Color (Colour in my edition)

Another good book in the Noun category. This one has a chapter per color, recounting various social, historical, artistic and chemical facts about each of the ingredients for the various colors covered (Ocher, Black and Brown, White, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet). You learn about red:

This particular red, carmine, is really made of blood. For centuries it was the treasure of the Incas and the Aztecs. […]. “Squeeze”, he said, and I squeezed, and for a moment the creature's hard body resisted, and then it popped like a piece of bubble wrap, leaving a thick dark scarlet stain on my palm.

(it's nice to be able to search inside books at Amazon).

You learn about the endless debates over Stradivarius' violin stain (orange? red? does it matter?); You learn that we haven't forgotten how to make Gothic blue (as found in the Cathedrale de Chartres), and that making a black that was worthy of the protestant god was tremendously hard because while there are black pigments, they tend to not be soluble in water, and hence are hard to fix in fabric. Strangely silly stuff to report, but quite an engaging book nonetheless.