The Book Sniffers Club

“It smells good of course. Like French polished tabletops, hay, and digestive biscuits.”

The Coronavirus pandemic has profoundly affected all of our senses and how we use them, but perhaps it’s our sense of smell that has been hit hardest of all. From losing the sense entirely as a symptom of the illness to fearing to take a breath in case we catch it - our sense of smell and our breathing has had the wind knocked out of it. 

The Book Sniffers Club is the latest project from Justin Wiggan, a ground-breaking UK artist working at the frontiers of art and health. The club has been developed to help us reconnect with our sense of smell as a creative investigation.

“I’m getting plastic flowers on a rainy Monday in Milwaukee.”

The club has been formed to help us to resuscitate the joyous act of smelling, while reconnecting us with literature and, vitally, each other. Book Sniffing (and yeah, we’ve all done it) allows us to undertake a socially safe sensory activity that reconnects us with the physicality and tactility of books, as well as allowing us to access and share reminiscences, thoughts, and memories with fellow book sniffers. 


The rules of the club are super simple - choose a book, open its pages, press your nose in-between them, and take in a deep breath. Then, note the complex smells and scents you recognise and think about what it reminds you of - the people, places, childhood memories perhaps. The Booksniffers Club’s interactive website allows you to file your own ‘sniff notes’ and thoughts, and read those of others. There’s also Instagram and Twitter accounts that aim to capture moments of book sniffing reverie as they happen. Make sure to follow @booksniffersclub (IG) and @sniffandtell (TW) to keep up with all the aromatic action.

“It smells like an empty carton of pink wafers, left for a few days on a sunny window ledge.”

 The Book Sniffers Club has an open-door policy that not only welcomes biblio-sniffers of all stripes but also actively encourages people to set up their own clubs and sniff networks. There’s a downloadable guide and bookmarks to print off to allow individuals and groups to make discerning sniff notes. It’s hoped that soon there will be book sniffing groups popping up all over the globe, all adding to this amazing olfactory library. 

The Booksniffers Club

To cement the project in the calendar there’s a WORLD BOOK SNIFFING DAY coming next month! Yes, a day for us all to get off our screens for a bit and take a nose dive into some fragranced fiction and musky monographs. On the 12th December, it’d be great to see a load of new club members submitting their ‘sniff selfies’ and tagging them #booksniffers (book sniffing selfies are great for the self-conscious too - you get to cover half your face with a book AND close your eyes, result!).

“I get a little sweet whiff of Bedhead Hair Wax from this book.”

This fun and engaging project has been brought to graphic life with a charming visual identity created by designer James Ockelford. Its aim is to get our noses back into our books and, more importantly, help us to get our breath back. So why not pick up a nearby paperback, settle in your seat, bring the pages to your face and… take a deep breath. 

Booksniffers Website - 'Featured Sniffs'