For British authors and poets writing in English, one of the most prestigious awards are the Costa Prizes. This year, the winner was Inside The Wave, a collection of poetry by the late Helen Dunmore.

The Costa Book Awards have been running since 1971 and were then known as the Whitbread Book Awards. In 2006, they gained their current title when Whitbread subsidiary, Costa took over sponsorship duties.

The idea of the awards is to celebrate English-language literature written by writers based in Britain or Ireland. However, unlike the Booker Prize which also celebrates English-language literature published in the UK, the Costa Book Awards are designed to celebrate works that are enjoyable to read and accessible to a wide audience. Thus, the Costa Prize is considered more populist than the Booker Prize.

The awards are made up of five categories: Novel, First novel, Children’s book, Poetry, Biography. A winner is chosen in each category, then of those, an overall winner is selected.

The prize is £5,000 for winning authors in each category and £25,000 for the overall winner.

Judges for the awards are a collection of writers, cultural critics, and minor celebrities.

2018 Costa Prize winners

The main winner of the Costa Book Awards 2018 is Helen Dunmore for her poetry collection, Inside The Wave. The win represents only the second time the award has ever been given posthumously. Dunmore wrote the poetry collection in the last weeks of her life preceding her death by cancer in June 2017.

The poetry collection considers the themes of cancer and death. One of the poems contained within, Hold Out Your Arms, was written just ten days before Dunmore died.

Despite its melancholy subject matter though, the collection is said to be very joyful and life-affirming. Chair of the judges, Wendy Holden said:

“Even though it was written while she was dying, it was very life affirming. Even people who didn’t normally read poetry thought it was a fantastic collection. It is incredibly moving, and by an author at the top of her game.

“Some of the poems are written from her hospital bed, but even those are very uplifting. They don’t need to be upbeat and jolly. Most of them have a lot to say about how we live, who she was, who we are … they speak to all of us. It is impossible to read it and not get something from it. It is great to give a collection of poetry this great prize.”

3 Things That Will Change the World Today

Costa also produced a short video interviewing Dunmore’s son, Patrick Charnley and some of the other celebrity judges at the event:

The other winners this year were as follows:

  • Novel – Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
  • First Novel – Emily Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • Children’s Book – The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
  • Biography – In The Days Of Rain by Rebecca Stott

The favourite for the year was Emily Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Gail Honeyman’s debut has already made headlines after Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, announced it will be producing a film adaption.

Past winners of the Costa Book Awards

Dunmore is only the latest in a long line of Costa Book Award winners. The full list of winners can be found below:

Novel winners

1971 – The Destiny Waltz – Gerda Charles

1972 – The Bird of Night – Susan Hill

1973 – The Chip-Chip Gatherers – Shiva Naipaul

1974 – The Sacred and Profane Love Machine – Iris Murdoch

1975 – Docherty – William McIlvanney

1976 – The Children of Dynmouth – William Trevor

1977 – Injury Time – Beryl Bainbridge

1978 – Picture Palace – Paul Theroux

1979 – The Old Jest – Jennifer Johnston

1980 – How Far Can You Go – David Lodge

1981 – Silver’s City – Maurice Leitch

1982 – Young Shoulders – John Wain

1983 – Fools of Fortune – William Trevor

1984 – Kruger’s Alp – Christopher Hope

1985 – Hawksmoor – Peter Ackroyd

1986 – An Artist of the Floating World – Kazuo Ishiguro

1987 – The Child in Time – Ian McEwan

1988 – The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie

1989 – The Chymical Wedding – Lindsay Clarke*

1990 – Hopeful Monsters – Nicholas Mosley

1991 – The Queen of the Tambourine – Jane Gardam

1992 – Poor Things – Alasdair Gray

1993 – Theory of War – Joan Brady

1994 – Felicia’s Journey – William Trevor

1995 – The Moor’s Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie

1996 – Every Man for Himself – Beryl Bainbridge

1997 – Quarantine – Jim Crace

1998 – Leading the Cheers – Justin Cartwright

1999 – Music and Silence – Rose Tremain

2000 – English Passengers – Matthew Kneale

2001 – Twelve Bar Blues – Patrick Neate

2002 – Spies – Michael Frayn

2003 – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

2004 – Small Island – Andrea Levy

2005 – The Accidental – Ali Smith

2006 – Restless – William Boyd

2007 – Day – A.L. Kennedy

2008 – The Secret Scripture – Sebastian Barry

2009 – Brooklyn – Colm Tóibin

2010 – The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell

2011 – Pure – Andrew Miller

2012 – Bring up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

2013 – Life after Life – Kate Atkinson

2014 – How to Be Both – Ali Smith

2015 – A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson

2016 – Days Without End – Sebastian Barry

*Originally, that year’s prize was awarded to Alexander Stuart’s The War Zone. The book was stripped of the prize due to fury among the judging panel.

