I’m obsessed with perfume. I’m also obsessed with reading. The more I get into perfumery, the more I want to learn about it and reading is one of the best ways to do this. That’s why I’ve put together this list of some of the best books about perfume that I’ve read so far.
Books on perfume can be found in all different genres, depending on your interest. If you’re looking for informational guides on the art of perfume making, then I recommend checking out books like “Perfumes: The A To Z Guide”. For those who enjoy reading perfume fiction novels, I suggest looking into books like “Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer” or “The Perfume Collector”. If you want to learn more about the perfume industry, I’d recommend reading a book like “Christian Dior: The Spirit Of Perfumes”.
I have many more of my favorite perfumery books to show you. So keep reading, because no matter your interest in perfume, you’re sure to find a book you’ll enjoy.
1. The Perfume Collector
Book by: Kathleen Tessaro | Published: 2013 | Genre: Novel
The Perfume Collector, written in 2013, is a book that ignited passion within me. It’s a novel that’s as heartbreaking as it is beautiful and in terms of writing, Kathleen Tessaro has done an immaculate job here.
What I truly love about this story is how it moves between eras, unraveling the mystery of Grace’s mystery benefactor. If you’re someone who has always found it hard to fit in, then the theme of the story may resonate with you since the main character sees herself as ‘outside of the box.’
I also really enjoyed the perfume aspect of the story. Being a fan of fragrance, the book not only gave me chills with its mystery but gave me a real insight into the fragrance industry and how perfumes are created.
2. Perfumes: The A To Z Guide
Book by: Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez | Published: 2008
I wish I had been able to read this book when I initially took an interest in perfumes. But it wasn’t released until 2019 and that was long after my infatuation with fragrance began. However, I still took the opportunity to dive in and boy am I glad I did.
The A To Z Guide provides an insight for those looking to learn how perfumes are made. It contains several essays on the subject before going into over 1800 individual perfume reviews.
I think this would make a wonderful gift for any new fragrance fans. I actually found that it helped me pick out my next perfume with what are, at times, hilariously honest reviews.
3. What the Nose Knows: The Science Of Scent In Everyday Life
Book by: Avery Gilbert | Published: 2008
If there’s ever been anything that’s fascinated me, it’s the how and why behind almost anything. In order for me to better understand the science of scent, I turned to What The Nose Knows, a fascinating olfactory journey into the connection between scent, taste, and memories.
The book also dives into the very makeup of various scents and talks about the most up to date scientific discoveries regarding the sense of smell. Well, that is, at least up to 2009, when the book was released.
If you’re into slightly obscure reads that move outside normal information then I think you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.
4. Perfume: In Search of Your Signature Scent
Book by: Neil A. Chapman | Published: 2019
I loved Perfume: The A to Z Guide but I found that In Search of Your Signature Scent took me that little bit deeper. No, it doesn’t feature as many scents, only around 700 in fact, but the detail that Chapman goes into makes this a very worthwhile read.
Even if you’re not actually looking for your new signature scent, this book provides you with a wealth of information that will come in handy when choosing any perfume.
The detail is astonishing, from differentiating between scent notes and families to assessing individual perfumes and even discussing the intricacies of some of the most popular notes like patchouli, jasmine, and vanilla.
5. Perfume: The Alchemy of Scent
Book by: Jean-Claude Ellena | Published: 2011
There are only a handful of people I’ll really trust when it comes to perfume; the official Hermes perfumer is obviously one of them. So, when he launched the short book, I had to get my hands on a copy.
I did find that this was a very ‘easy’ book to get my teeth into. For anyone that’s just entering the world of perfume, it gives a great impression of what goes on and how scents are created.
I also love how Ellena shows us his true passion for perfume and what it means to him to create a fragrance. I felt like I was really getting up close and personal with an industry that not a lot of people understand, and that was a real privilege.
6. The Perfume Thief
Book by: Timothy Schaffert | Published: 2021 | Genre: Fiction
I know that if you like to get your hands on the latest books about perfume then you’ll probably be clamoring to read The Perfume Thief. While this book was launched in 2021 and has some very modern themes, it’s actually set in WW2.
With glamor, passion, excitement, and history, this is a book that I feel would appeal to people from all walks of life. I also love how the main character is an elderly lesbian, showing that authors are not afraid to discuss sexuality, even if it may have been taboo in years gone by.
