How to Cite a Book in MLA Format

how to cite book mla format
  • Published Date: March 8, 2018

As a student, one of the things you’ll definitely want to know is how to cite a book in MLA format.  Why?  Simple:  over the course of your research, you’re bound to use some books to help support the claims and arguments you develop.  That means you need to reference them appropriately.  And one of the most common citation styles used is the MLA style.  MLA is short for Modern Language Association.  We’ve presented other tutorials on how to use MLA when citing YouTube videos or when formatting an essay.  In this tutorial, we’ll take a brief look at how to cite a book in MLA format.


The MLA is always updating its citation style guidelines.  For this tutorial, we are using the latest edition of these guidelines—MLA, 8th Edition.

A few changes were made between this most recent edition and the previous one, so let’s quickly review them:

  • First—no more periods between Publisher, Publication Date and Page Number when providing the reference on the Works Cited page. Now, MLA recommends just using a comma to separate these items.
  • Second—it is no longer necessary to state the medium of the work—whether it is print, video, online, etc.
  • Third—MLA recommends using DOIs when they are available instead of URLs—but this only applies to journal publications accessed online (so it’s not an issue for us here).

Now let’s take a look at how to cite a book using MLA.

In-Text Citations

One Author

For in-text citations within the essay itself, the method is simple.  If you directly quote an author, put the author’s last name in parentheses along with the page number—like so:  (Miller 93).  If no direct quote is used, there is no need for a page number—just give the author’s last name:  (Miller).  If you state the name of the author in the sentence and are not using a direct quote, you’re good—no need to do anything more.

So for example, let’s say you write:

According to Miller, the problem with the narrative is that it is lacking in tension:  there is no real conflict to drive the action.

The author’s last name is already provided—and you need not add any further in-text citation material since you did not use a direct quote.  But let’s see what you would do if you were using a direct quote:

According to Miller, the problem with the narrative is that it is lacking in tension:  “conflict is all but missing throughout the story, and this causes it to lose all real punch” (93).

The author’s name is given—but because you are directly quoting the author, a page number is needed, and it goes in parentheses at the end of the quote.  How about if you don’t mention the author’s name?

The problem with the narrative is that it is lacking in tension:  “conflict is all but missing throughout the story, and this causes it to lose all reach punch” (Miller 93).

If not stated in the sentence, the author’s name goes in parentheses with the page number at the end of the quote.

Two or More Authors

What if you’re using a book that has two authors?  Good question.  The same formula applies, but it would look like this:  (Perry and Michaels 48).

For a book with three or more authors, use this format:  (Dudley et al. 29).

Authors with the Same Last Name

When citing different books by authors who share a last name, include the first initial of the author in the parenthetical citation:  (S. Murray 71).  That will allow your reader to distinguish the one from the other and find the relevant source on the Works Cited page at the end of the paper.

If you are citing multiple books by the same author within your paper, you will want to include the title of the book in your in-text citation so as to make it apparent which work is being cited:  (Wright, Too Many Doves 194).

Now let’s take a look at how you would cite these sources at the end of your essay.

Works Cited Page

The reference page in an MLA style document is known as the Works Cited page.  When referencing the book that you’ve used, the basic format is this:

Last Name, First Name.  Title of the Book.  Publisher, Publication Date.

Work Cited Examples

1 Author: 

Miller, James.  Notes on the Works of J. Fitzgerald.  Penguin, 1992.

2 Authors:

Ramirez, Joseph, and Jennifer Smith.  Plagues of Ancient Egypt.  Twilight Press, 2008.

3 or More Authors:

Zwyckoff, Gloria, et al.  Never Minding the Never Ending Noise:  How to Listen Effectively.  Horizon, 2010.

2 or More Books by the Same Author:

Provide the name of the author for the first book used.  Then use dashes to indicate that the next book is also by the same author:

Gitties, Harold.  Good Morning Memories.  St. Cloud, 2017.

—.  How High Can the Swallow Fly?  St. Cloud, 2012.

