Posted on Apr 05, 2023
30 Great Book Dedication Examples to Inspire Your Own
A book dedication is a note in the front matter that expresses the author's gratitude to someone who may have supported or inspired them. They're often unremarkable ("To mother") but hidden in the first pages of many books are flashes of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it brilliance.
Knowing that readers won't always see the dedication pages, authors will sometimes sneak in little secrets or jokes aimed at their friends, colleagues, or critics. Sometimes, this may be the only part of the book where the writer will let their true personality shine through. Let's look at some book dedication examples to appreciate the variety of approaches writers take.
1. EE Cummings’s “no thanks” to publishers
The dedication to EE Cummings’ 1935 poetry collection No Thanks is, in fact, an anti-dedication:
After being rejected by 14 different publishers, Cummings eventually self-published the collection with the help of his mother — but couldn’t resist a jab in the dedication of the volume.
💡EE Cummings is far from the only writer to benefit from self-publishing. Check out these self-publishing success stories for more inspiration!
2. Derek Landy’s note to his editor
In the dedication to his fifth book in his kid’s fantasy series, Mortal Coil, author Derek Landy leaves a tongue-in-cheek note for his long standing book editor, Nick Lake:
This book is dedicated, with great reluctance, to my editor, Nick Lake, because he is forcing me to.
Personally, I would have liked to include Gillie Russell and Michael Stearns who, along with Nick, really welcomed me into the publishing world with my first book.
Unfortunately, because Nick is now my sole editor, he has threatened to edit this dedication down to an unrecognisable mess of blacked-out lines, and so as a result this dedication is to him, and him alone.
Personally I think that this shows a staggering amount of █████ and █████, which proves that Nick is nothing but a █████ ████ ██████ with █████ for ████, but hey, that's just my personal opinion.
Here, Nick. You finally get a book dedicated to you. Hope you're █████ happy.
(Editor's note: Nick Lake is a great guy.)
The Skulduggery Pleasant author does a great line of iconic dedications (you’ll spot more than one in this list).
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3. Kiera Cass’ note to Dad
From Kiera Cass' young adult novel The Selection:
It’s traditional to thank parents and loved ones with your dedication, and author Cass keeps the dedication to her debut short and very, very sweet.
4. Jennifer Armintrout’s attempt to make amends
This is the tongue-in-cheeck dedication to indie author Jennifer Armintrout's Veil of Shadows:
This book is dedicated to all the family members who were angry that I dedicated the last book to someone who won the dedication in a Twitter contest.
Armintrout made a smart marketing move by using a contest to win her book’s dedication as a way to build her author platform — much to the chagrin of her family. Luckily, she made it up to them in the long run.
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5. Shannon Hale’s celebrity shoutout
Many authors thank celebrities that they’ve found inspirational in the dedication of their book. Austenland author Shannon Hale takes a slightly different approach:
It’s worth a shot, right?
6. Tom Crewe’s fulfillment of a promise
In the historical fiction novel The New Life, Tom Crewe leaves a cryptic note to a departed friend:
For John and Deborah, my parents.
And for Angela Baker (1942-2013), in fulfilment of a promise.
He explains the touching story in the book’s acknowledgements: “My school English teacher, Angela Baker, saw something in me that I was too young to see for myself. When she retired (I was twelve), I gave her a letter promising that if I ever wrote a book, I would dedicate it to her. I so wish she could have seen it.”
7. Kendare Blake’s school visit
Many authors take up speaking engagements at schools to spread the word about their work — and inspire the next generation of writers. In the dedication to Mortal Gods, Kendare Blake mentions one particular school, and one particularly plucky student:
For the students of Lyons Township High School in Illinois. Because that kid in the back row asked.
The definition of “don’t ask, don’t get.”
She actually gives another shoutout in book 3 of the same series, Ungodly:
To Athena and Izzy, the two coolest teens at the Centralia Library.
If you’re a children’s or YA author, heading into schools and libraries and getting to know your young readers is one of the best things you can do to market your children’s book. Even better if you’re generous enough to dedicate a book to your new friends!
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8. Derek Landy’s rivalry with his cover artist
Another entry from Derek Landy, and another dedication from the Skulduggery Pleasant series (this time The End of the World):
This book is dedicated to cover artist extraordinaire, Tom Percival.
For most people, the cover is the reason they pick up a book in the first place. The amount of correspondence I get proves this, as people go on and on about how the cover caught their eye, made them want to read about a skeleton detective, how the covers are the best things ever, how the covers blah blah blah...
I think it's a generally agreed upon fact that I could draw the covers if I really wanted to. I have the raw talent, I have the eye, and I have one year of art college under my belt.
