Hilary Mantel, who won the coveted Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2009 with historical novel Wolf Hall, is a favourite to repeat the feat after her sequel Bring up the Bodies was shortlisted again on Tuesday.
The other five nominees are Will Self (Umbrella), Deborah Levy (Swimming Home), Malaysia's Tan Twan Eng (The Garden of Evening Mists) and first-time novelists Alison Moore (The Lighthouse) and Indian author Jeet Thayil (Narcopolis).
"We loved the shock of language shown in so many different ways and were exhilarated by the vigour and vividly defined values in the six books that we chose," said Peter Stothard, chairman of the judges and editor of the Times Literary Supplement.
The overall winner will be announced at a ceremony at London's Guildhall on Oct. 16 and receive a cheque for 50,000 pounds ($80,000), plus a spike in sales that usually accompanies a major literary award.
Last year's winner, The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes, has sold more than 300,000 print copies in the United Kingdom alone.
Of the six shortlisted authors, two have previously been linked to the prize.
Mantel won in 2009 with the first instalment of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, and was longlisted in 2005 for Beyond Black.
Eng was longlisted for the prize in 2007 with his debut novel, The Gift of Rain.
The four other novelists including Self, who was described by organizers as a "radical of contemporary literature," appeared on the list for the first time.
The shortlist features three major publishers - Faber & Faber, Fourth Estate and Bloomsbury - and three smaller regional publishers - Myrmidon Books, Salt and And Other Stories.
Levy's novel Swimming Home is co-published by And Other Stories and Faber & Faber.
Ladbrokes bookmakers made Mantel the early favourite for the 2012 Man Booker Prize with odds of 9/4, followed by Self at 11/4.
"All of the momentum is with Mantel and punters are confident in her bid for the first ever repeat win," said Ladbrokes spokeswoman Jessica Bridge.
"She cost us dearly in 2009 with Wolf Hall and this year looks set to be no different."
Jonathan Ruppin, web editor at Foyles bookshops, praised the judges' selection, and added:
"One can never discount the consistently brilliant Hilary Mantel and Will Self has surpassed himself with Umbrella, but I'm tipping Alison Moore's moody and exquisite The Lighthouse to pull off a triumph for the dynamic world of indie publishing."
The prize was launched in 1969 to promote works of fiction written by citizens of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.