The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2012 has been announced. The six novels in with a chance of winning this year's prize are: Tan Twan Eng - The Garden Of Evening Mists, Deborah Levy - Swimming Home, Hilary Mantel - Bring Up The Bodies, Alison Moore - The Lighthouse, Will Self - Umbrella, Jeet Thayil - Narcopolis (see slideshow below).
The judging panel is chaired by Sir Peter Stothard, editor of The Times Literary Supplement. He is joined on the panel by literary critic Dinah Birch, bestselling author Amanda Foreman, actor Dan Stevens and leading academic Bharat Tandon.
Announcing the list, Stothard described this year's list as "the strongest in ten years." Following last year's criticism that the Booker panel had been swayed by 'readability', Stothard also insisted that he and the judges "considered texts, not reputations."
"Last year's row was exaggerated," he added, "But I had a very clear idea what the Man Booker tradition has been in my lifetime and we stuck to it."
Along with Mantel, the biggest reputation on the list is Will Self. Stothard described his novel Umbrella as "both moving and draining," adding that "those who stick with it will find it less difficult than it first seems."
Dinah Birch described the judging process as "exhilarating", insisting that the panel has debated but not quarreled. She also said that at times, judging felt like being "punch-drunk" and was exhausting as they endeavored to read each book in succession.
Asked if he'd consider being a judge again, Downtown Abbey star Dan Stevens joked: "No, is the short answer", before revealing that he'd read much of the books while on the set of the hit show.
2012 is the 44th year of the prize since it begin in 1969.
The eventual winner will be unveiled at a ceremony in London's Guildhall on Tuesday 16 October. Each of the six shortlisted writers is awarded £2,500 while the winner receives a further £50,000.
"The Garden of Evening Mists" by Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon Books)
Yun Ling Teoh is the survivor of a Japanese wartime camp, so she's understandably disgruntled towards the people of that nation. Still, she becomes the apprentice of an exiled Japanese gardener, in hopes that she can build a garden to commemorate her deceased sister in Kuala Lumpur.
"Swimming Home" by Deborah Levy (And Other Stories)
This book explores the depressed state of a group of stately tourists visiting the French Riviera, but does so in a light, funny manner. The introduction to this book is by Tom McCarthy, the acclaimed author of "C."
"Bring up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
This is the sequel to Mantel's 2009 Booker winner "Wolf Hall." Both books chronicle the pitfalls of Anne Boleyn.
"Umbrella" by Will Self (Bloomsbury)
Zack Busner is a psychiatrist treating victims of a post-World War I sleeping sickness epidemic -- but is the disease biological or the result of the pressures of modernity?
"The Lighthouse" by Alison Moore (Salt)
A middle-aged man takes a trip to Germany but finds the hotel staff to be less than accommodating as he contemplates his mother's abandonment while embarking on a walking tour.
"Narcopolis" by Jeet Thayil (Faber & Faber)
Set in a brothel in 1970s Bombay, this book illustrates the addictions and perversions of human trafficking in India, contrasted with the beauty and hope found in films and churches.