8 Penguin titles shortlisted in the 2019 Costa Book Awards

Spanning across five categories, the nominated books range from memoirs, first novels and the very best in poetry. 


The shortlist for this year's Costa Book Awards has been announced, with a brilliant eight books for Penguin Random House appearing over five categories.

The awards, which recognise the most outstanding books of the year written by authors based in the UK and Ireland, are split into five categories - First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book. One of the five winners is then chosen as Book of the Year in January, winning £30,000.

Included in the Biography category is Ebury author Jack Fairweather for his novel The Volunteer, which tells the unsung story of one of the greatest heroes of the Second World War – 'Few books have enthralled, incensed and haunted me as The Volunteer has done.' (The Wall Street Journal)

Also in the Biography category is Vintage author Laura Cumming for her Sunday Times bestseller book, On Chapel Sands. Attempting to uncover the mystery of her mother's disappearence, two narratives run through the book: the mother’s childhood tale; and Cumming’s own pursuit of the truth. Described as a 'modern masterpiece' by The Guardian, it was also shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction.

Another Vintage author, Lindsey Hilsum has been nominated for the Biography prize with her book In Extremis, the story of her close friend Marie Colvin, the great war correspondant. William Boyd called it: 'A stunningly good biography – compelling, revelatory and very moving. Lindsey Hilsum is the perfect writer to tell the story of Marie Colvin's rackety, brave and charismatic life.'

The Biography category will be judged by Professor Suzannah Lipscomb, Historian, Author and Broadcaster; James Marriott, Deputy Books Editor, The Times and Will Rycroft, Audience Development Manager, Waterstones.

Read the nominated biographies

Jonathan Coe's novel Middle England, published by Penguin General, has been nominated for Best Novel. A novel of our times, it explores how Brexit has impacted people up and down the country. Reflecting our society as it is today, 'Coe shows an understanding of this country that goes beyond what most cabinet ministers can muster . . . he is a master of satire but pokes fun subtly, without ever being cruel, biting or blatant.' (Evening Standard). 

Also nominated for Best Novel is Shadowplay by Vintage author Joseph O'Connor. Exploring the complexities of love that stands dangerously outside social convention and the experiences that led to Dracula, the most iconic supernatural tale of all time, 'O'Connor's writing is always intensely atmospheric. As a romp through Ripper-ravaged London, Shadowplay is mightily entertaining. But as a meditation on hidden sexuality, it is powerful and poignant' (Literary Review). 

The Novel category will be judged by author John Boyne, Francesca Brown, Contributing Books Editor, Stylist and Sarah Turner Trading Controller (e-commerce), WHSmith.

Explore the nominated novels

In the ever-impressive Best First Novel category is The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Penguin General author Sara Collins. In 1826, crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as maid Frannie Langton goes on trial for their murder. For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed. Author Stef Penney described it as 'Beautifully written, in crisp and careful prose; but more than that, it comes across as a story that's been waiting to be written for a very long time...[Collins] has picked up the tradition of gothic fiction and made it brand new.'

The Confessions of Frannie Langton


The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Vintage author Jay Bernard’s extraordinary debut has been nominated in the Poetry category. A fearlessly original exploration of the black British archive, Surge delves into an enquiry of the New Cross Fire of 1981, a house fire at a birthday party in south London in which thirteen young black people were killed. Connecting to present day, 'Jay Bernard’s poems sing with outrage and indignation, with fury and passion. They tell the story of two terrible fires of our times, and shockingly show how the past holds up an uncomfortable mirror to the present... An astonishingly accomplished debut'  (Jackie Kay, British Council and National Centre for Writing).

The nomination in the Children's Book category goes to Penguin Random House Children's author Malorie Blackman, for the latest instalment in the Noughts & Crosses series, Crossfire. Society appears to be very different now. For the first time ever, a Nought Prime Minister is in power. Race and class don't divide people anymore. But things are never really that easy... 'Rich in moral and social issues, it is devastating about racial attitudes' (The Sunday Times, Children's Book of the Week).

The Best First Novel category will be judged by author Clare Mackintosh; Will Smith, Bookseller, Sam Read Bookseller and writer Mahsuda Snaith. The judges for Poetry are writer Kate Clanchy; Poet, songwriter and critic Jade Cuttle, and Rohan Silva, Co-founder & CEO, Second Home. Lastly, Children's Book will be judged by Charlotte Eyre, Children’s Editor, The Bookseller; writer Bali Rai and Children’s Buyer and Deputy Manager, West End Lane Books, Danny van Emden.

Read the nominees for Best First Novel, Poetry and Children's

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more