Costa Book Awards 2020 shortlists announced

  • 20 authors announced today across five categories for the only major UK book prize open solely to authors resident in the UK and Ireland. 2020 shortlists feature 10 debuts, four previously shortlisted authors, two all-female category shortlists and author ages ranging from 28-74.
  • The First Novel category shortlist includes a ‘highly original’ small-town portrait of the Troubles from Northern Irish author Michelle Gallen and a British Muslim family saga encompassing ‘humour and heartache’ from Sairish Hussain. They’re joined by two writers from fine art backgrounds in Trinidadian-born, award-winning short story writer Ingrid Persaud and US-born nurse-turned-fine art lecturer, Karen Raney.
  • Two authors with a background in activism join the Novel shortlist, in Trinidadian-born writer Monique Roffey, co-founder of Writers Rebel, set up to encourage writers to address the climate change emergency in their work, and Tim Finch, leading campaigner and writer on refugee and migrant issues. They are joined by Susanna Clarke – with her second novel in 16 years, following her multi-million copy bestselling debut, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – and the Scottish author Denise Mina, whose prolific crime writing has earnt her a place in Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame.
  • The final collection from pioneering Irish poet Eavan Boland becomes the third posthumous collection to be shortlisted for the Poetry category, after Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters and Helen Dunmore’s Inside the Wave. Boland is joined on the list by two new voices: Rachel Long and Martha Sprackland, with their ‘daring’ and ‘spellbinding’ debut collections; and by Caroline Bird, an official poet of the 2012 London Olympics.
  • Memoirs of love and loss from campaigner Lee Lawrence, son of Brixton gun victim Cherry Groce, and palliative care specialist Dr Rachel Clarke are shortlisted for the Biography category alongside a ‘stunningly beautiful’ ode to the city of Liverpool by TV writer Jeff Young and a ‘richly elegant’ study of the life and times of Belle Epoque society doctor and pioneering gynaecologist, Samuel Pozzi, by award-winning author Julian Barnes.
  • Three-times previously shortlisted author, Meg Rosoff, features in the Children’s Book category with her latest coming-of-age novel, alongside children’s writer and literary scout Natasha Farrant for her 12th book. They are joined by two debut authors: Darren Charlton, who works in the voluntary sector for a homeless organisation, and primary school teacher Jenny Pearson, whose shortlisted book was acquired following a major eight-way auction.

Costa Coffee today announces the shortlists for the 2020 Costa Book Awards.

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

This year’s Costa Book Awards attracted 708 entries, the most received in one year to date. Judges on this year’s panels (three per category) included the authors Horatio Clare, Jill Dawson, Sadie Jones and Patrice Lawrence; journalist and author Poorna Bell; broadcaster and historian Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough; poet Zaffar Kunial and blogger and YouTuber Eric Karl Anderson.

Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on Monday 4th January 2021. The overall winner of the 2020 Costa Book of the Year will receive £30,000 and be announced at a virtual ceremony on Tuesday 26th January 2021.

Jill McDonald, CEO of Costa Coffee, said: “These lists represent everything the Costa Book Awards celebrate – here are 20 brilliant books to read, enjoy, recommend and share. Thank you to the judges for their time and dedication in producing such outstanding lists in this most unusual year. And congratulations to the authors who have made it onto the shortlists from such an enormous number of entries. There is truly something for everyone here.”

The winner of the Costa Short Story Award, voted for by the public, will also be announced at the ceremony. The three shortlisted stories for the Costa Short Story Award, now in its ninth year, will be revealed on the Costa Book Awards website,, on 1st December 2020.

To be eligible for the 2020 Costa Book Awards, books must have been first published in the UK or Ireland between 1st November 2019 and 31st October 2020 and their authors resident in the UK or Ireland for the previous three years.

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, 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.