In Remembering Smell, Bonnie Blodgett interlaces her own frightening story of smell loss with a primer on the olfactory system and olfactory disorders of all kinds, from phantosmia to anosmia. Her title foreshadows the many connections between smell and memory explored in the book. Part personal memoir, part investigation of the relationship between smell and brain function, the book also offers an elegy or memorial to the lost sense of smell.
Instead of posting a review this month, I invite you to join in an on-line book club.
To get you started, I’ll begin with a few topics and questions that came to mind as I was reading. Feel free to ask your own questions and to open up new topics.
- Your connection to the book. Which part of the book resonates the most with your experiences or your interests?
- Style and structure. Bonnie Blodgett could have written this book in many different ways: as an exposé on Zicam; as a purely personal memoir with more emphasis on her thoughts and daily encounters; as a popular science book on smell, with little reference to her own experience. Did her hybrid appeal to you? Did it draw you in? Was the book clear and easy to follow?
- Dealing with hardship. The author shows how anosmia caused grief, depression, and a sense of isolation in her life. How did she cope? In what ways does the book offer hope for others grappling with similar pain, regardless of the cause?
- Autobiography. Although the book focuses on a particular episode in Blodgett’s life, it also provides a great deal of autobiographical information. What aspects of the book helped you to “know” Bonnie Blodgett — her background, her lifestyle, her tastes, her views, her personality?
- Mapping your smellscape. Throughout her book, Bonnie Blodgett draws attention to the everyday smells we take for granted, from toothpaste to lipstick to countertops. Have you ever jotted down all of the smells you encounter in a single day? Would you like to give it a try?
- Food for thought. Did the book change or expand your views in any way? Did you learn something? Did it inspire you to read more books, to think twice about cold medicine, to take up gardening, to dine at Alinea next time you are in Chicago?
Note: review copy provided by Houghton Mifflin.