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Press Release: Prizes and Awards
Costa Book Awards 2012 Shortlists Announced

Posted at 7:30PM Tuesday 20 Nov 2012

Costa today announces the shortlists for the 2012 Costa Book Awards.  

The Costa Book Awards recognise the most enjoyable books in five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's Book - published in the last year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.  

Originally established in 1971 by Whitbread Plc, Costa announced its takeover of the sponsorship of the UK's most prestigious book prize in 2006. 2012 marks the 41st year of the Book Awards.

This year's Costa Book Awards attracted 550 entries. Judges on this year's panels (three per category) included author and comedian Mark Watson; authors Wendy Holden, Marcus Sedgwick and Matt Whyman; actress and broadcaster Janet Ellis; novelist and Editor-in-Chief of Red Magazine, Sam Baker; poet Daljit Nagra and novelist and biographer, DJ Taylor.

Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on Wednesday 2nd January 2013.  The overall winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2012 will receive £30,000 and will be selected and announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony in central London on Tuesday 29th January 2013.

The winner of the inaugural Costa Short Story Award, voted for by the public, will also be announced at the ceremony. The shortlisted six stories for the Costa Short Story Award will be revealed on the Costa Book Awards website,, on Tuesday 27th November.

Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won ten times by a novel, four times by a first novel, five times by a biography, seven times by a collection of poetry and once by a children's book.  The 2011 Costa Book of the Year was Pure by novelist Andrew Miller. 

To be eligible for the 2012 Costa Book Awards, books must have been first published in the UK or Ireland between 1 November 2011 and 31 October 2012. 



2012 Costa Novel Award shortlist

Hilary Mantel for Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate)

Stephen May for Life! Death! Prizes! (Bloomsbury)

James Meek for The Heart Broke In (Canongate)

Joff Winterhart for Days of the Bagnold Summer (Jonathan Cape)


2012 Costa First Novel Award shortlist

JW Ironmonger for The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Jess Richards for Snake Ropes (Sceptre)

Francesca Segal for The Innocents (Chatto & Windus)

Benjamin Wood for The Bellwether Revivals (Simon & Schuster)


2012 Costa Biography Award shortlist

Artemis Cooper for Patrick Leigh-Fermor: An Adventure (John Murray)

Selina Guinness for The Crocodile by the Door: The Story of a House, a Farm and a Family (Penguin Ireland)

Kate Hubbard for Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household (Chatto & Windus)

Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot for Dotter of Her Father's Eyes (Jonathan Cape)


2012 Costa Poetry Award shortlist

Sean Borodale for Bee Journal (Jonathan Cape)

Julia Copus for The World's Two Smallest Humans (Faber and Faber)

Selima Hill for People Who Like Meatballs (Bloodaxe Books)

Kathleen Jamie for The Overhaul (Picador)


2012 Costa Children's Book Award shortlist

Sally Gardner for Maggot Moon (Hot Key Books)

Diana Hendry for The Seeing (The Bodley Head)

Hayley Long for What's Up with Jody Barton? (Macmillan Children's Books)

Dave Shelton for A Boy and a Bear in a Boat (David Fickling Books) 


Shortlist for the 2012 Costa Novel Award (159 entries)



Sam Baker - Novelist and Editor-in-Chief, Red Magazine

Toby Clements - Book Reviewer and Author

Wendy Holden - Author


Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)

The year is 1535 and Thomas Cromwell, Chief Minister to Henry VIII, must work both to please the king and keep the nation safe. Anne Boleyn, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church, has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. As Henry develops a dangerous attraction to Wolf Hall's Jane Seymour, Thomas must negotiate a 'truth' that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne's final days.

Hilary Mantel CBE was born in Derbyshire, England on 6 July 1952. She studied Law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University. Her books include A Place of Greater Safety (1992), Beyond Black (2005), and Wolf Hall (2009), winner of the Man Booker Prize. Bring up the Bodies won the 2012 Man Booker Prize.  In 2006 she was awarded a CBE.

Judges: "Enthralling, absorbing, powerful and brilliantly executed."


Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May (Bloomsbury)

Billy's Mum is dead.  He knows – because he reads about them in magazines – that people die every day in ways that are more random and tragic and stupid than hers, but for nineteen-year-old Billy and his little brother, Oscar, their mother's death in a bungled street robbery is the most random and tragic and stupid thing that could possibly have happened to them.  Now Billy must be both mother and father to Oscar, and despite what his well-meaning aunt, his brother's headmistress, the PTA mothers, the social services and Oscar's own prodigal father all think, he knows he is more than up to the job, thank you very much. 

