Six novels were shortlisted for the Booker Prize in September - here are extracts from each of them.
Brick Lane, by Monica Ali
Nazneen walked a step behind her husband down Brick Lane. The bright green and red pendants that fluttered from the lamp-posts advertised the bangla colours and basmati rice.
In the restaurant windows were clippings from newspapers and magazines with the name of the restaurant high-lighted in yellow or pink.
There were smart places with starched white tablecloths and multitudes of shining silver cutlery. In these places the newspaper clippings were framed. The tables were far apart and there was an absence of decoration that Nazneen knew to be a style.
In the other restaurants the greeters and waiters wore white, oil-marked shirts. But in the smart ones they wore black. A very large potted fern or a blue and white mosaic at the entrance indicated ultra-smart.
London-based Monica Ali is favourite with some bookmakers...
"You see," said Chanu. "All this money, money everywhere. Then years go there was no money here."
The judges' verdict: "An extraordinary first novel and extremely funny. A very subtle book."
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
Once upon a time, Snowman wasn't Snowman. Instead he was Jimmy. He'd been a good boy then.
Jimmy's earliest complete memory was of a huge bonfire. He must have been five, maybe six. He was wearing red rubber boots with a smiling duck's face on each toe; he remembers that, because after seeing the bonfire he had to walk through a pan of disinfectant in those boots.
They'd said the disinfectant was poisonous and he shouldn't splash, and then he was worried that the poision would get into the eyes of the ducks and hurt them. He'd been told the ducks were only like pictures, they weren't real and had no feelings, but he didn't quite believe it.
...while previous winner Margaret Atwood is favoured by others
So let's say five and a half, thinks Snowman. That's about right.
The judges' verdict: "One of the great dystopias, up there with George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
"A novel that absolutely sizzles with ideas and makes uncomfortable reading. A writer of supreme literary intelligence."
Astonishing Splashes of Colour, by Clare Morrall
At 3.15 every weekday afternoon, I become anonymous in a crowd of parents and child-minders congragating outside the school gates. To me, waiting for children to come out of school is a quintessential act of motherhood.
I see the mums - and the occasional dads - as yellow people. Yellow as the sun, a daffodil, the submarine. But why do we teach children to paint the sun yellow? It's a deception. The sun is white-hot, brilliant, impossible to see with the naked eye, so why do we confuse brightness with yellow?
This is Clare Morrall's fifth novel, but the first she has published
The judges' verdict: "An extraordinary, gripping novel written with no
sentimentality. A wonderful piece of writing - it is astonishing that she has never been published before."
Notes on a Scandal, by Zoe Heller
The first time I ever saw Sheba was on a Monday morning, early in the winter term of 1996. I was standing in the St George's car park, getting books out of the back of my car when she came through the gates on a bicycle - an old-fashioned, butcher-boy model with a basket in the front.
Her hair was arranged in one of those artfully dishevelled up-dos: a lot of stray tendrils framing the jaw, and something like a chopstick piercing a rough bun at the back. It was the sort of hairstyle that film actresses wear when they're playing sexy lady doctors.
Zoe Heller has also been feature writer, critic and columnist
I can't recall exactly what she had on. Sheba's outfits tend to be very complicated - lots of floaty layers. I know she was wearing purple shoes. And there was definitely a long skirt involved, because I remember thinking that it was an imminent danger of becoming entangled in her spokes.
When she dismounted - with a lithe, rather irritating, little skip - I saw that the skirt was made of some diaphanous material. Fey was the word that swam into my mind. Fey person, I thought. Then I locked my car and walked away.
The judges' verdict: "A brilliant narratorial voice with tinges of Jane Austen. Beautifully written, the kind of novel which doesn't put a foot wrong."
The Good Doctor, by Damon Galgut
I stood there for a long time, looking down at him. In the dim glow from an outside light his face seemed even younger than it was. Not young enough to be innocent, but soft and pale and nowhere it occurred to me how simple it would be to break a sleeping head like this. One hard , heavy blow with the right object and it would be done.
Damon Galgut lives in Cape Town and wrote his first novel aged 17
Because he was the enemy. I saw it now. The enemy was not outside, at large, in the world; he was within the gates. While I had slept.
Night thoughts; but nothing like this had come to me before. And it was terrible how casual, how very ordinary, the idea of murder could be. I turned away from it, and from myself, and went to be.
The judges' verdict: "Invites comparisons with Greene, Conrad and Naipaul. A very fine novel."
Vernon God Little, by DBC Pierre
I sit waiting between shafts of light from a row of doorways, naked except for my shoes and Thursday's underwear. Looks like I'm the first one they rounded up so far.
Australian-born designer DBC Pierre lives in Ireland
I ain't in trouble, don't get me wrong. I didn't have anything to do with Tuesday. Still, you wouldn't want to be here today. You'd remember Clarence Some-body, that ole black guy who was on the news last winter. He was the psycho who dozed in this same wooden hall, right on camera.
The news said that's how little he cared about the effects of his crimes. By 'effects' I think they meant axe-wounds. Ole Clarence Whoever was shaved clean like an animal, and dressed in the kind of hospital suit that psychos get, with jelly-jar glasses and all, the type of glasses worn by people with mostly gums and no teeth. They built him a zoo cage in court.
Then they sentenced him to death.
The judges' verdict: "An exhilarating, astounding book. You can't wait to turn the page. Highly poetic - a feast of language."