Jude Stewart’s veritable explosion of historical facts, sayings, stories, cultural perspectives, and quotations about twelve colors, while literary, is not for the linear thinker. ROY G. BIV: An Exceedingly Surprising Book about Color (Bloomsbury, $22) may be read chapter-by-chapter, but is also meant to be read like a Venn diagram or a flow chart, with the focus on the connections between colors and on the margin notes, which inform readers about saffron yellow, shocking pink, and purple prose; for example. If you ever pondered how fluid substances, visually experienced, could ever effectively be described with words, this is the book for you.
As one of the most interesting art books of the season, The Chinese Art Book (Phaidon, $59.95) provides a window into the art of the “world’s oldest continuous culture.” Representing all materials and disciplines, the book, introduced by Colin MacKenzie, senior curator at the Nelson-Akins Museum of Art, serves as a compendium of Chinese art dating back to Neolithic cultures and on to works produced today. Effective in its clean presentation and digestible essays by Keith Pratt, Jeffrey Moser, and Katie Hill, the book contextualizes China’s artistic, cultural, and political history through three hundred singular creations. By presenting ancient funerary masks next to digital video stills, the book’s unconventional approach and aesthetic is compelling and informative for both aficionados of and newcomers to the subject.
Just as Alice Waters has earned a prominent place in American culture for championing organic foodstuffs and sparking a culinary revolution, The Art of Simple Food has earned its place in many a kitchen as an elegant workhorse. With straightforward recipes that can easily be riffed upon and adapted to the changing seasonal bounty, the book has immediate, fresh appeal. Now it’s joined by the even more ardently veggie-centric The Art of Simple Food II (Clarkson Potter, $35). This companion volume addresses cooking from the home garden, and whether you have long toiled in an edible garden or are just beginning to consider dabbling with small containers, you’ll find encouragement both practical and gastronomical here. Waters proffers seasoned advice about seed varieties and gardening methods, and tops them off with preparation suggestions for every stage of harvest. In her introduction, Waters heralds today’s need (environmental, ethical, cultural, culinary) for “gastronome gardeners” in the style of Thomas Jefferson; now you can be one of them!