Leeds to be city of perfume for a day

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A novel about a Frenchman with a supernatural ability to distinguish scents has been chosen to represent the city of Leeds in a project to mark World Book Day today.

For no particularly obvious reason, Patrick Suskind's Perfume, set in the 18th century, has been paired with the Yorkshire city traditionally known for its clothing and engineering industries in a project called One Book, One City.

In a cultural experiment that could be repeated nationally next year, the city will mark World Book Day by hosting events relating to the book organised by the publisher Penguin. For instance, at 1pm, in the oldest pub in the city, the Whitelocks, anyone who cares to join in can get together to read and discuss the novel.

Penguin organised the Leeds event after learning of the success of a similar project in Chicago. Leeds was chosen because it has a remarkably high number of libraries, 59, as well as two dozen known reading groups associated with the city's many bookstores. Perfume, which has gained a loyal following and sold more than 600,000 copies since it was first published, was the choice of a straw poll of Penguin staff.

A Penguin spokeswoman said: "We wanted to do something to celebrate reading for World Book Day, and we wanted to do something outside London, as publishing is sometimes seen as being London-based."

At least some cityfolk have embraced the work. In three days, the bookshop Borders has sold 140 copies of Perfume, which has been in print for 16 years – although a special promotional discount price of £2 might have something to do with its popularity.