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The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

Headlong by Michael Frayn

Separate Rooms (Masks) by Pier Vittorio Tondelli

The Plot Against America (Vintage International) by Philip Roth

The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

After Such Kindness by Gaynor Arnold

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Member: finebalance

CollectionsYour library (3,080)

Reviews42 reviews

Tagsfiction (2,118), non-fiction (697), unread (674), kindle (360), America (314), Virago (162), borrowed (161), cookery (157), bought 2012 (153), short stories (144) — see all tags

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About meI live in central London and have had a life long passion for books. Other interests include travel, theatre, opera, galleries and food - and I'm lucky to live in a city where I can indulge those.

I don't get to read nearly as much as I would wish, but I haven't reined in my purchasing habits to match.

About my libraryI've now catalogued most of the books I own. The picture shows a fraction of my unread book collection. There are another two bookshelves hidden behind the sofa, and another two piles on the opposite side of the bookshelf shown. Oh, and several years on from my first writing this profile, there are now more piles of books teetering on top of the bookshelf. Despite reading at the rate of 100+ books a year. Don't even ask about my kindle.

My collection is a random mix, largely of paperbacks, built up over years of dedicated bookshop browsing. My collection is mostly fiction - largely modern fiction - but I'll buy anything that looks interesting. An addiction to browsing second-hand bookshops and the odd trip to Hay-on-Wye helps keep the unread books piling up, as does the fact that I live near one of London's most attractive and tempting bookshops (Daunts on Marylebone High Street).

I have started to catalogue books read and now lost/given away, as well as those I borrowed in the first place (I can boast that these are always returned, having finally in 2014 returned a book borrowed some time in the late 1990s). Everything is appropriately tagged, at least by my logic. So my library is becoming a catalogue of books I've read as well as books I own. It is now guaranteed never to be complete.

My other passion is cooking and I own more cookbooks than I will probably ever find time to cook from. Probably to the benefit of my waistline at least.

GroupsAnglophiles, Asian Fiction & Non-Fiction, Cookbookers, Cryptic Crosswords, It's a LondonThing, Persephone Readers, Reading Globally, The Red Room, Virago Modern Classics, What did YOU buy today?

Favorite authorsWilliam Dalrymple, Robertson Davies, Alice Hoffman, A. L. Kennedy, Barbara Kingsolver, Rohinton Mistry, Elizabeth Taylor, Sarah Waters, Edith Wharton (Shared favorites)

Membership LibraryThing Early Reviewers/Member Giveaway

Real nameAlison


Account typepublic, lifetime

URLs /profile/finebalance (profile)
/catalog/finebalance (library)

Member sinceAug 14, 2006

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For information: I have just uploaded a first-time cover image for 'Breakfast in Hell' into LibraryThing'. One of your books I believe. Regards, Nd.
Have managed to put a put on a picture of jess and a flying rabbit!
absolutely! The only daily deals I don't get are ones I can't imagine that I or my partner would ever read or even look at bits of, and I avoid most of the Amazon Crossing type stuff unless there's good reason to do it - good reviews which seem genuine and say a little more than this was the best book I've ever read, gush gush.
Hi Alison,

Interesting library! We'll have many books in common once I've managed to list more of mine. "A Fine Balance" is a rate bird in my collection -- a favourite book that I'm still hesitant to reread as I'm not sure I could bear the heartbreak...

Susan in Berlin
Dear Alison,
According to this website you have the book 'Matryona's House and Other Stories' by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in your possession. I am hoping to take Russian at A-level next year and this is one of the set books. I have the original in Russian but would like to use the translation to help me read through it. I was wondering if we could come to some arrangement or agreement where I could either borrow or
buy the English version from you as the book is now out of
print and impossible to find in any bookshop website. I can be contacted on or 01229-827439.
That was quick!
It is a bit of a strange one 'The Tazyrik Year' isn't it. I also found it compelling. Canberra does lend itself to thinking that some of the quiet efficient public servants and grad. students have eccentric home lives.
Some of the imagery is very Canberran, and the way the house at the south coast is used is very typical of many Canberrans.
When I found it I thought it was a hoot that it was originally part of The Parliamentary Library. Nothing more Canberran then that! And I really wanted to send you something local and something that not many others on LT seem to have :-)


Very glad that you enjoyed Sea of Poppies, I'm in the same boat...when it comes to waiting impatiently for the next in the series.

