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Remembering Smell: A Memoir of Losing--and Discovering--the Primal Sense
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Remembering Smell: A Memoir of Losing--and Discovering--the Primal Sense

2.84  ·  Rating details ·  186 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
In November 2005, Bonnie Blodgett was whacked with a nasty cold. After a quick shot of a popular nasal spray up each nostril, the back of her nose was on fire. With that, Blodgett—a professional garden writer devoted to the sensual pleasures of garden and kitchen—was launched on a journey through the senses, the psyche, and the sciences. Her olfactory nerve was destroyed, ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published June 16th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2010)
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Molly
Oct 01, 2010 rated it did not like it
Oh, nuances. I give this a one star, but it's not as one-star as say, Sex 'n the Hood. It's not that terrible. But I just didn't care for it. The premise is interesting- no doubt, we don't realize how integral smell is to our daily operations, memory, and general well-being. And to suddenly lose it, like the author? Oh, that's awful. For real. But... when the author starts comparing herself to a chef with tongue cancer and saying that he's LUCKY, I was completely done with her self-pity and sens ...more
May-Ling
Sep 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
i got about halfway through and then put the book down. i have an extremely strong sense of smell (as witnessed by winning this round in survivor saratoga!), so i'm fascinated by the senses and how it relates to our humanity. going through the shock and disorientation of losing her sense of smell with the author was pretty amazing. i appreciated her perspective and i feel for her.

when she started to meet with scientists and discuss what smell means to us, that's where i lost interest in the boo
...more
Emily
An unfortunately amateurish effort by a woman who lost her sense of smell after using Zicam. This book combines memoir and science, and neither is very satisfying: the memoir is a bit whiny and long-winded, and the science comes straight from the Natalie Angier school of pop science writing. The arrangement of the chapters here gives no forward momentum or sense of a story--it's as if the author wrote twenty somewhat rambly magazine articles and put them together in a book.
Dave
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Bonnie Blodgett, a garden writer from the Twin Cities, tells the story of how, after using an alternative, over the counter nasal spray cold remedy she lost her sense of smell. This loss had a devastating effect on her personal (as well as professional) life. It is an interesting story...but...

Blodgett writes in the afterward about how, half way into the book project, she tried to pitch more of a memoir to her editor. The editor said no. I got the sense that Blodgett was trying to straddle both
...more
Gina Scioscia
Jun 13, 2011 rated it liked it
A friend gave this book to me to read because I am an anosmiac, having lost my sense of smell at an early age.
I wanted to like the book more, but it needed a better editor--It takes a special skill to write about science and the chapters devoted to the science of smell could have been the more interesting ones in the book, yet they came across hodge-podge and boring. The rest of the 'memoir' was about the author coping with the loss, full of extraneous details about her life, and I found her to
...more
Melissa
Nov 12, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ladies-writin
This is not really a memoir; while it is about the author's loss of her sense of smell after using Zicam nasal spray (note to all: do not use Zicam!) it's more about the sense of smell itself, how the brain processes odors, a lot of business about pheremones & how taste is tied to smell and all that. I confess that I found all of the scientific information boring. I also did not like the author at all; I wanted to feel sympathetic to her but I just thought she was whiny.
Merri
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I lost my sense of smell at a very young age or may have been born anosmic. I found much of the scientific information to be of interest and explained a lot about my own experiences. I have never been diagnosed by a specialist and plan one day to determine why I cannot smell. My present physician wouldn't give me the time of day when I brought it up as an adult.
Cliff Davis
Oct 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We take so much for granted -- our intellectual faculties, our daily breath ... and our sense of smell. Blodgett, through her personal experience, takes us on a journey through what life is like without the latter. Some of the results you probably already know, but I guarantee others will be new to you. She is a descriptive, compelling writer.
Krissy
Aug 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Not as exquisite as Diane Ackerman's Natural History of the Senses, but still an insightful look at the signficance of scent in our lives, memories, and brain chemistry.
Raman K
Sep 15, 2015 rated it did not like it
Learned a lot about smell. It was just boring and i skimmed through it. There was good facts in here but I didn't think it should have been made into a book.
Jenny Brown
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Repetitive, whiny, and filled with attempts to drag in scientific issues which the author clearly doesn't understand. I gave up reading half way through and skimmed the rest.
Rogue Reader
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Bonnie Blodgett's sense of loss in losing her sense of smell is palpable. Remembering Smell: A Memoir of Losing and Discovering the Primal Sense is the narrative of her adjustment to anosmia. It starts with a cold, a spritz of Zicam, and then phantosmia - six months of smell distortion and phantom smells, Bonnie's being rot and decomposition.

