Book: A Natural History of the Senses

Each word surprises you pleasantly. Reading this book feels like being tickled.🙂


An appreciation of all things bright and beautiful. Very Powerful Muse.

352 pages, ★★★★★

Walking back from the gym, I noticed a new stall in the mall: the Demeter® Fragrance Library. Their stall was unstaffed when I arrived, so I went about sniffing over 200 perfume bottles like a kid in a candy store. I smelled classic aromas such as “Rose”, “Lavender”, “Peach”, and “Ocean”, then tried the more obscure ones: “New Car”, “Laundromat”, “Rain”, and “Baby Smell”.

The Demeter® Fragrance Library sells body sprays, bath products and room air fresheners with a single, recognizable scent. Demeter calls them, “single experience fragrances”.

The most interesting part for me was the gift packaging. A quote printed on the gift boxes claimed that Diane Ackermann’s book, A Natural History of the Senses was the inspiration for setting up this playhouse of a store. I wanted to be inspired, so I didn’t buy the perfume, but I did buy the book.

This book is divided into six sections: smell, touch, taste, hearing, vision and synesthesia. Author Ackerman takes thousands minuscule daily encounters with nature, connects them, and amplifies them into vibrant prose. The result is a delightfully indirect journey from violets to neurones, from tattoos to phantom limbs, and from “salty” human origins (in the ocean) to the launch of a space shuttle. Natural History of the Senses is a constant surprise to read—rather like being tickled. The first chapter on “smell” is by far the best.

A Natural History of the Senses belongs beside The Importance of Living (see my review) and 窈窕淑女的标准 (see my review) in the genre of “appreciation of the smaller aspects of life”. I recommend these three delightful reads for anyone with the time and patience to find exquisite beauty in everyday life. ★★★★★

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