Happy Reading :-)
I'm so glad you liked the card ... I thought of you instantly!
Have a good time in Hay. The weather is better now than when I normally go in late Oct / early November. There is , since the demise of the Skoob guide (the bookshop in Brunswick Square is in rude health)only one raelly good guide to the bookshops of London by an American, caled the Booklovers Guide to London. I still use Skoob if I am going anywher else in the country as well as an on line guide called Inprint updated by booklovers but maintained by the owner of a bookshop in Stroud Glos. Well worth checking out if you are on the move and stopping off anywhere.
Hi Alison
I gather your name is Alison - so is mine! I am a newish LT member. I live in Winchester. I note many common threads in our profiles. You like travel, theatre, opera, galleries and food. Well, I like travel, music, art and food, and my partner drags me to things he likes - theatre, opera and galleries - which I always end up enjoying even if I went along originally somewhat under sufferance.
I work and he's retired and consequently I think we have different spans of attention.
I too do not have enough time to read - on bank holiday Monday I indulged myself reading "Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (I see you have it). I too gravitate to modern fiction - not for me historical novels or fantasy or crime. I too have books that have gone into orbit (lent to others)that I miss, and admittedly one or two lent me by others that I have not returned!
However, one thing I learnt when I moved from South Africa to the UK is the liberation that comes with cutting oneself loose from possessions, and ever since then I have tried not to accumulate too many things. That sounds virtuous, but our little house already stuffed with books has something to do with it as well!
Best wishes
'Miss Mole' is wonderful! After reading it I ordered lots of E H Young's other books.
My promised email never arrived... Has this year rushed by at great speed or am I imagining things? That's my excuse anyway. Hope all is well with you.

I am startled to note I've bought more books in 2008 than you. What's happening?! Perhaps you're saving a serious buying spree for a trip to Hay.

I've bought a lot recently - found ALL of Virginia Woolf's diaries in my fav charity book shop and nearly passed out with the joyousness of it. And then I walked into an Oxfam bookshop and found 50+ Virago books (olde style covers) all for 1.99 each - unfortunately they were ones I'd mostly got or don't want (I'm not THAT addicted...) One I bought though was Miss Mole by E H Young which I loved so much I got most of her other novels from Amazon marketplace. Also got Laura Talbot's The Gentlewomen - an impulse buy having seen the fabulous cover - which I can recommend. So my Virago collection expands.

I note you bought The Syme Papers this year. Have you read it? I got a couple of his books recently (the first two in his Byron trilogy).
You are very welcome, Alison!
Alison, 7 days! wow. Thankfully, you have found a means to keep sane! I hope it is something that is only temporary and will fade. - Lois
140 bought this year!!! Tsk. I only have 99 so far, I must-must-MUST get to 100 before the year is out... I think I owe you an email. Are you still at the same address? Sorry for my long silence, it's a long story.
Hi! The Hoban bibliography is long and varied. Start with either "Kleinzeit," or "The Mouse and His Child." (Do read both.) Move on to "The Bat Tattoo" and "Her Name Was Lola," and if you are hooked you've got a big bunch to keep you reading. . . He's a hard working chap! (See webpage hosted by devoted readers.)
Once upon a time we hoped to live in London after retirement. . . did not come true. I notice we share 50 books, but you do not list any by Russell Hoban. Is there a reason? (I read and reread them.) ** Long ago, on a visit, I phoned him to express my admiration. He answered the phone, listened, and then, most charmingly said, "Thank you, Mrs. Wolfram." I was amazed that he'd caught/retained my name. Now I'm Esta1923 on LT and having a splendid time on the site.
thank you! I have recently upgraded to a paid account, so I am adding a lot of books at the moment - like you, I have just started to add books that I have read in the past, as well as the ones I have at the moment, so it could take as much time as I have to give it!

I'm surprised there isn't a librarything group devoted to Daunt's - it's one of the best bookshops there is!
Hello from the US. I hope you don't mind me adding yours to my list of interesting libraries. I've only just begun to list my books, and I see that we have almost 100 in common already. I was in London for a week last month--wish I had known about Daunt's!
There are worse vices - and anyway, books still represent excellent value so its money well spent. I envy your trip to Hay-on-Wye - an oasis of bliss twixt England and Wales.
I hope you don't mind me asking, but judging by your picture, you seem to be suffering from subliminal guilt about buying books - aren't we all? You have a plant obscuring the titles on your book shelves, and your 'paper-backs' are stacked hiding the titles. There is probably a bigger problem with me noticing rather than your innocent distribution of literature - but as we share 45 books, I thought you wouldn't mind me mentioning it.
Thanks for the recommendation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - I just read an article about her (and other African writers) in Vanity Fair and thought I should try some, so it was well timed.
I really never need to buy another cookbook again, given that I could cook a different recipe every night for the rest of my life from the books I have and never run out. I'm trying to be more discriminating now and only buy books I really, really need (want?).
I usually wait for paperbacks too (or buy the hardbacks when they are discounted) but my parents sent me the hardback of "A Thousand Splendid Suns" for my birthday. My husband refuses to read hardbacks as they are too bulky (he travels a lot for work and reads on the plane so has to carry them) - shame friends of ours just gave him for his birthday the Einstein biog which weighs 1.1kg and is 680 pages!
Glad to hear the sun is finally shining.
I love finding out what other people buy when they visit the Persephone shop. I haven't got any of the titles you mention, so am looking forward to reading what you think about them.

