I used to be someone who didn’t understand why anyone would devalue a book by writing a message inside of it, so I was sometimes disappointed when I was gifted a book and someone had written a message to me inside. To me, it meant I couldn’t sell it or pass it on to somebody else. Of course, this is not completely true. You can still pass the book on to someone else.
For me, books are sacred things and I’ve always tried to preserve their newness for as long as possible, but I was being ignorant in my view of writing a message inside the book. Recently, I picked up my copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which was gifted to me by a recruiter who had placed me in a job back in 2012. I had completely forgotten about how I obtained this book. I had let it sit on my bookshelf for years, until I finally had a reason to pick it up and read it.
When opening the book and seeing the message on the first page, I was instantly reminded of the whole process I had went through to get the job. I remembered meeting the man who became my boss and being walked around the warehouse full of floor tiles. I remembered how cringe-worthy I must have been in the job interview. Luckily, the boss saw something in me that made him want to hire me. My point here is that these memories came flooding back to me as soon as I read that message, giving me a nice reflection of self before diving into the book itself.
Writing a message to your giftee is like adding something special to the book you are gifting. At that point, the book is becomes a representation of a time in your life. It becomes not just a story, but a memory trigger, a moment in time. More than likely, there’s also a reason why the person has chosen the specific book for you and they may even include this in their message. This is something that will forever speak to who you are or who you were as a person.
Of course, if you’re trying to sell your books, the inscription can either decrease the value or increase it depending on who wrote the message and why. But truthfully, the thing that I have now come to realise is that being given a book with a message from the gifter makes the book more valuable to you overall. This means that you may not even want to get rid of it because it means something to you. It’s a part of your life’s journey.
Now my stance has changed and I fully encourage writing a message to the person you are gifting the book to. Even if you end up at odds with the person later, no memory should be ignored because it is a piece of you. As you get older you will cling to these memories and appreciate them for what they are.
Finding inscribed books
Sometimes people will pass on or donate books regardless of them being inscribed by the person who gifted them the book. This means that other people will come to possess the book, and while some may think this is weird, there are people out there that think books inscribed by strangers, make them more interesting.
Kyle Ingham at The Distilled Man describes finding a book with a thoughtful inscription as “a window into someone else’s world”. If the book is fiction, then we’re already used to this concept of reading about other people, so the inscription simply adds another layer of imagination to the experience.
With that being said, perhaps it’s not so bad receiving a book that has been written in at all. Let us know your thoughts on book inscriptions below.