With all that said, and as beautifully written as the book is, I did find it a little pressing at times. You may find that The Perfume Thief ‘goes on’ a bit and I did notice I lost concentration in certain parts. Don’t try and read it all in one go is what I’m trying to tell you!
7. Create Your Own Perfumes Using Essential Oils
Book by: Chrissie Wildwood | Published: 1995
This book has been going strong since 1995 and even though it might be old, it’s got some very valuable information. I’ve long been interested in the benefits of aromatherapy and the use of essential oils for fragrance. Reading this book gave me a real insight into how to properly use essential oils for this purpose.
What really impressed me about Wildwood’s writing was how concise it was. There are no unnecessary fillers so this is quite a short book. But it contains everything you need to know to get started with at home perfumery.
And it’s not just the essential oils it talks about but also which carrier oils to use for what purpose as well as how different smells can affect the psyche. While a lot of people would recommend Essence and Alchemy by Mandy Aftels, I think this book far out is it in terms of detail and information.
8. Introduction To Perfumery
Book by: Tony Curtis, David G. Williams | Published: 2001
A lengthy book with a high price tag; one might think that it’s not worth the time or money. BUT I implore you to read an Introduction To Perfumery if you have even the slightest interest in the subject.
Curtis Williams provides readers with a wealth of information on everything to do with perfumery and fragrance. From the notes that go into creating a scent to how to set up a perfume business and everything in between.
But while the book is detailed, it’s not pretentious and is accessible to even those with no previous knowledge. As someone who has a good knowledge of perfume, I did wonder whether the contents would benefit me and I have to say that I was blown away. Introduction To Perfumery took my knowledge to new heights and was well worth the investment.
It’s no doubt a book that I’ll use as a reference for many years to come.
9. Christian Dior: The Spirit of Perfumes
Book by: Olivier Quiquempois | Published: 2017
Anyone that knows me knows that I am a total sucker for Dior. The makeup, the fashion, and of course, the perfumes! So, I had to read this 2017 informational book on the life of M. Dior and his epic creations such as Miss Dior and Poison.
Essentially, the book is a celebration of Dior’s most iconic perfumes, written in line with his life story. For me, I speak French, which made reading the book a little easier since the main text is in this language. However, for English speakers, there is a translation but the text is TINY! Recommended magnifying glass if you want the full effect.
10. British Perfumery: A Fragrant History
Book by: The British Society Of Perfumers | Published: 2013
OK, I’ll admit that one of the main reasons I was initially drawn to this book was because of the stunning hardback cover. I love anything that looks good and feels high quality but of course, I was also blown away by the contents of this celebratory book of the 50th anniversary of The British Society Of Perfumers.
As a collectible, this book is a must for fragrance fans. It’s not the most informative book in terms of the perfume industry as a whole but if you’re looking to learn more about perfumery in the UK, it’s packed with interesting anecdotes and information.
What I loved about it was that it’s written in an interview style. Many British perfumers give their take on the industry and their experience within it. If you’re going into the business, especially in Britain, it might give you an insight into what to expect.
11. Cult Perfumes: The World’s Most Exclusive Perfumeries
Book by: Tessa Williams | Published: 2013
I love learning about how the perfume industry works. For me, there’s a fascination behind what it takes to create some of the most iconic fragrances in the world. It was for this reason alone that I picked up this informative book by Tessa Williams that was published in 2013.
The author has gone above and beyond to deliver information that we may otherwise never have been privy to. She interviews perfumers at some of the world’s most prestigious perfumeries to get a glimpse into this amazing world.
Williams also helps the reader to discover more about some of the most iconic perfumes in the world. And as if that wasn’t enough, she delivers an illustrated look at the history of perfume. For me, it was fascinating from start to finish.
What I loved even more was that the book is only 192 pages in length. If you don’t fancy reading through a lot of fluff and just want to learn the most important facts, I’d highly recommend this one.
12. The Big Book Of Perfume
Book by: Nez Éditions | Published: 2020
Personally, I’d say that you need to be really passionate about perfume to buy this book. It’s relatively short in comparison to something like Introduction to perfume but still has a hefty price tag. That said, I was delighted with the information I found inside so it’s worth it if you’re keen to learn the ins and outs of perfume creation.
What I really enjoyed about The Big Book Of Perfume, launched in 2020, was how accessible it was. This isn’t a book that uses fancy jargon or tries to be condescending. It tells the reader exactly what he or she wants to know in simple yet informative language.
