Inscribed Books: An Alternative to Greeting Cards

On Sunday, I attended a baby shower for a family friend.  The invitations indicated that the couple wanted to start a library for their new baby and if attendees were so inclined, they could give a book (with an inscription) instead of a greeting card.  I’m not sure if this is a big trend–most of my friends have kids already–but I love it!

Hands of mom-to-be, grandmother-to-be, aunt-to-be. (NAM, 2011)

Inscribed books are so meaningful to me, and I wish there were more in my personal library.  Before I sat down to write this post, I grabbed a few books from my shelves that I thought had inscriptions so I could take some photos.  To my surprise, most the books I thought were inscribed were not.

My in-laws gave me The Complete Works of William Shakespeare for my birthday in 1994, and I was almost positive my mother-in-law wrote an inscription, but I couldn’t find it.  Inside a book of children’s bedtime stories, I was certain I’d find an inscription from my one of my aunts.  Instead, I found a pressed flower and a note in my handwriting stating the flower came from my high school crush in April 1992.  I did find an inscription from her in a cookbook, though!

My aunt gifted us a cookbook in 2001 and made it more special with an inscription.

Inscribed books in lieu of greeting cards is such a great idea, and I plan to use for my nephew’s birthdays and holiday gifts.  I can’t wait to give him some of our favorite books–James and the Giant Peach (one of Ant’s favorites), My Side of the Mountain (one of my favorites), The Hunger Games trilogy, The Harry Potter box set, the list goes on and on.  Luckily there are lots of holidays for which I can substitute books for cards!

Do you inscribe books that you give as gifts?  Would you consider books in lieu of greeting cards?

*Harry Pottery gift wrapped book photo credit to PatronusCrafts via Etsy.


  • At 2011.08.09 14:03, Meg said:

    That’s definitely a sweet and thoughtful idea — I love getting (and giving!) inscribed books as gifts. I have quite a few from my mom and both grandmothers over the years, though the majority are from childhood. When my sister gives me a book as a gift, I try to get her to write inside so I’ll have it.

    For a child’s library, it totally makes sense to sign inside; those are books that will be kept and cherished for a long, long time. But sometimes I’m hesitant to write inside the books I give to friends or family in case they already have a copy or want to return it for some reason! Or give it away, I suppose. Though I think it’s cool and special to find inscribed books at yard sales, library sales, etc.!

    • At 2011.08.09 14:17, Natalie said:

      I’m not sure about giving inscribed books to adults but will be giving my nephew and other kids in our family inscribed books going forward. the only time i might inscribe a book is if i give a cookbook as a shower gift… 🙂

    • At 2011.08.09 14:13, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      I don’t generally inscribe books, but plan to in the future. At the last baby shower I attended, they asked guests to bring a book instead of a card. Almost everyone, but me, had inscribed the book they brought, and I felt like such a slug for not doing it.

      • At 2011.08.09 14:33, Marie said:

        I love this idea! My best friend gave me an inscribed book when I passed my honors thesis in college and it’s one of my most treasured possessions- and I think that was the last time anyone inscribed a book to me! I’m going to make a habit of inscribing books from now on- I certainly give enough of them 🙂

        • At 2011.08.09 15:05, A Southern Cousin said:

          My children still have the copy of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” that you gave to them all those years ago (sans inscription:-)

          • At 2011.08.09 15:44, Natalie said:

            THAT is one of my favorite childhood books–i don’t even remember giving it to them but hope they liked it as much as jess and i did. (we begged our dad to read it almost every night…) xo

          • At 2011.08.09 20:54, Jenners said:

            I do tend to inscribe books … and I am IN LOVE with that baby shower idea! Brilliance!

            • At 2011.08.09 22:31, softdrink said:

              I think it’s a great idea, although I rarely inscribe books myself. I can never think of anything good to write!

              • At 2011.08.10 00:48, Melanie said:

                I have some inscribed books from my grandmother, which are major treasures to this day. No one else ever gave me inscribed books, but I taped the gift card from my godmother to the top of the boxed set of Narnia she gave me, which I had to point out frequently to my siblings when they tried to swipe it!

                • At 2011.08.10 00:49, Melanie said:

                  Also, that baby belly / hands photo is gorgeous!

                  • At 2011.08.10 16:14, Valerie said:

                    I hesistate to inscribe books unless I am 100% sure that what I’m giving is something the person doesn’t have. I tend to include a note instead.

                    I’ve had only a couple instances of myself recieving inscribed books that was already a duplicate, but it happens a lot with children’s books in my household. We’ve gotten 3 or 4 copies of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (not all inscribed). And, Because I make quilts, various family members have thought our kids would like “The Quiltmaker’s Gift” and each copy has been inscribed. haha.

                    A few years ago, my daughter’s second grade teacher was expecting a baby, and someone came up with the idea of a book basket as a gift. Each student was invited to contribute to it (my daughter chose The Purple Crayon, one of her faves at the time). When I was there on party day, there were at least a couple instances of duplicates in the basket! I think so many of us have the same classic favorite childhood books (either from our own childhood, or that we’ve read to our kids) that it’s easy for them to end up being duplicated.

                    • At 2011.08.10 16:27, Alita said:

                      This is a great idea for baby-shower gifts. I think the only inscribed books I have are cookbooks – with recipe requests for when that person comes to dinner 😉

                      • At 2011.08.11 12:13, Jessica said:

                        I love inscribed books! That being said, I have none. The closest I have is a sweet note that my husband tucked inside a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style he bought for me.

                        Inscribed books for a baby shower gift is a great idea. And thank you for the idea of inscribing books for nieces and nephews. I always give my niece and nephew books for birthdays and Christmas (usually the books I loved as a kid that I think they might enjoy), but I never think of writing them a little note! Resolved: Inscribe future books to niece and nephew (and my own children)!

                        • At 2011.08.14 10:51, Dishy said:

                          LOVE this idea Nat. I gave my sister & brother in law an inscribed book for their wedding last year – and have received others. Much, much better than a card in my book (pun intended!)

                          • At 2011.08.15 23:00, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

                            I LOVE this idea! Shocking right? I wish I had more inscribed books on my shelves. Surprisingly enough, my step-dad is a huge book giver and he always inscribes them.

                            • At 2011.08.17 23:47, stacybuckeye said:

                              I love this idea! I might use it for my little guy’s first birthday party in October.

                              • At 2011.08.21 16:38, Jennifer said:

                                I frequently get and give books as gifts but inscriptions are not something that I have ever done. I have received maybe one or two inscribed books in my lifetime. After reading this post though, I am going to start making it my norm. I love the idea (especially for the baby shower) of having these wonderful inscriptions to remember the personal history that a particular book has for you. Wonderful post!

                                • At 2011.08.25 18:13, g said:

                                  my favorite inscriptions are from you nat! we ready go dog go to jack all the time, and i can’t wait until i can explain to him what the inscription on the front is all about – from his aunt nat!

                                  (Required, will not be published)

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