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Costa Book Awards Shortlists announced

Twenty books across five categories were announced as the 2019 Costa Book Awards shortlists.

The only major UK book prize open solely to UK and Irish authors, the categories recognised include: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book.

A debut novel by "the poet laureate of Twitter" has been shortlisted for the £5,000 First Novel award. Brian Bilston, 49, posts his poems to more than 68,000 followers on the social media platform and has also been dubbed the "Banksy of poetry" due to his somewhat cloaked identity. The book is about an amateur poet - also called Brian Bilston - who becomes prime suspect in the murder of a rival. The Costa judges called it “warm, comic and original”.

The poetry shortlist features Jay Bernard's analysis of the New Cross Fire of 1981, a house fire at a birthday party in south London in which 13 young black people died. The Metropolitan Police were accused of lacking urgency in their investigation. Surge is described as "fearless, original and moving". 

The winners of the individual categories will be announced on 6 January. The overall winner of the £30,000 Costa book of the year prize will be revealed on 28 January.

The Costa Book Award shortlists 2019 are as follows:

First Novel

  • Diary of a Somebody by Brian Bilston (Picador)
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (Trapeze)
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (Viking)
  • The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen (The Borough Press)


  • Surge by Jay Bernard (Chatto & Windus)
  • Flèche by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber)
  • The Mizzy by Paul Farley (Picador)
  • Reckless Paper Birds by John McCullough (Penned in the Margins)


  • Middle England by Jonathan Coe (Viking)
  • Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach (Head of Zeus)
  • Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Sceptre)
  • Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor (Harvill Secker)


  • On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons by Laura Cumming (Chatto & Windus)
  • The Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather (WH Allen)
  • In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum (Chatto & Windus)
  • The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels by Adam Nicolson (William Collins)


  • Asha & the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan (Chicken House)
  • Crossfire by Malorie Blackman (Penguin Books)
  • In the Shadow of Heroes by Nicholas Bowling (Chicken House)
  • Furious Thing by Jenny Downham (David Fickling Books)