The shortlists for the 2011 Costa Book Awards have been announced. Originally established in 1971 and now seen as a very prestigious book prize, 2011 marks the 40th year of the awards. Winners in the five categories – Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – will each receive £5,000, and the overall winner from the five categories will be named Book of the Year, and the author will receive £30,000. Winners will be announced at a ceremony in central London on 21 January, 2012. Books must have been published in the UK between 1 November 2010 and 31 October 2011 to qualify.

2011’s nominees are:

2011 Costa Novel Award shortlist
Julian Barnes for The Sense of Ending (Jonathan Cape)
John Burnside for A Summer of Drowning (Jonathan Cape)
Andrew Miller for Pure (Sceptre)
Louisa Young for My Dear I Wanted to Tell You (HarperCollins)

2011 Costa First Novel Award shortlist
Kevin Barry for City of Bohane (Jonathan Cape)
Patrick McGuinness for The Last Hundred Days (Seren)
Christie Watson for Tiny Sunbirds Far Away (Quercus)
Kerry Young for Pao (Bloomsbury)

2011 Costa Biography Award shortlist
Julia Blackburn for Thin Paths: Journeys In and Around an Italian Mountain Village (Jonathan Cape)
Patrick and Henry Cockburn for Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Story (Simon & Schuster)
Matthew Hollis for Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas (Faber and Faber)
Claire Tomalin for Charles Dickens: A Life (Viking)

2011 Costa Poetry Award shortlist
Carol Ann Duffy for The Bees (Picador)
David Harsent for Night (Faber and Faber)
Jackie Kay for Fiere (Picador)
Sean O’Brien for November (Picador)

2011 Costa Children’s Book Award shortlist
Martyn Bedford for Flip (Walker Books)
Frank Cottrell Boyce for The Unforgotten Coat (Walker Books)
Lissa Evans for Small Change for Stuart (Doubleday)
Moira Young for Blood Red Road (Marion Lloyd Books)

Now, we’ll offer our picks from each category:


Louisa YoungMy Dear I Wanted To Tell You

One of the most powerful books you’ll read this year, this harrowing romantic novel from Louisa Young, the adult half of Lionboy authors Zizou Corder, tells the moving story of Nadine Waveney, Julia Locke and Rose Locke. Three women who are stuck at home, waiting for their beloved Riley Purefoy and Peter Locke to make an ever-imminent return from fighting for their country during World War I.

First novel:

Christie Watson
Tiny Sunbirds Far Away:

At the Book People, we heralded Christie Watson’s first book as one of our recommended debut novels, and we’re thrilled to see it under consideration for such a huge award. A beguiling tale from Lagos, Nigeria, it tells how the lives of Blessing and her brother Ezikiel are turned upside down when their father’s infidelity results their mother being sacked from her job at the Royal Imperial Hotel. Soon they have to move out too, and it is a shock beyond measure for them to go from living a life of luxury to having to survive in a peasant’s compound.


Claire TomalinCharles Dickens : A Life

Claire Tomalin’s hugely insightful hardback deftly reveals the extraordinary story behind one of the biggest literary phenomenons of all time – Charles Dickens. Told intelligently, this authoritative biography explores the fascinating, and sometimes self-destructive, nature of a politically-radical man who fathered ten children and created some of the finest characters in literary history.


Carol Ann DuffyThe Bees

Carol Ann Duffy’s first collection of poems since being named Poet Laureate finds her using her full poetic range across a wide variety of topics – drinking, love, politics and even the weather. Bees are woven throughout the book as they symbolise what Carol believes is left of grace in the world. The collection also contains elegies to Carol’s much-missed loved ones, including an emotional tribute to her own mother.

Children’s Book:

Lissa EvansSmall Change For Stuart

Lissa Evans tells the entertaining story of Stuart Horten – a small ten year-old boy who moves to the dreary town of Beeton. Once settled in Beeton, the strangest adventure of his life begins as he is swept up in a quest to find his great-uncle’s lost workshop – a place that is filled with magic and trickery. Things don’t quite work out as planned, and Stuart soon realises he’s going to need help.