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The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell Paperback – October 14, 2008


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The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell + The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell + Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060825383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060825386
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Herz, a Brown University professor specializing in the psychology of smell, demonstrates that this sense is vital to our well being-so important to mental and physical health that its loss can drive some people to suicide. Herz explores the relationships between scent, emotion and behavior, emphasizing that scent is an important component of sexual attraction and thus crucial for the survival of our species. Many intriguing facts enliven her book. For example, scents are intimately connected to memory and can be used as memory aids; olfaction shuts down while we are asleep; newborns and their mothers recognize each other by their scent. Herz debunks the mystique of aromatherapy, which she says is effective because of our emotional associations with scents rather than because of any direct action of the scent. Emerging technologies of scent, such as electronic noses that can sniff out terrorists, breath analyzers that can detect diseases and marketing theories based on scents, are given a chapter, but Herz admits that she would rather see the development of technologies to restore the sense of smell to people who have lost it, because for her, scent is essential to our humanity. This illuminating book argues convincingly that the sense of smell should never be taken for granted. (Oct. 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Fascinating . . . A serious book, with many whiffs of delight.” (Washington Post Book World)

“You’ll never take your nose for granted again once you’ve read The Scent of Desire.” (USA Today)

“Intriguing...This illuminating book argues convincingly that the sense of smell should never be taken for granted.” (Publishers Weekly)

THE SCENT OF DESIRE was a finalist for the 2009 AAAS Excellence in Science Writing Award (The American Association for the Advancement of Science)

“Filled with intriguing bits of information.” (Weekly Standard)

“This is a spicy perfume of a book, redolent with fascinating facts and provocative hypotheses.” (Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor, Harvard University, author of The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, and The Stuff of Thought)

“Astounding and sometimes mind-boggling with (a) wonderfully charming voice and writing style.” (Blogcritics.org)

“Charming. A reminder that life without aromas...would be sad indeed.” (Curled Up with a Good Book)

“A delightfully unexpected blend of personal anecdotes, pop-cultural erudition and scientific understanding. ” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A great reference book that everyone should read. An excellent overview of the sense of smell. It kills some of the myths that have long been corrupting Perfumery and explains where the higher debates should really be. Thank you, Rachel Herz, for gathering these facts about olfaction in one place.” (Christophe Laudamiel, Senior Perfumer, Fine Fragrances & Innovation)

More About the Author

Dr. Rachel Herz is on the faculty at Brown University and a professional consultant. She has been working on the psychology of smell since 1990 and is considered to be one of the world's leading experts. Her book, The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell (William Morrow/Harper-Collins) was published in 2007 and selected as a finalist for the "2009 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books." Her intellectual interests recently took a turn and she is now studying the emotion of disgust. Her latest book is, That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion (W.W. Norton & Co).

Rachel Herz serves on several advisory boards, including The Fragrance Foundation, and consults for many of the world's leading multinational flavor and fragrance companies. Her expertise has led to legal work as an expert witness in cases involving the sense of smell, and numerous appearances on national media, including ABC News, The Discovery Channel, The New York Times, New Yorker, Time magazine, Rolling Stone, Salon.com and O, the Oprah Magazine. Please visit her blog at Psychology Today and her website: www.rachelherz.com.

Rachel Herz is a dual citizen of the US and Canada. She grew up in Montreal Canada and received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. Rachel Herz is fascinated by human nature and loves all things scented and sensory. She lives in New England with her canine and human family.

