The power of perfume has captivated people since the beginning of times. The very first fragrances were a mixture of herbs and oils burned over a fire to appease the gods. This was called Per Fumus, which gave its name to fragranced waters of all sorts: perfume. And although at first it was used in religious practices only, it soon got picked up by people as a personal accessory. To hide foul smells -the ancient Romans used it to fragrance their homes, or as a powerful influencer like Cleopatra did. She apparently used gallons of fragranced oils to seduce Julius Caesar, and we know how that worked out. And did you know that Bonaparte was so smitten with his lover Josephine’s natural scent, that he asked her not to wash prior to his return home?
Scent is a curious thing indeed and fragrance can influence your mood, attract the opposite sex, conjure up memories and make you feel empowered, to name only a few benefits. And if you are anything like us, mesmerized by the tremendous power of scent and perfume and thrilled by any pleasant fragrance that surprises the nostrils, than this list of books on perfume is definitely for you.
1. What the nose knows – Avery Gilbert
Our sense of smell is probably the least understood of the senses and maybe that is why it fascinates us so much. Olfaction expert Gilbert takes you on a fasinating journey of facts and fiction and the science of scent in everyday life. For everyone who wants to know more about the realm of smell, this is your book.
2.The story of a murderer – Patrick Suskind
This classic novel by German author Patrick Suskind paints a terrifying story about what happens when a man with a remarkable sense of smell becomes obsessed with creating the ultimate perfume.
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born in the slums of eighteenth-century France. At birth he was given a sublime talent: an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris and eventually finds his way to a prominent perfumer who makes him his apprentice. This is where he masters the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. He is a near genius when it comes to scents and perfumes. But genius comes with a price as he discovers one day, that although he can smell fragrances with much more complexity than other humans, he has no actual scent of his own. He smells of nothing. This is when Jean-Baptiste really becomes obsessed with the idea to create the ultimate perfume: the scent of a beautiful young virgin. The book is powerful and beautifully written. Not convinced yet? Watch the trailer for the movie, and be prepared to run to the bookstore.
3. The Diary of a Nose – Jean Claude Ellena
Perfume creation is an exclusive and secretive business. After all if you create a truly unique and successful scent, the whole world wants to copy it. So, what is the day to day life like for a nose? How is a new scent actually created? And how do you translate it into a perfume that smells nice on the skin? This book takes you on a journey in the life of one of the world’s most important perfumers Jean Claude Ellena, mastermind of many Hermès fragrances. Ellena wrote a diary for a year and the result is this fascinating book in which he offers the reader a rare glimpse into the secrets of the perfume business and with it a peek into his mind and life. Believing that composing a scent is an art form that requires all 5 senses, he discloses where he gets his inspiration from and how the illusion of a specific fragrance can be recreated with synthetic ingredients.
4.Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent – Mandy Aftel
Mandy Aftel creator of artisanal fragrances, is a true evangelist when it comes to the transformative power of scent. In this book she explains the connection between our sense of smell and the appetites it stimulates, the scents that give us pleasure, make us fully alive. Interlaced with interesting facts about the history and philosophy of scent, this book also offers a few wonderful recipes for easy-to-make fragrances with natural ingredients.
5. The Perfume Collector – Kathleen Tessaro
Take a bunch of truly eccentric characters, an abandoned perfume shop and add a unique and quirky story involving the smells of our lives and the life of a perfumer. Voila, an amazing book emerges.
Newlywed Grace Monroe receives an unexpected inheritance from a complete stranger, Mme Eva d’Orsey. Grace is determined to uncover the identity of her mysterious benefactor. From 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, the story Grace uncovers is that of an extraordinary woman who inspired one of Paris’s greatest perfumers. The life and story of Eva d’orsay’s is immortalized in three evocative perfumes and it is this fragrant journey that leaves a permanent mark on Grace’s life, forcing her to make a profound decision. A beautiful book about the tremendous power of memory and scent.