There is something about this smell….


I do not need to repeat that I love books and have been reading since I was a kid. What is new for you guys is that I had developed this habit from my mother who read a lot, and she still does, mostly in Assamese. She loves solving crossword too, putting her vast stock of words to use. 🙂 Back in time, inspite of her busy schedule of bringing up 3 daughters and doing all the household chores herself, she still managed time for a page or two every day. In those days, I was a voracious reader, yes, literally voracious. I read almost anything &everything that was fiction. I loved to be transported to a world of the author’s making, living a life with them for some time. I was such a reader that when I had nothing else, I read my elder sister’s English text book which contained some stories too. Soon after I was able to read and write Assamese (my mother tongue) comfortably, I started reading my Maa’s novels, magazines, etc. from her young days, too. The battererd, bruised and beaten covers – hard cover as well as paperback, yellowed loose pages, a silverfish (I guess that’s what the worm in the books is called!) crawling out with some rapid movement and the peculiar whiff of smell that comes out of it – it was bliss…totally!! And soon I would be found lying on my belly and getting lost in those yellowed pages.


There is something about the smell of books. For me, there are two types of smell of a book. A new one smells great and seems to conjure up expectations & a sense of thrill that the words of the author will provide me with. And the old one smells even better. It brings nostalgia – memories of those good old summer & winter holidays when I could get lost in my favourite books without worrying about anything else & those late night reading sessions hiding under the covers after light-out – Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew/Enid Blyton/Tinkle in one hand & a torch light in the other. I can never forget inhaling the bookish smell that was trapped inside my blanket. Then there was the peculiar rustic smell of the libraries. It was as much part of the rows of books as their contents.


For me, an e- book can never take the place of a good, ol’ paper book. The touch, the smell, the thrill in turning the pages to reveal the many mysteries & twists and turns – naah, an e-book cannot, can ever, beat all these. I know people will tell me about its convenience and many other attributes, which I do not deny at all. But for me there’s something irreplaceable about a printed book.

Here’s what I found about the bookish smell in Google:

“A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness” is how an international team of chemists describes the unique odor of old books in a study”.

I also found another interesting thing; I guess some e-readers might be interested:

Do you like the smell of books? What does it mean to you?

smell-booksThis post is my (1st) submission to Write Tribe‘s Wednesday prompt (to be posted within a week): 

“The smell of old books
Work it into a story, a poem, an essay……”


Related link:

Images: Google


  1. The smell of the old books and the touch cannot be described in words. one has to inhale the old smell to be nostalgic. but very recently tried the e-book. initially found it a bit strange and difficult but now am comfortable with new technology but nothing beats the must old smell of books

    1. Yes Kalpana, I agree with you. e-books are a great invention, but for me it can never replace the experience of reading a paper book. And as I always say, to each his/her own 🙂 Enjoy your experience 🙂

  2. I have to admit that, as much as I love books, I’ve never really given much thought to their smell! I do like the smell of a used bookstore, though. I DO NOT like coming across silverfish!
    Nice post!

  3. In my school days I always loved the smell of new books and would be inhaling it.I even suspected different books smelt differently.You seem a voracious reader born to another voracious reader and little wonder you fell in love with the scent of the books,old and new.You write very fluently and articulate your thoughts well.

    1. Thanks KP for your kind words. I am sad to say that I am no more a voracious reader. I still read but I had slowed down due to lack of time. 😦
      And each book smelling differently….now that’s some food for thought. 😉

  4. I love the way scientists broke the smell of old books down to find that it contained vanilla! And yes, the smell is different but both are ever so wonderful, don’t you think? 🙂

  5. I agree..ebooks don’t work for me..there is something special about holding a book in your hand and turning it pages one by if without it one cannot fully experience the journey..

  6. When e-books first came, many said paper books were dead. But bookworms proved them wrong 🙂 Cheers to books, and the memories they hold!

  7. The smell of books – old wood, creaking chairs, rain… all kinds of images fly around in my head when I think about that. I always smell the books before reading them. In that regard, reading books is a lot like wine-tasting, for me atleast 😀

  8. I too read a lot and infact feel lost when can’t find anything to read, at times in office too I spend a lot of time reading book reviews. But I agree that paperback has its own charm and e-books can never replace it

  9. Hi – nice post! Like me its your first one for write tribe too….most of us do love old books…being immersed in then is a whole new world…..good look with your writing exercises

  10. Absolutely love ur take and I’m still not into e-books. Nothing beats the pleasure of rusty books and just love the scent. Me too, mom forced me to read by taking me to the library twice a week and today, I am a voracious reader. I am sure so many of us were inducted by our mothers’ into reading:)

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