The Phi Beta Kappa Society’s 2018 Summer Reading List offers a selection of books that will deepen your love of learning and let you explore a wide range of topics—from a vivid and suspenseful retelling of Homer’s Odyssey to a cutting-edge account of the latest research into autism. The list (including links and summaries from Goodreads) is a mix of new and classic books chosen by fellow Phi Beta Kappa members via Facebook, recommendations from our alumni book clubs around the country, and works by Phi Beta Kappa authors listed on the Key Reporter's new Goodreads page.

Comment on our Facebook to tell us how many of these titles you have read as well as other titles you think we should keep in mind for future selections. Thanks to our members for their many thoughtful suggestions, and here’s to a summer of great reading!

Member Suggestions


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. This New York Times bestseller captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences


Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Privilege by Haruki Murakami

A remarkable story of a young man haunted by a great loss, of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us, and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present.


The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin

Bestselling author and advocate Temple Grandin offers a cutting-edge account of the latest research into autism.


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West, but challenges arise and keep them apart. The 2013 winner of the National Books Critics Circle Award, Americanah is a powerful, tender story of race and identity that spans time and geography.

Animal Vegetable Miracle

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (ΦBK, DePauw University)

Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.


The Road from Coorain: A Woman’s Exquisitely Clear-Sighted Memoir of Growing Up Australian by Jill Ker Conway (ΦBK, Radcliffe College)

Conway’s memoir illustrates her astonishing journey into adulthood, from her remote and rural childhood in the Australian outback to her accomplishments in America as a historian and first female president of Smith College.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter's world is shattered when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer. In her award-winning YA novel, Angie Thomas addresses current issues around racism, police brutality, and activism in America.

Wilder Timer

A Wilder Time: Notes From a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Iceby William E. Glassley

Geologist William E. Glassley’s account of his travels to Greenland, and the discoveries that resulted, is an invitation to experience a breathtaking place and the fascinating science behind its creation. 


The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s most popular work tells the tale of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty.


Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Might Think by Hans Rosling, with collaborators Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund

Factfulness explores the human instincts that distort our perspective on the state of the world and offers advice on overcoming our biases.


Circe by Madeline Miller (ΦBK, Brown University)

This vivid and suspenseful retelling of Homer’s Odyssey recasts Circe, the notorious goddess and sorceress, as the hero of her own story.  

Book Club Picks


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (ΦBK, University of Missouri)

In Mark Twain's classic novel, a young boy from Mississippi recounts his adventures as he travels down the river with a runaway slave.  The Chicago ΦBK Association hosts a discussion of this book on July 8 at 1:00 p.m.


Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance 

From a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town, that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class.  The Indiana ΦBK Association hosts a discussion of this book on July 10 at 7:00 p.m.


The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

In this examination of human moral impulses, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt challenges conventional thinking about morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum. The Atlanta ΦBK Association hosts a discussion of this book on July 21 at 4:30 p.m


The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston 

A chronicle of a solitary year spent on a Cape Cod beach, The Outermost House has long been recognized as a classic of American nature writing. The Boston ΦBK Association hosts a discussion of this book on July 23 at 7:30 p.m.


What the Qur’an Meant: And Why It Matters by Garry Wills 

One of America’s leading religious scholars and public intellectuals, Garry Wills, introduces lay readers to the Qur’an with a measured, powerful reading of the ancient text.  The D.C. ΦBK Association hosts a discussion of this book on July 31 at 6:30 p.m.

Phi Beta Kappa Authors

icon_key_clear_squareFind more authors on the Key Reporter's new Goodreads page. 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez (ΦBK, University of Illinois at Chicago)

A National Book Award finalist, Sánchez’s debut YA novel explores the loss of a sister and the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home. 


Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Security by Condoleezza Rice (ΦBK, University of Denver) and Amy B. Zegart 

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivers an examination of the rapidly evolving state of political risk and explains how to navigate it.  


Just a Journalist: On the Press, Life, and the Spaces Between by Linda Greenhouse (ΦBK, Radcliffe College)

In her book, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Linda Greenhouse raises urgent questions about the role journalists can and should play as citizens, even as participants, in the world around them.


American Pastoral by Philip Roth (ΦBK, Bucknell University)

An elegy for all the twentieth century's promises of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss, Philip Roth’s novel is the story of a man wrenched from his idyllic postwar life—the "American pastoral"—into the "indigenous American berserk.


Next Line Please: Prompts to Inspire Poets and Writers by David Lehman (ΦBK, Columbia University)

A compilation of writing exercises and prompts from David Lehman’s weekly column on the American Scholar website, designed to unlock the imaginations of poets and creative writers.