Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Which one is correct?

  1. I read the To Kill a Mockingbird book.
  2. I read the book To Kill a Mockingbird.

More complicated example:

  1. I think you should read the No Silver Bullet - Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering paper.
  2. I think you should read the paper No Silver Bullet - Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering.
share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The answer is based on the question before the edit, when Winnie-the-Pooh was the first example. But it does hold for the new example as well. are multiple books on Winnie the Pooh:

When We Were Very Young (1924) · Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) · Now We Are Six (1927) · The House at Pooh Corner (1928) · Return to the Hundred Acre Wood (2009)

from here.

I am now in a dilemma: there is a book with that exact title, and therefore I would prefer "I read the book Winnie-the-Pooh".

If the book is of great fame, I would only say "I read Winnie-the-Pooh, as people would know that it was a book.

But the majority of people would probably not be aware that there is a book of that exact title, but know that there are multiple books on Winnie the Pooh available.

The first form would emphasize on "you know, the one and only book about Winnie the Pooh". There might be several books (or papers), but one stands out. Like talking about the SQL paper would lead me back to the original SQL proposal by Edgar Frank Codd. Or the C++ book would certainly point to Bjarne Stroustrup's "The C++ Programming Language".

Therefore, if there is a reference paper on a subject, or the book is of great fame (maybe only within the audience you are talking to), I would use the first form. Otherwise I would use the second. I even would insert something like "called" or "titled" in the second form, but that just might be me.

For your second example I would also use the second form, as it pinpoints one definitively defined paper. And the title is so long that the short term memory is under stress parsing the sentence, waiting for the subject you are talking about ;).

Summary

If the book or paper is of great fame:

I read To Kill a Mockingbird.

If it is rather unknown, part of a series, or available on several medias (book, comics, e-book):

I read the book Winnie-the-Pooh.

If it is a reference of a whole class of books or papers:

I read the C++ book.

share|improve this answer
    
@Ralph Rickenbach I edited my question to make it more unambiguous. The essence of my question is the preferred order - is it rather "<title> book" or "book <title>"? –  Marek Grzenkowicz Oct 29 '10 at 9:42
    
"Like talking about the SQL paper would lead me back to the original SQL proposal by Edgar Frank Codd." More often, it means that one item stands out in the speaker and listener's frame of reference. The SQL paper means the one that's lying on your desk that I gave you last week more often than it means that one canonical paper from 1970. –  CynicallyNaive May 12 '11 at 16:16
add comment

You would put the title after the word book, but put a description of the book before the word book. So

I read the book Robin Hood.

means I read a book with the title Robin Hood, and

I read the Robin Hood book.

means I read a book about Robin Hood. The title goes after book or paper.

share|improve this answer
    
Italicization would help. The first example is clearly italicized; the second, the way you're using it, isn't. –  CynicallyNaive May 12 '11 at 16:21
add comment

I read To Kill a Mockingbird.

or

I read the book To Kill a Mockingbird.

Putting the phrase the book at the end sounds odd to me. It would make sense if it was a description of the book, rather than the title. As malack suggested, the phrasing

I read the C++ book

sounds right to my ears, in a way that

I read the To Kill a Mockingbird book

does not.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.