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

2021 Costa First Novel Award shortlist

The Manningtree Witches by A. K. Blakemore


England, 1643. Puritanical fervour has gripped the nation. In Manningtree, depleted of men since the Civil War began, the women are left to their own devices and Rebecca West chafes against the drudgery of her days. But when Matthew Hopkins arrives, asking bladed questions and casting damning accusations, mistrust and unease seep into the lives of the women. Caught between betrayal and persecution, what must Rebecca West do to survive?

Fault Lines by Emily Itami


Fault Lines is a modern love story set in Tokyo. Mizuki, a Japanese housewife, has a hardworking husband, two adorable children, a beautiful apartment, and a crushing sense of loneliness. But then she falls for Kiyoshi...It soon becomes clear that she is living two lives – and that she can choose only one.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson


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.

The Stranding by Kate Sawyer


In a bid to leave her claustrophobic relationship, Ruth makes the decision to leave London, her friends and family, to travel to New Zealand and pursue her lifelong dream of working with whales. There she finds the increasingly ominous global news cycle is now the new reality. Far from home and with no hope of survival, she climbs into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger. When they emerge, it’s to an unrecognisable landscape. When all’s been razed to the ground, what does it mean to build a life?

2021 Costa Novel Award shortlist

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.

The High House by Jessie Greengrass

Swift Press

The high house is a holiday cottage perched above a small village by the sea. Caro and her younger half-brother, Pauly, arrive there after her father and stepmother fall victim to a faraway climate disaster. In their new home, cared for by Grandy and his granddaughter, Sally, the two pairs learn to live together. Yet there are limits even to what the ailing Grandy can teach them about how to survive. The High House asks us who, if we had to, we would save .

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed


Tiger Bay, Cardiff, 1952. Mahmood Mattan is a well-known figure in the docks – a husband to a local girl, a father, and a bit of a chancer. One thing he is not, though, is a murderer. But when a shopkeeper is killed, the police fix their sights on him and only as the trial approaches does Mahmood realise he is fighting against conspiracy and prejudice - and the truth may not be enough save him.

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak


In war-torn Cyprus, two teenagers – one Greek, one Turkish – meet under a fig tree that bears witness to their tumultuous lives. Decades later in London, sixteen-year-old Ada, finds one sole connection to the land of her ancestors – the Ficus Carica growing in her back garden.

2021 Costa Biography Award shortlist

Consumed: A Sister's Story by Arifa Akbar


Consumed is an intricately woven and psychologically astute portrait of sisterhood, grief and the healing powers of art. Exploring the strange mythologies that surround tuberculosis, Akbar’s quest to understand her troubled sibling takes her from London to Lahore, to the paintings of Edvard Munch, from Keats and Sontag to Little Women and Antigone.

The Moth and the Mountain: A True Story of Love, War and Everest by Ed Caesar


The Moth and the Mountain tells the story of little-known WWI veteran Maurice Wilson, who in the 1930s conceived his own crazy, beautiful plan: to fly an aeroplane from England to Everest, crash land on its lower slopes, then become the first person to reach its summit. Alone.

Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston


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.

Free: Coming of Age at the End of History by Lea Ypi

Allen Lane

Free, a coming-of-age story set in Albania in the 1980s and 90s, explores big political themes (freedom, socialism, democracy) through the lives of the author and her family. With acute insight and wit, Lea Ypi traces the limits of progress and the burden of the past, illuminating the spaces between ideals and reality, and the hopes and fears of people pulled up by the sweep of history.

2021 Costa Poetry Award shortlist

All The Names Given by Raymond Antrobus


All The Names Given continues Antrobus’s investigation into language, miscommunication, place, and memory. Punctuated with [Caption Poems] which attempt to fill in the silences and transitions between the poems, as well as moments inside and outside of them, Antrobus breaks new ground in form and content resulting in a timely, humane and tender book.

A Blood Condition by Kayo Chingonyi

Chatto & Windus

A Blood Condition tells a story of inheritance – the people, places, cultures and memories that form us. Kayo Chingonyi explores how distance and time, nations and a century’s history, can collapse within a body; our past continuous in our present. From London, Leeds, and The North East to the banks of the Zambezi river, these poems consider change and permanence, grief, joy and the painful ongoing process of letting go.

Eat Or We Both Starve by Victoria Kennefick

Carcanet Press

Victoria Kennefick's daring first book, Eat or We Both Starve, draws readers into seemingly recognisable set-pieces - the family home, the shared meal, the rituals of historical occasions, desire - but Kennefick forges this material into new shapes, making them viable again for exploring what it is to live with the past - and not to be consumed by it.

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.

2021 Costa Children’s Book Award shortlist

Maggie Blue and the Dark World by Anna Goodall

Guppy Books

Maggie has always preferred her own company, but when she witnesses the kidnap of the school bully she knows she is the only one who can help. After all, nobody would believe that the kidnapper was the school counsellor. With only a sarcastic talking cat for company, Maggie finds herself entering a dark and dangerous world – a place where happiness is valued above everything.

The Crossing by Manjeet Mann


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.

The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery

Walker Books

Sometimes at the darkest hour, hope shines the brightest… When Col’s childhood imaginary friends come to life, he discovers a world where myths and legends are real. Accompanied by his guardians – a six-foot tiger, a badger in a waistcoat and a miniature knight – Col must travel to Blitz-bombed-London to save his sister. But there are darker forces at work, even than the Nazi bombings. Soon Col is pursued by the terrifying Midwinter King, who is determined to bring an eternal darkness down over everything.

The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen Rutter

Scholastic UK

Billy is an eleven-year-old boy with a big dream. He wants to be a stand-up comedian when he grows up: delivering pinpoint punchlines and having audiences hang on his every hilarious word. A tough career for anyone, but surely impossible for Billy, who has a stammer. How will he find his voice, if his voice won’t let him speak?

Download a poster

Calling all schools, libraries and bookshops – why not download a free 2021 shortlist poster here!

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.