Author, historian and broadcaster Professor Kate Williams has been selected to chair the nine-member judging panel that selects the overall winner of the 2016 Costa Book of the Year.
Williams will be joined by BAFTA-winning comedian and presenter Graham Norton, "Cold Feet" and "Downton Abbey" actor Robert Bathurst and broadcast journalist and author Sian Williams as final judges.
One judge from each of the category panels complete the line-up. They are writer Nicci Gerrard (Novel), literary editor of the Daily and Sunday Express, Charlotte Heathcote (First Novel), biographer and journalist Matthew Dennison (Biography), author-illustrator Cressida Cowell (Children’s Book) and Kate Kellaway (Poetry), staff writer and poetry editor at The Observer.
According to Costa, the final nine-member panel that selects the overall Costa Book of the Year is made up of a chairman, a judge from each category panel and three "other well-known people in the public eye – and who are outside of the publishing world - who love reading and whose opinions the public would respect".
Both Sian Williams and Norton published books this year, the latter winning the Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book prize for his darkly funny debut novel Holding (Hodder & Stoughton) in November. Williams, who is also a trained trauma assessor, published Rise: Surviving and Thriving After Trauma with W&N in June.
The Costa Book Awards recognises "the most enjoyable" books published this year across five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book.
Professor Kate Williams said: “I’m thrilled to be chair of this year’s Costa Book of the Year panel. The Costa Book Awards – and Whitbread before as it was – have always celebrated the best and most exciting work being published in the UK and Ireland today. Authors write on low budgets, around jobs, childcare, self-doubt, illness – and still they spin magical worlds that invite us in and we can never forget.”
She added: “But this prize most of all is for the readers and the joy of reading – whether it’s children reading under the covers in the dark or adults missing their stop on the bus because they’re lost in a book. I was that child reading late at night in the dark – so it’s an incredible honour and privilege for me to be chair. In times of political change and turmoil, we need reading more than ever – for it is telling stories about ourselves that makes us human.”
The final judges will meet on Tuesday 31st January 2017 to select the winner of the Costa Book of the Year, which will be announced at an awards ceremony later that evening. The ceremony, hosted by presenter and broadcaster Penny Smith, will take place at Quaglino’s in central London. The winner of the Costa Short Story Award – now in its fifth year and voted for by the general public - will also be announced at the awards ceremony.
Last year's winner of the £30,000 Book of the Year accolade was Francis Hardinge for The Lie Tree (Macmillan).