Cover Image: The World According to Color

The World According to Color

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Member Reviews

I thought this could have been a prettier book. It did include some pictures of the things Fox discussed, but they were only a handful of glossy pages in the middle of the book. Because of the topic, this would have been a great book in a different format-with all glossy, color pages. It was very interesting and offered a lot of food for thought.
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This was interesting to read. I liked the exploration of things that we tend to disregard in the grand scheme.
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This was an enjoyable book, especially for someone like me who adores color. The more the merrier, my friends.

In this book Fox takes us through seven colors - red, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, and black. We go from historical significance to cultural uses to symbolism to science, all within the same chapter, if not page. But this isn't just a hoity toity book. Our author makes all of this information accessible for regular folks.

So many parts fascinated me and I found myself telling my husband different tidbits like - Did you know that many ancient civilizations didn't even have a word for blue?? Mind blown.

Some parts are better than others, for sure. At times he can spend a little too long on a particular reference that doesn't seem to fit in as well as the others. But the good parts make up the majority of the book, for sure.

If you love a good nonfiction read, look no further. You must pick this one up.
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Fascinating cross genre exploration of color, the societal meaning of colors, the role of color in history, and, of course, in art. The chapter on purple alone, is amazing in its details on the role of purple in Roman times to the creation of inexpensive purple dyes leading to the mauve age of Victorian society. If you've ever pondered fuchsia v magenta as color names, don't miss this chapter.
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Most people wouldn’t think of a squashed fly as the gateway to a world of beauty and art, but that was exactly the path art historian James Fox took, describing in the opening pages of The World According to Color, how when he “first started seeing color at the age of six,” after his mother swatted a fly and James:

leaned in to examine the carcass … [It] looked like a precious jewel. Its eye blushed with the deep burgundy of ripe cherries, its wigs shimmered like miniature rainbows, and the emerald greens and sapphire blues on its abdomen exploded into copper and gold. I had never seen anything so beautiful.

From the wonderfully vivid opening, and after a relatively brief foray into the physics, biology, and evolution of color perception, Fox takes his readers on a journey through seven colors (black, red, yellow, blue, white, purple, and green). While he delves into the nuts and bolts of the colors, explaining the creation of certain dyes, for instance, Fox’s larger focus is on the intersection of color and culture. The ways, for instance, that despite how “many ancient belief systems hinged on a dualism of light and darkness,” the connection between black and evil or darkness (versus absence) “wasn’t inevitable — Many ancient societies thought black was no more sinister than any other color, and some even rather admired it.”  While some early societies, such as the Romans, associated black with death, it took the Christian Church, especially beginning with St Jerome, the “establish the white-good/black-evil polarity that still exists today.” 

Red, meanwhile, is both more ancient and more grounded, literally, in the form of the red ochre mined and employed not just by homo sapiens but by our cousins the Neanderthals and perhaps by Home erectus over a million years ago. Fox explains several reasons our ancestors were so fascinated by red, including its obvious connection to the necessary substance pumping through our veins. For Yellow, Fox explores its real world analogues in the sun (which Fox points out isn’t really yellow) and gold, as well as various ways of forming the color, such as saffron and turmeric, taking us on a journey across several continents and through subjects such as Buddhist monks, the yellow star Jews were forced to wear, the discovery of primary colors, the science of materials aging into yellow, and the artwork of Joseph Turner, who “spent hours studying its myriad iterations, using more yellow pigments than any other — so many in fact, that scholars have yet finished cataloging them.” 

That gives a sense of how wide-ranging Fox’s explorations are. And I mean wide-ranging. I could also add discussion of baboon genitalia, The Wizard of Oz, blue sirens on emergency vehicles, Chinese lacquerware, the Communist Party, mandarin fish, Romantic poetry, classical sculptures, racism, “mauve mania”, and more. Thus,  while some of the information may be familiar to people who have read casually about the subject matter (the use of tiny insects for red dye, the connection between purple and elites, rods and cones in the eyes), Fox’s curious nature, peripatetic eye, depth of research, and breadth of coverage ensures that the vast majority of readers will find lots of new information here, all of its fascinating, while the focus on morality/values and social history and interpretation (beyond western culture) adds a level of analysis and depth that isn’t always found in other works on color. Nor is this a dryly academic tone. Fox’s voice is consistently inviting and engaging and that, combined with the intelligent discussion of content, makes this an easy work to recommend.
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I had no idea what to expect when reading The World According to Color. The title did not give me enough information, and I was surprised as it is so packed with a ton of insights and far from a light read. Fox is a natural storyteller and weaves each chapter with obscure information making the book truly wonderful.  Even though I just finished this book I think I need to read it again. There is so much rich information, not only about the origins of color but how they have been created and used.  Their individual meanings have changed over time and how this has played a role in history.  This is an important book with so much to learn that each page packs a big punch. It is one I want to keep, and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves learning. It helps so much with putting other historical information into a new perspective.
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I always have a hard time reviewing non-fiction books because I feel like the scale of a great nonfiction is different than that of a great fiction. 

