The Christian Gauss Award


My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir

By Jenn Shapland, Tin House Books

"How do you tell the real story of someone misremembered—an icon and idol—alongside your own? Jenn Shapland’s celebrated debut is both question and answer: an immersive, surprising exploration of one of America’s most beloved writers, alongside a genre-defying examination of identity, queerness, memory, obsession, and love. In smart, illuminating prose, Shapland interweaves her own story with McCullers’s to create a vital new portrait of one of our nation’s greatest literary treasures, and shows us how the writers we love and the stories we tell about ourselves make us who we are." - Tin House Books

The Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science


The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World

By Sarah Stewart Johnson (ΦΒΚ​, Washington University), Crown 

"Mars was once similar to Earth, but today there are no rivers, no lakes, no oceans. Coated in red dust, the terrain is bewilderingly empty. And yet multiple spacecraft are circling Mars, sweeping over Terra Sabaea, Syrtis Major, the dunes of Elysium, and Mare Sirenum—on the brink, perhaps, of a staggering find, one that would inspire humankind as much as any discovery in the history of modern science. In this beautifully observed, deeply personal book, Georgetown scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson tells the story of how she and other researchers have scoured Mars for signs of life, transforming the planet from a distant point of light into a world of its own." - Crown

Ralph Waldo Emerson Award


South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War

By Alice Baumgartner (ΦΒΚ​, Yale College), Basic Books

"The Underground Railroad to the North promised salvation to many American slaves before the Civil War. But thousands of people in the south-central United States escaped slavery not by heading north but by crossing the southern border into Mexico, where slavery was abolished in 1837. In South to Freedom, historian Alice Baumgartner tells the story of why Mexico abolished slavery and how its increasingly radical antislavery policies fueled the sectional crisis in the United States. Southerners hoped that annexing Texas and invading Mexico in the 1840s would stop runaways and secure slavery’s future. This is a revelatory and essential new perspective on antebellum America and the causes of the Civil War." - Basic Books

Book Reviews and Media

Watch last year's Virtual Awards Event

The Book Awards Event gave Phi Beta Kappa members an opportunity to hear remarks by the winning authors and listen to them participate in a panel discussion with Phi Beta Kappa Secretary/CEO Frederick M. Lawrence. The virtual event took place on Wednesday, December 8, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. ET. 

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

Staff Contact

Please email Aurora Sherman at with any inquiries or call (202) 745-3287

Nominate a Book


All nominations must be submitted by a publisher. Publishers seeking to nominate a book for the 2022 cycle can find more information here.