The Smell of Books

I picked up my family’s copy of The Fellowship of the Rings just the other day to start reading it. My family just recently watched all of the movies, and I decided to read the books again.

My dad read them all out loud to me when I was younger. He used to read out loud to me all the time.

And I used to read by myself all the time.

I fell out of that habit somewhere around junior high. I’m back into it now–but I read different kinds of books. Not necessarily different kinds of stories, mind you, but different kinds of books. Different paper, different ink, different binding.

I don’t know how or why, but it’s true.

Why does it matter, you ask?

When I picked up The Fellowship of the Ring the other day, I must have–at some point–fanned through the pages. And you know what happens when you fan through the pages of a book?

Book smell.

It wafts up toward you, floating on air particles and afternoon sunbeams. It’s one of the best things in the world.

And the old, musty smell locked away within the pages of my family’s copy of The Fellowship of the Rings was a smell I hadn’t smelled in a long, long time.

It was the smell of younger years–of longer days and freer times–of rainy afternoons in the blue chair in our living room–of the kind of books I used to read.

Specifically, it was the smell of the Redwall books.

I think I loved the Redwall books longer and harder than I ever had loved a book series, or ever have since.

I devoured them. I was obsessed with them. They scripted my pretendings and populated my dreams. I wrote five chapters of a book based off of the Redwall concept. I collected as many of the books as I could. For a twelve-year-old, that’s rather difficult to do, but I think I had at least seven of the twenty-two books.

I remember them sitting on my little wicker bookshelf in my room. Some were bigger hard-backs–but a few were fat little paperbacks, their pages dog-eared and yellowed and filled with old, musty book-smell.

The same smell as the smell in my family’s old copy of The Fellowship of the Ring.

I’d forgotten that scent. But the funny thing about scents is that you can forget about them for a long time–years–and the moment you smell them again, you’re back in time, seeing the same sights, thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same feelings.

I didn’t even realize that my old Redwall books had such a specific smell. I didn’t need to. All I needed was to smell it again, years later, when I was older, when life was busier, when time was shorter . . .

. . . and when I missed it just a little bit.

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