I also loved that The Big Book Of Perfume contains references to so many areas within the perfume industry. There are pages about the composition of perfumes, how brands make their fragrances stand the test of time and so much more.
The book is fully illustrated so it’s just as much of a visual journey as it is an informative one. I really enjoyed The Big Book Of Perfume and anyone who wants to get clued up on the world of perfume will probably love it too.
13. The Perfume Bible
Book by: Josephine Fairley & Lorna McKay | Published: 2014
If, like me, you want your perfume literature to come from those with the most experience in the field then you’re going to love The Perfume Bible. It’s written by a former fragrance buyer for Harrods and is a concise read yet one that’s bursting with great facts, tips and info.
The Perfume Bible has been doing the rounds since 2014 and it’s received some excellent reviews so I had to flick through it myself. And I was not disappointed. This book, I think, is a brilliant introduction to the world of fragrance. That’s largely because of the section of try before you die perfumes, introducing readers to some of the most incredible fragrances on the planet.
But I also really enjoyed reading the interviews with perfume experts as I felt like I was getting a first hand look into the world of perfume. It also made it feel like a more accessible place. Oftentimes, the perfume industry can feel rather exclusive and not for ‘Joe Public.’ But The Perfume Bible opened it to seem like a more normal, yet superbly fascinating, world.
14. A Natural History of the Senses
Book by: Diane Ackerman | Published: 1990
An oldie but a goldie, A Natural History Of The Senses was published over 30 years ago in 1991. Yet it remains one of the most classic books about the olfactory system in the world. It’s received rave reviews so of course, I was determined to check it out.
The book doesn’t focus primarily on perfume, as such, but the senses, including smell, as a whole and how they help us to feel. If you’ve ever been interested in why perfumes make you feel a certain way, this book might offer some explanation.
However, I have to warn you that this isn’t an easy read. The book is bursting with, sometimes unnecessary, metaphors and language that can take away from the context of what the author is trying to say. I’d recommend it as a coffee table book that you perhaps pick up and read a couple of pages at a time.
Even though it’s sometimes difficult to read, this is an interesting book that’s worth exploring. Some of the content is pretty strange including conversations with icebergs. But it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read and I love that uniqueness.
15. The Perfume Companion: The Definitive Guide To Choosing Your Next Scent
Book by: Samantha Scriven & Sarah McCartney | Published: 2021
Before I get into the details of this 2021 book about perfumery, I have to compliment the cover. I love a book that looks amazing on the book shelf or on my desk so the dusky pink cover with black accents and text made my heart skip a beat!
But it’s what’s inside that really counts, right? I found that this was a really useful book for anyone who wants to discover a new scent. I often find that standing in a perfume shop, I’m overwhelmed by the choice. My nose becomes flustered from smelling different samples and before I know it, I’m back to square one, not knowing what to buy.
This book takes away all the nonsense and introduces the reader to a range of perfumes on all levels. There are luxury fragrances, bargains and perfumes listed by their fragrance type so it’s really easy to find what you’re looking for.
The book really helped me to understand what I wanted out of a perfume. The fragrance industry often has a habit of telling us what we should like when in reality, it’s totally off our radar. I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to make finding a new scent simple.
16. Nose Dive: A Field Guide To The World’s Smells
Book by: Harold McGee | Published: 2020
One of the things that fascinates me about perfume is the science behind it. But not just the science of how perfumers make their fragrances, the very science of smell itself. If it wasn’t for this sense, we’d never have a need for perfume so I was keen to understand it more.
Of course, science can be a very mundane topic when it’s not explained properly. But in his 2020 book, Harold McGee does a wonderful job of explaining different scents and looks back over billions of years of odors.
While you might think that the smell of wet sidewalks or durians has very little to do with perfume, just take a moment to consider how the book helps you learn. What I took from this book was how to understand scents and describe them in a more flamboyant manner.
Now, when sampling or choosing perfumes, I find that I’m more easily able to detect certain notes or explain to another person just what something smells like. For anyone that wants to start a career in the perfume industry, this is a must-read.
17. Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer
Book by: Patrick Süskind | Published: 1985 | Genre: Novel
Set in Paris in the 18th century, The Story Of A Murderer has become one of the most iconic novels about perfume in the world. Since its release in 1985, anyone who’s anyone regarding perfume has read this book so I couldn’t bear to be left behind.
