The Christian Gauss Award


Disabilities of the Color Line: Redressing Antiblackness from Slavery to the Present

By Dennis Tyler, NYU Press

"Through both law and custom, the color line has cast Black people as innately disabled and thus unfit for freedom, incapable of self-governance, and contagious within the national body politic. Disabilities of the Color Line maintains that the Black literary tradition historically has inverted this casting by exposing the disablement of racism without disclaiming disability.

In place of a triumphalist narrative of overcoming where both disability and disablement alike are shunned, Dennis Tyler argues that Black authors and activists have consistently avowed what he calls the disabilities of the color line: the historical and ongoing anti-Black systems of division that maim, immobilize, and stigmatize Black people. In doing so, Tyler reveals how Black writers and activists such as David Walker, Henry Box Brown, William and Ellen Craft, Charles Chesnutt, James Weldon Johnson, and Mamie Till-Mobley have engaged in a politics and aesthetics of redress: modes of resistance that, in the pursuit of racial and disability justice, acknowledged the disabling violence perpetrated by anti-Black regimes in order to conceive or engender dynamic new worlds that account for people of all abilities. While some writers have affirmed disability to capture how their bodies, minds, and health have been made vulnerable to harm and impairment by the state and its citizens, others’ assertion of disability symbolizes a sense of community as well as a willingness to imagine and create a world distinct from the dominant social order." - NYU Press

Ralph Waldo Emerson Award


Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took On a World at War

By Deborah Cohen, Random House

"They were an astonishing group: glamorous, gutsy, and irreverent to the bone. As cub reporters in the 1920s, they roamed across a war-ravaged world, sometimes perched atop mules on wooden saddles, sometimes gliding through countries in the splendor of a first-class sleeper car. While empires collapsed and fledgling democracies faltered, they chased deposed empresses, international financiers, and Balkan gun-runners, and then knocked back doubles late into the night.

Last Call at the Hotel Imperial tells the story of a group of American foreign correspondents who put the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity at the heart of their work: John Gunther, H. R. Knickerbocker, Vincent Sheean, and Dorothy Thompson. In those tumultuous years, they landed exclusive interviews with Hitler and Mussolini, Nehru and Gandhi, and helped shape what Americans knew about the world. Alongside these backstage glimpses into the halls of power, they left another equally incredible set of records. Living in the heady afterglow of Freud, they subjected themselves to frank, critical scrutiny and argued about love, war, sex, death, and everything in between.

Plunged into successive global crises, Gunther, Knickerbocker, Sheean, and Thompson could no longer separate themselves from the turmoil that surrounded them. To tell that story, they broke long-standing taboos. From their circle came not just the first modern account of illness in Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud—a memoir about his son’s death from cancer—but the first no-holds-barred chronicle of a marriage: Sheean’s Dorothy and Red, about Thompson’s fractious relationship with Sinclair Lewis.

Told with the immediacy of a conversation overheard, this revelatory book captures how the global upheavals of the twentieth century felt up close." - Random House

The Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science


Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas

By Jennifer Raff, Twelve

"From celebrated anthropologist Jennifer Raff comes the untold story—and fascinating mystery—of how humans migrated to the Americas. Origin is the story of who the first peoples in the Americas were, how and why they made the crossing, how they dispersed south, and how they lived based on a new and powerful kind of evidence: their complete genomes. Origin provides an overview of these new histories throughout North and South America, and a glimpse into how the tools of genetics reveal details about human history and evolution.

20,000 years ago, people crossed a great land bridge from Siberia into Western Alaska and then dispersed southward into what is now called the Americas. Until we venture out to other worlds, this remains the last time our species has populated an entirely new place, and this event has been a subject of deep fascination and controversy. No written records—and scant archaeological evidence—exist to tell us what happened or how it took place. Many different models have been proposed to explain how the Americas were peopled and what happened in the thousands of years that followed.  A study of both past and present, Origin explores how genetics is currently being used to construct narratives that profoundly impact Indigenous peoples of the Americas. It serves as a primer for anyone interested in how genetics has become entangled with identity in the way that society addresses the question 'Who is indigenous?'" - Twelve

Watch last year's Book Awards Event

The Book Awards Event gave Phi Beta Kappa members an opportunity to recognize the three winning authors and listen to one of them in a fireside discussion with Phi Beta Kappa Secretary/CEO Frederick M. Lawrence. The event took place on December 1, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

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 Hadley Kelly at with any inquiries.

Nominate a Book


All nominations must be submitted by a publisher. Publishers seeking to nominate a book for the 2023 cycle can find more information here.