It's an easy one for me. It's probably an unusual choice, but I know there are others who will understand--though I fear we may be a dying breed. Yes, it's an old musty paperback, with that ancient smell that sweeps me back through a few hundred musty paperbacks that I flipped through in a few thousand different places. There's nothing quite like it. Every time I pick up one of those old treasures (like the copy of Jaws I'm currently reading, the same copy I've read so many times I've lost count) and that aroma washes over me, I'm filled with a special sort of joy.
I've always loved that smell, though for different reasons. As a youngster, that was the scent of adventure, and perhaps even a whiff of the taboo as much of what I was reading was intended for mature readers. I started with King's Christine at the age of 8 after finding my dad's stash of horror novels. Given the way this life-changing discovery went down, I don't think that was an accident, and Pop never objected once my love for such fare became common knowledge. Anyway, in those days the potent smell of the aging paperback was an invitation to adventure and a passport to worlds yet unknown.
Now, there's still a bit of that magic in the smell, but it's more about familiarity and a love for all the joy and knowledge this particular hobby has provided me with over the years. It's a bit nostalgic, perhaps even a bit melancholy, and yet it is a wonderful smell that remains ripe with promise. Whether it represents a return trip to a familiar destination or a brand new odyssey, that smell remains partnered with the excitement of taking part in a story, the greatest pastime of them all.