I would like to ask why the following sentence is only possible according to grammatical rules:

I'm reading a novel of Steinbeck's

What's wrong with "I'm reading a novel of Steinbeck" or "I'm reading Steinbeck's novel"?

marked as duplicate by tchrist, FumbleFingers, user66974, Edwin Ashworth, Hellion Aug 11 '14 at 17:41

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  • or I'm reading a Steinbeck novel. Or: I'm reading a Steinbeck. – Fattie Aug 10 '14 at 9:14
  • All three options are equally fine. See Why is it usually “friend of his”, but no possessive apostrophe with “friend of Peter”. What is not fine, however, is your usage of the acute accent. It's something you put atop of letters. A letter part, not a punctuation mark. Do not misuse it as an apostrophe. That's like replacing a b with a d. They might look very similar, but they don't mean remotely the same thing. – RegDwigнt Aug 10 '14 at 9:19
  • 4
    That should be "why the following sentence is the only grammatical way of expressing the thought." To which the answer is "It isn't." – TimLymington Aug 10 '14 at 9:19
  • Wouldn't “I am reading Steinbeck's novel” imply that he only ever wrote one? – Gala Aug 10 '14 at 16:26

Usually native speakers would prefer the phrase:

I'm reading a novel by Steinbeck

by denotes authorship, of and the possessive apostrophe are instead associated with ownership. Compare: "I'm reading a book of my father" which is ambiguous without previous or further context. (1) The book might be about my father; (2) he could be the owner of the said book, (3) he is the writer. Whereas "I'm reading a book by my father" means my father is the author of that book. In the case of "Steinbeck", the following phrases are grammatically correct:

I'm reading a book of Steinbeck
I'm reading a book of Steinbeck's
I'm reading Steinbeck's novel

the problem of ambiguity is unlikely because he is such a well-known author.

Oxford Dictionaries say:

3. Indicating an association between two entities, typically one of belonging, in which the first is the head of the phrase and the second is something associated with it:
the son of a friend
the government of India
a photograph of the bride [WITH A POSSESSIVE]: a former colleague of John’s

3.1. Expressing the relationship between an author, artist, or composer and their works collectively:
the plays of Shakespeare
the paintings of Rembrandt

Macmillan Dictionary says

4. used for saying who something belongs to
the property of the residents
They ended up living in the house of Jeanne's oldest brother.

5.concerning or showing someone or something
She had a photograph of him beside her bed.
It was a tale of war and bravery.
a history of Russia

16.used for saying who wrote a book or play, produced a work of art etc the wonderful paintings of Picasso the plays of Harold Pinter

  • 1
    i reckon most B and A english speakers say "I'm reading a Tom Clancy novel" "I'm reading a Steinbeck novel". It would be unusual to add the "by" – Fattie Aug 10 '14 at 15:52
  • I don’t think “I’m reading a book of Steinbeck” sounds right. I think it has to be either a book of Steinbeck’s or else a book by Steinbeck — or perhaps a Steinbeck book. But I can’t quite put my finger on why. It’s just an instinct. – tchrist Aug 10 '14 at 16:35

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