How to inscribe a book

by Jessie K on May 13, 2013

IMG_5567I listened to an NPR interview with David Sedaris over the weekend and it made me fall in love with the man all over again. Setting aside for a moment his wonderfully warped sense of humor, he has such an interesting way of looking at the world.  He said that when he’s not writing books, he collects trash along the back roads near his country home in England. And despite selling millions and millions of books, he comes across as utterly free of ego and said he fully expects all of his books to end up at Goodwill sooner or later. How can you not love a person like that?

Which is why he tries to never write anything cheesy or insipid like “Keep laughing!” when inscribing books, but something crazy and outrageous enough to make the casual Goodwill browser go, “What the–? Who is this nut?” The title of his current book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls was born from one such inane inscription.

I loved hearing this. In my somewhat limited experience inscribing books, I never know what to write. I’ll even ask the person, “So…what do you want me to write?” To which they invariably respond, “I don’t know. You’re the writer. Something witty and clever.” Naturally, this coincides with the precise moment my brain goes into sleep mode and I write something like, “Here’s to being Rurally Screwed! Keep smiling!” followed by a stream of exclamation points and smiley faces so they grasp how truly giddy I am. Then they wander off looking at the inscription with a deflated expression and I suddenly wish I was home.

I think from now on I’ll take the David Sedaris approach: Write from the perspective of a drunk person if only to give that future Goodwill shopper down the road a moment of pause.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy Workman May 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm


Many years ago, David Letterman’s mom wrote a cookbook of family recipes. I went to Borders to have her sign my book and we were told that she should not be spoken to or expected to make conversation due to the extremely long line. (I live in Dave’s hometown of Indianapolis so the crowd was big here.) We were given post it notes and told to write what we wanted inscribed in the books. It really was genius and she did not have to ask all night “how do you spell that again?.”

kara May 15, 2013 at 12:14 am


I love me some David Sedaris. He signed my copy of his book: “I wish you were my math teacher.” (And another: “Friendship is a cancer.”)

Jessie K May 15, 2013 at 10:45 am


Ha ha ha!

Anne May 15, 2013 at 10:27 am


I bought an extra copy of “Me Talk Pretty One Day” for my ex-boyfriend and he signed it: “You made a very big mistake”–totally unprompted by me. He also talked to everybody in line. And he read “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” to a yuppie crowd with kids in tow in Oak Brook, IL. It was a blast!!!!!!

Jessie K May 15, 2013 at 10:44 am


He’s amazing!

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