30 books like A Sensory History Manifesto

By Mark M. Smith,

Here are 30 books that A Sensory History Manifesto fans have personally recommended if you like A Sensory History Manifesto. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Perfume

Theresa Levitt Author Of Elixir: A Parisian Perfume House and the Quest for the Secret of Life

From my list on perfume and scent.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of science who just completed a book on the role of perfume in the quest for the secret of life and vitality. While writing it, I became fascinated with the challenge of translating scent into language. While our nose can recognize a virtually infinite number of odors, there are only a few basic categories of description (“floral,” “woody,” “citrus,” etc.). To fully describe them often requires a poet’s touch – invoking a tapestry of memories, associations, and feelings to create the experience in the reader’s mind. These are some of the best books I’ve encountered for talking about the complex world of scent, and the importance of perfume in human history.

Theresa's book list on perfume and scent

Theresa Levitt Why did Theresa love this book?

A gruesome story of murder and desire that also happens to have the most vivid olfactory descriptions of any genre.

Suskind’s preternatural ability to summon odor from the page makes you feel as if you are there beside him, walking through the flowered hillsides of Provence, or in the back room of a perfume shop on the Pont au Change. His twisted use of classic perfume techniques is as accurate as it is chilling.

By Patrick Suskind,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Perfume as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An erotic masterpiece of twentieth century fiction - a tale of sensual obsession and bloodlust in eighteenth century Paris

'An astonishing tour de force both in concept and execution' Guardian

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today.

It is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts…


Book cover of The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

Hannah Platts Author Of Multisensory Living in Ancient Rome: Power and Space in Roman Houses

From my list on multisensory history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for ancient history and archaeology began in secondary school when I started learning Latin and we were taken on a field trip to Fishbourne Roman Palace. By the time I started my MA at Bristol, my obsession with ancient Roman housing was well and truly established, and it quickly became clear to me that this was the area that I wanted to study for my PhD. Now as an Associate Professor in Ancient History and Archaeology at Royal Holloway, University of London, I have been very lucky to study and teach a range of areas in ancient history and archaeology, including my beloved area of the Roman domestic realm. 

Hannah's book list on multisensory history

Hannah Platts Why did Hannah love this book?

Exploring how and why Romans built their houses to impact all bodily senses sits at the heart of my book.

Whilst interest in planning and building for such full body experiences in architecture today has declined, Pallasmaa’s The Eyes of the Skin presents a compelling argument for the importance of understanding the role of the multiple bodily senses in our experience of built spaces around us.

Divided into two main sections, the first of these examines the pre-eminence of sight in the West and its detrimental impact on architectural practise and our built environs.

The second part considers the role played our other bodily senses in experiencing architecture and proposes a new approach to building design and construction which seeks to integrate full sensory experience into the architectural process.

By Juhani Pallasmaa,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Eyes of the Skin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1996, The Eyes of the Skin has become a classic of architectural theory. For every new intake of students studying Pallasmaa s classic text, The Eyes of the Skin provides a totally fresh understanding of architecture and a new set of insights. This third edition is intended to meet students desire for a further understanding of the context of Pallasmaa s thinking by providing a new essay by architectural author and educator Peter MacKeith. This text combines both a biographical portrait of Pallasmaa and an outline of his architectural thinking. The new edition will includes a new…


Book cover of Archaeology and the Senses: Human Experience, Memory, and Affect

Hannah Platts Author Of Multisensory Living in Ancient Rome: Power and Space in Roman Houses

From my list on multisensory history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for ancient history and archaeology began in secondary school when I started learning Latin and we were taken on a field trip to Fishbourne Roman Palace. By the time I started my MA at Bristol, my obsession with ancient Roman housing was well and truly established, and it quickly became clear to me that this was the area that I wanted to study for my PhD. Now as an Associate Professor in Ancient History and Archaeology at Royal Holloway, University of London, I have been very lucky to study and teach a range of areas in ancient history and archaeology, including my beloved area of the Roman domestic realm. 

Hannah's book list on multisensory history

Hannah Platts Why did Hannah love this book?

Hamilakis’s Archaeology and the Senses was one of the first books I read when starting to explore multisensory history, and it totally altered my view of how we study the past.

