Joshua Ferris, Richard Flanagan, Karen Joy Fowler, Howard Jacobson, Neel Mukherjee and Ali Smith have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, in a selection which sees five of the six authors coming from Penguin Random House.
The list comprises three Britons - Smith, Mukherjee and Jacobson - and two Americans, Ferris and Fowler. The final shortlistee is Australian Richard Flanagan.
Vintage has three titles on the shortlist: Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto); Neel Mukherjee, The Lives of Others (Chatto) and Howard Jacobson's J (Jonathan Cape). With Ali Smith's How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton) and Joshua Ferris' To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking), this gives Penguin Random House five of the six shortlisted titles.
Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent's Tail) is the only other shortlisted title.
Chair of the 2014 judges, AC Grayling, commented: ‘We are delighted to announce our international shortlist. As the Man Booker Prize expands its borders, these six exceptional books take the reader on journeys around the world, between the UK, New York, Thailand, Italy, Calcutta and times past, present and future.
"We had a lengthy and intensive debate to whittle the list down to these six. It is a strong, thought-provoking shortlist which we believe demonstrates the wonderful depth and range of contemporary fiction in English."
Tom Weldon, c.e.o. of Penguin Random House UK, said: "We are extremely proud to have five of the six Man Booker short listed titles. It is a great testament to the quality and diversity of Penguin Random House’s fiction publishing."
Waterstones fiction buyer Chris White called the shortlist "a vintage list with an tremendous mix of established names and exciting new talent," predicting it would be a commercial as well as a critical success. He said: "Neel Mukherjee and Joshua Ferris have both written extraordinary, albeit very different novels, and are huge talents which will dominate the literary scene for years to come. Ali Smith’s brilliantly inventive and ambitious How to be Both is remarkable and Jacobson’s J will be the book for which he is remembered. It’s an impossible list from which to choose a favourite but if I had to throw my hat into the ring, The Narrow Road to the Deep North would be my pick. The word ‘masterpiece’ can be bandied around with a bit too much abandon in the book world but in the case of Flanagan’s novel it seems to me to be entirely justified."
He added: "On a personal note, I’m delighted to see Karen Joy Fowler’s wonderfully wise and surprising novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, on the list. Everybody I know has adored this book and it was one of the highlights of our Summer Book Club. I’d love to see it go on and win."
Meanwhile Foyles web editor Jonathan Ruppin commented: "From a retailer's point of view, this is a promising shortlist: it would be a very narrow-minded reader who was unwilling to give any of these a go. But their diversity makes it difficult to identify any underlying criteria, beyond perhaps six writers looking beyond linear narratives to tell a story.
"While it's misleading to draw conclusions from one list of six books chosen on their merits, five titles from four Penguin Random House titles imprints does give ammunition to those who believe the rule changes have skewed the prize in favour of the major publishers. I think it's more indicative of the fact that publishers are spawning new imprints to facilitate more prize entries, because the glut of overpublishing combined with dwindling mainstream media coverage means that a prize nomination is too often the only factor that can save novels from commercial failure.
"There was much speculation about how opening up the prize globally might abet writers from the United States most, but I doubt anyone expected these particular Americans to be this year's beneficiaries. I'm tipping Richard Flanagan to win, but I think any of the non-American titles left in the running is still in with a chance."
The Bookseller's books editor Alice O'Keeffe commented: "I'm very surprised not to see David Mitchell on the shortlist – that's a big shock. I'm pleased that both Karen Joy Fowler and Ali Smith have made the shortlist. We Are Completely Beside Ourselves is a terrific book and also the only one from an indie publisher (Serpent's Tail). Every single other book on the shortlist is published by Penguin Random House which shows how dominant they are. The balance of nationalities is pretty even - I think people here were concerned that opening up to the US would mean a bit of a swamping but that hasn't happened."
This is the first year of the new Man Booker rules, which allow authors of any nationality writing in English, and published by a UK publisher, to enter.
On the longlist, but not making the cut to shortlist stage, were: Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World (Sceptre); Paul Kingsnorth, The Wake (Unbound); David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (Sceptre); David Nicholls, Us (Hodder); Joseph O'Neill, The Dog (Fourth Estate); and Niall Williams, History of the Rain (Bloomsbury).
Chair of the judges is A C Grayling, joined on the judging panel by Jonathan Bate, Sarah Churchwell, Daniel Glaser, Alastair Niven and Erica Wagner.
The £50,000 winner will be announced on 14th October at a dinner at London’s Guildhall and also broadcast live on the BBC.
Each shortlisted author will get £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book.
There were 154 books entered for this year’s prize, 44 of which were by authors eligible under the new rule changes. Commonwealth submissions were down from 43 last year to 31 this year.
Last year’s winner was Eleanor Catton with The Luminaries (Granta).