Stephen May's first novel Tag was published by a small Welsh press and won the Reader's Choice Award at the 2009 Welsh Book of the Year.  Originally from Bedford, he now lives and works in West Yorkshire. 

Judges: "A moving, darkly funny portrayal of two brothers' relationship – a very modern look at real life, death - and prizes."


The Heart Broke In by James Meek (Canongate)

Bec Shepherd is a malaria researcher struggling to lead a good life. Ritchie, her reprobate brother, is a rock-star-turned-TV-producer. When Bec refuses an offer of marriage from a powerful newspaper editor and Ritchie's indiscretions catch up with him, brother and sister are forced to choose between loyalty and betrayal.

James Meek was born in London in 1962 and grew up in Dundee. He is the author of two other novels and two collections of short stories; his novel The People's Act of Love (2005) won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and has been published in more than thirty countries. His journalism has won a number of British and international awards, including Foreign Correspondent of the Year at the British Press Awards. He lives in London.

Judges: "An engrossing novel structured around grand, eternal themes but pin-sharp and peopled with characters you wish you knew."


Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart (Jonathan Cape)

Joff Winterhart's Days of the Bagnold Summer perfectly captures the ennui, the tension, the pathos and the affection of this mother-son relationship. A sublimely funny and perceptive graphic novel, Days of the Bagnold is about Sue, 52 who works in a library and her son Daniel, 15, still at school. This was the summer holidays Daniel was due to spend with his father and his father's pregnant new wife in Florida. When they cancel his trip, Sue and Daniel face six long weeks together.

Joff Winterhart is an illustrator, film-maker and plays drums in his band, Bucky. He lives in Bristol, where he walks his greyhound, Peep-Peep.

Judges: "Funny, sad, touching, original – everyone should read this book."




Shortlist for the 2012 Costa First Novel Award (88 entries)



Janet Ellis - Actress and Broadcaster

Alison Flood - Books Journalist

Mark Watson - Author and Comedian


The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder by JW Ironmonger (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Maximilian Ponder has shut himself away for thirty years in an attempt to record every memory he ever had. Now he lies dead, surrounded by his magnum opus - The Catalogue - an exhaustive set of notebooks and journals that he hopes will form the map of one human mind.  But before his friend Adam Last can call the police and inform them of Max's death, one rather gruesome task remains in order for Max's project to be complete...

J W Ironmonger was born and grew up in East Africa. He has a doctorate in Zoology, and was once an expert on freshwater leeches. He is the author of The Good Zoo Guide, was part of a world record team for speed-reading Shakespeare, and once drove across the Sahara in a £100 banger. The Notable Brain of Maximilian Ponder was shortlisted for the Guardian's Not the Booker Prize. He lives in rural Shropshire with his wife, Sue, and has two grown-up children.

Judges: "Written with gusto - a daring, quirky tale."


Snake Ropes by Jess Richards (Sceptre)

On an island off the top of the map, boys are disappearing...When Mary's little brother Barney also vanishes, she blames the tall men who come from the mainland once a month to trade food for the elaborate embroideries the women make and the fish the men catch. Her desperate search for Barney leads her to uncover many truths about the island, her family and what happened in the year she's forgotten.

Jess Richards was born in Wales in 1972, and grew up too fast in south-west Scotland where she lived with her English parents and three brothers, watching the ferry boats going to and from Northern Ireland. She left home at 17, went to England, and lived for a year in Carlisle, before moving to Devon. She gained a first-class degree from Dartington College of Arts when she was 21, then after brief stints busking and carrying on in both Leeds and London, she moved to Brighton aged 23, where she has grown up a bit more slowly and has lived and worked ever since.

Judges: "Hypnotic, original and vivid."


The Innocents by Francesca Segal (Chatto & Windus)

Adam and Rachel, childhood sweethearts, are getting married at last.  Rachel is everything Adam has ever imagined in a wife and her parents adore him.  A life of easy contentment awaits, at the heart of the community.  But then Rachel's reckless American cousin returns to the family fold.  Ellie represents everything that Adam has striven to avoid – and everything that is missing from his world.  As the long-awaited wedding approaches, Adam is torn between duty and temptation, security and freedom, and must make a choice that will break either one heart, or many.      

The daughter of a novelist and an editor, Francesca Segal was born in London in 1980.  Brought up in the UK and America, she studied at Oxford and Harvard universities before becoming a journalist and critic.  Her work has appeared in Granta, the Guardian and Daily Telegraph amongst others.  For three years she wrote the Debut Fiction column in the Observer and she has been a features writer for Tatler. 

