Sometimes, Megan Prokott snaps a quick selfie with a blanket and a cappuccino. Once in a while, she adds reading glasses and a croissant. There’s always a book. And there’s often a lit, wax pillar.
“My ideal reading scene is in a cozy coffee shop or in my apartment with a hot coffee, a cozy blanket, a canine friend and a candle,” said Ms. Prokott, 23, a freelance book reviewer who lives in Chicago.
It’s not enough just to read anymore. It’s not even enough to post your reading on Instagram anymore. Today, you have to create an atmosphere to show just how analog and sensual you’re being. That often involves … a candle.
When Ms. Prokott read “The Oracle Year,” by Charles Soule, about the not-so-positive events that occur when you can predict the future, she enhanced the experience with DW Home’s Warm Tobacco Pipe candle ($12), a moody blend of leather and woods. Liane Moriarty’s novel “Truly Madly Guilty” was served in bed, surrounded by a blanket, fishnet socks and a handmade eucalyptus candle.
The mother of them all is perhaps Byredo’s Bibliothèque ($85), a distinctively black, woody aromatic around since 2013 that has become the company’s most popular candle. Now there is also Commodity’s Book Candle ($55), created in 2017, which just became the company’s top selling unisex fragrance across the 15 countries where it is sold.
“Just seeing the name or saying it is called ‘Book’ is a conversation starter,” said Ash Huzenlaub, the founder and C.E.O. of Commodity.
Candles are also now a common impulse purchase at independent bookstores, along with tote bags and coffee. There are shelves upon shelves of literary-themed ones at the Strand in New York, which famously brags of 18 miles of books.
If you like to read on a rainy day but it’s sunny outside, there’s Rainy Day Reads ($32.95). Or if you want to pretend you’re in a library, complete with that musty scent of the books and the waxed, creaky floors, there’s Enchanted Library ($24.95).
“We’ve learned one thing from our customers: Nothing goes together quite like candles and reading,” said Leigh Altshuler, a spokeswoman for the Strand. “Except candles and coffee and reading, and maybe candles and coffee and cats and reading.”
The two most popular book candles at Strand, Ms. Altshuler said, are Old Books, which smells like a used bookstore with a hint of cinnamon, and Lost in the Stacks (both $32.95), reminiscent of a fancy library that uses leather armchairs — the dreamy one complete with the library ladder reaching to the top shelves. Both are made by Forage Candle Company, which is based in Roan Mountain, Tenn.
“I think they use them in the same way people have used books and stories since the beginning of time: as a means to escape to another place and time,” said Lisa Smith, the owner of Forage Candle, adding that Old Books is the most popular book-related scent, of which they carry 25 at a time. “When it comes specifically to book-scented candles, what better place to escape to than within the pages of a treasured story?”
Ms. Smith began making her book-scented candles after leaving her job as a high school science teacher when she went blind a few years ago from complications of rheumatoid arthritis. Before losing her eyesight, books were Ms. Smith’s favorite escape from reality, and she would devour a novel daily.
“After losing my sight, reading became very difficult, but my love for literature was still very much alive,” Ms. Smith said. “Making literary-inspired candles became a way for me to keep that love alive.”
She harvests wild local botanicals, compounding them into unique fragrances to match the smells she associates with old books. Ms. Smith also has candles to match books, like Pride and Prejudice, $18 on Etsy (smells like roses drifting from the garden and ivy from the garden’s gates); and Gatsby, $22, (hints of juniper and wild florals that’s supposed to take you back to the jazz and gin era of the ’20s).
While some people prefer to be transported into an old library or bookstore when they read, others like to pair their candles with their books, like wine with food.
Karla Cummings, the owner of Lost Birch Candle Shop in Detroit Lakes, Minn., said she lights her Winter Is Coming candle ($13 on Etsy) when she’s reading a book like “Game of Thrones.” “It has a nice, mellow wood smoke scent that helps you feel like you are there,” she said. She turns to The Scarlet Lavender ($13) for most of her night reading, as it has a calming effect.
“I think with the business of life right now, with technology at our fingertips, social media, buying online, events to go to and such,” Ms. Cumming said, “setting a mood brings you into the story and also allows you to relax.”
Well, as long as you don’t light the snowy, pine-scented Overlook Hotel candle, $17 on Etsy. It’s named for the inn in “The Shining,” the horror classic by Stephen King.
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