Comedian AL Kennedy and historian Simon Sebag Montefiore have been shortlisted for the Costa Book of the Year.
Catherine O'Flynn, Jean Sprackland and Ann Kelley complete the nominees for the prize, announced on 22 January.
The five writers were put forward after being revealed as winners of the Costa Book Awards' individual categories.
Kennedy had top novel, Sebag Montefiore had best biography and O'Flynn's book was top first novel. Sprackland won for poetry and Kelley for children's books.
The authors each receive £5,000 for reaching this stage in the competition, and the overall winner will earn £50,000.
Kennedy's novel Day tells of a man who was a tail-gunner in a Lancaster bomber in World War II, and who subsequently becomes an extra in a film about prisoners of war.
The judges described it as "a masterpiece" which told of "the waste and eventual resurrection of a young life shattered by war".
Lost - by former postal worker O'Flynn - was an "extraordinary" tale, "blending humour and pathos in a cleverly constructed and absorbing mystery", the panel said.
It is based in a shopping centre, and brings together a security guard, a music-store manager and a girl who is lost inside the building.
'Rare and beautiful'
Sebag Montefiore was said to have written "everything you could ask for from a biography" in Young Stalin, an account of the life of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
It featured "exhaustive research, a compelling subject and a beautifully written narrative that will endure as a portrain of one of the towering figures of modern history", the judges said.
They described Kelley's novel The Bower Bird as "a rare and beautiful book of lasting quality" which portrayed "the world of life and death, beauty and truth, seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl".
The child in question is awaiting a heart transplant and rebels when her family moves house.
And the poetry winner, Sprackland, had produced "a great collection" of work about chaos and calamity in Tilt, the panel added.
It contained "crafted and delicate poems that tell us what it is to be alive".
Last year's Costa Book of the Year was The Tenderness of Wolves by London author Stef Penney.
The prize was previously sponsored by Whitbread and was established in 1971.