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. The overall winner will be announced on the 1st February 2022
The 2021 First Novel award was awarded to Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson.
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them.
Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence. At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, 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.
With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years. ‘An amazing debut novel. You should read this book.
The 2021 Novel Award to Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller.
When you live on the edge of society, it only takes one step to fall between the cracks Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty.
Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance. But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother’s secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.
Unsettled Ground is a powerful novel of betrayal and resilience, love and survival. It is a portrait of life on the fringes of society that explores with dazzling emotional power how we can build our lives on broken foundations, and spin light from darkness.
The 2021 Biography Award to Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston.
The dramatic, gripping story of notorious business tycoon Robert Maxwell is this year’s must have Christmas gift for fans of true crime and corruption! From the acclaimed author of A Very English Scandal. ‘The best biography yet of the media magnate Robert Maxwell – by turns engrossing, amusing and appalling’ Robert Harris, Sunday Times’Electrifying… the supreme chronicler of modern British scandals’ Mail on SundayRobert Maxwell was a very British success.
Born an Orthodox Jew, he escaped the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, fought in the Second World War, and was decorated for his heroism with the Military Cross. He went on to become a Labour MP and an astonishingly successful businessman, owning a number of newspapers and publishing companies. But after his dead body was discovered floating in waters around his superyacht, his empire fell apart as long-hidden debts and unscrupulous dealings came to light.
Within a few days, Maxwell was being reviled as the embodiment of greed and corruption. What went so wrong? How did a man who had once laid such store on the importance of ethics and good behaviour become reduced to a bloated, amoral wreck? In this gripping book, John Preston delivers the definitive account of Maxwell’s extraordinary rise and scandalous fall. ‘I have a shelf full of books about frauds, but this one is by far the most enjoyable’ Craig Brown, author of Ma’am Darling
The winner of the 2021 Poetry Award was The Kids by Hannah Lowe.
Hannah Lowe taught for a decade in an inner-city London sixth form. At the heart of this book of compassionate and energetic sonnets are fictionalised portraits of ‘The Kids’, the students she nurtured. But the poems go further, meeting her own child self as she comes of age in the riotous 80s and 90s, later bearing witness to her small son learning to negotiate contemporary London.
Across these deeply felt poems, Lowe interrogates the acts of teaching and learning with empathy and humour. Social class, gender and race – and their fundamental intersection with education – are investigated with an ever critical and introspective eye. These boisterous and musical poems explore the universal experience of what it is to be taught, to learn and to teach.
Finally the winner of the 2021 Children’s Book Award was The Crossing by Manjeet Mann.
Powerful, compassionate and ultimately hopeful this is a trailblazing novel about two teenagers from opposite worlds; The Crossing is a profound story of hope, grief, and the very real tragedies of the refugee crisis. The sea carries our pain.
The stars carry our future. Natalie’s world is falling apart. She’s just lost her mum and her brother marches the streets of Dover full of hate and anger.
Swimming is her only refuge. Sammy has fled his home and family in Eritrea for the chance of a new life in Europe. Every step he takes on his journey is a step into an unknown and unwelcoming future.
A twist of fate brings them together and gives them both hope. But is hope enough to mend a broken world?