When I was in third grade, my class was given a take home assignment. We were studying the senses of the body, and had been instructed to choose one favorite thing from each sense. What did we like to look at, like to taste, and so on. I didn’t have any trouble until I came across the sense of smell. Because to me, the smell I loved the most was the one that filled my lungs whenever I walked into the public library.
I tried to describe it as a “library smell,” but my mom told me that wasn’t a real smell. I needed to describe how library smelled and why I liked it. I had no idea how to do this—I couldn’t describe why it smelled good, I just knew being inside that building made me feel happier just by breathing.
I wrestled with it until the last minute, unable to think of the right word. I ended up jotting down that it smelled like fruit, because the scent was sweet and calming. But somehow I knew this was still wrong. It didn’t smell like fruit—it smelled like books. At the time, I didn’t know books could have a smell, that ink and page could affect me in such a strong way outside of just reading. I got an A on the project, but I remember being frustrated because I knew the scent was wrong.
Even now, I smell books. Scent might be one of the most underrated senses in writing, but it can be so powerful when it is put to good use.
Last week, I moved out of my Midwest home and am staying at my grandmother’s house in New Jersey for the summer. I will be working at a local history and science museum as an intern and taking two summer classes, but that won’t stop me from catching up on my reading. I admit, I’ve been neglecting this blog, but I intend to keep it going with book reviews and competitive posts.
Of course, I’ve already visited the local library. It’s nice to know the smell of books never changes no matter what state you’re in.