The Story Of A Murderer centers around a perfumer who turns to a life of crime and, unsurprisingly, becomes a murderer. There’s a lot of descriptive writing, especially around the aromas of the story. I found that I really enjoyed this as it helped me to build a better image of what was going on and really experience the story.
I also felt my emotions rising while reading this book. The main character is quite easy to dislike but I also found him fascinating. Couple his horrible nature that infuriates me with his exquisite sense of smell and Suskind proves that he can create a character with so many layers that’ll certainly get readers talking.
18. The Scent Of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell
Book by: Rachel Sarah Herz | Published: 2007
What I learned from this book is that there is a deep seated connection between smell and our emotions. Did you know that it’s the same part of the brain that processes both of these things? Neither did I until I read The Scent Of Desire.
I thought that this was a really clever approach to the psychology of smell and the author delivers her information clearly and in a way that I found easy to understand.
There were some really interesting parts of what attracts certain people to certain smells. It explained a lot about why my sister loves the scent of cinnamon but the same smell makes my best friend’s eyes water in disgust. On top of that, there were cultural references and information on how scent plays a part in our lives.
Reading the reviews of this book, I noticed several other readers pointing out something I had noticed too. There are a few facts within the book that aren’t quite accurate. Nothing that would completely ‘throw you off the scent’, so to speak but things like her incorrect description of essential oils might be picked up by those with a more profound knowledge of perfume.
19. The Perfume Burned His Eyes
Book by: Michael Imperioli | Published: 2018 | Genre: Novel
The Perfume Burned His Eyes is a coming-of-age story set in the 1970s. With Lou Reed as a central father figure character, it’s a book that will also appeal to music lovers. Anyone who is familiar with Lou Reed and his story will appreciate the incredibly accurate references.
One of the things that I noticed when reading The Perfume Burned His Eyes was how realistic it felt. It’s a real credit to the author, Michael Imperioli, who creates such a vivid and lifelike feeling that one has to question whether this is in fact, a memoir as opposed to a fiction.
20. Jitterbug Perfume
Book by: Tom Robbins | Published: 1984 | Genre: Novel
Tom Robbins launched this epic novel back in 1984. The following year, it became A Time Bestseller and it really comes as no surprise. I couldn’t put this book down. Page after page, I found myself overly involved in the tale of a man who is trying to recreate an ancient fragrance.
But it’s much more than just a book about perfume. Jitterbug Perfumes takes you on a journey through Bohemian forests until we eventually meet the God, Pan who is surrounded by legend and myth.
I’d also describe this as quite a down to earth piece of literature. It’s not one of these books that pretends to be something it’s not or doesn’t feel real. Despite the obviously out there theme, the explicitness of the book captures your attention from the offset. Moreover, I found it helped me to discover just how my senses work in combination with one another.
21. Perfumery: Practice and Principles
Book by: Calkin & Jellinek | Published: 1994
My eyes almost popped out when I first saw the price of this book. BUT…if you are keen to learn pretty much everything there is to know about perfumery then this comprehensive guide is going to be one of the best investments you’ve ever made.
Not only that, but it’s such a beautifully presented book. The hard cover, the attractive design, and the stunning presentation of the information within make this a book I’d be proud to display.
Now, Perfumery Practice and Principles isn’t an ideal read for a total beginner. It’s a book that’s filled with sciency references and info that could be difficult to understand. However, I found that it was so informative and, as long as I took my time getting to grips with the jargon, it slowly sunk in.
However, since this book was published back in 1994, some of the information is rather outdated. But I still found it worth reading and as an iconic book about perfumery, anyone with a passion for perfume would miss out not having it on their bookshelf.
22. The Little Book of Perfumes: The 100 Classics
Book by: Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez | Published: 2011
Turin and Sanchez bring us another wonderful book about perfumery. This time, in their 2011 rundown of scents, we’re introduced to one hundred of the most iconic perfumes on the planet.
What I really love is that, at the time of writing, 96 of the fragrances were still in production so it’s still possible to get your hands on them. The book discusses the nuances of these classic scents and I think that this is a great way for new perfume fans to clue themselves up on what really sets a perfume apart from the rest.
That said, there are short, easy to read snippets for each fragrance detailing things like the scent family and price. If you want a quick reference, then this is a book you could easily pop into your bag as you peruse a perfume shop.
I loved the way that the book was written. There’s no uppity attitude or anything like that; instead, the authors manage to deliver the information with wit, humor, and a clear passion for what they do.