The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom & Ireland Limited

Costa Book Awards


The Booksellers Association administer the Costa Book Awards, which is one of the most prestigious and popular literary prizes in the UK and recognises some of the most enjoyable books of the year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.

The Costa Book Awards have five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's Book. The winner in each category receives £5,000. One of these five books is selected as the overall winner of the Book of the Year and receives a further £30,000, making a total prize fund of £55,000. It is the only prize which places children's books alongside adult books in this way.

The Awards started life in 1971 as the Whitbread Literary Awards. From 1985 they were known as the Whitbread Book Awards until 2006, when Costa Coffee took over ownership - the year that both Costa and the Book Awards celebrated their 35th anniversary.

2019 Costa Book of The Year
The Volunteer, by Jack Fairweather was named 2019's Costa Book of the Year, at a ceremony that took place on the 28th January at Quaglino's in London. Jack Fairweather's biography recounts the life of unsung hero, Witold Polecki, a Polish operative who agreed to be imprisoned in Auschwitz in order to uncover the horrors occuring there and report them to the Allies. This win is a timely one, coming the day after the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. 

Fairweather's book was described by the Costa judges as being 'an incredible story; pacy like a thriller, it reads like fiction and yet it's not, it is fact. It is a story none of us have read before - this is an extraordinary and important book that people need to read.' In his acceptance speech, Fairweather thanked his agent and researchers, before he dedicated the award to Polecki's children, Andrzej and Zofia. 

Alongside Fairweather, the category winners were Middle England  by Jonathan Coe (novel), The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (First Novel), Flèche by Mary Jean Chan (Poetry), and Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan (Children's). 

The Short Story Award, in its 8th year, was one by Anna Dempsey for her story: The Dedicated Dancers of the Greater Oaks Retirement Community.

2019 Shortlists
Costa Book Awards Shortlist
Jonathan Coe - Middle England (Viking)
Sophie Hardach - Confession with Blue Horses (Head of Zeus)
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan - Starling Days (Sceptre)
Joseph O'Connor - Shadowplay (Harvill Secker)

  • Brian Bilston - Diary of a Somebody (Picador)
  • Candice Carty-Williams - Queenie (Trapeze)
  • Sara Collins - The Confessions of Frannie Langton (Viking)
  • Joanna Glen - The Other Half of Augusta Hope (The Borough Press)

  • Laura Cumming - On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons (Chatto & Windus)
  • Jack Fairweather - The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz (WH Allen)*
  • Lindsey Hilsum - In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin (Chatto & Windus)
  • Adam Nicolson - The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels (William Collins)

  • Jay Bernard - Surge (Chatto & Windus)
  • Mary Jean Chan - Fleche (Faber & Faber)
  • Paul Farley - The Mizzy (Picador)
  • John McCullough - Reckless Paper Birds (Penned in the Margins)

  • Jasbinder Bilan - Asha & the Spirit Bird (Chicken House)
  • Malorie Blackman - Crossfire (Penguin Books)
  • Nicholas Bowling - In the Shadow of Heroes (Chicken House)
  • Jenny Downham - Furious Thing (David Fickling Books)

Entries are not currently open.

Entry for the 2020 Costa Book Awards has now closed. If you would like to be added to the mailing list to receive information about submitting entries for 2021, email Rehana Nurmahi