The Christian Gauss Award


Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry

By Imani Perry, Beacon Press

"Although best-known for her work A Raisin in the Sun, [Lorraine Hansberry’s] short life was full of extraordinary experiences and achievements, and she had an unflinching commitment to social justice, which brought her under FBI surveillance when she was barely in her twenties. While her close friends and contemporaries, like James Baldwin and Nina Simone, have been rightly celebrated, her story has been diminished and relegated to one work—until now… [with] Imani Perry’s multi-dimensional, illuminating biography, Looking for Lorraine."​ —​Beacon Press

The Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science


Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth 

By Adam Frank, W. W. Norton & Co.

"Light of the Stars tells the story of humanity’s coming of age as we realize we might not be alone in this universe. Astrophysicist Adam Frank traces the question of alien life from the ancient Greeks to modern thinkers, and he demonstrates that recognizing the possibility of its existence might be the key to save us from climate change. With clarity and conviction, Light of the Stars asks the consequential question: What can the likely presence of life on other planets tell us about our own fate?"​
—​W.W. Norton & Co.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Award


The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America

By Sarah E. Igo, Harvard University Press

"Every day, Americans make decisions about their privacy: what to share and when, how much to expose and to whom. Securing the boundary between one’s private affairs and public identity has become a central task of citizenship. How did privacy come to loom so large in American life? Sarah Igo tracks this elusive social value across the twentieth century, as individuals questioned how they would, and should, be known by their own society… Igo’s sweeping history, from the era of “instantaneous photography” to the age of big data, uncovers the surprising ways that debates over what should be kept out of the public eye have shaped U.S. politics and society."​ —​Harvard University Press

About the Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards

The Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards are given annually to outstanding scholarly books published in the United States. Winning works, which are drawn from the fields of the humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences and mathematics, must be of broad interest and accessible to the general reader. Each award carries a $10,000 prize and acceptance at the Annual Book Awards Dinner.  The winners were selected by panels of experts who reviewed five short-listed titles in each of the three award categories.

See the shortlist

Listen to the Winners

The Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards Dinner was held at the Carnegie Insitution for Science on December 6, 2019 in Washington, DC. Winners Imani Perry, Adam Frank, and Sarah E. Igo revealed their thinking behind the works we celebrated and shared stories of unmatched discovery, spoke of love beyond adversity, and fueled our collective imagination with examples of unbound human curiosity.


Book Reviews:

Featured in the Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Magazine The Key Reporter:

Staff Contact

Please email Eva Caldera at with any inquiries or call (202) 745-3244

Nominate a Book


All nominations must be submitted by a publisher. Publishers seeking to nominate a book for the 2020 cycle can find more information here.