First novel winners

1974 – The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft – Claire Tomalin

1975 – The Improbable Puritan: A Life of Bulstrode Whitelocke – Ruth Spalding

1981 – A Good Man in Africa – William Boyd

1982 – On the Black Hill – Bruce Chatwin

1983 – Flying to Nowhere – John Fuller

1984 – A Parish of Rich Women – James Buchan

1985 – Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson

1986 – Continent – Jim Crace

1987 – The Other Garden – Francis Wyndham

1988 – The Comforts of Madness – Paul Sayer

1989 – Gerontius – James Hamilton-Paterson

1990 – The Buddha of Suburbia – Hanif Kureishi

1991 – Alma Cogan – Gordon Burn

1992 – Swing Hammer Swing! – Jeff Torrington

1993 – Saving Agnes – Rachel Cusk

1994 – The Longest Memory – Fred D’Aguiar

1995 – Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

1996 – The Debt to Pleasure – John Lanchester

1997 – The Ventriloquist’s Tale – Pauline Melville

1998 – The Last King of Scotland – Giles Foden

1999 – White City Blue – Tim Lott

2000 – White Teeth – Zadie Smith

2001 – Something Like A House – Sid Smith

2002 – The Song of Names – Norman Lebrecht

2003 – Vernon God Little – DBC Pierre

2004 – Eve Green – Susan Fletcher

2005 – The Harmony Silk Factory – Tash Aw

2006 – The Tenderness of Wolves – Stef Penney

2007 – What Was Lost – Catherine O’Flynn

2008 – The Outcast – Sadie Jones

2009 – The New Policeman – Kate Thompson

2010 – Witness the Night – Kishwar Desai

2011 – Tiny Sunbirds Far Away – Christie Watson

2012 – The Innocents – Francesca Segal

2013 – The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

2014 – Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey

2015 – The Loney – Andrew Michael Hurley

2016 – Golden Hill – Francis Spufford

Children’s Book

1972 – The Diddakoi – Rumer Godden

1973 – The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast – Alan Aldridge and William Plomer

1974 – How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen – Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake

1974 – The Emperor’s Winding Sheet – Jill Paton Welsh

1976 – A Stitch in Time – Penelope Lively

1977 – No End to Yesterday – Shelagh Macdonald

1978 – The Battle of Bubble & Squeak – Philippa Pearce

1979 – Tulku – Peter Dickinson

1980 – John Diamond – Leon Garfield

1981 – The Hollow Land – Jane Gardam

1982 – The Song of Pentecost – W. J. Corbett

1983 – The Witches – Roald Dahl

1984 – The Queen of the Pharisees’ Children – Barbara Willard

1985 – The Nature of the Beast – Janni Howker

1986 – The Coal House – Andrew Taylor

1987 – A Little Lower than the Angels – Geraldine McCaughrean

1988 – Awaiting Developments – Judy Allen

1989 – Why Weeps the Brogan – Hugh Scott

1990 – AK – Peter Dickinson

1991 – Harvey Angell – Diana Hendry

1992 – The Great Elephant Chase – Gillian Cross

1993 – Flour Babies – Anne Fine

1994 – Gold Dust – Geraldine McCaughrean

1995 – The Wreck of the Zanzibar – Michael Morpurgo

1996 – The Tulip Touch – Anne Fine

1997 – Aquila – Andrew Norriss

1998 – Skellig – David Almond

1999 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling

2000 – Coram Boy – Jamila Gavin

2001 – The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

2002 – Saffy’s Angel – Hilary McKay

2003 – The Fire-Eaters – David Almond

2004 – Not the End of the World – Geraldine McCaughrean

2005 – The New Policeman – Kate Thompson

2006 – Set in Stone – Linda Newbery

2007 – The Bower Bird – Ann Kelley

2008 – Just Henry – Michelle Magorian

2009 – The Ask and the Answer – Patrick Ness

2010 – Out of Shadows – Jason Wallace

2011 – Blood Red Road – Moira Young

2012 – Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner

2013 – Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse – Chris Riddell

2014 – Five Children on the Western Front – Kate Saunders

2015 – The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

2016 – The Bombs That Brought Us Together – Brian Conaghan

Poetry

1971 – Mercian Hymns – Geoffrey Hill

1985 – Elegies – Douglas Dunn

1986 – Stet – Peter Reading

1987 – The Haw Lantern – Seamus Heaney

1988 – The Automatic Oracle – Peter Porter

1989 – Shibboleth – Michael Donaghy

1990 – Daddy, Daddy – Paul Durcan

1991 – Gorse Fires – Michael Longley

1992 – The Gaze of the Gorgon – Tony Harrison

1993 – Mean Time – Carol Ann Duffy

1994 – Out of Danger – James Fenton

1995 – Gunpowder – Bernard O’Donoghue

1996 – The Spirit Level – Seamus Heaney

1997 – Tales from Ovid – Ted Hughes

1998 – Birthday Letters – Ted Hughes

1999 – Beowulf – Seamus Heaney

2000 – The Asylum Dance John Burnside

2001 – Bunny – Selima Hill

2002 – The Ice Age – Paul Farley

2003 – Landing Light – Don Paterson

2004 – Corpus – Michael Symmons Roberts

2005 – Cold Calls – Christopher Logue

2006 – Letter to Patience – John Haynes

2007 – Tilt – Jean Sprackland

2008 – The Broken Word – Adam Foulds

2009 – A Scattering – Christopher Reid

2010 – Of Mutability – Jo Shapcott

2011 – The Bees – Carol Ann Duffy

2012 – The Overhaul – Kathleen Jamie

2013 – Drysalter – Michael Symmons Roberts

2014 – My Family and Other Superheroes – Jonathan Edwards

2015 – 40 Sonnets – Don Paterson

2016 – Falling Awake – Alice Oswald

Biography

1971 – Henrik Ibsen – Michael Meyer

1972 – Anthony Trollope – James Pope-Hennessy

1973 – CB: A Life of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman – John Wilson

1974 – Poor Dear Brendan – Andrew Boyle

1975 – In Our Infancy – Helen Corke

1976 – Elizabeth Gaskell – Winifred Gerin

1977 – Mary Curzon – Nigel Nicolson

1978 – Lloyd George: The People’s Champion – John Grigg

1979 – About Time – Penelope Mortimer

1980 – On the Edge of Paradise: A. C. Benson, Diarist – David Newsome

1981 – Monty: The Making of a General – Nigel Hamilton

1982 – Bismark – Edward Crankshaw

1983 – Vita – Victoria Glendinning

1983 – King George V – Kenneth Rose

1984 – T. S. Eliot – Peter Ackroyd

1985 – Hugh Dalton – Ben Pimlott

1986 – Gilbert White – Richard Mabey

1987 – Under the Eye of the Clock – Christopher Nolan

1988 – Tolstoy – A. N. Wilson

1989 – Coleridge: Early Visions – Richard Holmes

1990 – AA Milne – His Life – Ann Thwaite

1991 – A Life of Picasso – John Richardson

1992 – Trollope – Victoria Glendinning

1993 – Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life – Andrew Motion

1994 – D H Lawrence: The Married Man – Brenda Maddox

1995 – Gladstone – Roy Jenkins

1996 – Thomas Cranmer: A Life – Diarmaid MacCulloch

1997 – Victor Hugo – Graham Robb

1998 – Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire – Amanda Foreman

1999 – Berlioz Volume Two: Servitude and Greatness – David Cairns

2000 – Bad Blood – A Memoir – Lorna Sage

2001 – Selkirk’s Island – Diana Souhamiv

2002 – Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self – Claire Tomalin

2003 – Orwell: The Life – DJ Taylor

2004 – My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots – John Guy

2005 – Matisse the Master – Hilary Spurling

2006 – Keeping Mum – Brian Thompson

2007 – Young Stalin – Simon Sebag Montefiore

2008 – Somewhere Towards the End – Diana Athill

2009 – The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius – Graham Farmelo

2010 – The Hare with Amber Eyes – Edmund de Waal

2011 – Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas – Matthew Hollis

2012 – Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes – Mary Talbot and Bryan Talbot

2013 – The Pike – Lucy Hughes-Hallet

2014 – H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald

2015 – The Invention of Nature – Andrea Wulf

2016 – Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory – Keggie Carew