And I think Tom knows this, which is why he pushes himself to excel each and every time, why he pushes himself to make these books stand out from the others on the shelf. The threat I pose is important. The threat I pose is a good motivator.
Keep pushing yourself, Tom. My time is coming.
P.S. You're welcome.
This time, Derek takes aim at his book cover artist Tom Percival. Sure, the covers he produced for Skulduggery were iconic — but are his hard-earned skills any match for delusion?
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9. Douglas Adams’ feedback from Mom
From the introduction to Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency:
to my mother, who liked the bit about the horse.
Sometimes, your beta readers can give you invaluable feedback on your manuscript, and can cut through to the core of your story. Sometimes, they just like the bit with the horse.
10. Peter T. Leeson’s proposal
Who knew a nonfiction book could teach us so much about romance? Academic Peter T. Leeson took the opportunity to use the dedication to his tome The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates to ask one very important question:
Let’s hope Ania didn’t skip ahead!
11. Sean Danker’s catch-all dedication
Another short and sweet dedication, this time from Sean Danker’s Enjoying Admiral:
For everyone who only hears from me when I need something.
This is a lesson that a book dedication can be a great, low-effort way to return a favor.
12. Juan Goytislo’s powerful statement
Spanish author Juan Goytislo's dedication to the novel Makbara is a thought-provoking one:
To those who inspired it and will not read it.
There are times when an interaction or individual will leave a profound impact on us, but this feeling isn’t necessarily reciprocated, and Goytislo sums this up perfectly.
13. Charles Bukowski’s disclaimer
From Bukowski's debut novel:
This is presented as a work of fiction and dedicated to nobody.
Post Office is widely acknowledged to be a work of autofiction, and is in effect a memoir of Bukowski’s own time working as a mail carrier. But — perhaps due to its lead’s less-than-flattering portrayal — Bukowski took the opportunity in the book’s front matter to deny the story was his own, leading to this iconic dedication.
14. Ben Philippe’s reflection on what could have been
The hilarious dedication to Ben Philippe’s The Field Guide to the North American Teenager went viral:
“If I ever wrote a book it was always going to be dedicated to my mom,” Philippe said.
Philippe explains that he wanted to write a humorous dedication to include the readers in the joke. “The rest of the blurb was honestly just something pithy because I tend to dislike first name dedications. They always feel like a private joke I’m intruding on as a reader. ‘To John’... ‘To Giselle’...I’m always left wondering if Giselle was a governess or a Parisian lover.”
15. Salman Rushdie’s cryptic acrostic
Salman Rushdie’s book of magical realist short stories, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, was written when he was in hiding. The dedication to the collection is hidden in plain sight:
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 acrostic poem spells out the name of his son, Zafar, who the book is dedicated to despite their separation. The cryptic nature of this book’s dedication also serves as a subtle prologue, introducing the theme of magic.
16. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's sweet message to a friend
From The Little Prince:
To Leon Worth.
I ask the forebearance of the children who may read this book for dedicating it to a grown-up.
My first and most serious reason is that he is the best friend I have in the world.
My second reason is that this grown-up understands everything, even books about children.
And my third reason is that he lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs cheering up.
If all these reasons and not enough, I will dedicated the book to the little bou from whom this grown-up grew. All grown-ups were children once — although few of them remember it.
And so I correct my dedication:
To Leon Worth when he was a little boy.
As the author points out, you’d expect the dedication to one of the most iconic children’s books of all time to be made out to a child in the author’s life. Instead, de Saint-Exupéry chooses to dedicate it to an adult — but not without an apology to the kids.
17. Lemony Snicket’s dedicated dedications
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books contain a series of heartbreaking dedications to Beatrice, a departed lover:
But before you reach for the tissues, don’t worry; Lemony is not just a pen name, but an entirely fictional creation of the real author, Daniel Handler — and dear Beatrice is fictional, too.
18. Nelson Demille’s star-studded role call
In his dedication to Wild Fire, thriller writer Nelson Demille takes a pot shot at other authors’ tendency to bring up celebrities in their dedications on thin pretext:
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.
Taking the namedropping cliché to the extreme, Demille’s dedication is a who’s who of famous figures, from Bruce Willis to Julius Caesar. Talk about a dream dinner party.
🤓 Can you name the literary device Nelson is using here? It’s hyperbole, the art of feigned exaggeration for comic effect.
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19. Agatha Christie’s call to vicarious thrillseekers
From The Secret Adversary:
A good dedication makes the receiver feel seen, and this dedication does a great job of calling out to its target; those of us who are seeking more from life, and turn to literature to find it.
If that sounds like Agatha’s talking to you, head over to our list of the best Agatha Christie books to choose your next read.
