“floating in public drains”
… that would contribute to the smell, for sure.
I have a house full on judgemental books that tell me to read them and I always reply “someday, my loves, someday” – but it doesn't much matter. A house doesn't become a home until the books are there, keeping you warm and insulated from the brutish world. And I loved the “detritus” comment too – my books are full of ticket stubs and train passes and upside-down notes of plans with friends long gone. My books are, simply, mine – stocked full of the ephemera of a life lived often too quickly. They are not precious museum pieces – they are battered, travelled, loved. You can absolutely tell a book read from a book merely owned. My collection would never be accepted at the public library. I think the judgemental books are just jealous, wanting a dog-ear to call their own.