The cycle of disbelief, loss and adjustment is so familiar. Blodgett uses science to try and explain the mystery of her loss, and medical research to blunt
...more
Lindquistheather
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is a true story of a woman who completely lost her sense of smell after using an over the counter nasal spray for a cold. There were parts of her story that totally fascinated me, but there wasn't enough of the story to keep me interested. There were chapters that read like a science text book that I just skimmed through. I was intrigued by the way she described how losing her sense of smell affected every aspect of her life, and that she would have rather lost her sight or a limb, than her ...more
Leslie
Jul 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Blodgett's book is a good amalgam of memoir and science, heavy on the science. A well-known garden writer who developed phantosmia and then anosmia due to the over-the-counter cold remedy, Zicam spray, Blodgett delves into the neuroscience, physiology and psychology of smell. Much like Oliver Sacks, whom Blodgett obviously admires, she can take rather dry-sounding research and make it fascinating with real-life anecdotes. Ending on an upbeat note as her sense of smell begins to return, Blodgett ...more
Diana
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
This is a book about Blodgett losing her sense of smell (after using Zicam, although she was never able to prove the link) for about a year. It is a very fine read when Blodgett writes her personal story--her resulting depression, almost losing her career as a garden writer, and the strain on her marriage and personal life. I had never really thought about how important the sense of smell is. BUT, unfortunately, three quarters of the book is an exploration of scientific studies about smell...and ...more
Lisa Mcbroom
May 19, 2016 rated it liked it
It is amazing how smell affects memory. The smell of watermelon makes me think of my grandfather. Cotton candy takes me back to my childhood and an ocean smell reminds me of the beach. Blodgett a writer and a gardener loses her sense of smell due to a sinus infection and taking Ziacam for it. She writes about how smell affects your memory, mental health and how hard it is for insurance companies to see this as an actual illness. The one negative point Blodgett comes across as snobby and condscen ...more
Bethany
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who has anosmia and/or phantosmia
Recommended to Bethany by: several people
I read this book in the midst of dealing with my own loss of smell (anosmia), followed by phantosmia.

It was cathartic to read about someone else's experiences, and feel a kinship. It can be isolating to feel like you're the only one experiencing a sense of emotional loss that comes with a major health change.

That said, the author lost me when the grief of her own sense loss, and the depression that followed, overwhelmed her - and overwhelmed her writing.

The scientific information was fascinatin
...more
Cathy
Aug 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the science part, but got a little tired of the author's response to her anosmia. She seemed a little overwrought by what was, to be sure, a really crappy experience. I had some sympathy for her, but when I got to the end and learned that she failed to protest her injury in court (against Zicam) or even call the FDA to complain, I was just pissed off. She wrote a whole book in which she bemoans the loss of her sense of smell, and drags us through her depression and weight gain and all ...more
Allyson
Aug 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and would have rated it the highest had her writing been less silly. Her scientific discourse was great but some of her phrases and wording were too pedestrian and out of sync with the majority of the book. She made mention of her "yucks" in the acknowledgements and it made me want better editing for those. Also made me wonder who wrote most of it, or how much it was edited, and why it was edited incompletely.
Aside from that however, it provided a great discussion and
...more
Swan
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
I've been living with anosmia since 1994 and even I found it hard to get through the book. As mentioned in the book, there's not much research on losing one's sense of smell and since it's one of the more useless senses, it doesn't receive much attention. I was genuinely excited to read the book but it got bogged down with way too much technical detail as a personal memoir and too much personal details for a technical book. Mary Roach is one of the few writers who come to mind when I think of th ...more
Donna Jo Atwood
Blodgett lost her sense of smell following a one-time use of a nasal inhaler. She intertwines her experiences with what she learned about the science of smell. The book goes back and forth--about the time my eyes would start to glaze at one more mention of receptors, she would switch to more personal information of the progress of what the loss of the sense of scent was doing to her personal life and how she was learning to cope with it.
Much more interesting than I expected.
Danielle
May 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
The story was fine, but the author's grasp of the science is really not very good. I even tried to pretend that I wasn't a scientist who studies olfaction, and tried to read it from the point of view of the lay public - and some of it is just nonsensical. Also, she seemed to get most aspects of evolutionary biology spectacularly wrong - some points were so elementary that they could have been cleared up with a quick visit to Wikipedia. "Season to Taste" by Molly Birnbaum was much better.
Nat H
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
I wish this had a single approach (memoir or scientific text) rather than tackling both as it would be a more enjoyable read. Unfortunately I skimmed through the book passing over the data/analysis text and went straight for the memoir aspect, which there was so little of compared to the science approach.
Genine Franklin-Clark
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it

I enjoyed this book, an interesting combination of science and a memoir of the author's loss of the sense of smell. This touched me especially, I think, because I take such delight (well, maybe not always, as when the litter box needs changing) in my own sense of smell, which, despite my advanced age seems as acute as ever.

Aworthwhile read.
Leah
Jan 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
Two stars seems harsh, but I had a hard time reading some of the more clinical chapters and didn't find her especially engaging. There are some interesting facts and insights, however, and it was good enough that I spent a day reading all the way through it. Fascinating topic in an interesting but unremarkable book.
C
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Great start, but the book really peters out quickly and I lost interest. I couldn't bring myself to finish it--the science behind her olfactory issue was so laboriously described and I just didn't become invested in her story.
Marie Powers
Jul 16, 2010 rated it liked it
A gifted writer with a great premise, but this book couldn't decide whether to be a journal about a painful but fascinating life experience or a scientific investigation of a baffling medical condition. I preferred the former, but the author seemed to prefer the latter.
Terrie
May 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Barely a 2 star, only because the subject matter was interesting. This was just so poorly edited and organized. In addition, the author states several of her own incorrect scientific conclusions as accepted fact.
Mary
Feb 07, 2011 rated it liked it
A true story of a woman who loses her sense of smell. Several months of vile smell hallucinations followed by no smell has a profound impact on her. It also reviews the state of science of smell and describes how this under appreciated sense is more important than most people realize.
Margaret
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
More than I ever wanted to know about the olfactory system. However, it was interesting to discover that Zicam and like products may cause one to lose the sense of smell. And even more interesting to discover how life-shattering such a loss may be.
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