Author(s): Barney Shaw
What do we actually mean when we say that something smells of fresh paint? Or frying bacon? And what does five o clock in the morning smell like? Inspired by an unsettlingly synaesthesic question put to him by his son, Barney Shaw looks into the science of smell: peering behind its sensory nature to discover its complexities, and finding surprising beauty in its processes. We use smells to communicate, to warn us of danger, to give us a sense of place, and as a form of social messaging - it is one of the primary ways in which a mother bonds to her kin, for example. But smell has other, less obvious uses: a sniff of peppermint can increase alertness and productivity, and introducing a slight whiff of fish oil into the environment will make people scrutinise information more closely. An investigation into the biology, psychology and history of smell, and a search for effective ways to describe things we instantly relate to, but find strangely ineffable, The Smell of Fresh Rain, includes a 200-entry thesaurus of succinct descriptions of common smells.
Barney Shaw is an artist, and former civil servant. He was Private Secretary to Norman Tebbit and later David Miliband, and was put in charge of the country's 1,100 unemployment benefit offices. He was also responsible for government policy on, variously: Scientology, anthrax, and wartime conscription. This is his first book.