There’s an immediacy to fragrance, a moment where we realise – often quite instinctively – that we are drawn to a scent or repelled by it. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and a deeper appreciation can emerge. This collection of non-fiction books helps to build that appreciation through an alchemical blend of science and art, history, psychology and passion.
The Secret of Scent by Luca Turin
As a biophysicist who is also one of the world’s great perfume writers, Turin approaches his subject through the dual lenses of art and science. This book burrows down to find out exactly how and why scent works, looking at two competing scientific theories. It sounds heavy but the beauty of Turin’s writing and the passion that he brings to the topic means that the effect is anything but.
The Diary of a Nose by Jean-Claude Ellena
One of the leading fragrance-creators of our time, Ellena was the in-house “nose” at Hermès for more than a decade and has collaborated with other greats of perfumery, including Frederic Malle. Here, he takes the reader through the creation of a fragrance, offering a rare insight into the process from the moment of inspiration to the selection of the individual notes.
Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure and An Unlikely Bride by Alyssa Harad
Part memoir, part adventure story, this is the tale of an academic’s personal foray into fragrance. Having just finished her PhD, Harad was devoted to more “serious” pursuits when she discovered the world of perfume blogs. This set her off on a year-long quest to learn more about both fragrance and herself.
A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette’s Perfumer by Elisabeth de Feydeau
Jean-Louis Fargeon was the private perfumer to Queen Marie Antoinette for the 14 years leading up to the French Revolution. Although he was a lifelong republican, he remained completely devoted to her – even suffering imprisonment because of his association with the queen. This is a fascinating historical look at the French Empire through the eyes of its most fragrant servant.
The Scent of Desire by Rachel Herz
Why do we adore certain scents and detest others? An expert on the psychology of smell, Rachel Herz explores the way we understand and respond to fragrance, bringing together ideas from neuroscience, cultural theory and biology. Into this, she artfully weaves stories of scent that illustrate exactly why it will alway be such a personal endeavour.
Secrets of A Beauty Queen by Stephanie Darling
Although not strictly about fragrance alone, this memoir by Australian beauty journalist Stephanie Darling includes lengthy musings on her love of perfume, all told with her trademark wit and humour. She also includes helpful tips on how to store, wear and layer scent for the best results.