You might skip past the dedication in a book, ready to dig into the good stuff. But don’t forget there’s often writing worthy of your attention before the story even begins—and here’s your proof! The best dedications ever written:
Haroun And The Sea Of Stories, by Salman Rushdie
Zembla, Zenda, Xanadu:
All our dream-worlds may come true.
Fairy lands are fearsome too.
As I wander far from view
Read, and bring me home to you.
(This is when Rushdie was in hiding, and note the acrostic—ZAFAR is his son.)
The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint Exupery
To Leon Werth
I ask the indulgence of the children who may read this book for dedicating it to a grown-up. I have a serious reason: he is the best friend I have in the world. I have another reason: this grown-up understands everything, even books about children. I have a third reason: he lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs cheering up. If all these reasons are not enough, I will dedicate the book to the child from whom this grown-up grew. All grown-ups were once children—although few of them remember it. And so I correct my dedication:
To Leon Werth, When he was a little boy
The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
To Lucy Barfield
My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand, a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather,
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?”
I asked you what you wanted, and you said, “A box.”
“To put things in.”
“What kind of things?”
“Whatever you have,” you said.
Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts- the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.
And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.
And still the box is not full.
Heart of a Goof, by P.G. Wodehouse
To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.
A Series of Unfortunate Events (books 1–13), by Lemony Snicket
(Lemony Snicket writes to Beatrice, a woman whom he loved and was engaged to until she broke off the marriage and died soon after.)
darling, dearest, dead.
(The Bad Beginning: Book The First)
My love for you shall live forever.
You, however, did not.
(The Reptile Room: Book The Second)
I would much prefer it if you were alive and well.
(The Wide Window: Book The Third)
My love flew like a butterfly
Until death swooped down like a bat
As the poet Emma Montana McElroy said:
“That’s the end of that.”
(The Miserable Mill: Book The Fourth)
You will always be in my heart,
In my mind,
And in your grave.
(The Austere Academy: Book The Fifth)
When we met my life began,
Soon afterward, yours ended.
(The Ersatz Elevator: Book The Sixth)
When we were together I felt breathless.
Now you are.
(The Vile Village: Book The Seventh)
Summer without you is as cold as winter.
Winter without you is even colder.
(The Hostile Hospital: Book The Eighth)
Our love broke my heart,
and stopped yours.
(The Carnivorous Carnival: Book The Ninth)
When we first met, you were pretty, and I was lonely.
Now I am pretty lonely.
(The Slippery Slope: Book The Tenth)
Dead women tell no tales.
Sad men write them down.
(The Grim Grotto: Book The Eleventh)
No one could extinguish my love,
or your house.
(The Penultimate Peril: Book The Twelfth)
I cherished, you perished.
The world’s been nightmarished.
(The End: Book The Thirteenth)
Wild Fire, by Nelson Demille
“…There is a new trend among authors to thank every famous people for inspiration, non-existent assistance, and/or some casual reference to the author’s work. Authors do this to pump themselves up. So, on the off chance that this is helpful, I wish to thank the following people: the Emperor of Japan and the Queen of England for promoting literacy; William S. Cohen, former secretary of defense, for dropping me a note saying he liked my books, as did his boss, Bill Clinton; Bruce Willis, who called me one day and said, “Hey, you’re a good writer”; Albert Einstein, who inspired me to write about nuclear weapons; General George Armstrong Custer, whose brashness at the Little Bighorn taught me a lesson on judgement; Mikhail Gorbachev, whose courageous actions indirectly led to my books being translated into Russian; Don DeLillo and Joan Didion, whose books are always before and after mine on bookshelves, and whose names always appear before and after mine in almanacs and many lists of American writers—thanks for being there, guys; Julius Caesar, for showing the world that illiterate barbarians can be beaten; Paris Hilton, whose family hotel chain carries my books in their gift shops; and last but not least, Albert II, King of the Belgians, who once waved to me in Brussels as the Royal Procession moved from the Palace to the Parliament Building, screwing up traffic for half an hour, thereby forcing me to kill time by thinking of a great plot to dethrone the King of the Belgians.
There are many more people I could thank, but time, space, and modesty compel me to stop here.”
Cosmos, by Carl Sagan
“In the vastness of space and immensity of time, it is my joy to spend a planet and an epoch with Annie.”
Franny & Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
“As nearly as possible in the spirit of Matthew Salinger, age one, urging a luncheon companion to accept a cool lima bean, I urge my editor, mentor and (heaven help him) closest friend, William Shawn, genius domus of The New Yorker, lover of the long shot, protector of the unprolific, defender of the hopelessly flamboyant, most unreasonably modest of born great artist-editors to accept this pretty skimpy-looking book.”
Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman
You know how it is. You pick up a book, flip to the dedication, and find that, once again, the author has dedicated a book to someone else and not to you.
Not this time.
Because we haven’t yet met/have only a glancing acquaintance/are just crazy about each other/haven’t seen each other in much too long/are in some way related/will never meet, but will, I trust, despite that, always think fondly of each other!
This one’s for you.
With you know what, and you probably know why.
Visions of Cody, by Jack Kerouac
Dedicated to America, whatever that is.
The Secret Adverary, by Agatha Christie
To all those who lead monotonous lives, in the hope that they may experience at second hand the delights and dangers of adventure.
What great dedications did we forget?