The Secret Lives of Color - Book Recommendation

From the article The Curious Histories of Color, published by my dearly beloved arts & culture forum Hyperallergic

"...Journalist Kassia St. Clair shares the vivid origins and histories of 75 colors, from seductive vermilion to the malodorous Indian yellow. The Secret Lives of Color, published by Penguin Random House, takes you on a whirlwind journey through the visible color spectrum — beginning with white and ending with pitch black."

We've all been there: Your dinner date discussion is drier than the Sahara on the 4th of July. The new guy at the office has claimed a seat next to you in the cafeteria and you've got to claw your way through an entire hour of forced chitchat. You love visiting your great great Auntie Jane, but finding common ground for conversation is tougher than off-brand beef jerky. 

So, you ask, what dialogue topic can you possibly pull from your hat that is both universal and, in my opinion, pretty damn fascinating? 

A question we've been asked since our overalls-and-naptime days of preschool - what's your favorite color?

If you're scoffing at this suggestion, give it a shot the next time a conversation is taking a nose dive for the murky mundane. Watch a person's attention spark at being asked a question that feels both whimsically casual and strangely intimate and personal.

As an adult, perhaps it's been a while since you've given thought to your pick of the rainbow. I get it. Your boss might look at you a little funny if you're late handing in your report because you were "pondering the vast spectrum of visible hues". 

But if you ask me, the colors of our world are just as relevant and interesting for us grownups as they were when they graced the pages of our childhood workbooks. 

Still don't believe me? Enter stage right: the brilliant Kassia St Clair and her book The Secret Lives of Color. With memorable anecdotes and vivid backstories, she illustrates the histories of both common and more exotic hues - a fitting defibrillator for even the most yawn-tastic conversation. Fan of green, you say? Let's talk about that time in 1800s Britain when people fell in love with Scheele's "grubby pea" green, and proceeded to cover the walls of homes, hotels, and hospitals (yes, hospitals) with "100 square miles of wallpapered dye", even though it was made from copper arsenite and was legitimately poisonous. You can ask Napoleon how all that turned out.

Who knew right? Well, now you do.

I highly recommend checking out St Clair's vivid and captivating piece. I promise it will add a pop of vibrancy to your day.

The shades that color our world are an everyday magic that we all have in common. If you ask me, that's something worth celebrating.

-eg


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