Sunday, June 28, 2009

List: The Costa Book of the Year Award

The Costa Book Awards seek to recognize "some of the most enjoyable books of the year by writers based in the UK and Ireland." The awards were formerly known as the the Whitbread Literary Awards from their start in 1971 until 1985 when the name changed to the Whitbread Book Awards. Costa Coffee took over over in 2006, changing the name, but not the purpose, of the awards.

Costa Awards are given in five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry, and Children's Book. The Book of the Year Award debuted in 1985 and is chosen from any of the five categories.

I am not good about poetry and I do not care for sci-fi, so I do know know if I will ever get through all the books on this list. On the other hand, if they really won because they were "most enjoyable," then maybe reading these prize winners would be the easiest way for me to expand my reading horizons.

If anyone else is working through the books on this list, please leave a link in a comment and I will add it to this post.

The books I have read are in red. Those on my TBR shelf are in blue.

Inside the Wave by Helen Dunmore (2017)

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (2016)

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (2015)

H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald (2014)

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (2013)

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012)

Pure by Andrew Miller (2011)

Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott (2010)

A Scattering by Christopher Reid (2009)

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (2008) (reviewed here)

Day by A.L. Kennedy (2007)

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney (2006) (reviewed here)

Matisse the Master by Hilary Spurling (2005)

Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004) (reviewed here)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003)

Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin (2002)

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (2001)

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale (2000)

Beowulf by Seamus Heaney (1999)

Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes (1998)

Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes (1997)

The Spirit Level by Seamus Heaney (1996)

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson (1995) (reviewed here)

Felicia's Journey by William Trevor (1994)

Theory of War by Joan Brady (1993)

Swing Hammer Swing! by Jeff Torrington (1992)

A Life of Picasso by John Richardson (1991)

Hopeful Monsters by Nicholas Mosley (1990)

Coleridge: Early Visions by Richard Holmes (1989)

The Comforts of Madness by Paul Sayer (1988)

Under the Eye of the Clock by Christopher Nolan (1987)

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986)

Elegies by Douglas Dunn (1985)


Last updated on October 24, 2018.


(Please leave a comment with links to your progress reports or reviews of these books and I will add them here.)

J.G.'s review of Birthday Letters on Hotch Pot Cafe

Sandra's comprehensive post on Fresh Ink Books


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed Small Island (an Orange Prize winner). I often recommend it to people when I don't know their reading taste very well. It's a serious book with a light touch.

    On the other hand, I loathed every moment of Birthday Letters. (Review here:

    "Most enjoyable" seems like a pretty vague category. Maybe that explains the mixed results of my admittedly very small sample. As you said, it could be a useful push toward some different books.

  2. I follow all awards for literary fiction and often enjoy those on the shortlist more than the winners. But I did really enjoy The Secret Scripture and The Tenderness of Wolves. I also enjoyed Day. I highly recommend What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn (Costa First Novel Award 2007) and Death of a Murderer by Rupert Thomson (Costa Shortlist 2007). August by Gerard Woodward (Costa First Novel 2001) was good too. Though you may have decided to stick to the winners for now.
    I do have a copy of The Curious Incident so I'll be interested to see what you think of it. I'll watch for your comments on all of them. There have to be some very good ones on that list.

  3. I'm not actively following this list (yet!) but I have read a few, and there are a few more in my TBR pile. I thought The Tenderness of Wolves was OK. The Theory of War was quite good, but if you haven’t yet read Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials Trilogy then you really should – it is amazing!

  4. The only one I've read is the one you've read.

  5. Well, Ruth and I are way behind! I am going to look into the Best Novel and Best First Novel lists as well. But I don't think I will even get around to short list and long list picks -- Sandra, you must devour books!

  6. Just to let you know I've just updated my Costa Award post with today's winners and the shortlists included. I had recently read the Fiction winner for this year, The Hand That First Held Mine and it's a good one.

  7. I've just updated my Costa Award post with the 2012 winners announced today (Jan 3, 2013):

    I thoroughly enjoyed both of last year's winner. Pure by Andrew Miller**** and Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by****+ Christie Watson.


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