The smell of books

edited January 2015 in - Reading
I don't like the smell of books, especially old ones. It doesn't discourage me from reading, but I'd be happier if they didn't have that musty, previously read by someone who kept cats in a confined space and didn't empty the litter trays often enough, smell.

Am I odd? No, let me rephrase that to something I don't know the answer to. Do other people like the smell of books?

(This post was prompted by Johnnywriter saying ereaders don't smell right)


  • Only new ones
  • What can I say? I like the smell of books, I actually do.

    Not one book, new or used, has ever offended my nostrils.

    I wish more of my writing would inspire people to start threads about it. Hopefully, one day, it will be about my creative writing :)
  • Well, I prefer the smell of new books over anything else. I got used to the smell of musty books in Fiji because absolutely everything takes on a musty/mouldy smell in the tropics! The only smell I can't abide is stale cigarettes - which I've encountered with hardbacks from charity shops.
  • I like the smell of my books. Most are new. But the one thing I didn't miss after doing my university degree was the awful smell of the library books, which permeated the air for three years.
  • I don't really like the smell of anything that's been used by other people. I do buy books from charity shops occasionally, but if I was aware of an unsavoury smell, I'd get rid of it.

    I really dislike the smell of charity shop clothes, but, equally, I dislike that 'new car' smell which lots of people seem to adore.

    It's what comes of having a big nose.

  • It's what comes of having a big nose.
    Actually big, or just proprtionally so?
  • Enormous, PM. It gets through the front door a good five minutes before I do.
  • *examines photos of TN for unproportional oversized honk*
  • I suck it in on photos.
  • Oh. How disappointing.
  • Presumably you have to hold your breath to do that.
  • You can suck in your nose, TN? Like a sumo wrestler draws in his man bits? Before and after photos are called for here, I think.

    I like the smell of a book shop, new or old, but I agree about charity shop clothes. A good wash sorts those out but you can't do that with books.
  • I love the smell of books in second hand bookshops. Perhaps I only visit clean ones!

    Charity shops wash and iron donated clothes.

    Did anyone visit the Flea Market clothes shop in Carnaby Street in London's Soho? I did though I never bought anything.
  • I love the smell of all books. I always smell a book when buying it, have done since a kid. Mum always joked about this.
    The one smell I do hate is that of fried food cooking on stalls at the seaside or car boots.
  • I don't like the smell in charity shops either. I don't think it's because things aren't clean. More that they tend to be small and have everything packed in very tightly (which is understandable) so there's not much air circulating.
  • Another lovely bookish smell is that of a library in a private house.
    Shelves of proper leather bound books, comfortable leather armchairs, wood panelling, even a fire in winter. I've been in a few in my time and they're gorgeous.
  • Shelves of proper leather bound books, comfortable leather armchairs, wood panelling, even a fire in winter. I've been in a few in my time and they're gorgeous.
    My favourite, by far, is the library in Arundel castle.

    Simply amazing.
  • Talking of smells, I discovered among Maureen's clothes a small leather handbag.
    The leather smell was lovely. It was never used as far I recall. But I loved that leather smell.
  • I was reading a library book in bed this morning and then I had a horrible thought: What if the person who had had it before me read it while they were on the loo?!!!

    I shall have to read in latex gloves.
  • Yesterday I received a 1930s guidebook - it smells musty. I have to keep washing my hands - that's a lot of years and a lot of mucky hands.
  • And a lot of people enjoying reading it.
  • Hope so. It's in very good condition, so I might have only had one or two careful owners.
  • I love the smell and feel of new books. I'm still an e reader free zone. I like physically turning the pages of a book new or old.
  • I prefer a real book but I have a Kindle app on my tablet which I shall be taking with me to UK. Nooks, crosswords, Facebook, emails, blog and TB all in one neat package.
  • I was reading a library book in bed this morning and then I had a horrible thought: What if the person who had had it before me read it while they were on the loo?!!!

    I shall have to read in latex gloves.
    We have a bookshelf outside the loo - the bottom half is a magazine bit. We always read in the loo. Supposed to put the book back on the shelf on the way out but that doesn't happen much, they tend to get left in there.

    Suspect we'd be thrown out of your house, Nell...

  • But on the good side, bacteria that are dessicated are 99.9% dead. So a dry book is safe.
  • Reading in the loo is fine if you are a multi-loo household. We have one loo and two people and sometimes that's not enough. Reading is bed is allowed!
  • I've never understood this practice. I go to the loo. I wash my hands. I leave. I'm never usually in there long enough to ponder about too much. If I am there longer, then reading is the last thing on my mind.
  • Same here BB.
  • I read even if it's only for 30 seconds. It's why I could never have a bath. Too boring without being able to read. I tend to take my book with me round the house to fit it in while doing other things, in the gaps between doing the writing.
  • But we also have special loo books. Like photos of curious moments. Plenty of time for a photo each time.
  • I think I'll continue to just do the business and wash my hands.

  • I too like BB like to do the business rather than read in the loo.
  • I gave up reading in the loo when I was ten. I stayed with my godmother and her elderly mother and was in the loo for too long so godmother came in to turf me out.
    Oh the embarrassment! Scarred me for life - I still check the lock twice.
  • Ooo-er! My Grandad used to knock on the door and say 'buck up in there!'. It was a vast, old bathroom with a geyser and a loo with a chain and it was very cold so I never stayed in there very long if I could help it anyhow!
  • Do I like the smell of books? Yes. I first noticed the smell in the school library books. The new ones smelt lovely where as the second hand books that had been loaned out stank. I remember Mrs Payne throwing some books away because of the smell. Of course, the newer books soon lost their smell.

    Of course the books on my kindle don't smell at all but I love the scent of ink on the page. Does that make sense?

    I heard a urban legend that the fungus in ancient books (such as those in the British Library) that haven't been open in a long time can cause people to hallucinate or feint. I don't believe there is any truth to the story but it's enjoyable none the less.
  • I don't read while using the loo, but I do sometimes read in the bath.

    I think the chances of catching anything from a book would be very, very low and probably not increased by that book having been read in a bathroom. As Liz says, any bacteria would dry out and be harmless.
  • A geyser, Liz? C'est quoi? I know what a natural one is - but have never heard of one in a bathroom!
  • You are obviously too uoung, TN! A geyser is , or was, a huge tank that sat threateningly over the bath tub and, when lit, provided gushing hot watrr. A geezer, on the other hand, is a bloke.
  • I'd like a huge bloke, sitting threateningly over the bath tub.
  • It was huge, Lizy! And VERY noisy, I can remember my mum being scared to light it, as the flame blew outwards from the hole when you lit it with a match. Down below it, the enamel bath was stained by the water.

    It was a huge, old house - each bedroom had feather eiderdowns, and my nan and Grandad's bed was very high and metal, and sprung. One day, my aunt, who had my new cousin Dion, showed me and my brother a change of nappy in their room. i think it was an old-fashioned sort of 'this is what mothers do' lesson, for me. My brother and I were vastly entertained because every time she pt a new nappy on Di, he weed. It took her ages to go and get a new one each time, i can even see the view out of the window i gazed out at while we were waiting. She changed it again 3 times before giving up and doing it up slightly damp... I say, what memories!
  • Memories are made of this - isn't that a song?
  • Liz, did you find the wardrobe into Narnia in that huge house?
  • LOVE the smell of books, especially new ones. Although I have had second hand books that don't smell so nice, some have definitely had that 'too many cats in a small space and one possibly had a pee on this book' smell
  • Pee smell - awful!
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