What Your Favorite Book Looks Like in Colors

An artist reveals how each book has its own unique color spectrum

Jaz Parkinson created this image for Smithsonian by tallying the number of times Stephen Crane’s classic Civil War saga The Red Badge of Courage mentions or evokes different colors. Jaz Parkinson
Parkinson finds it particularly satisfying when a chart reflects a novel’s title—unlike, for instance, The Color Purple, which she says “only has a minority of purple in its signature.” Jaz Parkinson
A Clockwork Orange is mostly red, with descriptions of gushing blood represented by deep scarlet. Jaz Parkinson
The Little Prince. On her blog, Parkinson writes about this book cover, "This was the first chart where I had to include the watercolor color-palette of the illustrations, as they are so unique and key to the text, replacing description at many points due to the first person narrative." Jaz Parkinson
The Steinbeck classic Of Mice And Men draws many of its colors from lush, natural imagery. Jaz Parkinson
The Cormac McCarthy novel The Road depicts a world covered in dark ash. Some bright color emerges when the characters find some "glistening peaches." Jaz Parkinson
The Great Gatsby is full of color. A pile of shirts is evocatively described as "coral," "apple-green," "lavender," and "faint orange." Jaz Parkinson
L. Frank Baum's classic work The Wonderful Wizard of Oz favors emerald green, of course. Jaz Parkinson
Can you spot the White Rabbit in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? Jaz Parkinson
In Romeo and Juliet, many tears are shed -- represented by a crystalline blue-gray color. Jaz Parkinson

The rainbow chart above tells a story. An entire novel, in fact. British artist Jaz Parkinson created the image for Smithsonian by tallying the number of times Stephen Crane’s classic Civil War saga The Red Badge of Courage mentions or evokes different colors. “I’m interested in showing how the human mind can transform a word of text into a tangible color,” says Parkinson, who has visualized 12 other books and plays. She found the writing in The Red Badge of Courage to be especially evocative and she groups similar colors together to illustrate the imagery’s nuances. For instance, the three large reddish bands above represent “crimson” (a color Crane uses to describe the flash of rifle shots), “blood” and “red” (which Crane often uses in reference to the bloodshot eyes of the battle-weary soldiers).