Monday, March 24, 2014


I love the unique smell and feel of used bookstores.

They smell like books.

Our  olfactory bulb is part of the Limbic System which is sometimes called the "emotional brain,". Smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously. As we encounter most new odors in our youth, smells often call up childhood memories.

Smell is chemistry and when the various components of a book breakdown they combine to release that unique smell which brings back a flood of memories of the old school library in St. Bernard's and of my scattered trips to the used bookstores on Water street when I was kid.

Yesterday afternoon, a friend and I spent our afternoon combing the antique shops, Afterwards and Chapters for good reads and hidden treasures. My friend is an unrepentant bibliophile. He scans the spine of each and every book on each shelf in the sections of interest to him. Watching him slip into the moment while doing this is something to behold. I tend to scan for something interesting, he is a man on a mission.

The smells - the mustiness, the hint of vanilla and smoke take me back to a peaceful, tranquil moments of being engrossed in solitude.  Every now and than I stumbled on a book that had delighted me in the past. The recall of emotions and  the unlocking of feelings at a place and time forgotten.  I barely can stifle the urge to buy those books again, to give them to another in the hopes they would enjoy it as much as I did, or experience it afresh.

Chapters has a unique smell. The smell of fresh unopened books mixed with the odor of coffee. The pursuit of new studies, new releases - not so much gems. A place to socialize not to explore.

I prefer the smell and feel of the cozy used bookstore. There are no pesky (sometimes helpful) sales associates, they are so quiet and offer an escape from the real world.

I am nostalgic for the aura of used bookstores.

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