Costa Book Awards

Introducing the 2021 Shortlists: 20 outstanding books to read, enjoy and recommend.

What are the Costa Book Awards?

Costa Book Awards 50th Logo

Launched in 1971, the Costa Book Awards is one of the UK's most prestigious and popular book prizes and celebrates the most enjoyable books of the year by writers resident in the UK and Ireland.

Uniquely, the prize has five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – with one of the five winning books selected as the overall Costa Book of the year and each category is judged separately by a panel of three judges per category. The Costa Book of the Year is then chosen by a nine-member panel which includes representatives from the original panels who are joined by other well-known people who love reading.

Books are entered by publishers and entry for the Awards closes at the end of June each year. The author of the Costa Book of the Year receives a cheque for £30,000, presented at an awards ceremony at the end of January. See below for all the latest news and updates.

Key dates for the 2021 awards

  • Close of entry: Wednesday 30th June 2021

  • Category Shortlists announced: Tuesday 23rd November 2021

  • Category Winners announced: Tuesday 4th January 2022

  • Costa Book of the Year announced: Tuesday 1st February 2022

See here a list of all past winners and, for the all the latest news and updates, check below.

Winner of the 2021 Costa Book of the Year and Poetry Award

The Kids by Hannah Lowe (Bloodaxe Books)

Hannah Lowe’s third collection The Kids is a book of sonnets about teaching, learning, growing up and parenthood. It draws on Hannah’s decade of teaching in an inner-city London sixth form during the 2000s, as well as on her own coming of age in the riotous 80s and 90s and concludes with poems about her young son learning to negotiate contemporary London.

Winner of the 2021 First Novel Award

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking)

Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence. Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it.

Winner of the 2021 Novel Award

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree)

When their elderly mother, Dot, dies suddenly, 51-year-old twins, Jeanie and Julius are entirely unprepared for life without her in their rundown, rural cottage. Raised in isolation away from the complexities of the modern world, within days they find themselves facing eviction and a landslide of debt, as the web of secrets Dot wove around them, since the death of their father 40 years ago, threatens to tear apart.

Winner of the 2021 Biography Award

Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston (Viking)

Fall is the dramatic tale of the extraordinary rise and scandalous fall of Robert Maxwell. Born an Orthodox Jew, he escaped Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and fought in WW2, later becoming an MP and successful (and notorious) media magnate. But after his mysterious death, his empire disintegrated as long-hidden debts and unscrupulous dealings came to light. This account from John Preston reveals what went so wrong.

Winner of the 2021 Children's Book Award

The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin)

Nat’s mum has just died and it’s tearing her apart. Sammy must escape Eritrea for the chance of a new life in Europe. A twist of fate brings these teenagers from opposite worlds together and gives them both hope. But is hope enough to mend a broken world? A profound story of the very real tragedies of the refugee crisis.

Got a question?

We receive many enquiries about every aspect of the Costa Book Awards, so we've taken all the most frequently asked questions and answered them here.

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