20. Gloria Steinem’s groundbreaking stand
In her memoir My Life on the Road, feminist author Gloria Steinem took the opportunity to thank an important figure in her life:
This book is dedicated to Dr. John Sharpe of London, who in 1957, a decade before physicians in England could legally perform an aborton for any reason other than the health of the woman, took the considerable risk of referring for an abortion a twenty-two-year-old American on her way to India.
Knowing only that she had broken an engagement at home to seek an unknown fate, he said, "You must promise me two things. First, you will not tell anyone my name. Second, you will do what you want to do with your life."
Dear Dr. Sharpe, I believe you, who knew the law was unjust, would not mind if I say this so long after your death:
I've done the best I could with my life.
This book is for you.
By making this disarmingly frank confession, Steinem makes a powerful statement about her own politics and the kindness of a stranger who allowed her to pursue the life she wanted without judgment.
21. Sean Carroll’s tribute to libraries
Sean Carroll’s dedication in The Particle at the End of the Universe:
To Mom, who took me to the library.
Libraries are different things to different people; a sanctuary to get work done, a free daycare, a convenient place to read “kittens for sale” notices. But for most people, especially young children, they’re the breeding ground for a lifelong love of words — something that’s clear from this dedication.
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22. George RR Martin’s thanks for a secret ingredient
Can you imagine A Song of Ice and Fire without the dragons? In another universe, that version exists — but thankfully, not this one. In the dedication to A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin thanks an old friend, Phyllis, for encouraging him to take a calculated risk with his worldbuilding; one that paid off.
who made me put the dragons in
If you’re a fan of George R.R. Martin’s work, perhaps you’ll want to read his later tribute to Phyllis Eisenstein, who sadly died of COVID-19 in 2020. It’s clear she did a lot more than add the dragons.
23. Hillis Lory’s note to his daughters
In the dedication of Japan’s Military Masters, Hillis Lory takes time to thank the people who matter the most — his children:
Dedicated to two distracting little daughters, Priscilla, four years old, and Nancy, age two, who were no help in writing this book.
While toddlers may not be the most helpful in writing a nonfiction book about the role of the military in Japanese life, they probably gave it their best effort. It’s the thought that counts.
24. Rick Riordan’s non-apology to readers
When in doubt, dedicate your book to your reader:
Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan dedicated The House of Hades, one of the books in his fantasy series, to his audience. But he couldn’t resist getting the last laugh again.
25. Fonda Lee’s dedication to fellow martial artists
Many authors draw inspiration from their real life, and Fonda Lee took a moment in the dedication for Jade War to thank the real people who inspired elements of her action-infused urban fantasy:
For the martial artists I've trained with and learned from
A classy touch, and one that lets the readers know she knows what she’s talking about!
26. Isabel Allende’s family tribute
The dedication to The House of the Spirits:
To my mother, my grandmother, and all the other extraordinary women of this story
This novel is a sprawling family saga, so it’s only fitting that the author took a moment to pay tribute to her own family in her book’s dedication — while also honoring her fictional creations in the same breath.
27. Paolo Cognetti’s message of gratitude
In the dedication for his coming-of-age tale about boyhood friendship, The Eight Mountains, Paolo Cognetti takes a moment to recognise the real-life friendship that inspired the tale:
This story is for the friend who inspired it, guiding me where there is no path.
And for the Faith and Luck that protected it from the start, with all my love.
A dedication can be a great place to find clues regarding whether a story draws on an author’s own experiences, as is clearly the case here.
28. Ruth Ozeki’s touching memorial
Telling the story of a 13-year old boy who has recently lost his father when he begins to hear voices, it’s no wonder that Ruth Ozeki chose to dedicate The Book of Form and Emptiness to her own late father:
For my dad, whose voice still guides me.
A beautiful example of a dedication that speaks to the story to come, and says a lot with very few words.
29. Terry Pratchett’s subtle jab
Revenge is best served in writing, as the dedication to Maskerade shows:
My thanks to the people who showed me that opera was stranger than I could imagine.
I can best repay their kindness by not mentioning their names here.
Pratchett takes a moment to ironically “thank” friends who opened his eyes to a new form of art — albeit those eyes were closed immediately thereafter.
30. F Scott Fitzgerald’s four iconic words
Despite their tempestuous relationship, F Scott Fitzgerald’s dedication to his wife Zelda in The Great Gatsby is as succinct as it is evocative:
Once again to Zelda
This dedication is almost as iconic as the novel that houses it. And we hope that, after reading these examples, you'll be inspired to write your own iconic dedication — or simply pay a little more attention to the next one you come across. You never know what you might find!