Costa Book Awards

Introducing the 2020 Shortlists: 20 outstanding books to read, recommend and enjoy.

What are the Costa Book Awards?

Costa Book Awards 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.

Key dates for the 2020 awards
  • Close of entry: Tuesday 30th June 2020

  • Category Shortlists announced: Tuesday 24th November 2020

  • Category Winners announced: Monday 4th January 2021

  • Costa Book of the Year announced: Tuesday 26th January 2021

Click here to download a 2020 Costa Book Awards shortlist poster.

Costa First Novel Award shortlist

Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen

(John Murray Publishers)

Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has lived a quiet life. But her predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella’s one chance at escape.

The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain

(HQ)

Amjad has no time to mourn his wife’s death – his two small children are relying on him. Years later, Saahil is celebrating finishing university – but the night has devastating consequences. Zahra is now her father’s only source of comfort, but at what cost? Life has taken this family in different directions – can they find their way back to each other?

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

(Faber)

Irrepressible Betty Ramdin, her shy son Solo and their marvellous lodger, Mr Chetan, form an unconventional household. Happy in their differences, they build a home together. Home: the place keeping these three safe from an increasingly dangerous world – until the night when a glass of rum, a heart to heart and a terrible truth explodes the family unit, driving them apart.

All the Water in the World by Karen Raney

(Two Roads)

Maddy is sixteen. She has loyal friends, a mother with whom she's unusually close, a father she's never met, devoted grandparents, and a crush on Jack. Maddy is also dying.

Costa Novel Award shortlist

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

(Bloomsbury Publishing)

Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day after day, Piranesi makes a careful record of its wonders. Twice a week he sees his friend, the Other. But mostly, he is alone. Then messages begin to appear. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want?

Peace Talks by Tim Finch

(Bloomsbury Publishing)

Edvard is a diplomat, regarded for his work on peace negotiations. In his latest post, Edvard has been sent to a hotel in the Tyrol. High up on this mountain, the air is bright and clear. He confides in no one – no one but his wife Anna. Anna, who he loves with all his heart; always present and yet forever absent.

The Less Dead by Denise Mina

(Harvill Secker)

When Margo goes in search of her birth mother for the first time, she meets her aunt, Nikki, instead. Margo learns that her mother, Susan, was murdered soon after Margo's adoption. To this day, Susan's killer has never been found. Nikki asks Margo for help. She has received threatening and haunting letters from the murderer, for decades. She is determined to find him, but she can't do it alone...

The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story by Monique Roffey

(Peepal Tree)

April 1976: St Constance, a tiny Caribbean village on the island of Black Conch. David, a fisherman, sings to himself in his pirogue, waiting for a catch – and attracts a sea-dweller he doesn’t expect. Aycayia, a centuries old mermaid, is drawn to his singing. But her curiosity is her undoing when she is caught by American tourists… David rescues her and hides her away, where she slowly, painfully turns into a woman.

Costa Biography Award shortlist

The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes

(Jonathan Cape)

The Man in the Red Coat is at once a fresh and original portrait of the Belle Epoque – its heroes and villains, its writers, artists and thinkers – and a life of a man ahead of his time. Witty, surprising and deeply researched, the new book from Julian Barnes illuminates the fruitful and longstanding exchange of ideas between Britain and France, and makes a compelling case for keeping that exchange alive.

Dear Life by Rachel Clarke

(Little, Brown)

Dear Life is a personal memoir that finds light and love in the darkest of places. Rachel interweaves her experiences as a specialist in palliative medicine with those of losing her beloved GP father to cancer. In a hospice, she argues, there is more of what matters in life – more love, more strength, more grace, more tenderness, more compassion - than you could ever imagine.

The Louder I Will Sing by Lee Lawrence

(Sphere)

On 28th September 1985, Lee Lawrence's mother Cherry Groce was wrongly shot by police during a raid on her home. The bullet shattered her spine and both their lives changed forever. The Louder I Will Sing is a memoir about growing up in modern Britain as a young Black man. It's a story both of people and politics, but also the positive power that hope, faith and love can bring in response.

Ghost Town: A Liverpool Shadow Play by Jeff Young

(Little Toller Books)

In Ghost Town, Jeff Young takes us on a journey through the Liverpool of his childhood – down back alleys, through arcades, into vanished tenements and oyster bars, pubs and theatres. We watch as he turns from schoolboy truant into an artist obsessed with Kafka, Terence Davies and The Fall in this highly original vision of a great city.

Costa Poetry Award shortlist

The Air Year by Caroline Bird

(Carcanet)

The Air Year is a time of flight, transition and suspension: signatures scribbled on the sky. Bird's speakers exist in a state of unrest, trapped in a place between take-off and landing, undeniably lost. Love is uncontrollable, joy comes and goes at hurricane speed. They walk to the cliff edge, close their eyes and step out into the air.

The Historians by Eavan Boland

(Carcanet)

Throughout her nearly sixty-year career, acclaimed poet Eavan Boland came to be known for her exquisite ability to weave myth, history and the life of an ordinary woman into mesmerising poetry. Her final volume, The Historians, is the culmination of her signature themes, exploring the ways in which the hidden, sometimes all-but-erased stories of women's lives can powerfully revise our sense of the past.

My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long

(Picador)

Each poem in My Darling from the Lions has a vivid story to tell – of family quirks, the perils of dating, the grip of religion or sexual awakening – stories that are emotionally insightful, politically conscious, wise, funny and outrageous.

Citadel by Martha Sprackland

(Pavilion Poetry)

The poems in Citadel are written by a composite ‘I’ – part Reformation-era monarch Juana de Castilla, part twenty-first century poet – brought together by a rupture in time as the result of ambiguous, traumatic events in the lives of two women separated by almost five hundred years.

Costa Children’s Book Award shortlist

Wranglestone by Darren Charlton

(Little Tiger)

In a post-apocalyptic America, a community survives in a national park, surrounded by water that keeps predators at bay. When winter comes, Peter and Cooper must work together to herd the Dead from their shores before the lake freezes over. As love blossoms a dark discovery reveals the sanctuary’s secret past, forcing the boys to question everything they’ve ever known.

Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant

(Faber)

Voyage of the Sparrowhawk is an epic journey of police chases, storms at sea and unexpected puppies. Set in the aftermath of World War 1 it follows two orphans as they take their narrowboat across the Channel in search of lost loved ones and a place to call home.

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson

(Usborne)

Freddie’s journey wasn’t meant to involve Big Trev and the onion-eating competition or the loo-exploding pear-and-potato turnovers. And Freddie definitely didn’t expect to end up on national television in a Supergirl costume. But journeys never take you where you think they will.

The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff

(Bloomsbury Publishing)

This is the story of the summer when everything changes. In a house by the sea, in a big, messy family, one teenager watches as brothers and sisters, parents and older cousins fill hot days with wine and games and planning a wedding. Enter the Goddens – irresistible, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there’s a serpent in this paradise – and the consequences will be devastating.

Previous Costa Books of the Year winners have included

Bring Up The Bodies

by Hilary Mantel

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon

The Amber Spyglass

by Philip Pullman

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.


Check here for full terms and conditions for the Costa Book Awards and Costa Short Story Award.