Right from the get-go, author Rachel Herz takes a pop culture approach to her subject: the sense of smell.
In The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell (William Morrow, 241, $24.95), Herz tells the story of how musician Michael Hutchence, lead singer of the Australian rock band INXS, likely would not have committed suicide in 1997 if he hadn't suffered a fractured skull in a freak cycling accident five years earlier...
You see, after the accident, Hutchence lost his sense of smell and taste, and given his reported lust for life via all the sensual pleasures, he fell deeper and deeper into depression, substance abuse and eventually, death.
"More than any other sensory experience, fragrances have the ability to trigger our emotions: to fill us with joy and rage, to bring us to tears and make our hearts ache, to incite us with terror, and to titillate our desires," Herz writes.
Herz, a Brown University faculty member who is recognized as the world's leading expert on the psychology of smell, follows up with chapters on how our own personal odors can attract and repel others, on aromatherapy, cravings, and in a chapter titled "As You Like It," she sets out to convince the reader that our aroma preferences are all learned, not inherited.