A Book That is Translated

Sometimes you’ll use books that have been translated from the original.  In those cases, list them on the Works Cited page like this:

Phillipe, August.  Market Mania:  A History of Economic Policies in France.  Translated by Gregory Hines, Random House, 2001.

A Republished Book

In many cases, you’ll be using a new edition of a book that was originally published years earlier.  In those instances, list the reference like this, with the original date of publication placed between the Title and the Publisher:

McGraw, Hillary. Politics of Gender.  1975.  Random House, 2015.

A Later Edition

Sometimes books are re-published or updated in a new edition.  In these cases, add the edition at the end of the title, like this:

Martins, Christopher.  Tabulations in Calculus.  5th ed., Napoleon Press, 2008.

A Book Prepared by an Editor

If it’s a book with an author and an editor, place the editor’s name after the tile, like this:

Shakespeare, William.  Hamlet.  Edited by Patrick O’Neal, Nottingham UP, 2004.

A Collection of Essays

When you are citing a book that is an anthology or collection of essays, list the names of the editor(s).  Like this:

Lee, Charlotte, and Anthony Hamilton, editors.  Rethinking Thomas Wolfe.  University of Chicago Press, 2013.

A Work in an Anthology

Sometimes you’ll just want to reference an author of a specific essay or chapter in a book, collection of essays or anthology.  In that case, reference the source by naming the title of the essay or chapter within the overall publication, like this:

Last Name, First Name.  “Title of Essay.”  Title of Book, edited by Editor’s Name, Publisher, Year of Publication, Page Number Range of the Specific Essay.

Here’s an example:

Gabbard, Sandra.  “Experiences in Film:  A Decade of Cinema in Mumbai.”  Movies from Around the World, edited by Harriet Bartocolos, Spinning Pine, 2009, pp. 47-68.

This same method can be used when you are citing a poem or short story from an anthology.

If you are using multiple chapters or essays or poems or short stories from one work, you can follow MLA’s recommendation that you cross-reference these works by including one reference for the entire collection or book and then individual references for the individual essays or poems.

For example, here would be your reference for the collection:

Byrne, Theodore, and Michael Flynn, editors.  The Post-Mortem Review of Post-Modernist Poetry.  Gallery, 2010.

And here’s how you would reference the individual poems within that collection, once you have already referenced the collection as a whole.  Note that all you have to do is state the author’s name, the title of the poem, the editors’ names, and the page numbers—the rest has already be given in the main reference!

Gladspeak, Tom.  “Nothing Sits Atop This Totem Pole Now.”  Byrne and Flynn, pp. 18-19.

Korver, Gavin.  “Echoes in My Chimney:  Don’t Talk Back to Me!”  Byrne and Flynn, p.92.


Now that you’re writing essays, you’ll definitely need to know how to cite a book in MLA.  So just use this tutorial as a helpful guide—but always remember that MLA can update its guidelines from time to time so stay abreast of new publications from the Modern Language Association.

Some things to remember:  When you have a good book that you want to use as a reference, the first thing to do is to make a note of the necessary information.  Jot it down so that you don’t lose it and keep it handy for when you need to put in your references on the Works Cited page.

And, as always, if you’d like some help developing your essay, our writers are standing by to supply you with an original model essay based precisely on the parameters and set of detailed instructions that you give us.

After all, model essays give students like you a clear sense of how to develop a thesis, follow through with a theme, or pull all the research together into a coherent paper.  If you’d like to know more about the writing and editing services that we provide, check out our Essay Writing Service page.

Till next time, happy referencing!

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Cite This Resource:

Latest APA Format (6th edition)

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How to Cite a Book in MLA Format. (2018, March 8). Retrieved from

Latest MLA Format (8th edition)

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"How to Cite a Book in MLA Format." Student Network Resources Inc, 8 March. 2018. Web. 27 November 2022.

Latest Chicago Format (16th edition)

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Student Network Resources Inc. "How to Cite a Book in MLA Format." (accessed November 27, 2022).


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