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Red: A History of the Redhead

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  979 ratings  ·  188 reviews
Red is a brilliantly told, captivating history of red hair throughout the ages. A book that breaks new ground, dispels myths, and reinforces the special nature of being a redhead, with a look at multiple disciplines, including science, religion, politics, feminism and sexuality, literature, and art.
With an obsessive fascination that is as contagious as it is compelling, au
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published June 9th 2015 by Black Dog & Leventhal (first published May 19th 2015)
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Redhead Handbook by Cort CassThe Big Redhead Book by Erin La RosaRoots of Desire by Marion RoachRed by Jacky Colliss HarveyRedheads by Daniel Cohn-Bendit
Redhead - Nonfiction
17 books — 6 voters
You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe RobinsonCountry Music Hair by Erin DuvallHair by Scott LoweRed by Jacky Colliss HarveyHair by Kurt Stenn
28 books — 4 voters

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Average rating 3.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  979 ratings  ·  188 reviews

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Aug 04, 2015 rated it liked it
I learned a lot about red hair and the history of redheads. Amongst other things, I learned the Lucille Ball was not a natural redhead. Gasp!!!! And I disagree with Harvey; artificial redheads do not count as redheads. If the person is coloring his or her hair to retain the red color of youth, that counts, but it has to be truly in your genes I say.
Jan 21, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
There were many things that I found wrong with this book, and I don't know where to begin. So let me just start off with a quick summary of the book.

Red is about exploring the history of red hair (I myself am a very proud redhead), and the first problem that I had with the book was the fact that, while the synopsis implies that most of it is research-oriented with some art history, the book is about 90% art history and critique and about 10% history-oriented. And it wasn't as much of a research-
Literary Chic
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I think that Red: A History may be more aptly titled Red: A Memoir. The author included some scientific and anthropological evidence, but none was backed up and most was anecdotal. Don't get me wrong, as a redhead I enjoyed hearing her take. However, I wouldn't consider it an authoritative source of our shared mutated genetic heritage. The author included some statistics that I'd like to say are true, but my only "proof" is personal experience. (Supposedly redheads are more sensitive to cool tem ...more
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book purely on a whim.  I have a few red-haired people in my life so I thought it would be an interesting read.  And, a couple of years ago, before making “THE BIG DECISION” I read a book about going gray.  If nothing else, I do want to be an equal opportunity reader!

“The study of hair, I found out, does not take you to the superficial edge of our society, the place where everything silly and insubstantial must dwell.  It takes you, instead, to the center of things.”  (Gra
B. Rule
What an odd book, which wasn't at all what I expected from the title or the cover. This book is a total mishmash, both of substance and style. There's some, but precious little, actual history here. What little is there is interesting, if a bit under-sourced. The rest of the book is assembled pell-mell of scientific and pseudoscientific speculation, art history and art analysis, gossipy celebrity anecdotes, travelogue, and screeds alternately angry and amused about the author's personal experien ...more

We can blame the ancient Greeks, Romans and medieval Europe for the negative stereotypes for redheads, but it's interesting to see how the perception has evolved into modern times. This book is a mix of history, science and personal experiences; a great resource from a redheaded author.
Jul 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Perhaps if I had PhDs in Ancient History, Art History and Vocabulary I would not have found this book quite so boring. I had hoped for a cleaner and simpler sort of chronological story of red heads. This was not that. It was a confusing collection circumstantial evidence and much speculation. I was disappointed.
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
A fascinating overview of redheads in history, art and scientific implications of the genetics of hair color.
The original genetic mutation for red hair seems to have come from somewhere between modern Russia and China, but was first spread by the Thracians and later the Vikings. Ashkenazi Jews also carried the trait, as if they didn't have it hard enough in medieval times. The fair skin and ability to make vitamin D gives a slight advantage in northern climes. Red haired women were more likely t
Oct 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Harvey's background is in art history, so the majority of the book covers the redheads who were models and the symbolism of different objects going back to 330 BC. Some of the paintings are reprinted in the book which is a great help--I'm not going to stop reading to goggle paintings. (If you read this on an e-reader, can you just click on the footnote to see it? That would be amazing.) I really think Harvey could have made that aspect a book on its own.

Some other parts (about the DNA) were pre
May 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: not just redheads
Recommended to Sheri by: I worked with Jacky at the Dictionary of Art in London. She is a wonderful.
Really enjoyied this. It's so fun. And fascinating. Filled with the faux and factual, fallacious, fabled, familiar, facetious, fabricated, fanatical, farfetched, fashionable, fancy, faddish, fatuous, and even fanged. Recommend to anyone for a fun summer read, but especially to the redheads (natural or not).

I finished RED with a tear in my eye (really) - but I read it with laughter and wonder.

Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
A social history of the redhead. At its best as an art history book. Colliss Harvey clearly knows her art. The journey through the redhead in art from greek slaves to biblical characters to the pre-raphaelites is great.

Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Regrettably, not as awesome as I wanted it to be. Some interesting tidbits, though. And the endpapers are LOVELY.
Claudia Turner
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a fun read especially for someone who has some ginger in them or is close to some gingers.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Many years ago I had a conversation with a group of women on a short car drive, where the subject of the hair colour of boyfriends came up. As the partner of a redhead I said "Redheads are different" - the two who had also dated redheads agreed with my rather sweeping statement, the two who disagreed had never dated a redhead.

The question then, at the back of my mind ever since is Why are redheads different? I still live with the same red haired guy today, though it's more salt and pepper these
Laura Edwards
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Being a redhead, I was quite excited to read this book. What a letdown (really more a 2.5). A dry read. At times comes off in textbook-like fashion and, too often, a science textbook. At other times the author is trying too hard to sound "hip". The author also seems to have carried a real complex throughout her life about being a redhead. Too bad. She does make a claim that redheads in the U.S. aren't teased as vehemently as in other parts of the world (though I did endure some teasing because o ...more
Shawn Thrasher
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it
A must read for real redheads, and those who love or live with one. As a true carrot (I never encountered the word "ginger" until a few years ago), I had picked some extra information here and there over the years about the genetic uniqueness of possessing red hair, as experienced the ribbing and attention and occasional malice that comes from other hair colors. Harvey added some extra and fun information to my pool of redhead knowledge, and also made me feel pretty damn special about being amon ...more
Lake County Public Library
Despite a historical inaccuracy or two, a refreshingly global look at a microhistory - not just Euro-centric!

-- Sarah, Dyer-Schererville Branch
I'm waffling between 2 1/2 and 3 stars on this one. The parts I liked, the art history and genetics chapters, keep pushing up my rating; the other parts keep dunking it under that three star level. I felt the whole thing badly needed a firm editorial hand to give it some focus.

The book started off well enough with examples of red hair showing up throughout history in the arts (primarily visual art). There are generous illustrations, but it would have been more convenient had the publisher put t
Emily Fortuna
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: patient-redheads
Interesting. I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued to find a book on this topic, and I did learn some tidbits I didn't know about redheads -- fragrances on redheads smell differently because of a more acidic mantle?! Some of the Uyghur people are redheads in Asia!

There are beautiful redheads on the Solomon Islands!

On the downside, the book is pretty haphazardly organized. The writing is conversational and accessible in tone, but sporadically jumps from topic to topic, only to unexpectedly
Ellen Taylor
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well, this was truly illuminating. I bought this for my 13-year-old redheaded granddaughter, but will NOT be presenting her with it this year after all. A bit earthy for such a youngster, but fascinating reading for adults (will give it to her mama!!! :). And who knew we now celebrate global Redhead Days? Favorite quote: "A world that can't deal with something as small and insignificant as people whose hair is a different color is one where there is little hope of dealing with any of the problem ...more
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. I really found it fascinating. It's not necessarily the most exciting read but it doesn't set out to be that I don't believe. This is a wonderful mix of scientific fact and reasoning mixed with a good helping of history and a large amount of art history. The author explores the history of red hair from the introduction of the gene to the expression of said gene and then she begins on the history of how red hair has been perceived by people throughout the centuries. It ...more
Jun 14, 2016 rated it liked it
History meets humour. Harvey writes about the natural history of the Redhead and covers a lot material from way way back through to those foxy ladies winning awards today.

A friend recommendation. This one from a mate who has been dating a redhead for a while now. She (the redhead) is also a close friend. So, it was cool to read something about how the 'red' gene came to be, how it's been glorified and condemned, and how those gingers can celebrate the gingerness themselves. It's a good read and
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.

Being "a Redhead" is more than just about having ginger hair for me, it's a huge part of who I am. It's part of my identity, mainly because of how people have treated or reacted to me because of my hair colour. I am a redhead because people see me as a redhead; they see the colour of my hair, and judge me for it and/or make assumptions about the kind of person I am. There are so many stereotypes about redheads, from having a fiery temper, to being wild i
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I decided to start this book, and read it in sections if it was "dry." Well, I never wanted to put it down!
Jacky Colliss Harvey blends, science, art history, religion and personal observation to tell the story of how redheads spread across the world.

I am proud of my red hair and my sprinkle of freckles that I had until my twenties. If you are a redhead or love a redhead, or just want to read a completely entertaining book about redheads, I can't recommend it enough!
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Incredible! I am a natural redhead (the only one in my family for a couple generations), and I've always felt somewhat isolated and different. This book taught me so much about myself and all the redheads throughout time and space that I am connected to. Every redhead, even dyed redheads, should read this book.
Ann Cooper
Interesting up to a point

Yes, I grew up a red head, though I have now faded to strawberry blonde, little gray yet at mid seventy (an advantage, perhaps). Red makes you stand out and is unwelcome to a shy person. But it has it's pay-offs. I would have liked to hear more about the biology, chemistry, and genetics and less of the red-in-art. A moderately interesting quick read.
Jun 14, 2015 rated it liked it
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

It's a light, airy, yet scholarly look at the history of the perceptions of the red head. Not bad, although I suspect the author had a grand old time feeling sorry for herself throughout.

Interesting, but somewhat frivolous, I think.
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Classic gift from my grandmother. I read the first third and then leafed through the rest, as the reading experience is not exactly top notch. Some interesting facts throughout, but the book is halfway between a story and a factual account and is a bit clumsy for it.
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of interesting theory and quite a few facts I didn't know.

Everyone should read this book redheaded or not.
Anna Smithberger
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Really interesting microhistory. Not sure if I buy into everything the author posits, but interesting nonetheless.
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Jacky Colliss Harvey was born in the wilds of Suffolk, and grew up surrounded by farms and animals. She studied English at Cambridge University and art history at the Courtauld Institute, and putting those two together, went on to a career in the museum world as a writer, editor and publisher. At the same time, her red hair also found her an alternative career as a life model and a film extra, pla ...more

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