18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2008
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.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2007
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.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2007
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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2008
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)...
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2007
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!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2008
Essentially the only time we realize the wonder and value of our sense of smell is when we temporarily lose it during head colds and the like. When one's sense of taste is effectively obstructed we quickly come to an understanding of its value, but this most taken for granted of our senses has for whatever reason never been fully understood or documented until now, at least not for the general reader. Dr. Herz has delivered THE SCENT OF DESIRE, a book she is uniquely qualified to write as she has made a career of investigating, experimenting and reporting on the sense of smell. Her researches have produced a small gem of a book filled with anecdotal and scientific evidence and investigative research that fills a void which until I read it, I didn't know existed but a void it certainly was. This is a page-turner with a delightful clarity to the writing that took this reader well beyond all expectations. Highly recommended, and I eagerly await the sequel.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2008
The scent of desire has the aroma of delicious material presented in an elegant form. It teems with insightful facts about olfaction that are delightfully engaging. Dr. Herz manages to explain sophisticated research studies cogently but without losing out on accurate description, a very rare skill. The book will be enjoyable and informative for readers who are curious about human psychology and the neuroanatomy of smell.
Isadore and Leon Winkelman Professor, University of Michigan.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2010
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.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2008
A mixture of medical facts, hypotheses, guesses, personal confessions, contradictions and folklore, this is a very pleasant casual reading. It is very difficult to take this book seriously, simply because dr. Herz quotes without single critical thought some "scientific findings", which belie our experience and plain common sense. Just take the case of communal menstruation, described as an accepted scientific fact - I don't recall any "cycling together" from my campus days, family life, my friends lives, or for that matter any mention of this phenomenon outside of the quoted research paper. Evolution, perhaps - women living together used to menstruate individually, but now they go for team performance?
The chapter on the sense of taste goes one step further in the area of denying that up is above. We learn that preference for bitter taste results in bigger body mass, and that vegetables have bitter taste. The author goes to logical conclusion that people who eat a lot of vegetables have bigger body mass - actually, are fatter - than people who eat a lot of sweets. There are more pearls of wisdom of this kind throughout the whole work, which makes it highly competitive with formal humor books.
I'm giving this book 3 stars for entertainment value. It may be full of nonsense, but it is cheerful, enthusiastic about its subject matter, and highly amusing.