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Book-Sniffer

March 17, 2019

It was one of those really good days.

With plenty of sunshine and mostly clear skies James grabbed the rake and started the spring work that turns the winter ‘lawn look’ into the promise of green and blooms.  As the late afternoon sun was still shining we looked at the finished lawn, bags of raked debris curbside, rose cones piled back in the basement, tree wraps removed, lawn furniture in place, outdoor umbrella in place for the heat of summer, the shed swept and tidied with snow shovels placed away, and knew there was only one other way to make the day perfect.

Following showers we headed for an early dinner–we had blown right past lunch–and then a book store.

While at dinner last night with three women, who love to read and learn, we came across some exciting ideas.  The book which struck me most was The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner.  The basis is an exploration of places like Vienna of 1900, Renaissance Florence, ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou, and Silicon Valley to show how certain urban settings are conducive to ingenuity.  James and I often talk about how ideas are cultivated and allowed to spring forth, and what forces create the minds of a Mozart or a Steve Jobs.

The other book which allowed for much table discussion was The Other Einstein by Marie Bened.  The talk set me back in my chair as I was truly taken in by a topic I had not heard about before.  Mileva Maric was a fascinating, brilliant physicist in her own right. She was, in fact, the other Einstein. In the world of physics, there’s much debate over the role she played in forming the theory of special relativity, one of her husband’s greatest works. Was she simply a sounding board, computing the complex mathematical equations? Or did she contribute something more?

While neither of those books were at the store the shelves called out to be browsed and enjoyed.  Finding never before heard of titles and authors draws me in.  So in the Middle East section a paperback about two real-life women who risk their lives to bring us the news from Syria grabbed my attention.  A Disappearance In Damascus by Deborah Campbell had the front and back cover which lures a reader to venture further,

The story begins in 2007 when Deborah Campbell travels undercover to Damascus to report on the exodus of Iraqis into Syria following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. There she meets and hires Ahlam, a refugee working as a “fixer”—providing Western media with trustworthy information and contacts to help get the news out. Ahlam, who fled her home in Iraq after being kidnapped while running a humanitarian centre, not only supports her husband and two children through her work with foreign journalists but is setting up a makeshift school for displaced girls. She has become a charismatic, unofficial leader of the refugee community in Damascus, and Campbell is inspired by her determination to create something good amid so much suffering. Ahlam soon becomes her friend as well as her guide. But one morning Ahlam is seized from her home in front of Campbell’s eyes. Haunted by the prospect that their work together has led to her friend’s arrest, Campbell spends the months that follow desperately trying to find her—all the while fearing she could be next.

The paperback is now on my desk, but the reason for this post to be so titled has to do with the lady at the cash register.  I told her the fun part about book stores is finding one which is new to me.  She agreed and then said bookstores are also fun because of how they smell.  She described herself as a “book sniffer”, and when asked said it started with the old books her grandfather had stored in his home.  What a great story,

I have long said one can tell a good book by the smell it has.  This topic is not a new one on my blog.  But to find someone who talked about the scent of books with such fondness is not something I run into every day.

Just one more reason for a truly nice day.

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