If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?
Alan Alda, the award-winning actor and bestselling author, tells us the fascinating story of his quest to learn how to communicate better, and to teach others to do the same. With his trademark humor and candor, he explores how to develop empathy as the key factor.Alan Alda has been on a decades-long journey to discover new ways to help people communicate and relate to one another more effectively. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is the warm, witty, and informative chronicle of how Alda found inspiration in everything from cutting-edge science to classic acting methods. His search began when he was host of PBS's Scientific American Frontiers, where he interviewed thousands of scientists and developed a knack for helping them communicate complex ideas in ways a wide audience could understand--and Alda wondered if those techniques held a clue to better communication for the rest of us.In his wry and wise voice, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, when an absence of understanding resulted in problems both big and small. He guides us through his discoveries, showing how communication can be improved through learning to relate to the other person: listening with our eyes, looking for clues in another's face, using the power of a compelling story, avoiding jargon, and reading another person so well that you become "in sync" with them, and know what they are thinking and feeling--especially when you're talking about the hard stuff.Drawing on improvisation training, theater, and storytelling techniques from a life of acting, and with insights from recent scientific studies, Alda describes ways we can build empathy, nurture our innate mind-reading abilities, and improve the way we relate and talk with others. Exploring empathy-boosting games and exercises, If I Understood You is a funny, thought-provoking guide that can be used by all of us, in every aspect of our lives--with our friends, lovers, and families, with our doctors, in business settings, and beyond.

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? Details

TitleIf I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJun 6th, 2017
PublisherRandom House
ISBN0812989147
ISBN-139780812989144
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Science, Autobiography, Memoir

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? Review

  • Cindy Burnett
    June 5, 2017
    5++ starsEvery single person on the planet should read this book. Alan Alda (who is a phenomenal writer) has written a highly informative book about the importance of communicating better. He then goes on to provide innovative and creative ways to help people do so. He is a natural storyteller, and the book is so entertaining that I completed it in one evening. Alda uses miscommunication stories from his own life to demonstrate how important it is for people to understand each other, and the iss 5++ starsEvery single person on the planet should read this book. Alan Alda (who is a phenomenal writer) has written a highly informative book about the importance of communicating better. He then goes on to provide innovative and creative ways to help people do so. He is a natural storyteller, and the book is so entertaining that I completed it in one evening. Alda uses miscommunication stories from his own life to demonstrate how important it is for people to understand each other, and the issues that arise when we don’t. A major focus of Alda’s is teaching empathy. Relating to others creates empathy, and from there the desire to understand and cooperate is born. He also focuses on improving communication through listening with our eyes, using a story to make a point, eliminating confusing jargon, and paying close attention to what the other’s person’s face is telling us.If I Understood You is one of the most informative and useful books that I have read in a long while. After I finished it, I immediately emailed my daughter’s teachers suggesting they use it to support a creative combined math and science class that she took last year. I also think the techniques will help me with my own relationships, including my husband, children and friends. I highly, highly recommend this book to everyone. This book would make a great gift, and our world (and particularly our country right now) would be such a better place if everyone followed his ideas. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Kristy
    June 1, 2017
    ***I received my copy through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review.***Alan Alda's hilarious psychology videos got me through high school AP Psych, so I thought this would be a good one. I was pleasantly surprised. Alda tells charming stories that encourage readers to practice responsive listening for change, and also his work helping Science connect with the rest of the world.Communication [or lack thereof] is creating a serious PR problem for Science The Field and educated peopl ***I received my copy through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review.***Alan Alda's hilarious psychology videos got me through high school AP Psych, so I thought this would be a good one. I was pleasantly surprised. Alda tells charming stories that encourage readers to practice responsive listening for change, and also his work helping Science connect with the rest of the world.Communication [or lack thereof] is creating a serious PR problem for Science The Field and educated people. As a librarian/information scientist, I'm often the intermediary for this stuff, so I get it. Researchers often do a poor job educating the public, or reaching their intended audience when lobbying for scientific causes - mostly because they suck at explaining their work in an accessible way. This creates a major empathy gap for people who could use Scientific principles to create change. Alda's crusade to infuse more public speaking and performance in science has clearly done much good, especially for students like me. There's a wealth to be gained, if only we learn how to translate it for others.
