Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


A RENEWAL notice from London Review of Books told a good story: “George Bernard Shaw once saw a copy of one of his books in a secondhand bookshop. When he turned to the flyleaf, he found the name of a friend, inscribed in his own handwriting: ‘To ____ with esteem, George Bernard Shaw.’ Shaw bought the book and returned it to the friend with a new inscription: ‘With renewed esteem, George Bernard Shaw.’ ”

George Bernard Shaw, 1856–1950, Irish playwright, critic, polemist, and wit. He insisted being known as Bernard Shaw.

This Bernard Shaw story got me thinking about other inscriptions and dedications, some by authors, others by someone gifting the book to another. Here are favorites:

The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories Book 1), by Chris Colfer, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Chris Colfer dedicated his book The Wishing Spell “To Grandma, for being my first editor and giving me the best writing advice I’ve ever received: ‘Christopher, I think you should wait until you’re done with elementary school before worrying about being a failed writer.’ ”

This Boy’s Life: A Memoir, by Tobias Wolff, Grove Press, 2000.

In his dedication in This Boy’s Life: A Memoir, Tobias Wolff wrote, “My first stepfather used to say that what I didn’t know would fill a book. Well, here it is.”

Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn, Broadway Books, 2010.

I love the sentiment expressed by Dark Places author Gillian Flynn in her dedication: “What can I say about a man who knows how I think and still sleeps next to me with the lights off?”

I have some signed editions, a few from people I’ve even actually met. My copy of The Cobra Story is inscribed “From Your Racing Friend, Carroll Shelby.” Indeed, this book signing in the mid-1960s was my second Shelby encounter.

I probably mentioned to him at the time that I remembered him from Giants Despair Hillclimb in 1956. Years later, when I got to know Ol’ Shel’ through R&T, we joked about how long we’d known each other, sort of….

I have a signed edition of the cookbook from Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House in Savannah, Georgia. Before each meal, the late Mrs. Wilkes would ask patrons at this family-style restaurant to join hands for a brief prayer of thanks. When I bought the cookbook, Mrs. Wilkes asked me, “Who’s the boss?”

Rattled for a second, I realized she wanted my wife’s name too.

One of the most telling inscriptions I ever read in a secondhand shop was in a book so recent that it was still on the Best Sellers’ list. The inscription read, “To the man who never loved me enough to give me his name.”

Ouch. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2017


  1. Bruce Troxell
    July 12, 2017

    I too have a copy of “the Cobra Story” autographed by Carroll Shelby who assured me that he was “Your Racing Friend”. I guess Shelby had a lot of friends.

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