Focusing on Bronze-Age Crete, Hamilakis examines how archaeology has engaged with the bodily senses thus far and critiques its emphasis on sight and the traditional hierarchy of the five senses in the west.

Moreover, he proposes an innovative and exciting means by which archaeology can move beyond its focus on visual experiences of artefacts, environments, and materials to bring in lost and neglected, yet just as important, bodily senses such as sound, smell, taste, and touch.

Through this approach to archaeology he seeks to evoke a deeper, richer insight into the breadth of human experience in past societies.

By Yannis Hamilakis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Archaeology and the Senses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is an exciting new look at how archaeology has dealt with the bodily senses and offers an argument for how the discipline can offer a richer glimpse into the human sensory experience. Yannis Hamilakis shows how, despite its intensely physical engagement with the material traces of the past, archaeology has mostly neglected multi-sensory experience, instead prioritising isolated vision and relying on the Western hierarchy of the five senses. In place of this limited view of experience, Hamilakis proposes a sensorial archaeology that can unearth the lost, suppressed, and forgotten sensory and affective modalities of humans. Using Bronze Age…


Book cover of The Foul & the Fragrant: Odor & the French Social Imagination

Theresa Levitt Author Of Elixir: A Parisian Perfume House and the Quest for the Secret of Life

From my list on perfume and scent.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of science who just completed a book on the role of perfume in the quest for the secret of life and vitality. While writing it, I became fascinated with the challenge of translating scent into language. While our nose can recognize a virtually infinite number of odors, there are only a few basic categories of description (“floral,” “woody,” “citrus,” etc.). To fully describe them often requires a poet’s touch – invoking a tapestry of memories, associations, and feelings to create the experience in the reader’s mind. These are some of the best books I’ve encountered for talking about the complex world of scent, and the importance of perfume in human history.

Theresa's book list on perfume and scent

Theresa Levitt Why did Theresa love this book?

A classic of cultural history that shows how thoroughly smell shapes our lived experience.

Corbin details how different (and generally worse) France smelled in the past, and how this world of miasmas and insalubrious airs dictated hygiene practices and social interactions. More recent works, like Jonathan Reinarz’ Past Scents: Historical Perspectives on Smell have further built on the treatment of odor as a powerful cultural force.

By Alain Corbin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Foul & the Fragrant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a book whose insight and originality have already had a dazzling impact in France, Alain Corbin has put the sense of smell on the historical map. He conjures up the dominion that the combined forces of smells--from the seductress's civet to the ubiquitous excremental odors of city cesspools--exercised over the lives (and deaths) of the French in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


Book cover of A Natural History of the Senses

Rachel Herz Author Of Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship with Food

From my list on intellectual and creative inspiration.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a neuroscientist, author, educator, TEDx speaker, and leading expert on the psychological science of smell. I am captivated by stories and the “why” and “how” science of the world around us. The books I’ve chosen spoke to me during periods when I was seeking answers and blooming intellectually and creatively. They provided inspiration from the skill with which words were crafted and revelation from the ideas they conveyed. I owe these books a debt of gratitude and hope that my writing may offer to others a smidge of the illumination and motivation that these works gave to me.

Rachel's book list on intellectual and creative inspiration

Rachel Herz Why did Rachel love this book?

A Natural History of the Senses is gorgeously written and poetic while simultaneously presenting accurate basic science about our five senses. Diane Ackerman stunningly shows how a gifted writer can decipher a field, captivate the general public, and elicit the fascination and wonder that a topic deserves. I am also ever delighted by the fact that the book starts with the sense of smell, rather than relegating it to the least and last section as most books on our senses do. A Natural History of the Senses is a beautiful compendium of biology and a tour of human perception.

By Diane Ackerman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Natural History of the Senses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Diane Ackerman's lusciously written grand tour of the realm of the senses includes conversations with an iceberg in Antarctica and a professional nose in New York, along with dissertations on kisses and tattoos, sadistic cuisine and the music played by the planet Earth.

