Tom Lichtenheld is a wonderful children’s author and illustrator, we recently went to a book signing during which he wrote a story with his young audience and read them stories. We like these writing tips from Kurt Vonnegut found in a post on Tom’s blog.
Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, my friends and I caused our fair share of trouble. But for all the laws and hearts that were broken, there remained the fact that we were not complete deviants. We were also intellectual artsy geeks. We watched foreign films. We read a lot of books. We were in poetry club. At night, when we were ushered out of the greasy spoon where we had filled the ashtrays and drank all the coffee, we roamed the sleeping town. Walking past the library, it was discovered that we could open the metal doors to the book drop-off, and smell the books inside. On a windless night, the smell was more intense. We did this a lot. We were weird.
The smell of books is a bit less obvious than my other favorite smells like coffee, vanilla, cedar, or a good cigar shop. It is subtle, like the night air before a storm, or catching a whiff of copper on your hands after handling pennies.
There isn’t one singular specific book smell. There are different aromas that come from from age, paper, ink, and environment. Combinations of these scents can be a reminder of knowledge and memories from books we have read.
Although there is nothing like the real thing, there have been some attempts to re-create the smell of books as a perfume. The delightfully named I Hate Perfume website has a scent called In the Library.
From their website:
“In the Library is a warm blend of English Novel*, Russian & Moroccan Leather Bindings, Worn Cloth and a hint of Wood Polish.”
*The main note in this scent was copied from one of my favorite novels originally published in 1927. I happened to find a signed first edition in pristine condition many years ago in London. I was more than a little excited because there were only ever a hundred of these in the first place. It had a marvelous warm woody slightly sweet smell and I set about immediately to bottle it.
I myself am not a book, and I don’t think I want to smell like one, but if this is your thing then I say go for it. Let me know how it goes.