In no particular order, I was given:
Under Arrest: A History of the Twentieth Century In Mugshots, Giacomo Papi
Dancing In The Dark, Caryl Phillips
Black Snow, Mikhail Bulgakov
Take Ten: New 10-Minute Plays, edited by Eric Lane and Nina Shengold
The Gift, Lewis Hyde
Cold Calls (War Music continued), Christopher Logue
A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being A Ghost Story of Christmas, Charles Dickens (in a 1946 ed).
Love and thanks to the givers, the Dickens will be a re-read and as a bonus it came with these bus tickets tucked inside
Two, so I presume the Dickens was stowed in a pocket while the reader chatted to his or her companion on the way into town.
The conjunction of Clapham Common and (the end of) wartime makes me think of another great book.
B also got me the dvd of Simon Schama's The Power Of Art - we could never get it together to tape it on a Friday night, let alone watch it, but she observed that when I caught the second half-hour of his film on Mark Rothko and the Seagram Murals I was on the edge of my seat and completely choked up at the end, when Schama paid handsome tribute to the transformative power of Rothko's miraculous pictures:
Everything Rothko did to these paintings - the column-like forms suggested rather than drawn and the loose stainings - were all meant to make the surface ambiguous, porous, perhaps softly penetrable. A space that might be where we came from or where we will end up.
They're not meant to keep us out, but to embrace us; from an artist whose highest compliment was to call you a human being.
Rothko also gave good quote about his own work, in a distinctly different style:
I am not an abstract painter. I am not interested in the relationship between form and colour. The only thing I care about is the expression of man's basic emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, destiny.