Rooney, Almond and Youngson make Costa 2018 shortlists

Rooney, Almond and Youngson make Costa 2018 shortlists

Irish novelist Sally Rooney, children's writer David Almond, and a 70-year-old debut writer, Anne Youngson, are among the 20 authors whose books have been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards 2018.

Spanning five categories - first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children's book - the Costas celebrate "the most enjoyable books" by authors resident in the UK and Ireland. Whittled down from 641 entries, it was announced on Thursday evening (22nd November) that debuts make up half of the shortlisted titles this year, while the gender split of nominated authors is 50/50. The age of writers in the running meanwhile ranges from 27 to 75 years old.

In the novel award category are two Irish novelists, Sally Rooney and Donal Ryan, whose respective books Normal People (Faber & Faber) and From a Low and Quiet Sea (Doubleday) were both longlisted for 2018's Man Booker Prize. They compete with Booker Prize winner Pat Barker and her retelling of the Iliad, The Silence of the Girls (Hamish Hamilton), and journalist Tom Rachman’s novel about modern art and fathers and sons, The Italian Teacher (riverrun).

The first novel award category comprises debuts from Anne Youngson, a retired motor industry senior executive, as well as Elisa Lodato, Natalie Hart and Stuart Turton. Youngson is recognised for Meet Me at the Museum (Doubleday), an emotionally charged book centred on new beginnings which Transworld snapped up within 48 hours of submission. Lodato is shortlisted for An Unremarkable Body (W&N), exploring a 30-year-old's relationship with her mother through the findings of her mother's autopsy; Hart for Pieces of Me (Legend Press), the story of a military romance told between Iraq and Colorado, and Turton for his high-concept murder mystery The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Raven Books).

Three-quarters of the poetry award shortlist are debuts from Faber & Faber’s stables. The three Faber authors - Zaffar Kunial, former opera singer Richard Scott and Hannah Sullivan - are nominated respectively for Us, Soho, and Three Poems. They are joined by Scottish poet J.O. Morgan on the shortlist, included for his book-length war-poem Assurances (Jonathan Cape).

In the biography award category are memoirs by songwriter and musician Viv Albertine, Oxford University Professor Bart van Es and Raynor Winn, who walked the 630 mile South West Coast Path to escape the prospect of homelessness. Slits guitarist Albertine is shortlisted for To Throw Away Unopened (Faber & Faber), van Es for The Cut Out Girl (Fig Tree), and Winn for The Salt Path (Michael Joseph). Also a contender is The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah, an autobiography written by the performance poet, playwright, political activist and musician himself (Scribner).

Two previous winners of the Children's Book Award (during the time it was known as the Whitbread Children's Book Award) return to the shortlist in 2018: Hilary McKay, who won the prize in 2001 for Saffy's Angel, and David Almond, who won the prize 20 years ago for his first children's novel, Skellig. McKay is shortlisted for The Skylarks’ War (Macmillan Children’s Books), set against the backdrop of the First World War, and Almond for his teen novel The Colour of the Sun (Hodder Children’s). Rounding off the shortlist are Filipino author Candy Gourlay's Bone Talk (David Fickling Books) and the Second World War-set spy novel, Orphan Monster Spy, by YA debut writer Matt Killeen (Usborne).

Dominic Paul, m.d. of Costa said there was "genuinely something for everyone" across the shortlists this year: "books which will make you laugh and books which will make you cry; books which will make you think; books which you'll read late into the night; and, most of all, books which you'll want to recommend and pass on to others". The 15 judges (three per panel) included authors Paula Byrne and Rachel Joyce, journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera, poet Mimi Khalvati, journalist, critic and writer Anita Sethi and RTE broadcaster Rick O’Shea.

The five categories winners will each receive £5,000 and are due to be announced on 7th January 2019. The overall winner of the £30,000 2018 Costa Book of the Year will be announced at the Costa Book Awards ceremony in central London on 29th January 2019.