Show and Tell: Our Favorite Autographed Books

Autographed books are sort of a weird thing, if you think about it. It’s not like a book doesn’t already have the author’s name all over it. Do you really need to have it on there one more time?

To me, the point of an autograph is the connection that it represents: the signature in the front of your book that says “yes, I met this person and they were at least briefly aware of my name!” That, and the story you get to tell about how you got that signature.

Autographed Handmaid's Tale and Ella Enchanted

My favorite author autographs are my signed copies of Ella Enchanted and The Handmaid’s Tale. The first one fell into my lap: my mom met Gail Carson Levine at a conference and asked her to sign a book for me. Thanks, Mom!

As for the Handmaid’s Tale: I helped organize the Kenyon Review‘s first literary festival and Margaret Atwood was the honoree that year. In the interest of crowd control, we instituted a restriction on book signings: one book per person, and only during the designated signing time. That didn’t work for me, so I ignored it. I sidled up to Ms. Atwood between events and we had the following glorious interaction:

Me: “Um…”
Margaret Atwood: *piercing stare* “What?”
Me: “I know we’re supposed to have books signed only at the talk tonight but I was really hoping to have one for my mom too so maybe you would please sign another one for me please? It’s for Christmas! I’m sorry.”
Margaret Atwood: *expectant pause* “Do you have a pen?”

Success!

Several of my fellow Rioters were kind enough to submit their own favorite autographed books for this post. Thank you, Alison, Rachel, and Rachel! Let’s take a look:

Autographed Paradise, Toni Morrison

Alison Peters: It was a dark and stormy Saturday. After the reading, we were allowed to ask the author one question as she signed our books. I was bold: “Why don’t you consider teaching at U.C. Berkeley?” I demanded/whined. Her answer was as stately and refined as the woman herself: “Because,” Ms. Morrison said, with an implied sniff in her tone, “I have not been asked.” And hence began my quest to pester the faculty of the U.C. Berkeley English department to hire Toni Morrison. I failed, but I got an autographed book and a story for my efforts.

woodrell deer autograph

Rachel Smalter Hall: One year ago in September, my library played host to the phenomenal Daniel Woodrell and his wife, author Katie Estill. It was the end of a long, awesome month of Winter’s Bone-themed events for our “Read Across Lawrence” community read.

Oh, what’s that?  You can’t quite make out what it says? “To Rachel, Great to meet and eat deer together in Lawrence. Dl Woodrell.”  This copy of Tomato Red is staying in my personal library FOREVER.

Sedaris, Yevtushenko, Ondaatje

Rachel S. Cordasco:

Sedaris gave a reading at my college, and when I asked him for his autograph, he said, “What’s your name again? Rachel? Oh yes, great to see you again.” I said, “Um, this is the first time we’ve met…” and he said, “No, no, we’ve met before.” Thus the inscription. Whatever!

I saw Yevtushenko give a reading when I was in high school. When I asked him to sign my book, my mom said, “Rachel is a poet, too!”. I was about to sink through the floor when Yevtushenko smiled and wrote this lovely message: “To Rachel, to my sister-poet, will [with] all my heart.”

When Michael Ondaatje read at my college, most of the audience had taken a class on Anil’s Ghost. I brought the only novel of his I had read: The English Patient. When Ondaatje got to the part of his talk when he wanted to read from the latter novel, he found that he had forgotten it. He called out to the audience, “does anyone happen to have The English Patient with them?” I nearly flung myself onto the stage in my haste to lend him my book. He very nicely wrote the following note: “To Rachel, who lent me a book.”

What’s your favorite author autograph, readers? How did you get it? We’d love to see photos and hear your stories: leave us a comment or tweet the photos at us!

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