The Smell of Old Books

One of my favourite scents has to be the musty odour of second-hand bookshops and the shelves of books forgotten and abandoned at the very top floor of libraries. I was so happy to get this picture from my friend Magatha-May last week explaining how the breakdown of the polymer lignin in paper is responsible for this lovely old book smell.

Reading was my favourite hobby when I was a child, from the stories of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Philip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson, the Horrible History and Horrible Science series. As a teenager, I advanced onto the various chicklit and historical fiction owned by my mum, horror stories by Stephen King, tales of vampires and New Orleans by Anne Rice, and various feminism and philosophy introductory texts. It was no surprise when I went onto study a reading intensive course, Double Majors in Politics and Sociology followed a Masters in Politics, where I’d use up most of my library book allowance by borrowing books ranging from sports science, literature, poetry, Women’s Studies, cultural studies and occasionally books from my course reading lists.

Sadly, the simple act of reading for pleasure was mostly abandoned during my time in university and one of my greatest forms of relaxation after Exam Week was to return the academic tomes for some paperbacks, allow my brain to switch off and finally recuperate from the exams. Even then, it was only this summer after I bought something I had been dreaming about for years that I really got back to reading as a pastime really worth savouring. I bought a Sony PRS650, a touch-screen ereader, loaded it up with books and found myself reading for hours on end.

It seems like a jump from one camp to another, a lover of antiquarian books to one of shiny technology, but really the medium doesn’t matter. All that is important is the love of the world created by words, the vivid imaginations of some authors, the amazing amount of knowledge and insights being shared and the emotions being experienced; all through the right choice of words in a sentence.

Now I’ve decided to take my love one step further, I’m going to start posting some book reviews here to try to take my love of words one step further. Coming up are reviews of Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran.


One thought on “The Smell of Old Books

  1. I feel the same way about books and e-readers. I absolutely love my well-worn, polymer-smelling books. But what I take with me traveling is my kindle. Both forms have their places. I look forward to your reviews!

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