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Research into active galactic nuclei (AGN) - the compact, luminous hearts of many galaxies - is at the forefront of modern astrophysics. Understanding these objects requires extensive knowledge in many different areas: accretion disks, the physics of dust and ionized gas, astronomical spectroscopy, star formation, and the cosmological evolution of galaxies and black holes. This new text by Hagai Netzer, a renowned astronomer and leader in the field, provides a comprehensive introduction to the theory underpinning our study of AGN and the ways that we observe them. It emphasizes the basic physics underlying AGN, the different types of active galaxies and their various components, and the complex interplay between them and other astronomical objects. Recent developments regarding the evolutionary connections between active galaxies and star-forming galaxies are explained in detail. Both graduate students and researchers will benefit from Netzer's authoritative contributions to this exciting field of research.