“Delightful . . . gives the reader the richest possible feeling of the worlds the senses take in.” —The New York Times


Book cover of An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us

Carl F. Nathan Author Of An Arrow's ARC: Journey of a Physician-Scientist

From my list on a life in science or medicine.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up, I experienced “otherness.” My family was hard up amidst affluence. Typecast as Jewish, where that was a rarity, we were met with suspicion and unease. Being a woman held my mother back from her preferred profession. Racism was rampant; my growing appreciation of it and efforts to intervene added to “otherness.”  My childhood was shadowed by illness, including my mother’s cancer. These influences drew me to medicine and science. Both are a way to overcome “otherness” and to protect one’s family, even as my sense of family expanded. Medicine forges extraordinary bonds between doctor and patient. Science brings people together from diverse backgrounds to share goals. These connections make meaningful stories. 

Carl's book list on a life in science or medicine

Carl F. Nathan Why did Carl love this book?

Yong is not a scientist himself, but he is an extraordinary writer who steps into the world view of one scientist after another to capture their passion for discovery and their amazement at what they learn and to share that with us, simply and clearly. He does all this with an ear for prose that delights with its ring as well as its content.

One of the messages running through this hard-to-put-down book is how differently and precisely various species adapt to their niche to sense what matters to them most. A key subtext is how much we lose by changing environments faster than species adapt.

By Ed Yong,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked An Immense World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Wonderful, mind-broadening... a journey to alternative realities as extraordinary as any you'll find in science fiction' The Times, Book of the Week

'Magnificent' Guardian

Enter a new dimension - the world as it is truly perceived by other animals.

The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every animal is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving only a tiny sliver of an immense world. This book welcomes us into previously unfathomable dimensions - the world as it is truly perceived by other animals.

We encounter beetles that are…


Book cover of See What I'm Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of Our Five Senses

M. Leona Godin Author Of There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness

From my list on blindness and the brain.

Why am I passionate about this?

Thanks to a degenerative retinal eye disease, I’ve lived on pretty much every notch of the sight-blindness continuum. While going blind super slowly I’ve engaged with the science of seeing and not-seeing as an  academic and artist for about 25 years. I like to say that there are as many ways of being blind as there are of being sighted, there are just fewer of us. Besides teaching literature and humanities courses at NYU, I’ve lectured on art, accessibility, technology, and disability at universities and institutions around the country. I love sharing stories about the brain on blindness, and hope you find my recommendations as fascinating as I do.

M.'s book list on blindness and the brain

M. Leona Godin Why did M. love this book?

Perceptual psychologist Lawrence Rosenblum’s book changed the way I thought about my brain on blindness and gave me hope about its ability to adapt. I was astonished by blind painters and mountain bikers, but more importantly, I learned that what often strike us as superpowers, are actually the result of practice and the cross-modal plasticity of the brain. The sighted brains that change after only five days of blindfold and intensive braille training, the experiments that demonstrate how humans can follow a scent trail, and the ways blind people (and sighted people) use echolocation to learn about their micro and macro environments (even if they are not always conscious of it), are just some of Rosenblum’s many examples that are as fun as they are fascinating.

By Lawrence D. Rosenblum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked See What I'm Saying as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this revealing romp through the mysteries of human perception, University of California psychologist Lawrence D. Rosenblum explores the astonishing abilities of the five senses-skills of which most of us are unaware. Drawing on groundbreaking insights into the brain's plasticity and integrative powers, Rosenblum examines how our brains use the subtlest information to perceive the world. A blind person, for example, can "see" through bat-like echolocation, wine connoisseurs can actually taste the vintage of an obscure wine, and pheromones can signal a lover's compatibility. Bringing us into the world of a blind detective, a sound engineer, a former supermodel, and…


Book cover of Rose

DeMisty D. Bellinger Author Of Peculiar Heritage

From my list on poetry inspired by history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I care about social justice, equality, and history, as well as beauty and art. As an African-American woman who was raised working class and who understands how history informs the present, I have fallen in love with the depiction of history in poetry and prose. Not all of my writing has something to do with race or gender or class, but all of my writing is about justice in some way. I want to get to the good of people.

DeMisty's book list on poetry inspired by history

DeMisty D. Bellinger Why did DeMisty love this book?

