The Glorious Smell of Books

Josie Leavitt - May 8, 2015

It is something that I take for granted every day – the smell of books. I live with the smell and I love it. All books, especially new books, have a wonderful smell. Customers, children in particular, often exclaim within in minutes of entering, “Oh, I love the smell of books.” There is so much loveliness in that statement.
I was reminded of the tactile joy of books when a 10-year-old girl came in earlier this week. She was with her father and younger brother and quickly went to the middle grade section. After a few minutes I went to see if she needed any help. She smiled up at me and said that she was looking for “… a good story.” I started talking about a few books. Unlike some kids who are listening to a book talk and won’t touch the book, as if it’s on fire, Emma held the book. She sniffed each one as I spoke.
Her bright eyes crinkled in a smile when I gave her Where the Mountains Meet the Moon and told her to feel the paper. She felt it (if you don’t know the book, the paper is heavier weight and there are gorgeous color plates for all the chapters) and just beamed. Here was a book lover in the making. She cared about the quality of the paper and knew the difference. Yes, she loved the stories and truly enjoyed reading. But she’s reading on a tactile and olfactory level as well and that just heightens the pleasure of holding a book in your hands.
I see customers sneak sniffs of books all the time. Just as Emma did. The smell of books varies. Generally, mass market books don’t smell as good as hardcovers or at least paperbacks with a deckled edge that make it look cut by hand. Some books smell like linen, others smell like a chest discovered in the attic, full of secrets. And each is unique to the reader. All book lovers can talk (or write) for shockingly long times about what the smell of books means to them. The reason we do this is we are comforted just holding a book. I was thinking about other daily objects that I use that give me the same feeling. Nothing even came close.
So, go treat yourself to a new book this weekend. One that smells just right.

5 thoughts on “The Glorious Smell of Books

  1. Marty Petersen

    I think this post is a beautiful statement and one of the main reasons e-books won’t replace real books!
    Thank you Josie!

  2. Cheri

    The first thing my 17-year-old goddaughter does when I give her a new book is open it to the middle and smell it. She has a Kindle, but definitely appreciates print books!


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