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Book News: Artist, Falconer And Neurosurgeon Make Costa Award Shortlist

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

The Costa Book Awards unrolled their shortlists Tuesday — and, well, they offer plenty of fodder for a reading list.

The prize formerly known as the Whitbread Literary Award (name change circa 2006) picked four nominees each in five categories: novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children's book. And while there are a few familiar faces — Colm Toibin, Helen Macdonald and Ali Smith, who just won the Goldsmiths Prize — the lists also drew in a few unusual suspects, including a visual artist and a neurosurgeon.

Winners for each category will be announced Jan. 5, and an overall winner will be named Jan. 27. See all the nominees here.

Remembering Feinberg:Novelist and transgender activist Leslie Feinberg has died at age 65, The Advocate reports. Feinberg's first novel, Stone Butch Blues, published in 1993, was a milestone in the literary representation of LGBT characters.

In an article for NPR last year, Barbara J. King brought up the significance of the book and its main character, Jess: "There was something different about Jess. For some people, being unable to categorize hir as male or female upon sight was disconcerting enough to trigger discrimination, or worse."

King adds that — as Feinberg notes in her afterword — "the book is 'Real all right. So real it bleeds.' "

Feinberg's efforts weren't limited to fiction. Feinberg also wrote works of theory and participated in political activism beyond the issues directly confronting transgender writers — helping organize the 1974 March Against Racism and taking part in pro-labor rallies.

The Advocate reports that Feinberg's final words were: "Remember me as a revolutionary communist."

Masters Of The Domain:Every year, thousands of books drop out of copyright and into the public domain, at which point they become largely available to print and circulate freely. For readers and publishers, it's a big deal — but at the same time, given the sheer number of newly public books, choosing which ones to focus on can also be a big ordeal.

Nicely, Alan B. Riddell's now come up with an algorithm to make the decision for you. Using math, Riddell has ranked which works appear worthiest of preserving, sorting by year, decade and other categories. You can find his .

His assessments aren't without their critics, though. Looking at his rankings for authors who died in 1910, the blog Literary Saloon notes, "Any formula that puts Goldwin Smith ahead of Tolstoy ... maybe not entirely reliable."

Back To Hell:From Hell, the graphic novel from Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, may soon be slipping out of its panels and back onto a screen. Deadline reports that FX has designs on developing the book — a dark dive into the legend of Jack the Ripper — into a TV series. From Hellgot a film adaptation with Johnny Depp back in 2001, and the film's producer, Don Murphy, reportedly will also head up the small-screen adaptation. Though Alan Moore hasn't yet responded, as the Los Angeles Times reports, he isn't likely to be happy about it. (Just look at this glower.)

The Man Behind Modiano:In the Boston Globe, Mark Shanahan profiles the unorthodox U.S. publisher of recent Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. The French writer's popularity at home did little to bolster his renown in the U.S. — much to the chagrin of David Godine, the English-language publisher of several of Modiano's books.

Prior to the prize, "I couldn't sell them to Chicago for landfill," Godine tells the Globe.

Now, one Nobel win later, Godine doesn't expect that to continue. "You bet we're going to make a lot of money off Modiano," he says. "You publish a Nobel Prize winner, you'd have to shoot yourself in the foot not to make a lot of money."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.