Customer Reviews

The book is extremely approachable and easy to read, and filled with information.
M. Hyman
I find that the author uses stories as filler for a large part of the book, and to me the stories aren't even that interesting.
savine
Great book on a fascinating topic that's only recently been addressed by the scientific community.
Molly Ogorzaly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Molly Ogorzaly on February 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Great book on a fascinating topic that's only recently been addressed by the scientific community. Herz does a wonderful job of laying out much of the current research on smell our most neglected sense. She's a skillful writer who can translate scientific concepts and relate them to everyday experiences.
My only problem with the book was that, since she'd either not not read Lynn Wyatt's 2001 tome, "Jacobsen's Organ and the Remarkable Nature of Smell", or she discounted it. Since she didn't include the discovery of a secondary olfactory system, she theorized that pheromone transfer among humans is effected through skin to skin contact. Read both books as complements to one another, along with The Emperor of Scent for a triangulated view of the controversy surrounding smell.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Leslie on December 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a physician, I didn't think that I had much to learn from this book, nor a reason to really care. WRONG. Dr. Herz tells us things that impact our every waking hour. I can't stop talking about this book! You will be intrigued by her research and stories. Your nose will have an elevated place in heart. Highly recommended.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Theresa Rose Nickols on October 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky enough to get a galley copy, and I have already read the whole thing - cover to cover, twice. The examples, the author's experiences, the hypotheses, all rolled into one are just simply fascinating. I truly believe scent is the most important sense, and it really changed my life. Scent triggers memory, thus I used scent as a way to study for the bar exam. I used a "scent roll stick." It was clove flavored and I used to practically bathe in it every time I cracked a book to study. The day I sat for the bar I rubbed it all over me, so much so that the girl next to me was mildly offended. However, I passed the test with flying colors! Thank you Dr. Herz! -Theresa Rose Nickols, Esq.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. Richard VINE VOICE on December 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book by Rachel Herz is subtitled "Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell". I heard an interview with her on the book and decided to give it a try. Overall, the book is OK, so I recommend it if the topic appeals to you.

There are many interesting items brought up in the book - like how much our emotional well being depends on our ability to smell and how smell and taste are related. However, the book's organization left something to be desired, and it was a bit tentative on conclusions in spots.

There is another book on smell that I liked better - the Emperor of Scent. It was more "scientific" than Ms. Herz's book, and I thought better organized, which made it a better fit for me perhaps. Note that these two books do not overlap completely on subject matter. There is value in reading both.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David H. Peterzell PhD PhD on November 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Add me to the list of people who love this book.

My first and only other exposure to Herz' work was from the edited textbook of Wolfe et al. on Sensation and Perception. I have used that textbook five times to teach a large course at UCSD on sensation and perception. Herz' chapter in that book (on Olfaction) provides a superb introduction to the science of smell. In fact, I think I'd recommend that readers of "The Scent of Desire" consult that book if they find themselves craving pictures and diagrams. The colorful illustrations (and texbook website at Sinauer's site) povide quite a bit of elementary material that can be used to supplement Herz' new book (which unfortunately doesn't have pictures). I might also recommend the author's website, which contains plenty of supplemental/visual content.

Having said this, I hasten to emphasize that the new book is fascinating, and covers the essential topics that will be of interest to many. The book is very well written AND (as far as i can tell) scientifically accurate, which is always a welcome combination when it comes to popular books on science. Some of my favorite topics included discussions of the history of smell, Proustian scents (and memory), King Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty, e-noses, and lust from a bottle (pheromones)...
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Ma Terrasse on April 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought the book for 5.98 and wondered why such a highly rated book was so deeply discounted. Now I know. I got through the first third of the book just fine where she discusses memory and smell, but she lost me when I reached "Aroma and Therapy" where she discusses aromatherapy and MCS or multiple chemical sensitivity. She groups aromatherapy and homeopathy together as "plant- and herb-based medicaments," when the two are completely separate things. This was a tell-tale sign to me that she really shouldn't be discussing the subject at all. There were no discussions about the chemical make up of the essential oils used in aromatherapy or the untested and possibly harmful chemicals found in synthetic fragrances that might be causing MCS. She attributes both to memory associations of scents. I'm not sure if I can finish the book now. Had she omitted the chapter it might have been fine, but for me this chapter puts the whole book in question.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Wendy Lapides on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Until I read The Scent of Desire, I never really
thought very much about my sense of smell. Things
smelled either good or bad and that was about it. It
had never occurred to me that so much of what I
thought was taste was actually smell or that scent had
anything to do with who I was attracted to. After reading this book, I will no longer take my sense of smell for granted!
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