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  • Paul Franco
    June 9, 2017
    Many years ago I saw Alan Alda on a TV show, something about scientific frontiers. While that’s mentioned in this book, he focuses on one particular subject, that of empathy.It all started with an encounter at the dentist’s, where the man couldn’t get his point across to his patient because he couldn’t stop thinking like a dentist. From there Mr. Alda moved to doctors, stating, “People are dying because we can’t communicate in ways that allow us to understand one another.” Another great quote is Many years ago I saw Alan Alda on a TV show, something about scientific frontiers. While that’s mentioned in this book, he focuses on one particular subject, that of empathy.It all started with an encounter at the dentist’s, where the man couldn’t get his point across to his patient because he couldn’t stop thinking like a dentist. From there Mr. Alda moved to doctors, stating, “People are dying because we can’t communicate in ways that allow us to understand one another.” Another great quote is, “Not being truly engaged with the people we’re trying to communicate with, and then suffering the snags of misunderstanding, is the grit in the gears of daily life.” There’s some fascinating points where he talks about using acting practices to get doctors and others to communicate better. It didn’t take long for the realization to hit: “Developing empathy and learning to recognize what the other person is thinking are both essential to good communication.”Here’s a little hint to make this book more interesting: read it in his voice, feel it reverberating inside your skull.Most of the chapters are small, some only describing an encounter, story, or lesson that led to his conclusions, but it seems to work fine. In explaining how to better explain things, he explained everything really well. Even a book about making communication accessible can be full of jargon, but thankfully this one wasn’t.
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  • Kristine
    May 31, 2017
    If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? by Alan Alda is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late May.Love, love, love this book! Alda uses the concept of theater games to bring about attenuated listening, empathy, recognizing and naming an emotion as it happens, understanding mutually-shared jargon, unity between the heart and mind, emotion for those who are more technically-minded, telling stories over an arc (Question -> Suspense -> Turning Point -> Resolution), rela If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? by Alan Alda is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late May.Love, love, love this book! Alda uses the concept of theater games to bring about attenuated listening, empathy, recognizing and naming an emotion as it happens, understanding mutually-shared jargon, unity between the heart and mind, emotion for those who are more technically-minded, telling stories over an arc (Question -> Suspense -> Turning Point -> Resolution), relatability, and the ability to address the complexity of interpersonal communication.
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  • Elise
    May 27, 2017
    Communication is an art form. We may think we are getting our message through to others, but invariably what the world hears is very different from what we had hoped to convey. Without a doubt, this is problematic in so many ways that we need to ask if individuals can fix that glitch in our interpersonal relationships? The answer is yes, but….but it takes understanding and above all, work. The question is how do we get better at making other understand us? Well the book, If I Understood You, Wou Communication is an art form. We may think we are getting our message through to others, but invariably what the world hears is very different from what we had hoped to convey. Without a doubt, this is problematic in so many ways that we need to ask if individuals can fix that glitch in our interpersonal relationships? The answer is yes, but….but it takes understanding and above all, work. The question is how do we get better at making other understand us? Well the book, If I Understood You, Would I have This Look on my Face? is a great place to start.Read the entire review at https://journalingonpaper.com/2017/05...
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  • Tracy
    June 1, 2017
    I thought this was fabulous! And I heard Hawkeye reading to me in my head ;)My family works with and/or includes engineers, who fall right in with scientists and drs. on......what did you say?I didn't know there was a center for communications, I think their work must be invaluable for people with disabilities as well.Very exciting!
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  • Amanda Borbe
    May 7, 2017
    Growing up I loved watching Alan Alda. Between MASH reruns and Scientific American Frontier in every class in high school, I feel like we have a great bond. I was super excited to pick up his new book from NetGalley. Full disclosure, even though I read the title, I thought this would be more memoir rather than non-fiction science book that it ended up being. This book was filled with interesting facts and philosophies on communication and empathy, though it just wasn't my jam. I enjoyed the pers Growing up I loved watching Alan Alda. Between MASH reruns and Scientific American Frontier in every class in high school, I feel like we have a great bond. I was super excited to pick up his new book from NetGalley. Full disclosure, even though I read the title, I thought this would be more memoir rather than non-fiction science book that it ended up being. This book was filled with interesting facts and philosophies on communication and empathy, though it just wasn't my jam. I enjoyed the personal stories thrown in occasionally and just wished it had more. I would recommend this book for people who love science and are fascinated by how communication can change the world.
