Three women and two men have been shortlisted for the 2006 Whitbread Book of the Year award.
The five category winners - for best novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children's - emerged from a record 476 entrants.
All the category winners receive £5,000 and compete for the prestigious Whitbread Book of the Year title, which carries an additional £25,000 prize.
Who are the final five in the running for the prestigious top prize?
NOVEL WINNER: ALI SMITH - THE ACCIDENTAL
Born in Inverness in 1962, Ali Smith studied for her first degree in Aberdeen but moved to Cambridge to do a PhD.
Rather than study, she started to write plays and ended up dropping out to work as a lecturer in Edinburgh.
She made her mark on the literary scene in 1995 with her first book, Free Love, a collection of short stories.
Smith published her first novel, Like, in 1997. Her second, Hotel World, was shortlisted for both the Booker and Orange prizes.
The Accidental is her third novel and follows a girl spending summer with a family in Norfolk.
It was nominated for the 2005 Booker prize but lost to John Banville's The Sea.
FIRST NOVEL WINNER: TASH AW - THE HARMONY SILK FACTORY
Tash Aw was born in Taipei to Malaysian parents and brought up in Malaysia.
He was educated at a Catholic school in Kuala Lumpur before moving to England to read law at Cambridge university.
Aw moved to London before taking a place at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, where he gained an MA in creative writing.
Set in the 1930s and 1940s, The Harmony Silk Factory follows three men and a woman as they journey through the Malaysian jungle.
Citing his influences as Flaubert, Faulkner and Nabokov, Aw is currently working on his second novel.
BIOGRAPHY WINNER: HILARY SPURLING - MATISSE THE MASTER
Hilary Spurling won the Whitbread's biography award with the second part of her study of the painter Matisse.
Spurling was the arts editor, theatre critic and subsequently literary editor for The Spectator during the 1960s.
The London-based writer is now a book reviewer for The Daily Telegraph, Observer and New York Times newspapers.
Spurling previously wrote biographies on English novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett, 19th Century French socialite Therese Humbert and George Orwell's wife Sonia Orwell.
Granted access to Matisse family correspondence, her two-part biography was written over 15 years and was shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.
POETRY WINNER: CHRISTOPHER LOGUE - COLD CALLS
Born in 1926, Christopher Logue served as a private in the Black Watch and spent 16 months in an army prison.
He has published several volumes of poetry and a pornographic novel.
Cold Calls won the Whitbread Poetry award as the fifth and penultimate instalment of Logue's account of the Iliad.
He uses free blank verse to turn the ancient stories into a modern epic, described by Whitbread judges as "a graphic, blood-soaked, bawdy adaptation".
Logue lives in London with his wife, the critic Rosemary Hill.
CHILDREN'S BOOK WINNER: KATE THOMPSON - THE NEW POLICEMAN
Born in Yorkshire in 1956, Kate Thompson has trained racehorses in the UK and US and travelled extensively in India.
She won the Bisto Book of the Year award three times - for 2001's The Beguilers, The Alchemist's Apprentice in 2002 and 2005's Annan Water.
Thompson is now based in Kinvara, a small village on the west coast of Ireland which is also the setting for children's book The New Policeman.
It follows JJ, who travels to a land of eternal youth, and is full of Thompson's passion for story and music.
She recently completed an MA in Irish traditional music performance at the University of Limerick.