These poems—most of every poem that Lee writes, really—do more than paint a picture. These poems appeal to every one of your senses. They are rich in description and you want to savor each one, sit with it, and let the poem envelop you. 

I heard or read somewhere that Li-Young Lee is a slow writer, not producing a lot of work but always producing good work. I don’t know if this is true, and except for my greed of wanting to consume more of his words asap, I don’t mind that his poems are slower coming. I like to spend time with them.

I share Rose because Lee teaches me—and my students—that writers depend too much on visual imagery and fear spreading out into the other senses.

By Li-Young Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Table of Contents

I.
Epistle
The Gift
Persimmons
The Weight Of Sweetness
From Blossoms
Dreaming Of Hair
Early In The Morning
Water
Falling: The Code
Nocturne
My Indigo
Irises
Eating Alone

II.
Always A Rose

III.
Eating Together
I Ask My Mother To Sing
Ash, Snow, Or Moonlight
The Life
The Weepers
Braiding
Rain Diary
My Sleeping Loved Ones
Mnemonic
Between Seasons
Visions And Interpretations


Book cover of Woodsmoke and Sage: The Five Senses 1485-1603: How the Tudors Experienced the World

Sylvia Barbara Soberton Author Of Ladies-in-Waiting: Women Who Served Anne Boleyn

From my list on by Tudor historians.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author, researcher, and historian writing about Tudor women. As a woman myself, I’m naturally interested in what life was like for those who came before me, and I’m very passionate about writing the lesser-known, forgotten women back into the historical narrative of the period. We all know about Henry VIII’s six wives, his sisters, and daughters, but there were other women at the Tudor court whose stories are no less fascinating.

Sylvia's book list on by Tudor historians

Sylvia Barbara Soberton Why did Sylvia love this book?

What did Tudor England look, sound, or smell like?

This is an innovative work from Amy Licence, historian of women's lives. Using the five senses, she skilfully plunges readers into sixteenth-century England, letting us see, hear, smell, taste, and (almost) touch the Tudor world like we've never experienced it before.

By Amy Licence,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Woodsmoke and Sage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Traditionally history is cerebral: what did they believe, what did they think, what did they know?

Woodsmoke and Sage is not a traditional book.

Using the five senses, historian Amy Licence presents a new perspective on the material culture of the past, exploring the Tudors' relationship with the fabric of their existence, from the clothes on their backs, the roofs over their heads and the food on their tables, to the wider questions of how they interpreted and presented themselves, and what they believed about life, death and beyond. Take a journey back 500 years and experience the sixteenth century…


Book cover of Finding Wild

Erica Silverman Author Of Wake Up, City!

From my list on celebrating cities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an award-winning author of picture books and early readers. I have set my stories in many kinds of locations, including a haunted house, an Eastern European shtetl, an English Renaissance village, and a working cattle ranch. For Wake Up, City, I turned to the setting I know best, the city. I drew on memories of walking to kindergarten in early morning Brooklyn. This book is my love song to cities everywhere. As a lifelong city dweller, I worry about the impact of urban spread on the planet, but I feel hopeful, too, because many cities are becoming more nature and wildlife-friendly. The books I'm excited to share celebrate city wildlife. 

Erica's book list on celebrating cities

Erica Silverman Why did Erica love this book?

Told in lyrical language, two children wander through their city, looking for “wild” and finding it in motion, size, sounds, touch, and smell.“It leaps and pounces and  shows its teeth.” The words dance around, hinting at flora and fauna, using adjectives and verbs to suggest and evoke. This journey arouses awareness of the natural world that lives all around us in the city. Young readers will enjoy guessing what is being hinted at. This is such an original way to talk about the urban wild!  

By Megan Wagner Lloyd, Abigail Halpin (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Finding Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

A lovely, lyrical picture book with gorgeous illustrations that explores the ways the wild makes itself known to us and how much closer it is than we think.
 
There are so many places that wild can exist, if only you know where to look! Can you find it? Two kids set off on an adventure away from their urban home and discover all the beauty of the natural world. From the bark on the trees to the sudden storm that moves across the sky to fire and flowers, and snowflakes and fresh fruit. As the children make their way through…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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