Judges: "Confident, warmly humorous and insightful."


The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood (Simon & Schuster)

Bright, bookish Oscar Lowe has escaped the urban estate where he was raised and made a new life for himself amid the colleges and spires of Cambridge. He has grown to love the quiet routine of his life as a care assistant at a local nursing home, where he has forged a close friendship with the home's most ill-tempered resident, Dr. Paulsen. But when he meets and falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a beautiful and enigmatic medical student at King's College, Oscar is drawn into her world of scholarship and privilege, and soon becomes embroiled in the strange machinations of her brilliant but troubled brother, Eden, who believes he can adapt the theories of a forgotten Baroque composer to heal people with music.

Benjamin Wood was born in 1981 and grew up in his parents' residential care home in north-west England.  He left sixth form college aged 17 to pursue a career in music as a singer-songwriter, and three years later attended the University of Central Lancashire achieving a first-class degree in screenwriting. In 2004, he was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to attend the MFA Creative Writing Programme at the University of British Columbia, Canada, where he was also Fiction Editor of the Canadian literary journal PRISM International. Benjamin is now a lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London.

Judges: "Atmospheric, compelling and hard to put down."




Shortlist for the 2012 Costa Biography Award (101 entries)


Valerie Grove - Journalist and Biographer

Ron Johns - Managing Director, Mabecron Books

DJ Taylor - Novelist and Biographer

Patrick Leigh-Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper (John Murray)

Patrick Leigh-Fermor's enviably colourful life took off when, in 1934 at the age of eighteen, he decided to walk across Europe.  In just over a year he had walked through nine countries, taught himself three languages, and his enthusiasm and curiosity for every kind of experience made him equally happy in caves or country houses, among shepherds or countesses.  In his books, which took many years to write, he created a vision of a pre-war Europe which, in its beauty and abundance, has never been equalled.

Artemis Cooper is the author of Cairo in the War, 1939-1945 and Writing at the Kitchen Table, the authorized biography of Elizabeth David. With her husband Antony Beevor she wrote Paris After the Liberation, 1945-1949. She has edited two collections of letters and Words of Mercury, a collection of pieces by Patrick Leigh-Fermor.

Judges: "A compelling and entertaining account of the life of one of the great writer-travellers of our age."


The Crocodile by the Door: The story of a house, a farm and a family by Selina Guinness (Penguin Ireland)

Tibradden is a farmhouse in the Dublin mountains, where the city meets the country - or, where housing estates and golf courses encroach on lands grazed by sheep and cattle. When Selina Guinness and her partner Colin, both young academics, moved in with Selina's elderly uncle, they had no idea what the coming years held for them: a crash course in farming, tense discussions with helicopter-borne property developers, human tragedy, and the challenge of dragging a quasi-feudal estate into the twenty-first century.

Selina Guinness lectures in Irish literature at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology and edited The New Irish Poets, an anthology. The Crocodile by the Door is her first book. She lives at Tibradden with her husband, their children, and a lot of sheep.

Judges: "A completely engaging story of a young woman whose life is turned upside down when she inherits a crumbling old house in Ireland."


Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household by Kate Hubbard (Chatto & Windus)

During the sixty-odd years of her reign Queen Victoria gathered around her a household dedicated to her service. For some, royal service was the defining experience of their lives, for others it came as an unwelcome duty, or a prelude to greater things. Serving Victoria follows the lives of six members of her household from the governess to the royal children, to her maid-of-honour, chaplain and personal physician.

After leaving Oxford University Kate Hubbard worked variously as a researcher, a teacher, a book reviewer and a publisher's reader. She currently works as a freelance editor. Her first book, A Material Girl: Bess of Hardwick 1527-1608, was published in 2001, and her most recent book, Rubies in the Snow, is the fictionalised diary of Anastasia Romanov, youngest daughter of Russia's last Tsar. Kate divides her time between London and Dorset.

Judges: "A sparkling new version of Queen Victoria through the perceptive eyes of the ladies and gentlemen who waited on her."


Dotter of her Father's Eyes by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot (Jonathan Cape)

Part personal history, part biography, Dotter of her Father's Eyes contrasts two coming-of-age narratives: that of Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, and that of author Mary Talbot, daughter of the eminent Joycean scholar James S. Atherton.  Social expectations and gender politics, thwarted ambitions and personal tragedy are played out against two contrasting historical backgrounds, poignantly evoked by the atmospheric visual storytelling of award-winning comic artist and graphic-novel pioneer, Bryan Talbot.

