THE SIMPLE GUIDE TO MLA BOOK CITATIONS 

This page details everything you need to know about how to construct an MLA citation for a book. It has been compiled by experts, and the information comes from the most up-to-date version of the MLA Handbook (8th Edition).

THE TWO PARTS OF A CITATION

There are two parts to any citation. The first part appears in the main body of your text, and the second part appears in a “Works Cited” list at the end of your document.

IN-TEXT CITATIONS

There are two ways of citing a source in the main body of your text. You can include the name of the author in your text, followed by a page number in round brackets if necessary. Alternatively, you can group both the author and the page number in brackets together. For example:

Samuel Beckett begins Murphy on a characteristically nihilistic note: “The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new” (3).

Alternatively:

The irony of the novel’s opening line is that it provides a new twist on the old cliché that there is “nothing new” under the sun (Beckett 3).

WORKS CITED LIST

At the end of your paper, you should include a list of Works Cited. This should contain all the information necessary for your reader to locate your sources. The basic layout is as follows:

Author Surname, Author First Name and/or Initial(s). Title. Version if not the first, Publisher, Publication Date, doi: or URL if applicable.

So, the entry in the Works Cited list for the above novel by Beckett would be:

Beckett, Samuel. Murphy. Faber and Faber, 2009.

Note that, since this is the first edition of a text in print, it does not include a version number, a DOI, or a URL. 

DIFFERENT KINDS OF SOURCES

The layout above is the basic example for a single-author work. However, there are many different kinds of sources that you may need to cite. The following is a list of all the major types of book that you might come across.

WORKS WITH TWO AUTHORS

Some books, particularly textbooks, have co-authors. To generate an MLA citation for a textbook with two authors, include both their surnames in your text and in your Works Cited list. In the Works Cited list, only the names of the first author are inverted. The second author’s names should appear in their natural order. For example:

Shapin and Schaffer trace the “intersection between the history of natural philosophy and the history of political thought” (21).

Shapin, Steven, and Simon Schaffer. Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life. Princeton UP, 2011. 

WORKS WITH THREE OR MORE AUTHORS

If a work has three or more authors, include the first author’s name followed by “et al.” (which means “and the rest”) in both your in-text and your bibliographic citations.

Jenkins et al. propose the term “spreadable media” to describe media circulation (3).

Jenkins, Henry, et al. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York UP, 2013.

WORKS WITH NO AUTHOR

Works that don’t have an author can be cited using their title, like so:

The eponymous knight in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight carries a “dreadful axe” (line 202).  

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Translated by Keith Harrison, Oxford UP, 1998.

WORKS WITH EDITORS INSTEAD OF AUTHORS

If a book has editors rather than authors, simply use the editors’ names in your text and include a note in your Works Cited list that highlights the fact that it was compiled by editors. 

Scholars have argued that loss and mourning can be positive and creative, rather than simply negative (Eng and Kazanjian).

Eng, David L., and David Kazanjian, editors. Loss: The Politics of Mourning. U of California P, 2003.

CHAPTER IN AN EDITED COLLECTION

When citing a specific chapter in an edited collection, cite the chapter author’s name in your text. Your Works Cited list should then include the chapter title and the title of the collection, followed by page numbers for the chapter.

Poststructuralist theory demanded a “rethinking of time” in relation to language (Maclachlan 136). 

Maclachlan, Ian. “Temporalities of Writing: Time and Difference after Structuralism.” Time and Literature, edited by Thomas W. Allen, Cambridge UP, 2018, pp. 134-149.

OTHER LANGUAGES

When citing texts in other languages, follow the style preferences for capitalization that are used in the original language. If you’re unsure whether your readers will understand the title of a non-English-language work, include a translation as well. This is written in round brackets in the text and in square brackets in your Works Cited list. 

The world of Combray is first introduced in Du côté de chez Swann (The Way by Swann’s).

Proust, Marcel. Du côté de chez Swann [The Way by Swann’s]. Paris, Gallimard, 1988.

Note also that, as the above example is for a foreign-language work published outside of England or the United States, the city of publication is included prior to the publisher’s name in the Works Cited list. This helps your reader to locate the source more easily.

PREVIOUS PUBLICATION DATES

If an older work has been republished many times, you may wish to include the original publication date in your Works Cited list, like so:

Baudry, Leo, and Marshall Cohen, editors. Film Theory and Criticism. 1974. 8th ed., Oxford UP, 2016.

MULTIPLE VOLUMES

Citing books in multiple volumes can be slightly complicated. If you cite material from one volume, then you only need to specify that particular volume in your Works Cited list. There’s no need to include the volume number in your text:

Marx notes that the value of a commodity depends on the “socially necessary labour time” required to produce it (129).

Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Translated by Ben Fowkes, vol. 1, Penguin, 1976.

If you cite more than one volume in your paper, include the volume and the page number in your text, separated by a colon. Don’t include the words “volume,” or “page,” or any abbreviations. You should then include the total number of volumes in your Works Cited list, like so:

Beckett corresponded several times with the British director Peter Hall, sending him some “depressingly inadequate” notes for a production of Waiting for Godot in 1955 and some advice on reviving Krapp’s Last Tape in 1964 (2: 575; 3: 632).

The Letters of Samuel Beckett. Edited by George Craig et al., Cambridge UP, 2009-2016. 4 vols.

ELECTRONIC COPIES OF BOOKS, DIGITAL BOOKS, AND E-BOOKS 

Citing a digital book is very similar to citing a print book. You just have to note that the source is a digital edition and record its location in your bibliographic citation, like so:

Modern technologies are currently revolutionizing global espionage (Lucas).

Lucas, Edward. Spycraft Rebooted: How Technology is Changing Espionage. Kindle ed., Amazon Publishing, 2018. 

Note that the MLA uses the term “e-book” to refer to publications that are specifically formatted for reading on an e-reader (such as a Kindle). These e-books will not have URLs or DOIs. If you are citing book content from an ordinary webpage with a URL, please see our guide on citing websites.

WORKS CITED

Baudry, Leo, and Marshall Cohen, editors. Film Theory and Criticism. 1974. 8th ed., Oxford UP, 2016.

Beckett, Samuel. Murphy. Faber and Faber, 2009.

–––. The Letters of Samuel Beckett. Edited by George Craig et al., Cambridge UP, 2009-2016. 4 vols.

Eng, David L., and David Kazanjian, editors. Loss: The Politics of Mourning. U of California P, 2003.

Jenkins, Henry, et al. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York UP, 2013.

Lucas, Edward. Spycraft Rebooted: How Technology is Changing Espionage. Kindle ed., Amazon Publishing, 2018. 

Maclachlan, Ian. “Temporalities of Writing: Time and Difference after Structuralism.” Time and Literature, edited by Thomas W. Allen, Cambridge UP, 2018, pp. 134-149.

Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Translated by Ben Fowkes, vol. 1, Penguin, 1976.

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

Proust, Marcel. Du côté de chez Swann [The Way by Swann’s]. Paris, Gallimard, 1988.

Shapin, Steven, and Simon Schaffer. Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life. Princeton UP, 2011. 

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Translated by Keith Harrison, Oxford UP, 1998.

Tomas Elliott (MA)

Tomas Elliott is completing a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught academic writing, research methodologies, and citation practices.