Costa Book Awards category winners announced

  • Award-winning short story writer Ingrid Persaud scoops the Costa First Novel Award for her ‘outstanding’ debut novel set in Trinidad, Love After Love.
  • Writer and memoirist Monique Roffey triumphs in the Costa Novel Award category, winning her first major UK literary prize for her seventh book, The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story.
  • Lee Lawrence, debut writer and son of Brixton gun victim Cherry Groce, wins the Costa Biography Award for his ‘revelatory’ memoir, The Louder I Will Sing: A story of racism, riots and redemption.
  • The late Eavan Boland, one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature, posthumously wins the Costa Poetry Award with her final collection, The Historians, described by the judges as having ‘some of the finest lines of poetry written this century.’
  • Writer and literary scout Natasha Farrant wins the Costa Children’s Book Award with her 12th book, Voyage of the Sparrowhawk – which the judges called ‘pure heavenly escapism.’

Costa Coffee today announces the Costa Book Awards 2020 winners in the First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book categories.

The Costa Book Awards is the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland and which, uniquely, recognises some of the most enjoyable books across five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – published in the last year.

Originally established in 1971 by Whitbread Plc, Costa announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK’s most prestigious book prize in 2006. 2020 marks the 49th year of the Book Awards.

The five winning authors – one of whose books will be named 2020 Costa Book of the Year on Tuesday 26th January – are:

  • Writer, artist and academic, Ingrid Persaud, who wins the Costa First Novel Award for Love After Love, the judges said the story of Trinidadian Betty Ramdin written in Trinidadian prose, was ‘teeming with life’ and ‘full of unforgettable characters.’
  • Writer, Monique Roffey, who wins this year’s Costa Novel Award for her seventh book, The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story; a dark love story between a fisherman and a mermaid torn from the sea based on a Neo-Taino legend which the judges called ‘a story of rare imagination’ and ‘a glorious myth’.
  • Social entrepreneur Lee Lawrence takes the Costa Biography Award for his debut work, a memoir, The Louder I Will Sing: A story of racism, riots and redemption – described by Hip Hop Artist AKALA as ‘the story of arguably one of the most important, yet least known, events in modern British history’ and by the judges as ‘a terrific story.’
  • Pioneering Irish poet Eavan Boland posthumously wins the Costa Poetry Award – the third writer to do so – with her final collection, The Historians, described by the judges as ‘an extraordinary book.’
  • Bestselling children’s author Natasha Farrant, who wins the Costa Children’s Book Award for Voyage of the Sparrowhawk, which follows an epic voyage from England to France in the aftermath of WW1 and described by the judges as ‘a purely joyful read.’

The authors, each of whom will receive £5,000, were selected from 708 entries and their books are now eligible for the ultimate prize – the 2020 Costa Book of the Year.

Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said: “Five outstanding books and five very worthy Award winners – what a wonderful way to start the year.  The Costa Book Awards are all about recognising great writing and a good read and we’re very proud to be announcing such a brilliant collection of books for readers to explore and enjoy.”

The winner will be selected by a panel of judges chaired by historian, author and broadcaster Professor Suzannah Lipscomb and comprising category judges Jill Dawson, Sadie Jones, Horatio Clare, Zaffar Kunial and Patrice Lawrence joined by actor and writer Stephen Mangan, television and radio presenter Angellica Bell and presenter and book vlogger Simon Savidge, and will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony hosted by presenter and broadcaster Penny Smith on Tuesday 26th January 2021.

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won twelve times by a novel, five times by a first novel, eight times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book. The 2019 Costa Book of the Year was The Volunteer:  The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather.

The winner of the Costa Short Story Award, now in its ninth year, is voted for by the general public and will also be announced at the awards ceremony. Voting is open until Friday 8th January, until which time the identity of the three shortlisted authors remains anonymous.

Riot x Costa Coffee Christmas Campaign

  • 100,000 books gifted across the nation by Christmas Eve, in partnership with leading charity The Reading Agency
  • Bestselling authors lend their support to the campaign to share the joy of reading, including Malorie Blackman, Simon Callow, Candice Carty-Williams, Konnie Huq, Michael Morpurgo, Andy McNab, Bobby Seagull and Jacqueline Wilson

Costa Coffee, the Nation’s Favourite Coffee shop (Allegra Strategies, 2019), is partnering with leading charity The Reading Agency to share the joy of reading this Christmas, by gifting 100,000 books to some of the families and communities hit hardest by the pandemic this year.

50,000 book-and-coffee care packages – containing one adult book, one children’s book, and a range of festive Costa Coffee treats – will be distributed to food banks, community hubs, hospitals and care homes across the UK, in time for Christmas Eve. The books in each care package have been selected from the works of six bestselling authors connected to the Costa Book Awards, including Malorie Blackman, Candice Carty-Williams and Michael Morpurgo.

The Costa Coffee Gift-A-Book campaign is inspired by Jolabokaflod, the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books with loved ones on Christmas Eve. Loosely translated, Jolabokaflod means ‘Christmas Book Flood’: it is a Christmas Eve tradition dating back to World War Two, where Icelanders give and receive books and read them through the night with chocolate and a hot drink.

Other high-profile names – including author and actor, Simon Callow; author and TV presenter, Konnie Huq; author and former SAS soldier, Andy McNab; writer and mathematician, Bobby Seagull, and former Children’s Laureate, Jacqueline Wilson – will also lend their support to the campaign by sharing their own favourite book to gift ahead of Christmas Eve, encouraging members of the public to embrace their own Jolabokaflod tradition at home this year and share their top reading choices using #CostaGiftABook.

Michael Morpurgo, author of family favourites War Horse and Kaspar: Prince of Cats, one of the books included in the care packages, said: “Reading is a journey of discovery which set me on the path to writing. Without it, I don’t know where I would be, so I believe it is absolutely vital that every person, whatever age and wherever they live, should have access to books and the doors they allow us to step through. That’s why I’m thrilled with Costa Coffee’s generous book donation and passionate about supporting the work of The Reading Agency.”

Neil Lake, MD, Costa Coffee UK & Ireland, said: “Tradition is a big part of Christmas and, although this year will feel different for many people, we wanted to help some of those hardest-hit to create a new tradition inspired by this heart-warming custom of gifting books on Christmas Eve. As the proud sponsor of the Costa Book Awards, which is almost in its 50th year, we know the power of a great read and a perfect cup of coffee. Our teams are passionate about supporting the local communities they serve and, by gifting these care packages in partnership with The Reading Agency, we hope to give back to those communities with a comforting and joyful experience at the end of a turbulent year.”

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, added: “We are delighted to be announcing this partnership with Costa Coffee. Books connect and transport us to other worlds, but not everyone can access them: this has been especially true in 2020, which has been so challenging for so many. We have had an extraordinary response to the campaign, and we hope that it will bring some much-needed festive cheer to families and communities from Liverpool to Folkestone, from the Isle of Man to the Isle of Mull. We are working towards a world where everyone is reading their way to a better life, and initiatives like this help our work towards giving every child and adult equal access to the joy of reading.”

In February 2020, Costa Coffee was voted The Nation’s Favourite Coffee Shop for the 10th consecutive year by Allegra Strategies. The Costa Book Awards, one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular book prizes, has been running since 1971 and will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.