Every spare moment has been spent getting all my cookbooks and "to be read" books onto my library, but finally done so I can now respond to your post. I'm now up to 230 shared books with you. I have a lot of unused cookbooks (that I got when I ran a cookbook website) that I should sell on eBay. My theory is that it would be easier to do once I'd catalogued them so this was the first step.
Thanks for the restaurant recommendations - I don't know why I haven't gone to Moro yet as everything I hear is great (and I must get their cookbooks too). I see you have the Tom Aikens book - is it any good? The meal I had there was lunch which must be the best bargain in London - 29 pounds for 3 courses plus lots of extras. I'd love to get to the Hinds Head and the Fat Duck as well - maybe next time.
What are you reading at the moment? I've just finished "A Thousand Splendid Suns" which I thought was really good and I'm now on an older book by one of my favourite writers, TC Boyle, "Riven Rock".
Hope it's stopped raining, Jane
Re apology: no need, I have not been here much myself lately!
Gosh, the Hay Festival seems so long ago. We've already booked a cottage for next year's festival, so last year's seems very much in the past! I managed not to spend a fortune, but it was difficult. I think I enjoyed my two tapings of Just a Minute the most. They were fabulous! As for authors, I really enjoyed Ruth Rendell and David Mitchell. Rendell because I've always been a fan, and Mitchell because I knew very little about him personally and he was mighty impressive.

Have fun in Hay! :)
Very interesting what books we share! And I am jealous of you living in central London - I was lucky enough to live for a few months in London, but it was on the Isle of Dogs. Central London is my dream address!
I can't believe there are only the 2 of us in the LibraryThingers who have read/catalogued Jamal Mahjoub's fine novel, 'The Carrier'. Well, I thought it was worth the investment in reading time anyway.
I am Scottish but have lived in Essex for 18 years now, and Essex people are very friendly!

I used this tag first on Unfortunately only the forums are left now (, but these too are a good source of reading suggestions.

The book I enjoyed most recently was Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. Chicklit put me onto Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, Neil Gaiman's blog put me onto this, and then it was staring me in the face in a charity bookshop! Despite being Scottish, the Tam Lin ballad is not one that I previously knew.

My next wish is to get hold of Alice Hoffman's books for Children/YA. I have put the amazon basket together, but I think I will try the library first.

One other book which I really savoured, and again another charity shop find, was Nicole Krauss, The History of Love.

If you have any recommendations please let me know!
You now have 83!!! Well! I have had to have a sit down. I see you've got Innocence - this is the one PF book I haven't read (and don't yet own either). Oh and now you have The World my Wilderness - I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think of the Edward St Aubyn - he is on my wants list.

(PS I have updated my profile page. What do you think?)
Hi Alison - I have been very good and done all my emails today, now Yahoo is playing up and won't let me send them. Just as well I saved the text elsewhere... I'll try and send it again later today.
Hi Alison,

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden is another Canadian book you may want to look out for. It has the same basic themes as 'Birdsong' by Sebastian Faulks but set in Canada instead of the UK.

Will let you know as I think of more current authors I enjoyed. I am not currently focused on Canadian writers - have been enjoying 'The Pesthouse' by Jim Crace, who is one of my favourite writers. This book is really great so far - after 75 pages or so. Also just finisher 'Bonjour Tristesse' by Francoise Sagan which was a quick and fun read too.

Hope you have fun in Hay - whereever that may be. Hopefully they have good book stores.


Alison - If the forecast is accurate, I think you'll have a much better time at Hay than I will! As of today, they're calling for sleet, wind and near-freezing temps for Sunday night and Monday!!

- Helen
Hi, Alison! Lucky you, staying at Hay for so long. We won't arrive until Friday night and have to leave about mid-day on Monday. Still, I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it. Tony Benn may be right about Christmas! We've already booked everything we're going to, including Edward St. Aubyn, Ruth Rendell, Kiran Desai, David Mitchell and several of the Radio 4 broadcasts ... which means double the 'Just a Minute' fun for me! We also managed to book to hear Gordon Brown speak which should be an interesting one. I'm going to make a real effort not to buy too many books this year; last year I went slightly mad.

