon

Homegoing captures the horrors of the slave trade and colonialism starting in the 18th century until the present day, impressively packing a lot of detail and rich characters in roughly 300 pages. The painful, multigenerational story unfolds by following the lives and descendants of two half-sisters who never met. It may be a historical fiction novel, but it accurately illustrates how racism and violence have been institutionalized in society.

Buy it: Amazon

37. Where the Crawdads Sing // Delia Owens; $11

G.P. Putnam's Sons/Amazon

Where the Crawdads Sing is an immersive and emotional romance-mystery novel that is narrated in two time periods. You'll get to know Kya Clark as a young girl and a woman, navigating life by herself and finding her place in the world. It tells a story of loneliness and abandonment, but also determination and resilience.

Buy it: Amazon

38. The Murmur of Bees // Sofía Segovia; $13

Amazon Crossing/Amazon

If you're a fan of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, you will love The Murmur of Bees, a novel at the intersection of magical realism and historical fiction. The story revolves around Simonopio, an abandoned baby whose mysterious ability and protective swarm of bees transform a small town during the Mexican Revolution and 1918 Spanish flu.

Buy it: Amazon

39. The Comet Seekers // Helen Sedgwick; $13

Vintage/Amazon

Meet Róisín and François, two seemingly unconnected characters whose lives have long been intertwined before their paths cross in a research base in Antarctica. The novel casts the light on stories of family, love, intimacy, and loss, going back centuries with the non-linear narrative woven together by the passing of comets. The Comet Seekers is research physicist Helen Sedgwick's magical debut novel, and it is not one to miss.

Buy it: Amazon

40. The Nightingale // Kristin Hannah; $11

St. Martin's Press/ Amazon

This character-driven tale about two sisters—Vianne and Isabelle—is set against the backdrop of France during World War II. While war history often focuses on the military affairs of men, The Nightingale illuminates the unrecognized but equally crucial contribution of women. The film adaptation of this incredible novel about hope and human resilience is set to be released in late 2022, so make sure to read it before then.

Buy it: Amazon

41. What the Wind Knows // Amy Harmon; $7

Lake Union Publishing/Amazon

Anne Gallagher has no idea why or how she went back in time, but if she is to survive in 1921 Ireland, she needs to trust a doctor named Thomas Smith. With What the Wind Knows, Amy Harmon demonstrates her writing chops by taking a worn-out and tricky plot device and turning it into something remarkable. The blend of romance, historical fiction, and fantasy might not be too appealing to some, but the novel has the right balance to make it digestible to readers who aren’t comfortable trying other genres.

Buy it: Amazon

42. Cemetery Boys // Aiden Thomas; $14

Swoon Books/Amazon

Aiden Thomas's stunning debut novel is not your typical paranormal young adult book. In the protagonist’s traditional Latinx community, girls become brujas with healing abilities, while boys become brujos who can summon and guide spirits to the afterlife. As a trans boy, Yadriel struggles with finding acceptance as a brujo, so he takes matters into his own hands by proving his ability to summon spirits—only to summon the wrong one. For an exciting and unforgettable journey about identity, family, friendships, and love, you won’t go wrong with Cemetery Boys.

Buy it: Amazon

43. Good Morning, Midnight // Lily Brooks-Dalton; $11

Random House Trade Paperbacks/Amazon

Lily Brooks-Dalton's debut novel, Good Morning, Midnight, is a slow-paced science fiction tale with beautifully descriptive writing. It tells the story of two intertwined individuals—one in Antarctica, the other in space—with a similar burning passion for their work. When faced with challenges that put their lives at stake, they are forced to evaluate what makes a life meaningful, taking the reader on a journey with their introspection.

Buy it: Amazon

44. This Is How You Lose the Time War // Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone; $13

Gallery/Saga Press/Amazon

This Is How You Lose the Time War cannot be put into a singular box. It has elements of science fiction, fantasy, and romance, mixed with a dash of time travel, lyricism, and action. It tries to be everything and masterfully succeeds in its pursuit. It's best to read the book without knowing anything about the plot, but if you love unique, indescribable, and bizarre stories in the best way possible, this should be on your list.

Buy it: Amazon

45. In Five Years // Rebecca Serle; $13

Atria Books/Amazon

In Five Years protagonist Dannie Kohan didn’t think anything of her dream that took place five years into the future—that is, until she meets the man that she dreamt of. The “mysterious dream” plot device may be common, as seen in Tarryn Fisher’s F*ck Love and Colleen Oakley’s You Were There Too, but Rebecca Serle presents an unforgettable and well-written story that is different from all the rest. The novel is closer to women’s fiction rather than contemporary romance, so if you’re expecting a lighthearted plot about romantic entanglements, this is not the book for you.

Buy it: Amazon

46. Where Dreams Descend // Janella Angeles; $14

Wednesday Books/Amazon

Where Dreams Descend is the first in Janella Angeles's Kingdom of Cards duology, which gives off major Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge vibes combined with the spectacle of a Cirque du Soleil performance. There are all sorts of magic tricks, tarot cards, illusions, and misdirections. The high fantasy and mysterious plot is very intriguing, and you’ll definitely look forward to reading the sequel.

Buy it: Amazon

47. Verity // Colleen Hoover; $13

Colleen Hoover/Amazon

If you’re a fan of young adult romance novels, then you’re no stranger to Colleen Hoover. That said, Verity is completely different from anything she’s ever written, and she demonstrates that she is well capable of dominating the thriller genre as well. It is a creepy, captivating read that’s just impossible to put down. The story will surely linger in your mind long after you’ve finished because that ending will make you question everything you just read.

Buy it: Amazon

48. Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold // Bolu Babalola; $21

William Morrow/Amazon

By reimagining folktales, myths, and legends, Bolu Babalola tells modern love stories that decolonize long-held romance tropes. Love is complex, emotional, joyous, and full of longing all at the same time, and Love in Color masterfully captures the entire experience with all the tales in the collection. There’s no other book quite like it, and the beautiful mythological and multicultural elements just pull you in deeper into every story.

Buy it: Amazon

49. You Should See Me in a Crown // Leah Johnson; $12

Scholastic Press/Amazon

At first glance, You Should See Me in a Crown appears to follow the common plot where a high school girl with big ambitions cannot afford to attend her dream university. However, this debut novel from Leah Johnson—which features a Black sapphic protagonist named Liz Lighty—is anything but cliché. While it touches on the usual elements like prom, high school love, and friendship, it also tackles mental health, chronic illnesses, racism, and identity. You may think you know what’s going to happen in the book, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the turn of events.

Buy it: Amazon

50. The House in the Cerulean Sea // TJ Klune; $21

Tor Books/Amazon

If you’re looking for a feel-good fantasy novel with a blossoming queer romance, found family trope, and charming, fleshed-out characters, you can stop your search and pick up The House in the Cerulean Sea right this moment. It's often likened to Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, but it’s really distinctive from all the others. At the heart of the story is a message of acceptance for all, and when you finish reading, you’ll wish you lived in the house in the Cerulean Sea as well.

Buy it: Amazon

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