Saturday, 12 January 2013

The smell of books

After seeing this very funny little post on my beautiful friend Bronwen's blog Once, I felt inspired to dig a bit deeper and found Jen Campbell's blog, the author of this book...

From what I've read, it's a real giggle and a half, but also a little tragic with some peoples comments. It's going to be a must on my payday treat yourself list! 

I never used to be an avid reader and only started really appreciating and really loving literature in my early 20's when I finished University when all of a sudden for the first time in my life I could really choose what I wanted to read. What I mean is, I didn't have to read certain books for my English and Afrikaans literature at school. My lifelong friends (especially Bronwen) that I had made at University at the time were also a big influence on my choices as well as some of the people I met travelling in my early 20's.

When I was a kid, my older sister always had her nose in a book, she was clever, but not me, I was out climbing trees and making mischief of one kind or another.I read annuals and comics because they were quick and had pictures. I read lots of Enid Blyton, once again because of the illustrations and read my Secret Sevens and Famous Fives over and over again each school holiday until it became embarrassing when I was about 13/14 alongside reading Shakespeare at school(ok so I can't believe I have just admitted that!).


For many, many days and nights I escaped into the wonderful world of literature. I started thinking, questioning life, the universe and everything. Books became my best friend, I judged people by the books they read (not a good trait to have, thank goodness for ageing I've changed I promise)and to this day need to see my faithful friends on the shelf when I come home. 

I actively seeked out aesthetically pleasing books, old ones, dusty ones, leather bound ones, pre-read ones knowing that someone else would have absorbed all those delicious words before me. Libraries became one of my all time favourite places and I hope I have established this love of the written word found in libraries and bookshops in Alice.

I do believe, and am grateful for my own experience, that there is hope for all parents who might despair at their children not loving literature at an early age. Even if Alice doesn't read as much as we would like her to at the age of 12, I don't believe in nagging her as this may become a negative thing, rather I gently encourage her to see the wonder I know is in them.

Duck and rabbit go for a picknick - original linocut art print - nursery gift - handcarved and handprinted

As for book shops the old, the new, the ugly all satisfy my senses over and over again, the more quirky with nooks and crannies, the better. All those books with their paper, ink, glue and fibres excite me, and then there is that smell, the smell of grassy woody fibres with a hint of something sweet, almost vanilla-like. What more can I say? I'm a book smelling kind of gal and you will often find me sniffing a book to absorb it even more completely before I buy it and as I read it :0) 

I bet you Jen Campbell could also write a book on the "Weird behaviour of customers inside bookshops", I think I might just feature in it with my book smelling ways!

How about you? 
Any weird bookshop behaviour you want to confess?

If you also love books, make yourself a cup of tea and plug some headphones into your computer and for some of you, gather a little handkerchief or tissue and watch this 15 minutes of sweet magic. 
It's too beautiful.

As for me, I'm off to one of my favourite book shops in East Sussex - Much Ado 
If you are ever in the area, make a bee line to this book smelling heaven.

oh no, I've just checked their opening hours and they are on sabbatical at the moment. Oh dear, I guess its a trip to the library for me then...


  1. Wow! Me and my eldest have just sat here watching that little film. So so so beautiful. And certainly celebrates how having books in your life enriches it no end.

    As we are both book worms that live for books it really struck a cord. Today has been a wonderful book browsing buying and loving day today. So such a fitting film and post for me!

    Hope you found some good stories in your libary. Shame you favourite book shop was closed. It will be all the more sweeter though next time you visit.

    P x

  2. I'm with you on the Enid Blyton confession! I've spent this afternoon trawling through our local second hand shops trying to find a book to entice our 15 year old into reading a bit more - no good. In a house filled with books in every nook she has decided to adopt my husbands new gadget - an ereader! It seems so disloyal!

  3. ... and as for the film - you wouldn't get that with an ereader!

  4. What a magical film - loved it. Thanks for sharing that.

    My boys have never been terribly interested in reading but recently Fab has discovered a love for it and we got him a whole bunch of books for Christmas which he was so happy with - it was great to see him lost in a book.

    Hubby's uncle owns a bookshop and the stories he tells of his customers and the things they say are quite astonishing..amazing what comes out of people's mouths..the questions they ask indeed! :)

  5. I love your space. Your blog is very interesting and beautiful. Kisses from Spain.

  6. I owned a New/Used bookstore for about 5 years. This post brings back a lot of good memories. When my son was a toddler I would bring him into the shop with me. He literally "cut his teeth" on the books in the store. He is still an avid reader. Great post. Thanks : )

  7. I do like a good bookshop. I'm challenging myself to read more actual books this year instead of being online so much

  8. I have just started loving books. I have always enjoyed reading the odd book, but never really put down on the hobby section of a form "reading".
    This year I have so many books I want to read it makes me glimmer with excitment. There must be something that changes when you become an adult! x

  9. I started a book club last year with a good friend of mine, it had been years since I had made myself sit down to read, always too busy rushing around like a loon! Now I love absorbing myself in a new world, just need to learn how to read and crochet at the same time and I'm sorted! :) x

  10. My childhood reading is exactly the same as yours, same books too! I love books but had a Kindle for christmas much to the horror of my librarian friend! I still buy real books to keep and always will do, but for reading read the kind of thing that I'd give away once read (yeah, holiday novels) it's brilliant. We have hundreds of books taking up most of the house so for me, it's a good balance for me. :)
    Jess x

  11. Last time I was in Waterstones actually buying something, I had an animated conversation with the two girls behind the counter about 50 Shades of Cr*p, which they had on sale. We were discussing the demography of the people who were buying, not having seen any interest from young girls...but they wouldn't would they when people can 'sneak' it past the self service check-out at any supermarket. It was a hugely entertaining conversation and a couple of other customers joined in!

    I too love books of all types and ages, but have capitulated and we are taking umpteen books away on our long flight to NEw Zealand with us on the Kindle. it has its uses!

  12. I love the look of old books, and I like hard cover books verses the soft cover ones. Nel is a book lover and would enjoy this post. She reads EVERYDAY, as she is working on her Ph.D. right now. She would love that picture with the pop-out characters, as reading is always an adventure to her. I will tell you about your wonderful post today.
    ~Sheri at Red Rose Alley

  13. I love old books - the smell of them, the look of them though I have to admit to owning a kindle (as of Christmas) and it has completely renewed my interest in reading...getting out much is not an option so it's great to be able to pick it up and read anything when ever I wish.

    Nina x

  14. What a beautiful post, Penelope. I've loved reading all my life, and have always read just what I like and never what people thought I should read (except at school of course). I still read children's books - a good story is a good story no matter the age of the target audience. And I too love old books and used books. Our shelves are full of secondhand treasures picked up at library sales and used-book stores.

    I haven't heard of Enid Blyton - shall have to order some of her books from the library (if they have any - alas, they don't have the "Weird Things").

  15. Just watched that amazing video - so very sweet and touching. I love what happens when he's handing out books to people. :)

  16. What a beautiful, sweet, and lovely video. Yes, I did need a tissue at the end. What a wonderful thing books bring to our lives. I love books. I do have a Kindle as I've found that with the RA damage in my hands it's hard to sometimes hold a book open to read, especially the thick ones I love. The Kindle allows me to continue enjoying the reading without the pain. But I still buy books because I love to touch them and hold them. Thank you for a wonderful post.