Costa Book Awards: Brain surgery memoir makes shortlist

image source, Henry Marsh
image captionDo No Harm is neurosurgeon Henry Marsh's first book

A memoir about brain surgery is among 20 books shortlisted for this year's Costa Book Awards.

Henry Marsh's Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery is one of four shortlisted biographies.

The judges called it "an addictive, eye-opening and poetic exploration of a brain surgeon's doubts and drive."

Winners in the novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children's book categories are announced on 5 January 2015.

An overall winner - the 2014 Costa Book of the Year - is announced on 27 January.

The shortlists also include two of this year's Man Booker nominees in the novel category and two books set during World War One in the children's category.

The Telegraph described Marsh's Do No Harm as "an elegant series of meditations at the closing of a long career".

"Many of the stories are moving enough to raise tears: a good few would make a Dalek squeamish," it said.

One of the country's top neurosurgeons, Marsh gives a rare insight into the operating theatre and the workings of a modern hospital. His book is also shortlisted for a Guardian first book award.

The Costa Book Awards, open to UK and Ireland-based authors, features 10 male and 10 female writers on the shortlist with ages spanning 29 to 70.


2014 Costa Novel Award shortlist

  • Neel Mukherjee for The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus)
  • Monique Roffey for House of Ashes (Simon and Schuster)
  • Ali Smith for How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Colm Toibin for Nora Webster (Viking)

2014 Costa First Novel Award shortlist

  • Carys Bray for A Song for Issy Bradley (Hutchinson)
  • Mary Costello for Academy Street (Canongate)
  • Emma Healey for Elizabeth is Missing (Viking)
  • Simon Wroe for Chop Chop (Viking)

2014 Costa Biography Award shortlist

  • John Campbell for Roy Jenkins: A Well-Rounded Life (Jonathan Cape)
  • Marion Coutts for The Iceberg: A Memoir (Atlantic Books)
  • Helen Macdonald for H is for Hawk (Jonathan Cape)
  • Henry Marsh for Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

2014 Costa Poetry Award shortlist

  • Colette Bryce for The Whole and Rain-domed Universe (Picador)
  • Jonathan Edwards for My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren)
  • Lavinia Greenlaw for A Double Sorrow: Troilus and Criseyde (Faber & Faber)
  • Kei Miller for The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion (Carcanet)

2014 Costa Children's Book Award shortlist

  • Simon Mason for Running Girl (David Fickling Books/Random House Children's Publishers)
  • Michael Morpurgo for Listen to the Moon (HarperCollins Children's Books)
  • Kate Saunders for Five Children on the Western Front (Faber & Faber)
  • Marcus Sedgwick for The Ghosts of Heaven (Indigo)

Neel Mukherjee's The Lives of Others and Ali Smith for How to be Both were both in the final six for the 2014 Man Booker Prize, which was won by Richard Flanagan's wartime novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

In the children's category, both Michael Morpurgo's Listen to the Moon and Kate Saunders' Five Children on the Western Front are set during World War One.

The judges described Morpurgo's novel, which begins in May 1915, as "a captivating, utterly transporting war novel that lives on powerfully in the memory".

Saunders' book, a sequel to E Nesbit's classic Five Children and It, was called "a beautifully-written exploration of the power of love in the face of the horrors of war".

Formerly known as the Whitbread Prize, this year's Costa Book Awards awards had a record 640 entries.

Winners in the five categories each receive £5,000. The winner of the Costa Book of the Year receives £30,000.

Since the introduction of the book of the year award in 1985, it has been won 11 times by a novel, five times by a first novel, five times by a biography, seven times by a collection of poetry and once by a children's book.

Last year's top prize went to The Shock of the Fall by debut novelist Nathan Filer.

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