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.