Sensehacking: How to Use the Power of Your Senses for Happier, Healthier Living by Charles Spence [Published September 2020]
Showing us how our senses change how we think and feel, and how by ‘hacking’ them we can reduce stress, become more productive and be happier.
We like to think of ourselves as rational beings, and yet it’s the scent of expensive face cream that removes wrinkles (temporarily), a room actually feels warmer if you use a warmer paint colour, and the noise of the crowd really does affect the referee’s decision. Understanding how our senses interact can produce incredible results. This is popular science at its unbelievable best.
Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells by Harold McGee [Published October 2020]
McGee familiarizes us with the actual bits of matter that we breathe in — the molecules that trigger our perceptions, that prompt the citrusy smells of coriander and beer and the medicinal smells of daffodils and sea urchins. And like everything in the physical world, molecules have histories. Many of the molecules that we smell every day existed long before any creature was around to smell them — before there was even a planet for those creatures to live on. Beginning with the origins of those molecules in interstellar space, McGee moves onward through the smells of our planet, the air and the oceans, the forest and the meadows and the city, all the way to the smells of incense, perfume, wine, and food.
Distilling the science behind smells and translates it into an accessible and entertaining sensory and olfactory guide. We’ll sniff the ordinary (wet pavement and cut grass) and extraordinary (ambergris and truffles), the delightful (roses and vanilla) and the challenging (swamplands and durians). We’ll smell each other. We’ll smell ourselves. Here is a story of the world, of all of the smells under our noses – revealing how our sense of smell has the power to expose invisible, intangible details of our material world and life, and trigger in us feelings that are the very essence of being alive.
The Healing Power of Flowers: discover the secret language of the flowers you love by Claire Bowen [Published March 2021]
Features your favourite flowers grouped by their purpose – for love, for joy, for luck, for calm, to console, and to celebrate. Discover their traditional meanings, holistic benefits, and when flowers are in season so that they can be sourced locally with a minimal carbon footprint. By creating thoughtful personal bouquets or choosing a flower for its meaning, its natural energy, or holistic property, you can bring the benefits of the natural world back into your home, your workplace, and into the lives of loved ones.
Find out why you should give Foxgloves to celebrate a new job, Lilacs for joy, or Chrysanthemums for luck, and become fluent in the secret language of flowers.
The Perfume Companion: The Definitive Guide to Choosing Your Next Scent by Sarah McCartney [Published October 2021]
Perfumes have the power to evoke treasured memories, make us feel fabulous and help us express our best self. But with so many out there, how do you choose something new? When the scents in the perfume shop are merging into one aromatic haze, how do you remain focused? And if your favourite scent goes out of stock, how do you replace it?
The Perfume Companion is here to help. Sarah McCartney and Samantha Scriven deliver a host of scents for you to try – including bargain finds and luxury treasures, iconic stalwarts and indie newcomers, the lightest florals and the deepest leathers.
Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture by Justine Picardie [Published September 2021]
Miss Dior is a story of freedom and fascism, beauty and betrayal, roses and repression, and of how the polished surface of fashion conceals hidden depths. It paints a portrait of the enigmatic woman behind the designer Christian Dior: his beloved younger sister Catherine, who inspired his most famous perfume and shaped his vision of femininity. Justine Picardie’s journey takes her to Occupied Paris, where Christian honed his couture skills while Catherine dedicated herself to the French Resistance, until she was captured by the Gestapo and deported to the German concentration camp of Ravensbrück.
With unparalleled access to the Dior family homes and archives, Picardie shines a new light on Catherine’s courageous life and Christian Dior’s legendary work, and reveals how his enchanting “New Look” emerged out of the shadows of his sister’s suffering.
Tracing the wartime paths of the Dior siblings leads Picardie deep into other hidden histories, and different forms of resistance and sisterhood. She explores what it means to believe in beauty and hope, despite our knowledge of darkness and despair, and discovers the timeless solace of the natural world in the aftermath of devastation and destruction. The result is an exquisite and unforgettably moving book.
The Rose in Fashion: Ravishing by Amy de la Haye [Published in 2020]
Foregrounding innovative, refined, and challenging fashion design from elite 18th-century woven silks to the latest gender-neutral catwalk trends and Alexander McQueen rose dresses. Drawing upon fashion clothing, everyday dress, millinery, fine jewelry, perfume, and artificial and fresh roses, multiple expert contributors make reference to love, beauty, sex, sin, gendered identities, rites of passage, transgression, degradation, and death. Wild yet cultivated, savage yet delicate, this flower has remained an enduring symbol perhaps due to its versatility and the dichotomies it represents.
On The Scent: Unlocking the Mysteries of Smell – and How Its Loss Can Change Your World by Paola Totaro & Robert Wainwright [Published June 2022]
The story of a quest for answers, from the theories of ancient philosophers to the cutting-edge laboratories of 21st century neuroscience. It looks at the extraordinary experiences of patients and scientists alike, offering a unique glimpse into the world of those born without smell as well as those who lose it; exploring how smell can be a key indicator of declining physical health; and showing how new research may offer hope to the millions of people worldwide who have suffered sensory loss.
