The panels have been announced for the 2021 Costa Book Awards and Costa Short Story Award. See below for more details.

First Novel

The judges for the 2021 Costa First Novel Award are:

Dymphna Flynn

Audio producer and books journalist

Dymphna Flynn is a books journalist and audio producer. She blogs about new books on Instagram, reviews on BBC Sussex and writes about contemporary European fiction in translation for the European Literature Network. For over 20 years, she produced BBC Radio 4’s Bookclub and other flagship shows like Desert Island Discs, Front Row and Open Book.

Xiaolu Guo

Novelist, memoirist and filmmaker

Xiaolu Guo is a novelist, memoirist and filmmaker. Her novels include A Concise Chinese English Dictionary for Lovers, and A Lover’s Discourse (nominated for the Orwell Prize 2021). Her memoir Nine Continents received the National Book Critics Circle Award 2017. She has also directed nearly a dozen films and had her film retrospectives around the world.

Joe Hedinger

Bookseller, The Book Hive

Joe Hedinger is a bookseller at Norwich's award-winning independent bookshop, The Book Hive. Originally a strategist at creative agencies and the BBC, he’s also a consultant, advising the likes of The National Centre for Writing, the Booksellers Association, the U.E.A. and literary-minded start-ups on book trade innovation and reading culture.


The judges for the 2021 Costa Novel Award are:

Jessie Burton


Jessie Burton is the author of the Sunday Times number one and New York Times bestsellers The Miniaturist and The Muse, as well as the Sunday Times bestseller The Confession and children’s books, The Restless Girls and Medusa. The House of Fortune, her sequel to The Miniaturist, will be published by Picador in July 2022. Her novels have been translated into forty languages, and she is a regular essay writer for newspapers and magazines.

Charlie Bush

Bookseller, Blackwell’s

Charlie Bush is a bookseller. His first job in a bookshop was while he was still at school. Charlie ran a bookshop in Edinburgh, before opening Blackwell's newest branch at Westgate Oxford. He is the Publicity, Marketing and Events Manager at Blackwell's flagship store on Broad Street in Oxford.

Sarah Shaffi


Sarah Shaffi is a freelance literary journalist and editor. Her work has appeared in publications including Stylist, Vogue Australia, Boundless and The New Arab. She has judged awards including the Jhalak Prize and the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. Sarah previously served as managing editor at Penguin.co.uk and is currently editor-at-large at independent children's publisher Little Tiger Group.


The judges for the 2021 Costa Biography Award are:

Jonathan Green

Senior Retail Manager, Waterstones

Jonathan Green has been a bookseller for 12 years. Born in Leicester, he is now a Senior Retail Manager for Waterstones and supports in the running of the London bookshops. His interests include travel, reading, particularly 20th Century fiction and New Journalism, running and his dogs.

Manveen Rana

Host, Stories of Our Times Podcast, the Times and Sunday Times

Manveen Rana is an award-winning investigative journalist who has hosted The Times podcast Stories of Our Times since March 2020. Previously she worked for the BBC, as a reporter for the Today programme, the World At One, PM and BBC News. Her documentary, A New Life in Europe: The Dhnie Family won a number of awards, including a Peabody and the One World Media Radio Award.

Andrew Wilson

Novelist, Biographer and Journalist

Andrew Wilson is a novelist, biographer and journalist. He is the author of Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith and biographies of Sylvia Plath, Alexander McQueen, Harold Robbins and a group biography of the survivors of the Titanic. He is the author of four novels which feature Agatha Christie as a detective. His first novel, The Lying Tongue, was published in 2007 and in May of this year he published the psychological thriller Five Strangers, under the pseudonym E.V. Adamson. He is a creative writing mentor on the Gold Dust scheme and the new tutor on the Faber Academy crime course.


The judges for the 2021 Costa Poetry Award are:

Rishi Dastidar

Poet and Copywriter

Rishi Dastidar is the author of two poetry collections; Ticker-tape and Saffron Jack, both published by Nine Arches Press. He is also editor of The Craft: A Guide to Making Poetry Happen in the 21st Century (Nine Arches Press), and co-editor of Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different: Poems from Malika’s Poetry Kitchen (Corsair).

Ian Duhig


Ian Duhig has published seven books of poetry, most recently The Blind Roadmaker, shortlisted for the Forward Best Collection and TS Eliot Prizes. Duhig has won the Forward Best Poem Prize once and the National Poetry Competition twice; his New and Selected Poems is due in from Picador in December 2021.

Maya Jaggi

Cultural Journalist and Critic

Maya Jaggi is an award-winning cultural journalist, critic and artistic director. Formerly a profile writer for Guardian Review, her writing has appeared widely in the FT, the Economist, the New York Review of Books and elsewhere. Critic at Large for Words Without Borders in NYC, she has reported from five continents, curated international festivals and given cultural journalism masterclasses in post-Soviet capitals as an EU Senior Expert.

Children's Book

The judges for the 2021 Costa Children's Book Award are:

Gill Edwards

Owner, The Little Ripon Bookshop

Gill Edwards opened The Little Ripon Bookshop 12 years ago. She trained as a teacher before working in the buying teams at WHSmith. She is vice-chair of the BA Children’s Group and has previously been a judge for the Indie Book Awards. She runs a children’s book club, and her shop has been shortlisted for Children’s Bookseller of the Year at the Nibbies.

Smriti Halls


Smriti Halls is an internationally bestselling, award-winning children’s author, published in more than 35 languages worldwide. Current titles include I’m Sticking With You (shortlisted 2021 British Book Awards) and Rain Before Rainbows (shortlisted 2021 Indie Book Awards). Her books have been nominated five times for the Kate Greenaway Medal. She is a patron of the School Library Association and a recent BookTrust Writer in Residence.

Lucas Maxwell

School Librarian, Writer and Podcaster

Lucas Maxwell was born in Canada and has worked with youth in libraries for thirteen years. For the past eight years he has been the librarian at Glenthorne High School. He is a writer for Book Riot and in 2017 was named the School Library Association’s Librarian of the Year.


The 2021 Costa Short Story Award judging panel

Learn more about this year’s panel of judges here by downloading the PDF below.

Previous judges

Download the PDF below to view a complete list of all past Costa Book Awards judges from 1971 to present.

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