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  • Jake
    June 11, 2017
    The greatest science communication failure of recent history occurred during breaking news coverage of the Higgs boson particle discovery. At least, that’s my opinion. This particle, claimed to be the active ingredient in objects having mass, is a huge deal. Yet, look at this gibberish news outlets threw at me as the leading quotation for the achievement.“We have observed a new boson with a mass of 125.3 plus or minus 0.6 GeV at 4.9 standard deviations.”No offense to Dr. Joe Incandela, who made The greatest science communication failure of recent history occurred during breaking news coverage of the Higgs boson particle discovery. At least, that’s my opinion. This particle, claimed to be the active ingredient in objects having mass, is a huge deal. Yet, look at this gibberish news outlets threw at me as the leading quotation for the achievement.“We have observed a new boson with a mass of 125.3 plus or minus 0.6 GeV at 4.9 standard deviations.”No offense to Dr. Joe Incandela, who made the above technical statement to a room full of scientists. Following his words, the gathering bubbled over with applause, even tears in at least one case. But the jargon was lost on me. That day I refused to be impressed as a matter of principle. Science had failed to explain itself.Such disconnects between scientists and the public comprise the impetus for Alan Alda’s latest book: If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating. Known to many for his acting career, Alda has dedicated much of his time to promoting better science communication. Far from being a mere on-camera spokesman, Alda works as a Visiting Professor at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.Using personal examples, as well as research, Alda makes the case for empathy as essential to good communication. He couples this with insights regarding the Theory of Mind. Think of empathy as the emotional connection, and Theory of Mind as the rational component. Empathy, according to Alda, is a skill which can be developed and refined.Not surprisingly, Alda advocates cultivating empathy through theatrical improv (a serious performance method, not merely a game-driven attempt to get laughs). Anyone who has taken an acting class with improv as a component, myself included, will find this to be self-evident. The same practiced skills which help actors connect onstage can help scientists connect with the public. As Alda relates, this extends to medical doctors, business leaders, hopeful lovers, and parents mentoring children.If I Understood You… stays on task via short chapters and focused, conversational prose. It wraps up in a tidy 200 pages. There is also an audio version, read by Alda, which I’ll safely assume is highly enjoyable. The result is a book calculated to be accessible, informative and thought-provoking.Odd then that this book sometimes struggled to hold my interest. If I Understood You… is full of nuggets: nuggets of wisdom, hindsight, and profound experience. Any chapter by itself can be a delight, and many were for me. Yet, perhaps because of the testimonial nature, perhaps because of the copious repetition of its premise, the book sometimes felt like an after-dinner conversation growing tiresome. In no way am I panning it. However, I do suggest readers avoid devouring the book quickly (which I did so I could post my review asap).Given its levelheaded blend of entertainment with educational discourse, If I Understood You… disqualifies itself from being Alda’s most fun book yet. It may however prove his most important, given the toxic level of animosity in current public discussion. Therefore, I highly recommend reading it. Come for the theory, but stay for the moments of sublime understanding.
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  • Miriam Downey
    June 4, 2017
    Read my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c... We all know Alan Alda to be a well-known actor, but what I didn't know about him is that he is a professor of Communications at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. He is an expert in communication skills and specializes in training scientists, doctors, and other who must spend their lives communicating.Alda got his start doing improvisational theater, and later learned a great deal about comm Read my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c... We all know Alan Alda to be a well-known actor, but what I didn't know about him is that he is a professor of Communications at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. He is an expert in communication skills and specializes in training scientists, doctors, and other who must spend their lives communicating.Alda got his start doing improvisational theater, and later learned a great deal about communication when he hosted the PBS series Scientific American Frontiers. From his studies, he discovered that one of the reasons that people have trouble understanding scientific breakthroughs is because scientists have a difficult time communicating their ideas. He teaches these scientists using the improvisational and interview skills he gained through his career.I witnessed this scientific communication difficulty just a couple of weeks ago when I attended the PhD dissertation presentation of a friend. His dissertation was about black holes, I guess. The only two words I understood of the entire 45 minute presentation were stars and nebula—and I wasn't really sure if I understood what "nebula" were.Alda has taught communication skills to scientists and others for several years, and this book is a synthesis the methods he uses. He says about relating to others: "It's being so aware of the other person that, even if you have your back to them, you're observing them. It's letting everything about them affect you, not just their words, but also their tone of voice, their body language, even subtle things like where they're standing in the room or how they occupy a chair. Relating is letting all that seep into you and have an effect on how you respond to the other person."The communication skills Alda teaches are really practical, and the book is full of wonderful advice for anyone who wants to really be in touch with the people with whom she is communicating. Some of Alda's clients are doctors who must deliver sensitive information to their patients. When my young husband was dying and it was near the end, the oncologist, who had taken very good care of my husband—but had kept himself at a distance—came into the room, put his arm around me, and stood there weeping. That moment meant more to me than virtually anything he might have said. This was true communication.If I Understood You is so very valuable to anyone who needs to impart information to anyone. I should give my copy to my PhD friend as he begins his career.
