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Publisher's Summary

One of USA Today's “100 Books to Read While Stuck at Home During the Coronavirus Crisis"

The unforgettable, unknown history of colors and the vivid stories behind them.

“Beautifully written.... Full of anecdotes and fascinating research, this elegant compendium has all the answers.” (NPR, Best Books of 2017)

The Secret Lives of Color tells the unusual stories of 75 fascinating shades, dyes, and hues. From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso’s blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, acid yellow to kelly green, and from scarlet women to imperial purple, these surprising stories run like a bright thread throughout history. 

In this book, Kassia St. Clair has turned her lifelong obsession with colors and where they come from (whether Van Gogh’s chrome yellow sunflowers or punk’s fluorescent pink) into a unique study of human civilization. Across fashion and politics, art and war, the secret lives of color tell the vivid story of our culture. 

“This passionate and majestic compedium will leave you bathed in the gorgeous optics of light.” (Elle)

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2017 Kassia St. Clair (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Beautifully written and thoughtfully produced.... Full of anecdotes and fascinating research, this elegant compendium has all the answers.” (Nina Martyris, NPR’s Best Books of 2017)

“A kaleidoscope of charming, discursive essays.... A light and lively guide [that] offers plenty of fresh clues for the brain’s colorful calculations.” (The Economist)

What listeners say about The Secret Lives of Color

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  • Overall
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More about pigments than social history

This is fine for what it is. From the description, I was expecting more social history about the meaning and uses of color, but this leans far more heavily on the development of pigment and paint production. If you're interested in that, this is a well-written, engagingly narrated look at the subject. After listening to about half of it, though, it knew it wasn't quite what I was looking for.

7 people found this helpful

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colorful

interesting... but not what I wanted i was looking for more of a color psychology book however it's more of a little known facts book about colors. breaking down each color with little trinkets of information.

7 people found this helpful

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So Interesting

honestly one of the most interesting books I've read. the vignettes are so well written and it's a wonderful walk across a bunch of colors to study the effects of color through history.

5 people found this helpful

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Helpful for painters

There is a lot of useful information for artists. Well read and enjoyable. No complaints.

4 people found this helpful

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Entertaining and educational

So enjoyable to read and share! It’s how I started my first book club, lots of great reviews thus far!

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fantastic. will listen multiple times

so much better and engrossing than I thought it would be from the lukewarm reviews on here. I absolutely loved the history of fabric and this is a perfect companion. I'm going to buy the paper version just for the actual true representation of the colors within.

really just loved it

1 person found this helpful

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Awesome

I learned a lot about color I never even heard of before. It was amazing to learn some of the things I heard. very informative and entertaining

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Fascinating

Fasscinating stories of colors! Thd only difficulty with audio is not seeing the colors.

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thoroughly enjoyed

I'm actually a little surprised at the fact that I truly enjoyed this book so much. not only does she give really great detailed descriptions of the color itself but the stories and the history just blew me away, I had no idea.

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Very educational

If color fascinates you and you like history this is a good book. Its great to listen to while working or need to multitask