Mary Talbot is an internationally-acclaimed scholar who has published widely on language, gender and power, though she continues to be best known for her critical investigation of the 'synthetic sisterhood' offered by teen magazines. Dr Talbot has worked in higher education for over twenty-five years and Dotter of Her Father's Eyes is the first work she has undertaken in the graphic novel format. She is currently scripting a historical graphic novel. Bryan Talbot has worked on underground comics, science fiction and superhero stories such as Judge Dredd and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, and has written and drawn several Eisner Award-winning graphic novels. In 2009 he was awarded a Doctorate in Arts. He is currently drawing Grandville Bête Noire, the third volume in his series of steampunk detective thrillers.

Judges: "A strikingly original graphic memoir which links two lives in a highly imaginative way."



Shortlist for the 2012 Costa Poetry Award (83 entries)


Ted Hodgkinson - Online Editor, Granta

Daljit Nagra - Poet

Susan Sinclair - Divisional Manager, Foyles 


Bee Journal by Sean Borodale (Jonathan Cape)

A poem-journal of beekeeping, Bee Journal chronicles the life of the hive, from the collection of a small nucleus on the first day to the capture of a swarm two years later. It observes the living architecture of the comb, the range and locality of the colony; its flights, flowers, water sources, parasites, lives and deaths.

Sean Borodale works as a poet and artist, making scriptive and documentary poems written on location; this derives from his process of writing and walking for works such as Notes for an Atlas (Isinglass 2003) and Walking to Paradise (1999). Bee Journal is his first collection of poetry. He lives in Somerset.

Judges: "A gripping glimpse into a world of obsession."


The World's Two Smallest Humans by Julia Copus (Faber and Faber)

These finely-tuned poems are the fruit of Julia Copus' upbringing in a musical family, an affinity with the Classics, a fascination with the arc of time, and an unflinching scrutiny of love and personal relationships. Born out of a powerful sense of place, the poems navigate through a beguiling sequence of interior and exterior landscapes, whether revisiting Ovid, negotiating the perils of one composer's attempt to step into the shoes of another or describing a young girl's escape from suburban ennui. The book concludes with a moving arrangement of pieces that explore the author's experience of IVF: poems written with wry humour and with grace, which celebrate the mysteries of conception alongside the often surreal business of medical intervention.

Julia Copus was born in London and now lives in Somerset. Her two previous collections, The Shuttered Eye and In Defence of Adultery, were both Poetry Book Society Recommendations. She has won First Prize in the National Poetry Competition and the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem (2010). She also writes for radio and, in 2011, her sequence of poems about IVF, Ghost, was adapted as a BBC Radio 3 play entitled Ghost Lines. She is a Lector for the Royal Literary Fund, and in 2008 was made an Honorary Fellow at the University of Exeter.

Judges: "A lyrical and majestic collection that tells a very personal story."


People Who Like Meatballs by Selima Hill (Bloodaxe Books)

People Who Like Meatballs brings together two contrasting poem sequences about rejection. The title-sequence in the collection is about a man's humiliation by a woman. Into My Mother's Snow-Encrusted Lap is about a dysfunctional mother-child relationship. Like all of Selima Hill's work, both sequences in People Who Like Meatballs chart 'extreme experience with a dazzling excess' (Deryn Rees-Jones), with startling humour and surprising combinations of homely and outlandish.

Selima Hill grew up in a family of painters on farms in England and Wales and has lived in Dorset for the past 30 years.  She won first prize in the Arvon/Observer International Poetry Competition with part of The Accumulation of Small Acts of Kindness (1989), and her collection, Violet, was shortlisted for all three of the UK's major poetry prizes.  As a tutor, Selima has worked in prisons, hospitals and monasteries and she has also worked on several collaborations with artists.  Selima was given a Cholmondeley Award in 1996. People Who Like Meatballs is shortlisted for the 2012 Forward Poetry Prize.

Judges: "A wildly funny and irreverent take on modern life."


The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie (Picador)

The Overhaul is Kathleen Jamie's first collection since the award-winning The Tree House, and it broadens her poetic range considerably. The Overhaul continues Jamie's lyric enquiry into the aspects of the world our rushing lives elide, and even threaten. Whether she is addressing birds or rivers, or the need to accept loss, or sometimes, the desire to escape our own lives, her work is earthy and rigorous, her language at once elemental and tender.

