How to Write Book Inscriptions: Thoughtful Gifts for Any Occasion
Why Write a Message in a Gifted Book?
If you are ever stumped about what to give someone as a gift, consider gifting them a book and writing a personal message inside. Composing a thoughtful note inside a gifted book allows you to:
- express your heartfelt sentiments about the recipient,
- explain why you chose that book for that occasion, and
- wish them well in their future endeavors.
Choosing the Right Book to Carry Your Message
There is a book out there for everyone regardless of age, personality, and reading level. While fiction is always a great choice, there is no need to limit yourself to novels. Choose a cookbook for an aspiring chef or a newly independent college student who has yet to hone their culinary skills. A picture book about adventure, like Oh, The Places You'll Go, would make a great gift for a high school graduate or younger child who has begun to travel. Give a baby your favorite children's book with a message about their infancy that they will be able to look back on once they learn to read.
You can even write inscriptions in books that lack words entirely. Write a thoughtful message in a blank sketchbook for the aspiring artist in your life. Gift newlyweds a blank honeymoon scrapbook with your best wishes inscribed on the inside cover.
You can also consider the recipient's hobbies and interests. Write a personal message inside a travel guide for a friend who is about to embark on a trip overseas. A waterproof field notebook with some words of encouragement inside would make an awesome choice for an aspiring geologist.
Which Book Goes With Which Occasion?
Type of Book
Wedding or anniversary
Love story, romantic poetry anthology, collection of love letters, or cookbook
"What I Love About You" or "Book of Us: A Journal of Your Love Story in 150 Questions" by David Marshall
Biography of someone successful or someone they admire, journal to document/record their next chapter in life, or cookbook
"Oh, The Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss
Newborn baby, baby shower, or expecting parents
Picture book, potty-training book, nursery rhyme collection, parenting book, or pregnancy book
"Oh, Baby! Go, Baby!" by Dr. Seuss
Baptism or confirmation
Inspirational book of poems or Bible
"A Baby's First Bible Book" or book of children's bible verses (if recipient is a child)
End of the school year gift for a teacher
Book that relates to the subject they teach or student's favorite book from the class
Anything relevant to teacher's class
Christmas story book, history of a specific holiday, or picture story book about holidays for kids
"The Nativity" by Julie Vivas
Journal, novel, keepsake book, or book that relates to recipient's personality and interests
"My Book About Me" by Dr. Seuss or "Your Birthday Book: A Keepsake Journal" by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Scrapbook/photo album with pictures of company events and co-workers or retirement book
"The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked-21st Century Edition" by Ernie J. Zelinski
Leaving for a trip, traveling, or moving
Travel guide, journal, photo album, or scrapbook
"Old World Journal" notebook/diary by Mara Conlon
Messages in Books Can Hold Mysterious Secrets
Have you ever bought a used book and later found an inscription on the inside cover? The message may have seemed heartfelt, funny, confusing, or intimate, but likely piqued your interest regardless. Personal inscriptions add character and mystery to old books, and can make readers feel a sense of connection to others who have enjoyed the book in the past.
There is no denying that book inscriptions instill us with a sense of magic and nostalgia. They provide sentimental value for the original recipient and can surprise and delight strangers who come across the book down the line. Imagine finding a funny but slightly confusing inscription in a used book—you might wonder what an inside joke meant to the original owners, where they are now, and why the book is no longer in their possession.
The beauty of book inscriptions is that they hold secrets and mysteries, some of which may never again be understood once the book has left the possession of its original recipient.
Have you come across a book inscription that stuck with you and made you wish you knew the whole story?
Example Book Inscription
The following is a note I composed inside a copy of Alice in Wonderland that I gave to my daughter. I am sharing it here in hopes that it will give readers some ideas about what they might want to include in their own book inscriptions.
Dearest Lyla Brielle,
Happy 2nd birthday! Time flies by and now you are a smarter, more independent child who acts like you are older than your years. You enjoy books and so I wanted to give you one of my favorite stories, the story of Alice. In so many ways, you remind me of her character. She is a storybook heroine I admired since I was a little girl. Her adventures never bore me and I hope you will find them fun to read about, too. Let your imagination wander with this book and may you one day be able to catch up with your "White Rabbit" as you take the world into your hands and go down the rabbit hole.
Remember, anything is possible. I'll be waiting for you in Wonderland.
Love forever and always,
Book Inscriptions I've Written for Family MembersClick thumbnail to view full-size
Book Inscriptions Are Family Heirlooms and a Gift to the World
Since books with inscriptions can be so meaningful, they often become valuable family heirlooms that are passed down from one generation to the next. As my daughter grows older, I feel the need to give her gifts that she can enjoy throughout her life—both now as a child and later on as an adult. Maybe one day she will share them with her own kids and grandchildren.
A Lasting Memorial
You may also want to consider giving inscribed books as gifts to close friends and family as part of your will. This is a simple but thoughtful gesture that shows the recipient that they were close to your heart. When they revisit the book in years to come, your inscription will serve as a lasting remnant of your cherished role in their life.
Opening a book with a personal message inside makes the reader feel a connection with the message's author, no matter how long ago the note was written. Even if the book you inscribe ends up in a used book store halfway across the world 100 years from now, your words may have the power to inspire and delight its next reader.