Where Do Colors Come From?

Dead Bugs, Manure, Acid, and the Unlikely Origins of Brilliant Hues in Art

When I was 8 and on holiday in France with my parents, we went to Chartres Cathedral, just south of Paris. My father took me by the hand as we both stared at the blue glass casting reflections all over the limestone in the great medieval church.

“That blue was made 800 years ago,” he said. “And we can’t make it like that any more.”

From that moment on I was fascinated—obsessed you could say—by colors. Not just by what effect they have on the eye (though for me any encounter with …

From a London Alley to the White House

Louisa Catherine Adams, the Only First Lady Born Outside the U.S., Had to Prove Herself to Her Husband’s Family, Congress—and the Country

It was hard for Louisa Catherine Adams, the only first lady born outside the United States, to say where she came from. She began her life in a narrow alley …

I Was a Teenage Expat

I Loved America, Until I Had to Live There

England: the land of teatime, Harry Potter, and an archaic politeness more suited to novels than everyday life, all topped off with charming accents. My American family moved from the …

The Men Who Made the 20th Century

How Winston Churchill and George Orwell Helped Defeat Fascism and Communism to Create the Modern World

Why on earth am I setting out to write a book about Winston Churchill and George Orwell? What more is there to say? There have been thousands of books written …