The UK’s Costa Book Awards Shortlists: Half Debuts, £35,000 in Prize Money

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The Costa Book Awards for 2018 drew a record 641 entries across the program’s five categories. In January, the five category winners will be announced, followed by the overall winner’s ceremony.

The 20 shortlisted Costa Book Awards titles for 2018. The five category winners are to be announced January 7. Image: Costa Book Awards

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Ten Women, 10 Men Shortlisted
As announced near the end of the week, half of the UK’s Costa Book Awards‘ 2018 shortlisted titles are debuts. In the poetry category, that goes up to 75 percent of the shortlisted works being debuts.

There are 10 male and 10 female writers nominated, and they range in age from 27 to 75. One of the debut authors shortlisted, Anne Youngson, is 70.

The Costa is one of the most prestigious of the UK market’s many awards programs, and the award’s messaging prominently features the point that it is “the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland.”

The award is given in five categories: first novel (which helps with that high debut count), novel, biography, poetry and children’s literature.

Organizers report that this year’s competition has attracted 641 entries, a record in terms of a single year’s numbers. Entries are juried by five panels, with three people on each panel.

Winners in each of the five categories are to receive £5,000 (US$6,411). An overall “book of the year” winner is chosen from the five category winners, and that award carries a purse of £30,000 (US$38,467). Since being introduced in 1985, the book of the year prize has gone 12 times to a novel, five times to a first novel, six times to a biography, eight times to a poetry collections, and twice to a children’s book.

The five category winners are to be announced on January 7, and the book of the year winner will be named on January 29.

2018 Costa Novel Award Shortlist

Jurors: Justine Jordan, Rachel Joyce, Zool Verjee (173 entries)

  • Pat Barker for The Silence of the Girls (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Tom Rachman for The Italian Teacher (riverrun)
  • Sally Rooney for Normal People (Faber & Faber)
  • Donal Ryan for From a Low and Quiet Sea (Doubleday)
2018 Costa First Novel Award Shortlist

Jurors: Emma Corfield-Walters, Nina Pottell, Sathnam Sanghera (117 entries)

  • Natalie Hart for Pieces of Me (Legend Press)
  • Elisa Lodato for An Unremarkable Body (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Stuart Turton for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Raven Books)
  • Anne Youngson for Meet Me at the Museum (Doubleday)
2018 Costa Biography Award Shortlist

Jurors: Paula Byrne, Anita Sethi, Paul Wallace (140 entries)

  • Viv Albertine for To Throw Away Unopened (Faber & Faber)
  • Bart van Es for The Cut Out Girl (Fig Tree)
  • Raynor Winn for The Salt Path (Michael Joseph)
  • Benjamin Zephaniah for The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah: The Autobiography (Scribner)
2018 Costa Poetry Award Shortlist

Jurors: Mimi Khalvati, James Munroe, Sameer Rahim (80 entries)

  • Zaffar Kunial for Us (Faber & Faber)
  • J.O. Morgan for Assurances (Jonathan Cape)
  • Richard Scott for Soho (Faber & Faber)
  • Hannah Sullivan for Three Poems (Faber & Faber)
2018 Costa Children’s Book Award Shortlist

Jurors: Rick O’Shea, Fleur Sinclair, Imogen Russell Williams  (131 entries)

  • David Almond for The Colour of the Sun (Hodder Children’s Books)
  • Candy Gourlay for Bone Talk (David Fickling Books)
  • Matt Killeen for Orphan Monster Spy (Usborne)
  • Hilary McKay for The Skylarks’ War (Macmillan Children’s Books)
‘Books You’ll Want To Pass On to Others’

Established in 1971 by Whitbread Plc, Costa announced its takeover of the sponsorship in 2006, and 2018 is the award program’s 47th year.

To be eligible for the 2018 Costa Book Awards, books must have been first published in the UK or Ireland between November 1, 2017, and October 31 of this year, with “their authors resident in the UK for the previous three years.”

In a prepared statement, Costa’s managing director, Dominic Paul, is quoted, saying, “There’s genuinely something for everyone in our shortlists this year: books which will make you laugh and books which will make you cry; books which will make you think; books which you’ll read late into the night; and, most of all, books which you’ll want to recommend and pass on to others.

“My sincere thanks go to all our 15 category judges who’ve done such an excellent job of selecting 20 of this year’s most exciting, inspiring and enjoyable reads.”

The 2017 Costa Book of the Year was Inside the Wave from Bloodaxe Books ,awarded posthumously to Helen Dunmore, and you can read our story on it here.


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Costa Book Awards is here, and more on publishing awards in general is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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