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  • David Kent
    June 12, 2017
    As a scientist and author concerned about how we communicate with the general public, I was eager to read this book by revered actor Alan Alda. The book reiterates and expands on a lecture I saw him give a few days ago. Between the two I learned a lot about improving communication. Alda mixes anecdotes and stories from his own experience, both as an actor (M*A*S*H, West Wing, movies, etc.) and his lifelong interest in science that led to him hosting Scientific American Frontiers for 11 years. Re As a scientist and author concerned about how we communicate with the general public, I was eager to read this book by revered actor Alan Alda. The book reiterates and expands on a lecture I saw him give a few days ago. Between the two I learned a lot about improving communication. Alda mixes anecdotes and stories from his own experience, both as an actor (M*A*S*H, West Wing, movies, etc.) and his lifelong interest in science that led to him hosting Scientific American Frontiers for 11 years. Recently he helped establish the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, where many of the techniques discussed in the book were developed and are currently used to teach communication skills to scientists.The first of two parts includes eleven chapters and primarily focuses on laying the groundwork for communication. He emphasizes the importance of empathy and "theory of mind." The ten chapters in the second part delve more deeply into the scientific studies conducted to investigate the skill sets being taught. Much of the training incorporates the concept of improvisation, or Improv. This is a technique often used by actors (and more famously by comedians) to entertain without a script. In this case, the technique is used to help scientists and others to learn how to "read" the person they are trying to communicate with. Games such as "the mirror exercise" help participants learn empathy, a mutual understanding of the person you're speaking to.There is much more to the book than one might expect from an actor. Alda has taken his goal of helping scientists communicate seriously, proposing and participating in studies to determine the best methods for teaching others. He provides a strong scientific basis from the studies he describes and has worked with or interviewed professors and practitioners of these methods. Based on my own experience (it's part of the reason I left a scientific consulting career to pursue writing and expanding public knowledge of science and history), the book is both scientifically robust and entertaining to read. While the focus is on helping scientists to better communicate, the lessons imparted will also be useful for all of us who wish to be better understood by - and to better understand - our fellow members of the public. Alan Alda should be commended for his contributions in this much needed area.
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  • Sharon
    June 6, 2017
    Random House and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? This is my honest opinion of the book.If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is a tome about the key to good communication between individuals and describes more meaningful and powerful ways to relate to one another. Information that is difficult and hard to grasp can be literally lost during communication, inevitably leading one party to be confused. Alan Al Random House and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? This is my honest opinion of the book.If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? is a tome about the key to good communication between individuals and describes more meaningful and powerful ways to relate to one another. Information that is difficult and hard to grasp can be literally lost during communication, inevitably leading one party to be confused. Alan Alda tells readers how communication can break down because of a lack of engagement, leading to "snags of misunderstanding". There are two keys to real communication: empathy and learning to recognize what the other person is thinking. Using a person's body language and tone of voice, not just their words, will help people to relate to one another.Alan Alda demonstrates communication skills that he has learned in his many years as an actor, host, and producer, giving readers a personal snapshot into this famous actor's life in a meaningful way. As a lover of science, Alan Alda has not only previously hosted the Scientific American Frontiers television program for eleven years, but also helped science students at the university level gain the crucial communication skills that they need for success in the workplace. This interesting book can help all readers, despite their backgrounds or personal goals, achieve greater empathy for others and techniques for better communication in their lives.
