The Costa Book Awards 2016

Category Winners


Not so long before Christmas, we brought news of the Costa Book Awards shortlist for 2016, some twenty titles for each of the five categories that will ultimately vie for the overall Costa Book of the Year 2016. Now that moment edges ever closer as we reveal those five vital category winners, unveiled only moments ago by the Costa Book Awards judging panel, chaired this year by historian and author Kate Williams.


‘To write any book is an achievement - an act of vanquishing personal demons every day and driving forth the creativity and effort, even when there are other challenges or distractions that seem all-consuming. But all 20 shortlisted books – and these five category winners in particular - are truly superb, brilliantly written, engaging in complex ways with the world around us so that we’re made to think and question. Most of all, they’re examples of fantastic storytelling. Humans have told each other stories about themselves and the world around them since the beginning of time – it’s what makes us human.’

Kate Williams, Chair of Judges

Novel Award Winner

Days Without End (Hardback)

Days Without End

Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry is no stranger to the Costa Book Awards, having walked away with 2008’s Book of the Year for his tale of a lost Irish past, The Secret Scripture. Days Without End may just be the book to compel lightning to strike twice: properly epic and simmering with a true sense of time and space, Barry’s take on the western is a story of hardship and hope, set against the background of a boiling, nascent America.

‘A work of staggering openness; its startlingly beautiful sentences are so capacious that they are hard to leave behind.’ – The Guardian

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First Novel Award Winner

Golden Hill (Paperback)

Golden Hill

Francis Spufford

One of our previous Books of the Month and a firm customer favourite, Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill is a picaresque, pitch-perfect work of real ingenuity, following the travails of the mysterious Mr Smith as he makes his incident-filled way across an infant Manhattan Island of 1746. Spufford puts his previous non-fiction skills to superb use in creating a vivid period portrait, but it’s in the novel’s sharp comic voice that the book shines, conjuring a third-person account that crackles with observational wit.

‘A celebration of the 18th-century novel… plenty of dubious currencies change hands in old New York, but this novel is verifiable gold.’ – The Financial Times

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Biography Award Winner

Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory (Hardback)

Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory

Keggie Carew

Perhaps surprisingly, Keggie Carew’s Dadland has so far evaded recognition by a major award but we all knew it was only a matter of time. Carew’s father Tom – the ‘Lawrence of Burma’, amongst various other epithets – looms across her memoir like some raging figure from another time: spy, SOE agent, a lethal operator both against the Germans and later the Japanese, and a figure almost certainly an inspiration for Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley.

All this is in stark contrast to the man he would finally become, addled by dementia, a force of nature unsuited to the mundane. Carew presents both wild anecdote and a daughter’s love with equal force, creating a moving portrait of a soul who struggled when the adventure stopped.

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Poetry Award Winner

Falling Awake (Paperback)

Falling Awake

Alice Oswald

Alice Oswald is no stranger to award success, bagging a series of significant victories that have included the T.S. Elliot Prize for her second collection Dart and 2009’s inaugural Ted Hughes Award for her sixth, Weeds and Wild Flowers. Fittingly the spirit of both voices flow through Falling Awake, Oswald’s deceptively stripped-back paean to the natural world; within dwells gems such as Fox, the poet’s counter-point to Hughes’ The Thought-Fox, to the heightened aural observation of Slowed-down Blackbird.

Sliding to a close with the epic Tithonus, a work Oswald performed with some brilliance at the Southbank Centre, Falling Awake forms the lintel to a writing career that some are beginning to frame within the context of a future Poet Laureate.

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Children’s Book Award Winner

The Bombs That Brought Us Together: Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2016 (Paperback)

The Bombs That Brought Us Together

Brian Conaghan

From the moment his 2014 debut When Mr Dog Bites found print, Brian Conaghan has carefully carved out something of an alternative voice in Young Adult writing, refusing to steer away from the challenging and rightfully regarding his audience with respect. The Bombs That Brought Us Together typifies this bold approach, weaving a highly-analogous tale of a friendship forged across the division of war. The setting is deliberately placeless but the relationships glow with recognition, as two young boys – Charlie from ‘Little Town’ and Pavel from the ‘Old Country’ – find themselves pitched not just against a background of national conflict but dangers even closer to home.

‘Cleverly explores how love and friendship can blossom even in the face of profound personal and political turmoil.’ – The Scotsman


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