Do you like to have your nose in a book? No, we’re not talking figuratively. Something about the scent of old books can perk up any bookworm. And turns out, there’s a legitimate reason that dusty old pages actually smell good.

Most of what we smell comes from volatiles organic compounds (VOCs), which books give off as they decompose over time. University College London researchers extracted its VOCs from a 1928 French novel they found at a used bookstore. (Find out where to donate your own old books.) Volunteers blindly sniffed extracts from the book, plus seven other unlabeled scents ranging from chocolate and coffee to fish market and dirty linen. Afterward, participants filled out a survey with a question asking them to describe the smell of the historic book.

Without knowing what they were smelling, more than a third of the 79 participants said the old book extract reminded them of chocolate. Coffee was the second most reported scent, according to the study in the journal Heritage Science. Yum!

‘You tend to use familiar associations to describe smells when they are unlabeled,’ study author Cecilia Bembibre tells Popular Science. ‘And also, the VOCs of chocolate and coffee seem to be very similar to that of books.’ Sounds funny, but chocolate and coffee contain fermented or roasted chemical compounds called lignin and cellulose, which are also in decaying paper, the authors write.

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SOURCE: Reader’s Digest – Marissa Laliberte