© Costa Book Awards
© Costa Book Awards
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Everything You Need to Know About the 2017 Costa Book Awards

Picture of Matthew Janney
UK Books Editor
Updated: 4 December 2017

Heart-rending poetry from Helen Dunmore, stirring fiction from Jon McGregor and the hit debut Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine all feature at this year’s Costa Book Awards.

‘Terrific books with broad appeal that will be enjoyed by readers of all tastes.’ This is how Dominic Paul, managing director of Costa, described the shortlists for this year’s Costa Book Awards, which will be announced on January 2.

From a heavily female-dominated list – 14 out of 20 – at this year’s Costa Book Awards, stand out nominees include the late Helen Dunmore and her phenomenal collection of poems Inside the Wave, written during the last few weeks of her life as she poignantly reflects on her illness and approaching death.   

In an article published by the Guardian, judge Millwood Hargrave said: ‘I remember coming to it and telling myself, don’t get swept away in the story of it, because that’s patronising to her and to the collection, but in the end, I was completely unable to put that to one side. And yet it is just a completely standout collection – every other page I had to stop and read a line out to my husband. The Costa places so much emphasis on reading for pleasure [as a judging criterion], particularly for poetry, which is seen by some as esoteric and not relatable. But this is so relatable to anyone who has experienced loss on any level – and it’s incredibly moving, even if you didn’t know it was Dunmore’s final collection.’


Courtesy of Kalemba Short Story Prize / Facebook

Dunmore’s poems are up against strong competition in the poetry category, with TS Eliot award winner Sinéad Morrissey’s On Balance as well as Zambian-born Kayo Chingonyi’s Kumukanda being nominated. The title to Chingonyi’s debut poetry collection references the rite of passage to manhood for a boy of the Zambian Luvale tribe, though the poems themselves stretch beyond the specific to the general, interrogating perceived notions of identity, masculinity and heritage with a graceful vigour.

Jon McGregor’s peak-district based thriller Reservoir 13 (longlisted for the Man Booker prize) and Sarah Winman’s Tin Man lead the novel category, while Xiaolu Guo’s Once Upon a Time in the East and Rebecca Stott’s In the Days of Rain are two favourites to pick up the prize for biography. The accounts detail the hardship of growing up in Communist China and a UK fundamentalist group respectively, as well as the artistic liberation that followed after extricating themselves from these oppressive regimes.

Running for over 45 years, the Costa Book Awards are the only awards exclusively for authors based in the UK and Ireland. The winners of each category – who will take home a prize of £5,000 – will be announced on January 2 before the overall winner is chosen on January 30. Irish author Sebastian Barry won the 2016 Costa overall prize for his novel Days Without End, that last year’s chair, Professor Kate Williams, described as ‘a miracle of a book – both epic and intimate – that manages to create spaces for love and safety in the noise and chaos of history.’


Sebastian Barry at the 2016 Costa Book Awards | Courtesy of TVC Group

Here is the full list of nominees for the 2017 Costa Book Awards:


Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (4th Estate)

Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney (Quercus)

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury Circus)

Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Tinder Press)

First novel

The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks (Salt)

Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary (Harvill Secker)

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (HarperCollins)

The Haunting of Henry Twist by Rebecca F John (Serpent’s Tail)


Once Upon a Time in the East: A Story of Growing Up by Xiaolu Guo (Chatto & Windus)

A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Rossellis and the Fight Against Mussolini by Caroline Moorehead (Chatto & Windus)

In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott (4th Estate)

Fragile Lives: A Heart Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table by Professor Stephen Westaby (HarperCollins)


Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi (Chatto & Windus)

Inside the Wave by Helen Dunmore (Bloodaxe Books)

On Balance by Sinéad Morrissey (Carcanet)

Useful Verses by Richard Osmond (Picador)

Children’s book

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans (David Fickling Books)

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Chicken House)

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)