The solution to dinner party silences? James Fox’s The World According To Colour contains fascinating insights.

The World According to Colour

James Fox                                                                                                   Allen Lane £25


In a now famous speech delivered in 2005, David Foster Wallace noted that ‘[our] most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about’.

James Fox is a master of the task in The World According To Colour.

This comprehensive guide encourages the reader to be more engaged with their brains, take notice of all the colours, shades, and endless light refractions that make our vibrant universe possible. 

In this book, James Fox has gifted each of us a manual to navigate and enjoy the extraordinary design of the world around us

James Fox gave each one of us in this book a guide to help us navigate the amazing design of the natural world.

Fox divides the book into seven chapters that each focus on one colour. This allows us to explore the fascinating histories of red, yellow and blue as well as white, purple, green, and other colors.

He discusses the scientific basis of the dyes, paints, as well as the manufacturing processes that have been used over time. And, perhaps most importantly, his ever-changing cultural significance. 

For colours, as Fox notes, ‘aren’t inherently meaningful. Their meanings are created by the people who live with them.’

For example, did you know that green is associated with envy in England and boredom in Russia. 

Europeans who are abject or unwelcome have always identified yellow as the expulsion or exudation colour of many substances.

A Cambridge art historian, Fox’s approach is undeniably academic, however his prose is anything but. 

You will find enough interesting tidbits here to protect yourself against unwelcome silences at dinner parties.

‘Every person’s visual system is unique,’ writes Fox. ‘No two will interpret identical light information in the same way.’

This book is a guide to help you navigate through the incredible world.