Our sense of smell shapes our everyday experiences in ways we often don’t even notice. Its loss can transform our lives – affecting our emotional wellbeing, our relationships, our ability to interpret the world around us – and yet it has long been regarded as the least important of our senses. But Covid changed everything. As it became clear loss of smell was a key symptom and the number of sufferers exploded, olfactory researchers suddenly found themselves thrust into the spotlight, with more attention, subjects and funding than ever before. Presented with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, they were able at last to start unlocking the mysteries of our ‘Cinderella’ sense.
Paris: Capital of Guerlain by Laurence Benaïm [Published February 2022]
Traveling across the history of Guerlain over two centuries, this book highlights the inextricable links between the house and the city of Paris, how Guerlain changed Parisian life with its cosmetics and perfumes and how it could have existed nowhere but Paris. Guerlain’s creations, especially its perfumes, are seen in their historical and cultural context of the city and times, through a combination of interviews, images, and portraits of people and products which played a part in the house’s history.
The history of the quintessential Parisian perfumer Guerlain both influenced and was shaped by Parisian life, savoir faire, and culture.
The house of Guerlain is a Parisian institution. Guerlain aficionados—from royalty and empresses, to celebrities, writers, and artists—have been featured in novels, song lyrics, movies, and artistic creations, all while exemplifying Parisian savoir faire and luxury.
The Guerlain headquarters and laboratory on the rue de Rivoli in the heart of Paris feature a new scent laboratory and a rose garden, intrinsically binding the famous house to the city of light, which it so perfectly captures in each bottle of perfume.
The perfect book for lovers of fashion, of Parisian life and savoir-faire, of scents and beauty products, of history―anyone will find value and beauty in this celebration of Guerlain, the quintessential Parisian perfumer.
The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown [Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin’s Griffin; Reprint edition 2016]
Although the main protagonist here, Emma Temple, is a perfumer – think of it as being more like one of many ingredients rippled through a fragrance, than the entire composition itself. Instead, the pleasure of reading this novel comes from its dreamy, evocative descriptions and the clever weaving together of two stories.
One story is set in the modern day, just after Emma simultaneously loses not only lost her mother, who was also a perfumer, but the father of her child at the same time. She travels to an abandoned house her mother owned in Valencia, and in renovating it, discovers all manner of disturbing family secrets revealed in the flashback portion of the book, set during the violence of the Spanish Civil War. Interspersed throughout is the sense that the author is fully in tune with her own senses – who understands that taking time to describe a smell not only helps evoke a place, but adds another emotional connection for the reader. At one point, Emma tries to think of a particular fragrance ‘like a half-remembered melody she couldn’t sing’ and imagines the fragrance she would like to make of her time in Spain; writing a list as inspiration:
‘The seduction of white flowers
Woodsmoke and saffron
Lavender mountains, cranberry sunsets
Immense night skies pricked with stars.’
The rest of the novel is similarly lush, and should really be enjoyed in the garden, preferably on a sunny days with a glass of something cold, and hopefully sitting somewhere near a heady honeysuckle or fragrant blossom to immerse yourself in glorious scents as you read. It might not be the most detailed description of a perfumer’s work, but it’s a romantic – heartbreaking at times – engaging tale of a house giving up its secrets and the way scent weaves its own tale in all of our lives.
Taste & Flavour: A cookbook to inspire those experiencing changes in taste and smell as a result of Covid by Ryan Riley & Kimberley Duke [Life Kitchen]
When it first came to light that many of those people who’d had or were still suffering with Covid-19 were experiencing loss of taste and smell, Life Kitchen said, ‘our first thought was – what can we do to help?’ Having undertaken extensive research, and garnered the help of experts such as Professor Barry Smith, from the University of London, the anosmia (smell loss) charity Abscent, and Altered Eating; it was ‘discovered that Covid-related taste and smell loss has some distinctive features.’ These included people who ‘found they didn’t want to eat certain, quite common ingredients, including onions, garlic, meat and eggs,’ while additionally (and upsettingly), ‘certain foodstuffs seemed to trigger parosmia (changes to or distortion of the sense of smell), anosmia (loss of smell) and phantosmia (smelling something that isn’t there).’
As Life Kitchen comment, and we know from the reports of many post-Covid patients: ‘Any of these olfactory conditions can have a profound knock-on effect for physical and mental health.’ So, what to do for immediate and – most importantly – practical help if you’ve lost your sense of smell and can’t taste the food you once enjoyed…?
Ryan Riley and Kimberley Duke worked with the smell and taste experts, to produce this recipe and self-help book. And – SO generously – they’ve not only produced printed copies you can purchase on the website for only £3.00 to cover postage costs, but have made a digital copy FREE to download, so they can help even if you can’t afford the book right now, and no matter where you are in the world. The loss of smell (and therefore taste) has been devastating to those already suffering other symptoms and feeling isolated, so the authors say: ‘This book is a collection of recipes, ideas and expertise to help you on your journey towards enjoying food again.’
‘Using our five principles of taste and flavour – umami, smell, stimulating the trigeminal nerve (responsible for sensation in the face), texture, and layering flavour’ they explain, ‘we’ve taught over 1,000 people with cancer to enjoy food again. We wanted to apply these principles to create recipes for those people who have lost their senses of taste and smell as a result of Covid.‘
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