“The Little Book Of Perfumes” Book Review

I am going to try to choose my words very, very carefully. I want to say in advance that I truly hope that this book does well, and that it encourages its readers to enjoy and analyze perfumes. I would also like to write a book about perfume someday soon, and if it is not up to par, I give Turin and Sanchez my blessing to rip it to shreds.

The Little Book of Perfumes is a collection of the five-star perfumes in the original Perfumes: The Guide. Do not buy it unless you are an absolute perfume novice. It contains almost no new material, and while it does provide valuable information on the recent reformulations of several of the reviewed perfumes, most perfume lovers are already aware that perfumes are frequently reformulated.

I would recommend The Little Book of Perfumes as a gift for friends or family who are vaguely interested in perfume, but are not yet particularly knowledgable. I imagine that this book would be eye-opening to someone who was not yet aware of how IFRA regulations have affected perfume reformulations. I would have also said that the often-poetic reviews were likely to spark someone’s interest in perfume, but my own experience contradicts that. I bought a copy of The Little Book of Perfumes for my parents, and they did not care for it. They felt that it was poorly written.

I don’t agree on that point. I think that Luca Turin is a good writer, and I think that Tania Sanchez is a very good writer. My issue with this book is that it appears that Turin and Sanchez did not want to write it. The book’s marketing is very much at odds with what the authors are saying about it. While the book’s cover declares its contents “the hundred classics” and “the one hundred most glorious perfumes in the world”, Sanchez protests on the very first page that “the fragrances reviewed in this book are not the greatest of all time- instead, they are those that struck us as far above their peers in quality, inventiveness, or straightforward beauty.”

I would not have much of an issue with the book that Sanchez and Turin seem to feel they are writing. But that is simply not the book that is being presented to us. The Little Book of Perfumes claims to be a list of classics, and it truly is not that. It is a list of extremely subjective favorites. In a review of 100% Love from Perfumes: The Guide, Turin writes, “Maybe my day job as a scientist has led me to put too high a value on the novel and the unexpected.” I must say that I agree. Many of the 100 perfumes in this book strike me as novelties rather than classics. Truthfully, I do not even think that The Little Book of Perfumes is particularly successful as a list of favorites. Turin and Sanchez are too similar in their perfume preferences for this to really work.

In my mind, Now Smell This is the biggest and best perfume blog. One of the things that I think has made Now Smell This so successful is that Robin has other writers who can cover for her “blind spots”. Robin is very upfront about the fact that she does not care for most oriental fragrances, so the talented Angela reviews most of those perfumes. In the original Perfumes: The Guide, which contained reviews of over 1,900 perfumes, Turin and Sanchez disagreed enough about a perfume to merit two different ratings only five times. I feel that the book suffers due to the lack of variety in their perspectives. There is a sameness to many of their five-star perfumes.

Have you tried The Little Book of Perfumes? What did you think of it?

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11 thoughts on ““The Little Book Of Perfumes” Book Review

  1. I just feel like perfume is such a personal choice that I don’t really need people telling me what I should & shouldn’t like. I have plenty of friends who love Lola. I don’t, but I’m certainly not telling them not to wear it or how terribly boring it is. Okay … maybe the latter but not intentionally to their faces. I actually apologized to a friend once for offhandedly saying that on my blog because while it’s bland on me, I know that on others it could be stunning.

    1. I sometimes cringe when I read older reviews on this blog. I feel like they’re much too harsh and that I could have said what I wanted to in a gentler way. If, God willing, I do get to write a book on perfume, it will be very much from the perspective of “this is what this perfume means to me” as opposed to “this perfume is good or bad”.

  2. After reading the responses left by these two to the questions posed on Now Smell This, they come off as arrogant snobby pricks. I somehow get the feeling that they believe their opinions are actually fact, and that if you disagree with them, then you are just wrong. I just dont have any respect for either of them and will never glance at any of their writing ever again.

    1. This is the part where I choose my words very carefully!
      I was also very surprised by the Now Smell This interview. If I were them, those would not have been the answers that I would have given. They came off as very uninterested, about perfume and in general.

  3. I guess reading it is nonetheless funny, just for laughs. 😀
    I find them political incorrect, which (generally) I like and appeals to my sense of humor (hoho!), but it’s just that… what else? Are they really helpful? I don’t think so… Not so much. Also, I don’t believe they are an authority on the subject (¿?), and even if they really are an authority I simply don’t mind. After all, I make my own decisions. I appreciate thoughts and opinions about perfumes coming from other people as entertainment (that’s why I like to read them), and of course comparison between perfumes helps to form perception and you can take as referencial, but in the end this is a matter of taste, and it’s my own taste. Someone could argue hundreds of platonic ideas about how Chanel nº5 suits me perfectly, but if I don’t feel comfortable with myself wearing it… it’s something visceral, emotional… an emotion can give you space for reflection, time to think about things… but you can’t control to have it or not, it simply happens. I think you can feel when a perfume REALLY speaks to you or not. It’s not a question of self-persuasion, but of being honest with yourself.

    1. Again, I think that definitely might have been a difference between what the book’s marketing wanted and what the authors wanted. Perfumes: The Guide was really not “the guide”, and for all I know the authors didn’t intend it to be. But if that was the case, then it should not have been presented that way.

  4. It depends on what you consider about this book: helpfulness or simple entertainment? both at the same time?
    You are probably right that it should not have been presented as a “Guide” in the strict form, but to me, the word here has come to refer to a personal point of view, a ‘reference’ desk. One who shows the way by reviewing… is guiding, anyway. Something susceptible of a model or standard for making comparisons can be considered as a Guide.
    so… the authors didn’t intend it to be? well, they know what they were doing, no?

    anyway… about helpfulness and/or the simple entertainment, now the question (perhaps) is if they should have more coverage/different points of view/non unidirectional thinking …?
    I think the whole thing about Perfume is not a Science… so who cares after all? 🙂

    – I’m just trying to understand/explain this whole thing right (without any language mistakes haha!) but I’m not sure at all… sorry –

    1. Please, I would never want you to apologize! The best part about having a perfume blog are the opportunities to share and discuss with other perfume lovers.

  5. I do see exactly where you are coming from and I guess a “regular” perfume-wearing person coming cold at this book might be surprised at the unfamiliar choices in there, of which S-100% Love is a prime example. As someone who already owned The Guide, the word “classic” glossed over me somewhat – I knew it was just going to be their 100 favourites, with all the subjectivity and bias towards the complex and the frankly weird which that implied. So I cut them slack for what made the cut, as it were, and I enjoy their writing, and got heaps of pleasure from the physical look and feel of the book. It is most suited I’d say to the more inquiring members of the general public or the perfumista who wants a handy format for LT’s and TS’s favourites.

    1. Vanessa, I have to say that the original Guide was more to my taste, because it was funnier! Unlike many perfume lovers, I did not feel that P:TG was overly harsh or bitchy. But “The Little Book of Perfumes” will definitely be a better choice for perfume newbies, because it has a much more positive tone. I would imagine that it would be so discouraging to see Luca and Tania making fun of some of your old favorites (as they do in the original Guide) that you might be turned off from the entire book.

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