SECOND in command to the Booker Prize, the Costa Awards (formerly the Whitbreads), still matter. They still shift books on a large scale and the “winner” sticker still counts for something in the Waterstones customer’s consciousness.
Lest anyone mistake them for the Bookers’ subservient echo, this year the prize will disprove such an assertion – not one Booker short-lister has made it to Costa’s list in a rather major snub to the judges of the other prize. Even Howard Jacobson, this year’s Booker winner, is absent.
Unlike the Bookers, the Costas have several categories and thus the range of books it promotes is wider, from poetry to children’s – but not necessarily more diluted. However rather than five overall winners, thre is one eventual overall winner, which will announced on 25 Jan.
The big story of this year’s shortlist is the tussle for the £30,000 poetry gong. Nominees include 48 year-old former drug addict Sam Willetts, who wrote his first book of poetry, New Light For The Old Dark, in 2007 after coming out of rehab and losing six years of his life to addiction. Controversially, he is up against veteran poet Roy Fisher, 80, who is up for Standard Midland, meditations on loss and ageing.
The most unlikely-sounding contender is Sarah Bakewell’s How To Live: A Life Of Montaigne In One Question And Twenty Attempts At An Answer (Bakewell is pictured left) for the biography section. The playwright Michael Frayn is also shortlisted for the biography category with for My Father's Fortune. Winners announced on 5 Jan (categories) and 25 Jan (overall).