Sorry I'll miss you there, but have a wonderful time!
Hi Fine Balance, I have just been checking out who I share books with and you are out on top with 267! I hope you don't mind, but I may have to use your catalog as a wishlist!

Hi ALison,

Ok so here is a short list of worthwhile reads in Canadian Lit that you did not mention. There are lots more but these are some of the more notable.

Canadians have a great literary scene - I have decided that it is because of the inclement weather. Everyone lives inside too much. The best art form in Canada is writing. Sunny countries tend to turn out great visual arts, perhaps.

Gallant, Mavis:

MacLennan, Hugh:

Findley, Timothy: "Not Wanted on the Voyage", "The Wars"

Laurence, Margaret: "The Diviners", "The Stone Angel"

Lowry, Malcolm: "Under the Volcano"

Montgomery, Lucy Maude: "Anne of Green Gables"

Moore, Brian: "The Luck of Ginger Coffey", "Black Robe"

Roy, Gabrielle: "Bonheur d'Occasion" (translation published as "The Tin Flute")

Shields, Carol: Pulitzer Prize winn. "The Stone Diaries" (I did not like this as much as everyone else.)

MacNeil, Robert: . "The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour", "The Story of English", "Wordstruck" (The Story of English is a great book)

Poulin, Jacques:. "Faites de beaux rêves", "Les Grandes Marées"

Quarrington, Paul: "Whale Music"

Vanderhaeghe, Guy Clarence.

I think I will try to expand my Russian reading after I Have finished my current 'Holocaust' jag - I will start with 'Dead Souls' by Gogol and then maybe re-read some Solzhenitsyn.

Thanks for the great replies.
Hi Alison,
Thanks for the great reply. I almost thought you must be Canadian with a favourite like Rohinton Mistry. He is a fabulous author. Wayne Johnston is also worth reading.

I realize that it is difficult to suggest books - I mentioned that I liked 'The Secret River' by Kate Grenvile to another Librarythinger - she doesn't like her.

My reading pile is plain all out ridiculous - I cover an entire wall with my 'must read next' piles. It gets moved about by various suggestors and detractors but always seems to be expanding. I need more reading time.....

I love Sarah Waters writing too and have read all but the 'Nightwatch' as it is lingering on that pile as mentioned. Also just loved the Sebastian Barry book like you.

Cheers and any great books you might like to suggest - feel free.

Hi, would just like to say as I see that you land at the top of my 'user' list for commonly shared books. I haven't entered my non-fiction yet, so the mix will likely change.

Your profile does seem to have a lot in common with me - although I do not unfortunately live in such an ecletic city. I was wondering if you had any recent 'best reads' - or perhaps that is too narrowing??
Love to see what you are currently reading, or hoping to read on your profile.
Cheers, Karen
After you finish 'Black Lamb and Grey Falcon', you might consider reading the 'sequel': 'Another Fool in the Balkans' by Tony White.
Merry Christmas from my library to yours with many happy additons this coming year.
Hi Alison
I just read the comments on your profile and I am in the same situation here, my purchasing ability has increased but my reading time has decreased considerably. The trip to Hay is a dream for me. Maybe when I get old I'll manage to do it!
I can´t believe that you like books about India and you haven´t "Heat and Dust" by Ruth Prawa Jhabvala. You mustn´t miss it. Also very good is "Lives of the Indian Princes" by Sharada Dwivedi. Just some suggestions as I love to read about India (and to tell you the truth everything else as well). "The Far Pavilions" by M.M. Kaye is a very good book and so is another by her "Shadow of the Moon". As she was brought up and lived most of her life in India she writes about it very well. The last two are romantic novels.
Best wishes,
I do have a business to run but it's going kinda slowly.
You could always hire a van for the visit! :D

I think there used to be a train station there. Now the 'closest' is Hereford.
Hi there Alison, I read your tantalising message over at aluvalibri's place describing the bookshop in Hay with the wall full of Viragos. I am now longing for directions to this shop! :D
thank you for joining the Virago Modern Classics group!
I will write you a longer message later, as I find what you say about yourself and your library quite interesting.
Till later.

Paola :-))
As I've gathered from other, and hope to read too:
Banana Yoshimoto
Haruki Murakami
Kobo Abe
Junichiro Tanizaki
Kenzaburo Oë
Soseki Natsume
Yukio Mishima
Osamu Dazai
Yasunari Kawabata
Shusaku Endo
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