Full Spectrum by Adam Rogers

Yesterday my review of Adam Rogers’ fabulous book, Full Spectrum: How the Science of Color Made Us Modern, was one sentence from completion. I had shared the span of history, biology, geology, commerce, physics, light, and more that he wove together in his exploration of color.  I had written about the other books about color on my shelf: Catherine McKinley’s  Indigo in which she traces this marvelous color from the dye pots of ancient Africa to the runways of 21st century Fashion Week and Simon Garfield’s delightful Mauve, the accidental invention of which by 18-year-old chemist William Perkins in 1856 gave way to mass-production of color by marrying chemistry and chroma. 

I’d written about Rogers’ clarity in explaining complex theories and even more complex science and how he managed to edge in humor as well.  He called the brain “think-meat” and offered up sentences such as, “The oscillation between seeing and learning is a steady hum in the background of human history.” There was also this sentence which I offer you the next time you are at a coktail party (remember those?) and want to impress: “A material’s refractive index is the ratio of speed of light in a vaccuum to speed of light as it moves through that material.”  I wrote how Full Spectrum arrived full of mystery. A deliver from Amazon with no note from the sender.

You know where this is going, don’t you? One sentence from completion my review fell victin to that sickening sleight of hand we all know too well. My review disappeared. Into the ether, over the rainbow, off the canvas for evermore.  So instead, I give you what Rogers says of Full Spectrum: “This book will roughtly folloiw the back-and-forth of color beetween — to be reductionistbout it — physics and mind.”  It is not a fast read, but it is a fascinating one.

 

PS Turns out my son saw a review of the book and thought I’d enjoy it. He was spot on.

PSS Also turns out that back in June I had tucked away in my “To Read” file a WSJ review of Full Spectrum. I love it that my son and I remain on the same wavelength.

What I’m Reading

Eenie, meenie, miney, mo; to which book next shall I go?

I never understood when people would tell me they were in the midst of three books. I do now. I’d had a library hold on Martha Beck’s book on  for a while , so when it was my turn I began reading it even though T.J.Thorne’s Behind the Magic Curtain arrived the day I attended the author’s book talk on Zoom.  Full Spectrum’s arrival was a mystery. A plausible one, but a mystery just the same. I have a shelf in my office devoted to books about color. There is Indigo, In Search of the Color That Seduced the World. There is Mauve. There is Colors, What They Mean and How to Make Them and the magical The Secret Lives of Color a scintillating book whose design is as wondrous as its text.  I didn’t order Full Spectrum although I could have.  I didn’t order it. There was no gift note. I even wondered if it was meant for someone else. I double checked;  nope, the package was addressed to me. Whoever sent it, knows me well.

I dipped into Full Spectrum yesterday. Of all my color books, this one promises to be the most science-y.  (Mauve runs a close second.). Author Adam Rogers opens with tectonic plate action from the Devoninan period then segues into a story about rockhound priest William Gregor’s (1761 – 1817) discovery of titanium. Four pages later I’m learning the words ommatidium and rhabdom, parts of what Rogers refers to as “the butterfly’s very weird eyes. They have that multifaceted compound bug thing…” Mine or not, I am going to enjoy this book very much.

Martha Beck’s The Way of Integrity, Finding the Path to Your True Self sounds like big promises for trendy, vague, and ubiquitous personal fulfillment goals. But Beck delivers. Using Dante’s Inferno as a literary Mapquest of sorts, Beck invites readers on a four-part journey toward the gift of personal integrity. Each stage(The Dark Wood of Error, Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise)  presents thought exercises, journalling topics and gentle mirroring of univeral human pitfalls and foibles. One exercise alone helped release me from a lifelong and utterly false subconscious assumption. I’m still mulling this one over, probing my inner terrain for its absence, marveling at the sense of freedom that has taken me quite by surprise.

T. K. Thorne’s Behind the Magic Curtain is the book closest to my heart. Subtitled Secrets, Spies and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham’s Civils Rights Days, it recounts those who sued the Klan and won; wrested rule of the city from its racist leaders; and worked tirelessly, and often under threats of violence, toward justice and racial equality. Thorne includes many stories of my grandfather’s part in the actions of the time.  As I read, I am coming across names I remember hearing him mention at the dinner table and in phone conversations afterward. Reading her book I find myself  feeling my grandfather’s presence so keenly. It is a blessing.

So, that’s what’s on my nightstand these days.  What’s on yours?

 

PS My wonderful son sent me Full Spectrum. Makes this mystery gift even sweeter.