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  • Margo Kelly
    June 6, 2017
    Alan Alda's book, IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU... is engaging, educational, enlightening, and entertaining.Most importantly, it answers the question: What should I buy as a gift for everyone I know?Seriously. I will be buying multiple copies of this book to give as gifts for Father's Day, Graduations, Birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day, Weddings, and every other possible occasion that needs a gift given. Simply because the book, IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU..., will be a terrific tool for parents, students, publi Alan Alda's book, IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU... is engaging, educational, enlightening, and entertaining.Most importantly, it answers the question: What should I buy as a gift for everyone I know?Seriously. I will be buying multiple copies of this book to give as gifts for Father's Day, Graduations, Birthdays, Christmas, Mother's Day, Weddings, and every other possible occasion that needs a gift given. Simply because the book, IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU..., will be a terrific tool for parents, students, public speakers, psychologists, and anyone else who needs to communicate well, which is all of us!Alda's content focused quite a bit on the perspective of scientists and their need to communicate well, and the content fell a bit short when it dealt with business professionals and their needs. However, Zig Ziglar will always be the master of business and sales communication skills. So if you want to improve in that specific area, turn to Ziglar's books.With that said, I've read a LOT of books and I've attended a LOT of seminars on how to improve my communication skills and this book by Alda is absolutely fabulous. I kid you not when I say that I will be buying multiple copies for people I know.I highly recommend this book to everyone.[Thank you to FSB Associates for providing me with a copy of this book for review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]
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  • Dixie
    June 5, 2017
    This is NOT the self-improvement book that I was expecting. A blend of memoir and how-we-did-it, this shares stories of how empathy relational training helped poor communicators become successful communicators. I can't say that I understood the more technical parts of it, but it was an interesting read, nonetheless, and I learned some new ideas/techniques that may prove helpful in becoming better at paying attention and relating.I voluntarily read an advanced review copy provided by the publishe This is NOT the self-improvement book that I was expecting. A blend of memoir and how-we-did-it, this shares stories of how empathy relational training helped poor communicators become successful communicators. I can't say that I understood the more technical parts of it, but it was an interesting read, nonetheless, and I learned some new ideas/techniques that may prove helpful in becoming better at paying attention and relating.I voluntarily read an advanced review copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley and offer my honest opinion in response.
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  • Kevin
    June 5, 2017
    An interesting exploration of the importance of connection and empathy in communication. Kinda pop science mixed with Alda's unique experience as an actor (particularly improvisation), science documentarian, and proponent of better communication surrounding science. It turns out that the ability to understand what another person is thinking and feeling, and connecting with them on an emotional level, leads to increased communication.
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  • Nils Andersson
    June 11, 2017
    Having been interested in Alda's approach to science communication for some time, I was well primed to like this book. And I certainly did. It is an engaging and entertaining account of the use of improvisation to improve communication and audience engagement. There are many useful lessons here and clearly much to learn. Much to think about. This book is for anyone that communicates with anyone else. That is - all of us.
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  • Shelley Alongi
    June 10, 2017
    I enjoyed this read. Maybe the "tappers" didn't have rhythm and couldn't correctly tap out the song the "listeners" were trying to identify. Really nice expose on studies on communication. Am I the tapper or the listener? I can use some of these techniques to improve my writing. I really liked his thoughts on the art of telling a story.
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  • Luisa
    June 11, 2017
    I won a copy of this book on Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. Firstly I am a fan of Alan Alda. Secondly I did enjoy this book. The topic drew me in as alot of the idea presented I can see being useful in my own current work life dynamic. yes i woud recomend this book.
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  • Library
    May 5, 2017
    DNF - Ch.4
  • Laura Spira
    April 25, 2017
    I enjoyed this book. I'm a great fan of Alan Alda's acting but I had no idea that he had been so closely involved for many years in helping scientists to communicate their work to the public, presenting science TV programmes and funding an academic centre to research and teach science communication. Alda makes a passionate case for the importance of good communication, using his personal experience, particularly of improv, and academic research to support this. His analysis of the role of empath I enjoyed this book. I'm a great fan of Alan Alda's acting but I had no idea that he had been so closely involved for many years in helping scientists to communicate their work to the public, presenting science TV programmes and funding an academic centre to research and teach science communication. Alda makes a passionate case for the importance of good communication, using his personal experience, particularly of improv, and academic research to support this. His analysis of the role of empathy is thoughtful and the book is written in a way that cleverly provokes the reader to try some of the strategies he discusses, but without providing instructions. He emphasises the role of story in communication and the importance of narrative construction in engaging audiences.As an academic, I have read a great many research studies in my area and attended many conferences. I have always been much more interested in hearing about how the research was actually conducted than the results. Why did these people choose to study this? How did they decide to do it? What were the setbacks they encountered? The stories about doing research are rarely told although we were all probably first introduced to penicillin and radium through the famous stories about Fleming and Curie. Alda tells lots of stories about how his interest in this area was piqued, about the experts he talked to, the questions he asked and the research he was involved in. He is an excellent communicator, of both his own and other peoples' ideas. The casual reader may think that there is nothing new to be learned from this book - there are textbooks and course aplenty on communication skills - but it repays careful reading as it so deftly illustrates its author's argument. My only real criticism was his choice of illustrative examples outside his own experience: in some cases these provided only superficial, even trite, insights and I didn't think they were helpful.Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
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