Kathleen Jamie was born in the west of Scotland in 1962. Her poetry collection The Tree House (Picador 2004), won both the Forward Prize and the Scottish Book of the Year Award. Mr and Mrs Scotland are Dead was shortlisted for the 2003 International Griffin Prize. Kathleen Jamie's non-fiction books include the highly regarded Findings and Sightlines. She teaches at Stirling University and lives with her family in Fife.

Judges: "We were beguiled by the wild musicality of this affecting collection."



Shortlist for the 2012 Costa Children's Book Award (119 entries)


Sarah Clarke - Range Manager, Waterstones

Marcus Sedgwick - Writer

Matt Whyman - Author


Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books)

Hector and Standish are friends. They live together in Zone Seven where the Motherland can keep them, and others like them, under surveillance.  When the friends find out something about the Motherland's plans for a moon landing their lives take on ever more threatening levels of change.  And soon Standish finds he really does have to make a stand.

Sally Gardner grew up amongst the drama of London's law courts, as both her parents were lawyers. Having been branded 'unteachable' by some and sent to various schools, she was eventually diagnosed at the age of twelve as being severely dyslexic andis now an avid spokesperson for dyslexia.  Sally published her first book in 1993, thus beginning an illustrious career as a writer-illustrator. Her first full-length novel, I, Coriander won the Nestlé Children's Book Prize Gold Award in 2005. Sally lives in London.

Judges: "Impressive, skilful and imaginative."


The Seeing by Diana Hendry (The Bodley Head)

The setting for The Seeing is based on the seaside village where Diana Hendry grew up, and follows three children living in post-war Britain who are convinced the dangers of war are still hanging over them. Philip, the youngest of the three, has a special gift, a 'second-sight' which enables him to spot 'left-over Nazis' living in hiding in their quiet seaside town. Lizzie, egged on by Philip's wild older sister Natalie, gets caught up in what she thinks is an exciting game but soon finds herself feeling uncomfortable as locals are bullied and forced out of their homes. The consequences of Philip's gift lead to a dramatic and devastating climax.

Diana Hendry was born in the Wirral and grew up by the sea. She has published more than forty books for children and teenagers and won a Whitbread Award for Harvey. Diana has also written four poetry collections for adults and children. She regularly tutors a group of teenagers at the Arvon Foundation's centre in Moniack Mhor and lives in Edinburgh.

Judges: "We were drawn in by this unsettling and gripping novel."


What's up with Jody Barton? by Hayley Long (Macmillan Children's Books)

It's hard enough being one half of the world's least identical twins, without both of you falling for the same guy. Jolene's turned flirting into a fine art, but Jody? Not so much. And as if a twinny love triangle wasn't messy enough . . . there's something nobody knows about Jody Barton. Something BIG.

Hayley Long was born in Ipswich, grew up in the coastal town of Felixstowe and studied English at Aberystwyth University.  She spent the next few years travelling and working around Europe then returned to Britain and became a teacher. In 2007, Hayley and her husband moved to Norwich – but before she went, she decided to write a novel for the pupils of Whitchurch High School in Cardiff, where she had been working for the past six years. This novel was Lottie Biggs is (Not) Mad and was followed by two more books starring the hilarious Lottie Biggs.  What's up with Jody Barton? has been shortlisted for the Essex Book Award and Hayley was shortlisted this year for the biannual Queen of Teen awards.

Judges: "A clever book with hidden depths."


A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton (David Fickling Books)

A boy and a bear go to sea, equipped with a suitcase, a comic book and a ukulele. They are only travelling a short distance and it really shouldn't take long. But then their boat encounters 'unforeseeable anomalies'... Faced with turbulent stormy seas, a terrifying sea monster and the rank remains of The Very Last Sandwich, the odds soon become pitted against our unlikely heroes.

Born and raised in Leicester, Dave Shelton studied illustration at Cambridge and, later, at Brighton, where he attained his MA in Sequential Illustration. He worked for some years as a jobbing illustrator before creating the comic strip Good Dog, Bad Dog, a slapstick comedy canine noir detective series, published in The DFC, The Guardian and The Phoenix. The first book collection of Good Dog, Bad Dog,  was the winner of the inaugural Leeds Graphic Novel Award in 2010. A Boy and a Bear in a Boat, his debut children's novel (which he also illustrated), was longlisted for the 2012 Guardian Children's Fiction Award. Dave lives in Cambridge with Pam, Mila, a badly-named cat and a badly- behaved dog. 

Judges: "This enchanting story has the feel of a classic children's tale."

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