A picture of someone with their face in a bookshelf

I have a secret obsession.

Book sniffing.

Yes, that’s right, sniffing books.

a picture of a nose poking through a book with the hashtag booksniffing

Booksniffing – A very real condition.

There is nothing more satisfying than buying a book, and flicking the pages past your snout and taking the biggest inhale possible. It’s (almost) better than sex.

I know to some of you non-book nerds this sounds extremely far fetched but trust me book sniffing is a thing and if you don’t do it, you’re not a book nerd, yet.

I first realised my passion for sniffing books when I was in school. I was a five-year-old thing picking up books that were far above my actual reading ability. Books were magical to me, the bigger the better, they had the ability to take me to places that would never exist in our modern-day world, leaving me to live in bookscapes that painted my imagination colours I never knew existed.

A picture of a person laying on a bed with their face in a book

Get your face in that book

I digress, back to the sniffing obsession. I had picked up a reference book on the reproductive system. Yes, I know, I was a curious little girl. I was flicking through the book, fanning the pages, and looking at the very colourful pictures when it hit me. The book smell. This smell was the best thing I had ever inhaled, better than petrol (gas), better than permanent markers and Sharpie pens, this was… fricking awesome. That day paved the way forward for me, every time I borrowed a book from the library, or bought a new book, I’d sit and fan the pages as I wafted the smell right up my nose.

As I started becoming aware of normal (and abnormal) behaviours, I realised that I never saw anyone else sniffing books, so it became a private thing, which only made the smell even better.

As an adult, I revel in sitting with a cup of tea, and a good book, and before each and every reading session, smelling my books. I’ll even have a cheeky sniff in a bookstore or supermarket that stocks books. I can’t help myself. I’m absolutely positive it’s a reader OCD addiction.

A picture of a very old book

Old books…mmmmmn

Now I work within a company that loves words, and books, and all things literature, and can actually nerd out with fellow colleagues on the art of sniffing books. Yes, there is an art, it’s all in the page flicks, too quick, the smell isn’t optimal, and too slow? Why? You have to get it just right.

Working for PoetsIN means that my book sniffing habits can’t be my dirty secret anymore (sigh), because we believe you should celebrate everything and anything book, and word related. Book sniffing included.

Remember the CD slips with the lyrics on them? They smelt good too, but their smell was different. I have always wondered why. (Answers on a post card, please).

A gif of a manga character turning a CD over

Remember the CD slips with the lyrics on them?

As a team we think used books smell better. It must be the musk and spores of yesteryear carrying each particle of smell up our nasal cavities.

I am going to nerd out completely now, and ask the following questions, rhetorical or not.

Is there a difference in smell between fiction and non-fiction? If there is, how so?

Does fiction smell like imagination, and non-fiction smell like the cold, hard, truth?

Would erotica smell of latex, lube, and bodily secretions? And comedy smell of cigarettes and liquor found in the comedy clubs of the 80’s. While horror smelt of metal, the victims’ blood abusing our noses?

A picture of a sexy figure by some curtains

Would erotica smell of latex, lube, and bodily secretions?

Are the fragrances we smell scientific or just in our imagination? I have had vivid dreams of fires and then woken being able to smell burning. If we read the blurb of the book does that alter our sense of smell based on our brain’s perception of the book – our preconceived notions? Or do all books just smell different?

I don’t want to dash my own flowery thoughts on the situation, but it is most likely just where and how they were printed. Which sucks. So I am going to pretend I didn’t say that out loud.

A gif of a girl holding a book


Let me leave you with this. One PoetsIN team member states that sniffing books makes him need to use the toilet, to put it politely. I’ll let you figure out who it was, but considering I’m a girl, it isn’t me!

So ladies and gentlemen, go and buy some books, sniff them, and most importantly read them. Recycle them, too, pass them on to someone who hasn’t read them, as eventually those new books will have the old book smell too.



Sammie – Co-Founder of PoetsIN.




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  • Commenter's Avatar
    Jim Lamb — June 4, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    Wonderfully charming write. Brought a smile to my face. Thanks.

  • Commenter's Avatar
    Julie Frayn — June 5, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    I love sniffing books! I used to think I was weird, but discovered a whole world of weird book sniffers are out there. I once bought (and still have) an very old copy of Ivanhoe. It was the texture of the red leather cover, the smell of those antique pages. It’s written in French and I can’t read a word of it, but I spent a small fortune on it and it remains one of my favourite books to sniff… Love your post!

  • Commenter's Avatar
    V — January 29, 2022 at 8:58 pm

    I was googling this symptom and can admit I do it all the time. I flick through pages over and over again. I love sniffing the new books the most. I also like to run a finger down the book spine. Yup. Proud bookworm here

  • Commenter's Avatar
    Frank Wood — June 8, 2022 at 8:19 pm

    Oh how I can relate to this!

    The first I thing I do after I’ve bought a book is the sniffing ritual.

    I’d forgotten the smell of the CD slips! I also remember the smell of shellac LP records. Anyone remember them?

    I’ve even written a humorous short story Confessions of a Book Sniffer which many people may relate to ?. It’s only 9 1/2 mins long so (I hope!) readable.


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