Ireland’s Sally Rooney Leads Costa Prize Category Winners

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The acclaimed young Irish author Sally Rooney is the winner of the 2018 Costa Book Prize in the novel category. The overall Costa Book of the Year is to be named January 29.


By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

An Overall £60,000 in Prize Money
In London, the Costa Book Awards have this evening (January 7) announced their five category winners. Although announced tonight, they are referred to as the program’s 2018 awards.

The Costa is a program that selects a winner in each of five categories, followed by an overall winner. Publishing Perspectives readers will remember that the shortlists—collectively in place for a total £25,000 (US$31,920) in prize money—were announced in November.

In addition, the Costa is unusual in classifying itself as “the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland.”

The overall winner of what’s called the Costa Book of the Year for 2018 is to be announced on January 29, and will be in line for a £30,000 purse. Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won 12 times by a novel, five times by a first novel, six times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry, and twice by a children’s book.

The 2017 Costa Book of the Year was Inside the Wave, the final collection of poetry by Helen Dunmore, published shortly before her death.

Costa Book Award Category Winners 2018

Sally Rooney

Novel Award

At 27, Dublin born Rooney is already among the most visible younger writers in annual prize cycles, her Conversations with Friends having been shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Rathbones Folio Prize. She is the youngest author to date to win the Costa Novel Award. Jurors in this category call Rooney’s book “a trailblazing novel about modern life and love that will electrify any reader.”

Stuart Turton

First Novel Award

The book, a murder mystery, reportedly has been optioned by House Productions for television and has sold into 20 territories so far. In commentary on Turton’s work, the jury for the first novel award said, “This ingenious, intriguing and highly original mindbender of a murder mystery gripped us all. We were all stunned that this exciting and accomplished novel, planned and plotted perfectly, is a debut. Fresh, enticing and completely unputdownable.”

Bart van Es

Biography Award

This is a memoir by van Es, a professor in Renaissance literature at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. His book is about a Jewish girl in the Netherlands during World War II who hides from the Nazis , at one point with the grandparents of the author.

Jurors for the biography award called The Cut Out Girl “the hidden gem of the year. Sensational and gripping,” they write, “and shedding light on some of the most urgent issues of our time, this was our unanimous winner.”

J.O. Morgan

Poetry Award

  • J.O. Morgan for Assurances (Penguin/Jonathan Cape)

Assurances is the Scottish poet’s sixth book-length work, and it’s set in the Cold War, drawing on the context of Morgan’s father’s service with the Royal Air Force in Airborne Nuclear Deterrent operations.

Category jurors in poetry wrote, “We were all gripped by this polyphonic book-length poem and dazzled by its originality and inventiveness.”

Hilary McKay

Children’s Book Award

  • Hilary McKay for The Skylarks’ War (Macmillan Children’s Books). This is McKay’s second win of the children’s book honor, this time with a family story set during World War I.

Jurors in this category opted for the superlative if uninformative option of simply calling this book,  “As perfect a novel as you could ever want to read.”

The Costa Book Award Program

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 31,2018, with “their authors resident in the UK for the previous three years.”

Each of these five category winners receives £5,000 (US$6,383). They were selected from an initial pool of 641 entries.

The overall winner is to be selected from these five by a panel chaired by BBC presenter and journalist Sophie Raworth with category jurors Rachel Joyce, Sathnam Sanghera, Mimi Khalvati, Anita Sethi, and Rick O’Shea. In addition, the actor Simon Williams, writer and broadcaster Kate Humble, and cook, novelist, entrepreneur and TV personality Prue Leith CBE will take part in the ultimate selection.

There is another Costa award, for a short story, and that one is chosen by a public vote. The winner is to be named on January 29 as the overall book of the year is announced, and voting continues through this Friday (January 11). This prize also carries £5,000 with it. You can download the three stories in contention (or listen to readings of them) and cast a vote here.

Costa, for those unfamiliar with the program’s brand sponsor, has more than 2,380 coffee shops in the UK and more than 1,300 in 31 international markets. The Costa Foundation is a charity that has paid for 72 schools in coffee-growing communities of the world and works on humanitarian issues in regions from which the company sources its coffees.


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Costa Book Award is here. And more on book prizes in general is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He 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 also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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