This was SUPERB. I went in not really sure what I was expecting but every nonfiction author should take notes, an incredible concept, interesting facts and history and brilliantly written.
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We associate colour with feelings, it's how it has always been, orange is creative, red can be anger, green is nature. James Fox goes into detail about the colours we see daily and what it means to us, either consciously or sub consciously. It can be a little dry at points but he has done the research, different cultures see colour in a different way. If you are into graphic design or just design aesthetic then I would recommend this book. Also for those that just have that curiosity and want to learn more!
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The World According to Color by James Fox

Author James Fox is thoroughly obsessed with color, as you will see in this very detail-rich book on the subject. Fox’s facts on color date back to the beginning of time and cover the scientific, cultural, political, poetical and artistic relationships with same. 

Black, white, red, purple and green are discussed in depth as to their evolution, importance and uses in each of the aforementioned categories. This book reads like a very highbrow doctoral dissertation, which is not to say it’s not interesting. As an artist, I learned many new things about color, but am glad I had a background in the names of the many hues mentioned. 

If you share this author’s love of color and detail in facts, this book is for you! My thanks to #StMartinsPress and #NetGalley for my ARC.
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I expected this book to be a pop science book about the colors and their histories; instead it uses color as a lense through which to view history. It organizes its chapters based on Aristotle's seven primary colors which is slightly different than our ROYGBIV. The first chapter is about Black, symbolizing the big bang and a time before we could "dispel darkness with a fingertip." Fox explains how different cultures understood black as a concept- is it nothing, or something? Negative or positive? Similar philosophical views are shared for each color. There are fun facts scattered in among these concepts. If you've ever wondered why so many statues are made of marble (from the chapter "white"), why this pigment was so difficult to produce ("blue"), or what blood is made of ("red"), then you'll enjoy this book. The book ends on "green," symbolizing environmentalism and the planets future. This book has a lot of information in it, and I'll be honest, I used it a few times to help me fall asleep. So minus one star for being a slow read, but good to devour in small chucks with lots of contemplating in between.
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An excellent, wide ranging cultural history of color. Fox focuses on seven colors: black, red, white, yellow, blue, purple and green, taking in science (optics, chemistry, biology), perception, meaning and symbolism across cultures and time. There are religious social and ideological considerations, such as history of white’s association with purity, skin color and cleanliness that led to racism. This is also about psychology, sociology, history, philosophy, chemistry, alchemy, politics, art … you name it, James Fox has got it covered
 I adore books that leave the reader filled with obscure facts that I can then pass on to everyone I know.. Though filled with fascinating facts this is far from boring or stuffy and does NOT come off as a lecture to trudge through as other nonfiction sometimes can read. 

I highly recommend this book to absolutely everyone! Its impossible to read this book and not come away with something wonderful.
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I love how James Fox connected so many subjects back to color. Our author acts as the prism allowing us to see how intricately connected color is to a myriad of cultural aspects including religion, linguistics, chemistry, history, psychology, the arts, superstitions, etc. A powerful read for anyone interested in anthropology, art, or with an unquenchable thirst for new knowledge. Ample notes and further reading sections provide a spring board for future reading for those interested in more specifics on an aspect covered in this book.
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Fascinating fact heavy book about well, color.  I read this like a book of short stories, one color at a time.  It's educational, thoughtful, and thought provoking.  Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.
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If you like color you will love this book, it will take you on a journey from how color is seen by us to how people feel about color through out the ages. The colors the book highlights are Black, Red, Yellow, White, Purple and Green and from the color Black to the color Green humans have worship and fear each color and how we use color to both create barriers between each other and bring us together and the journey was fascinating. I truly found that the book enhance my understanding of color and made me appreciate it more. 

I want to thank St. Martin Press and NetGalley for an advance copy of this colorful book.
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Author James Fox takes readers through a history of color throughout the world in painting, sculpture, fabric, and  spirituality among other things. He focuses on seven colors and explains how color happens and other scientific facts and theories in terms a layperson can understand. He also discusses the psychological significance of hues and shades in politics, astronomy, and economics through the ages and how a single color can mean different things by regions of the world and time periods. This was a fun and informative book that I may have to refer to when I have to repaint my house or replace my summer t-shirts. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange of for an honest review.
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Nope. Just nope. Was hoping for an interesting and entertaining look at colors, maybe color theory, meaning of colors. This book takes itself way too seriously and I just could not get into it at all. It took 8% of the book just to get to the meat of the thing. Also, my favorite color is orange, which is completely ignored.
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Release date: April 12, 2022

Although I am sure it would appeal to others, this book did not float my boat at all...I almost gave up in the introduction but managed to get mostly through BLACK before giving up.

It wasn't my kind of book (I was expecting more along the line of colour psychology of Faber Birren and why he thinks I am crazy as I loathe and abhor the colour blue!) but I am sure that it will appeal to deep thinkers and philosophy-type-Margaret-Atwood-loving readers.

I will recommend it to a few people I know. but it is not a book that I would buy unless we get a specific request.
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A beautiful world of color.  I highly enjoyed this book on the history of some of my favorite hues.  It doesn’t read like a normal dry history book it actually is incredibly interesting in reads sort of like lyrical  fiction in parts.  I would highly recommend.
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