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Publisher's Summary

Everything about the sense of smell fascinates us, from its power to evoke memories to its ability to change our moods and influence our behavior. Yet because it is the least understood of the senses, myths abound.

For example, contrary to popular belief, the human nose is almost as sensitive as the noses of many animals, including dogs; blind people do not have enhanced powers of smell; and perfumers excel at their jobs not because they have superior noses, but because they have perfected the art of thinking about scents.

In this entertaining and enlightening journey through the world of aroma, olfaction expert Avery Gilbert illuminates the latest scientific discoveries and offers keen observations on modern culture: how a museum is preserving the smells of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row; why John Waters revived the "smellie" in Polyester; and what innovations are coming from artists like the Dutch "aroma jockey" known as Odo7.

From brain-imaging laboratories to the high-stakes world of scent marketing, What the Nose Knows takes us on a tour of the strange and surprising realm of smell.

©2008 Avery Gilbert; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Avery Gilbert's whistle-stop journey...through, around and inside the nose is remarkably entertaining, and a great read for anyone seeking a tour that awakens the senses. Everybody who is anybody in the world of scent, and a few impostors too, make an appearance as we bounce from chapter to chapter, learning diverse olfactory gems." (New Scientist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Story

First half is good, second half is terrible.

I was really impressed with Avery Gilbert's work for the first half of this book. It was a more biologically-based approach than most other works that I've read about the subject. Gilbert explains why some scents are more discernable to some people than to others and why some are not discernable at all to others. He explains the inner workings of our sense of smell in understandable terms and he does so in an interesting way.

Then comes the second half of the book.

From there, it all just goes downhill. The beginning of the end comes with the introduction of the topic of smellovision and the various failed attempts of the film and theater industry to make smellovision a reality. Had this been mentioned briefly, it would have been an interesting side note. Sadly, Gilbert went on and on about it until the the book itself started to stink.

When he finally moved on, it was to discuss the grossest topics he could possibly come up with. It was as if an 8-year-old boy took over the book. Then a 15-year-old took over to bring up implications of scent in the porn industry. Really?

I will say that the last 10 minutes or so were mildly interesting as Gildbert deigned to return to actual science in his discussion of implications for genetics research.

I cannot recommend this book unless, like me, you have a fascination for all things related to scent. If that's the case, just listen until he starts talking about the film industry and then skip to the last 10 or 15 minutes of the book. If you're really interested in the film industry, you might like to listen to that part. Overall, I'm glad I heard the first and last part, but I was really disappointed in what could have been a great book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Excellent when he sticks to the science

Would you listen to What the Nose Knows again? Why?

No. The information is interesting, but there is no point in hearing it a second time.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

The second half of the book veers off course. He has a long, boring chapter on movie mogul Mike Todd's attempt to implement smellovision. For someone who is interested in odors and our perception of odors, this chapter, which drones on for almost an hour, is worthless.

What about Jeff Woodman’s performance did you like?

His reading is clear, lively and easy to listen to,

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No.

Any additional comments?

The first half of the book is excellent. He writes about the science of odor perception in a manner that is easy for a lay person to understand.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • KK
  • 06-05-17

This book smells...good. A fascinating read.

Articulate performance of scientific material presented in as entertaining read for science or lay person.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Lindsay
  • Pocatello, ID, United States
  • 11-06-12

Really Great Listen!

Would you listen to What the Nose Knows again? Why?

YES! I really enjoyed Mr. Gilbert's witty treatment of this topic. I was expecting a dry and very scientific listen but mixed in with the science are hilarious jokes, witty comments and a very engaging story of the nose.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Rodney
  • Billings, MT, USA
  • 01-30-10

This was a "dry" nose book.

Although there was plenty of information that was scientifically relevant, I thought it lingered too long on certain topics which made it dry and boring at times. It covered topics including areas of the brain that are better and more interestingly covered in "Brain" topic specific books. It did have some good parts dispersed here and there, so I gave it 2 stars. I would have given it 2 1/2 stars if I could have figured out how.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful