The Costa Book Award Winners Will Give You Serious Reading Inspo For 2020

by Alice Broster
Costa Book Awards

A new year means new book goals. But where to begin? You can’t go far wrong with 2019's most celebrated titles, and the 2019 Costa Book Award winners will certainly point you in the right direction. So make room on your book shelf and say goodbye to a boring commute because below are the perfect five novels to begin 2020 with.

Today, five winners, each winning £5,000, were selected from a shortlist of 20. Runners up included Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, Crossfire by Malorie Blackman, and In Extremis by Lindsey Hilsum.

Later this month, one of today's winners will claim the overall Costa Book of the Year 2019 title. The format of the Costa Book Award, with separate juries for each category and a new jury for the overall winner, makes it rather unpredictable, but nonetheless remains prestigious.

Established in 1971, the annual awards seek to celebrate authors based in the UK or Ireland. Previous victors include Sally Rooney, who won the Novel Award in 2018 for Normal People and Gail Honeyman with Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, which won the First Novel Award in 2017.

Here are the final five winners, and the Costa Book of the Year 2019 contenders.

Novel Award

Of all the awards, I imagine choosing the Novel Award is potentially the most daunting, especially with such an impressive shortlist. But it was Jonathon Coe's Brexit-themed novel, Middle England, that won out. Described as "the perfect novel for now" by the jury, Coe's tale is set in a changing country and follows a range of characters divided by the referendum.

First Novel Award

Debut novels have a Costa category of their own, and 2019 was an exceptional year. Claiming the prize though is former lawyer Sarah Collins, with The Confessions of Frannie Langton. Set in 1826, former mulatto slave Frannie Langton stands accused of murdering her former employers, including her drug-addicted mistress, whom she's also in love with. But did she do it?

Biography Award

If biographies are more your cup of tea, then the 2019 Biography Award winner, Jack Fairweather's telling of Witold Pilecki's life is for you. The former war correspondent claimed the prize with The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz. This almost unbelievable story of unfaltering bravery details how a Polish resistance fighter volunteered to be imprisoned in Auschwitz.

Poetry Award

Covering themes of multilingualism, queerness, psychoanalysis, and cultural history, it’s not hard to see why Flèche, by Mary Jean Chan, won the 2019 Poetry Award. Another debut collection among the final five, Chan's poems are intensely personal and deft, much like the offensive fencing technique which inspired the title.

Children's Book Award

Last but certainly not least, Costa recognises the works of children's book writers, too. Another first-time writer, Jasbinder Bilan, won this year's award with Asha & the Spirit Bird. A fantastic tale of spiritual strength and friendship, Asha and her best friend Jeevan embark on a perilous journey to find Asha's father, guided by a bird, believed to embody the spirit of her grandmother.