How to Write a Book Title in an Essay Using Various Citation Styles

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How to Write a Book Title in an Essay

Essays get graded based on a variety of parameters. While it’s true that the quality of research, clarity of thoughts, and argumentation all play a huge role in the final grade, observing the correct citation rules is no less important. Unfortunately, citation rules are what most students overlook, and they pay an expected price for their negligence in terms of grades.

Today, we’ll talk about writing a book title in an essay, in particular, how to cite a book title using APA, MLA, and Chicago referencing styles. 

Understanding the Fundamentals: What is a Book Title?

There seems to be nothing simpler than a book title. To a large extent, this is true. However, one thing is to mention a book title in a conversation or a casual message to your friends, while it is totally another thing to cite a book title in an academic paper correctly.

If you need to insert a book title in a paper, you have to abide by certain citation rules. Skip or drop them, and you stand a big chance of being downgraded by a picky teacher in school or a professor in college.

The trick here is to follow the required citation style. In academic settings, the most frequently used citation rule books are MLA, APA, and Chicago styles. 

Let’s see what each of these styles says about book titles.  

How to Write a Book Title in MLA Style

The MLA referencing style is an acronym for Modern Language Association. As the name suggests, it is a modern style, and it is a go-to citation style for most US schools and universities. It is commonly applied in the fields of arts and humanities, in particular, in cultural, literature, and language studies. 

The rule of thumb for citing a book title in essay MLA style is to italicize it (with all major words capitalized). For example:

In his notorious book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Israel psychologist Daniel Kahneman emphasizes the competitive advantage of fast-paced thinking in the business world. 

For direct in-text citations, MLA style stipulates using the so-called author-page format, where the surname and name of the author and the book’s page number are mentioned. For example, (John Smith 112). Pay attention that no commas or other punctuation marks are used to separate the source information.

Italicizing a book title is also the main rule for bibliography lists. In MLA style, this end chapter is called “Works Cited”.

Also, MLA style is very strict about including page numbers for direct quotations, and the same goes for the author’s full name: both first and second names must be mentioned.

How to Write a Book Title in an Essay APA Style

The American Psychological Association (APA) style first saw the light of day in 1929 (compared to the MLA style, which was only released in 1951). The APA style is more common for fields like education, business, psychology, and social sciences in general.

As simple as it may seem, a book title in essay APA style should also be italicized. For example:

One may often read that in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein, socialism gets the upper hand over capitalism.

However, that’s where the similarities with MLA style end. For in-text citations, for example, APA style stipulates using the author-year format, where it is enough to use only the author’s second name. For example, (Smith, 2019, p. 87). Pay attention that the page number comes along and all the information present is split by commas.

In the case of the APA style, the end of the essay referencing list is commonly referred to as “References”, and it includes all the cited sources, whether quoted directly or indirectly.  

Writing a Book Title in an Essay: CHICAGO Style

The Chicago referencing style was first published in 1906 by the University of Chicago. Even though the date coincides with the gangster period in Chicago history, the style has nothing to do with that. Jokes apart, this style is most commonly used in scientific publications and a wide range of academic, social, and political disciplines. 

So, if you are about to publish your essay in a magazine or elsewhere, you should know a few simple rules about citing a book title in Chicago style.

The title of the book in Chicago style can be both italicized and underlined, depending on your preferences and the requirements of your publishing agency/house. For instance:

John Maynard Keynes, a British economist, in his The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, explores the types of employment and compares their advantages. 

Note that all major words in the title are capitalized. Also, if you plan to combine a book title in your essay with an in-text citation, you should know that the Chicago style, in addition to the author-date rule, also utilizes the so-called notes and bibliography rule. The latter allows for book titles to be placed in footnotes and endnotes, besides the standard bibliography list.  

Writing Various Types of Titles: Let’s Sum Up

For convenience, all the above-mentioned rules for citing a book title in an essay using the three popular styles are summarized for you in a handy table: 


MLA Style APA Style

Chicago Style

Book title formatting Italicized with major words capitalized Italicized Italicized or underlined
In-text citation (Author Page) (Author, Year, Page) (Author Page) or Footnote
Author’s name in-text Full name Last name only Full name or Last name depending on the context
Page numbers Usually required for direct quotations Required for direct quotations without page numbers Usually required for direct quotations


As you can see, there are only a handful of rules regulating how to add a book title to an essay. Unless otherwise specified by your instructor or academic institution, your choice will be between the three major citation styles: MLA, APA, and Chicago. Among these, the MLA style is the most widely used in academic environments like high school or college. It stipulates italicizing book titles with all major words capitalized. For instances when you want to use an in-text direct citation, you should follow the simple author-page format, where an author’s full name is followed by a page number without commas or any other punctuation marks.