Revelations in Air: A Guidebook to Smell - book cover
Medical Books
  • Publisher : Penguin Books
  • Published : 26 Oct 2021
  • Pages : 320
  • ISBN-10 : 0143135996
  • ISBN-13 : 9780143135999
  • Language : English

Revelations in Air: A Guidebook to Smell

An extraordinary, strange, and startlingly beautiful exploration of smell, the least understood of our five senses
The nose on your face is the Buckingham Palace Guard of your body, the maitre d' of all taste, as well as the seducer of your imagination, and memory-and Jude Stewart has charmed them all into a wicked, poetic and illuminating tour of their mysterious domains. -Jack Hitt, author of Bunch of Amateurs

Overlapping with taste yet larger in scope, smell is the sense that comes closest to pure perception. Smell can collapse space and time, unlocking memories and transporting us to worlds both new and familiar. Yet as clearly as each of us can recognize different smells--the bright tang of citrus, freshly sharpened pencils, parched earth after rain--few of us understand how and why we smell.

In Revelations in Air, Jude Stewart takes us on a fascinating journey into the weird and wonderful world of smell. Beginning with lessons on the incredible biology and history of how our noses work, Stewart teaches us how to use our noses like experts. Once we're properly equipped and ready to sniff, Stewart explores a range of smells-from lavender, cut grass and hot chocolate to cannabis and old books-using smell as a lens into art, history, science, and more. With an engaging colorful design and exercises for readers to refine their own skills, Revelations in Air goes beyond science or history or chemistry--it's a doorway into the surprising, pleasurable, and unfamiliar landscape of smell.

Editorial Reviews

"In Jude Stewart's witty, surprising, and jubilant romp through the most undervalued of the senses, you will encounter some of most rapturous descriptions of scent ever put on paper. But even more than that, Revelations in Air is an expansive and large-hearted consideration of friendship, memory, beauty, and the art of appreciation."
-Adrienne Miller, author of In the Land of Men.

"Revelations in Air manages to feel both breezy and substantial, exciting and informative-like an expertly guided tour of scents." Jessie Gaynor, Lit Hub Senior Editor

"Journalist Stewart (Patternalia) takes olfaction seriously in this impassioned exploration of smell... What sets Stewart's tour apart is her intense descriptions-jasmine has "an extraordinary sense of liftoff" that "rolls over you like a tidal wave," and the smell of truffles is "heterodox, suggesting its own universe... packed with vibrant energy." -Publishers Weekly

Readers Top Reviews

Rafi SAnna Kornbluh
Smells like success. Revelations in Air is a beautifully written and thoroughly researched book that deep dives everything and anything one might wonder about how smell works. Stewart takes the reader through a series of enjoyable and illuminating stories about the 5th sense that will make you want to put your nose up to almost anything. The variety of categories from sweet and savory to earthy and funky make for a pleasurable reading experience. Definitely recommend!
Patrick Spiegelman
What a revelation this book is, and what a gorgeously written book too. You may think you know a thing or two about smell, but the author really opens up the topic in such a wild way, I honestly had no idea how much I didn't know about it. The book is arranged such that you can dip in anywhere and immediately be transported into a different scent and whole category of experience, memory, physical space, etc. The prose is inviting and even seductive. And the actual object is just beautiful. It's been a while since a book took me from not knowing to knowing so much in such little time.
kathleen g
What an interesting book this is! Even if you know a bit about smell (most of us do), you'll learn a lot thanks to the way Stewart had broken down the elements. Although I occasionally found her descriptions a bit confounding, I appreciated the effort. I found myself sniffing things in my home, my garden, my car, and so on to see if I could find the notes she describes (thanks for the exercises). You can read this as a book of essays- one at a time- to more fully appreciate it. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC, A good read.
Rosy Fenwicke
An excellent linguistic reference to all those smells that are hard to put into words. A smell Thesaurus in other words.
Prof. Martha Feldman
Revelations in Air in indeed revelatory! Its bottomless attunement to smell as an intermediary between the senses, memory, and imagination makes it a page-turner and a book one can go back to again and again. Thank you, Jude Stewart, for modeling creative nonfiction at its finest!