At a glance: Man Booker shortlist 2010

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Howard Jacobson has won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question.

When the shortlist of six books was announced last month, chair of the judges, former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion, said: "We feel sure we've chosen books which demonstrate a rich variety of styles and themes - while in every case providing deep individual pleasures."

Here is a guide to the shortlisted books.

THE FINKLER QUESTION - HOWARD JACOBSON

Howard Jacobson

About the book: Jacobson's 11th novel is a story of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and of the wisdom and humanity of maturity.

After an evening of reminiscing with old friends, Julian Treslove - a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer - is attacked on his way home. Afterwards, his sense of who and what he is slowly changes.

About the author: Born in Manchester in 1942, Jacobson read English at Cambridge and taught at the University of Sydney for three years before moving on to Selwyn College, Cambridge, and Wolverhampton Polytechnic.

He has been longlisted twice for the Man Booker Prize - for Kalooki Nights in 2006 and Who's Sorry Now? in 2002.

Sir Andrew Motion says: "This is one of his best books. It's very funny and well-paced about very important things - the question of Jewishness, what it consists in, what sort of behaviour it licences and prohibits."

PARROT AND OLIVIER IN AMERICA - PETER CAREY

Peter Carey

About the book: An exploration of American democracy, the book brings together two characters who - born on different sides of history - come together to share an extraordinary relationship.

French aristocrat Olivier is sent to the New World to escape the revolution, while Parrot, the son of a English printer who always wanted to be an artist but ended up a servant, is sent to spy on and protect him.

About the author: Born in Australia in 1943, Carey won the Booker Prize in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda and again in 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang.

He was also shortlisted in 1985 for Illywhacker and was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize in 2007 and 2009. He has also written a collection of short stories - The Fat Man in History, and a book for children - The Big Bazoohley.

Sir Andrew Motion says: "This is right up there with the best of his books - it's an amazingly ambitious, ingenious, clever, wonderful book. I think he's one of the writers I feel most pleased to be alive at the same time as, so that I can read his novels."

ROOM - EMMA DONOGHUE

Emma Donoghue

About the book: Told through the voice of five-year-old Jack, Room is the story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

Jack lives in a locked, 11-foot-square room with his mother and a television. When they manage to escape, the pair have to learn how to live together in a world full of other people.

About the author: Donoghue was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1969 and studied English and French at University College, Dublin before moving to England. She received a PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1997 and now lives in Canada.

Her other novels include The Sealed Letter, Landing Touchy Subjects, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits and Slammerkin.

Sir Andrew Motion says: "It seemed to me it was not simply a book dealing with what it is like to be imprisoned, but there's a much larger room outside the room and that room is the world. The book did two things - to say something profound and meaningful about confinement and something very interesting about release."

IN A STRANGE ROOM - DAMON GALGUT

Damon Galgut

About the book: A tale of longing and thwarted desire, rage and compassion, In A Strange Room tells of one man's search for love and a place to call home.

Described by The Guardian's Jan Morris as "not only highly polished, [but] also extraordinarily readable," the book follows journeys to Greece, India and Africa, each of which end in disaster.

About the author: South African Damon Galgut was born in Pretoria in 1963 and wrote his first novel, A Sinless Season, when he was 17.

He was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2003 for The Good Doctor and his other books include Small Circle of Beings, The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs and The Imposter.

Sir Andrew Motion says: "It has an amazing sense of reach and stretch and imaginative boldness about it. I was struck by the ambitiousness of its structure and how it asked us to make very interesting connections between stories which, at first glance, might seem to not have much to do with each other."

THE LONG SONG - ANDREA LEVY

Andrea Levy

About the book: Levy's first novel in six years is set in Jamaica during the last years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed.

It tells the story of July, a slave girl born on the Amity Sugar Plantation in the 19th Century and selected by a white mistress to live with her in the house as a lady's maid.

About the author: Levy was born in London in 1956 to Jamaican parents who came to Britain in 1948. She has previously written four novels, Every Light in the House Burnin', Never Far From Nowhere, Fruit of the Lemon and Small Island.

Small Island won the Orange Prize, the Whitbread Best Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer's Prize and was made into a BBC One drama in 2009.

Sir Andrew Motion says: "An extraordinary, ambitious re-writing of a historical story approached by a number of authors in recent years. Very tactfully and powerfully done."

C - TOM MCCARTHY

Tom McCarthy

About the book: C follows the short, intense life of Serge Carrefax, a man who surges into the electric modernity of the early 20th Century, transfixed by the technologies that will obliterate him.

When personal loss strikes Serge in his adolescence, his world takes on a darker and more morbid aspect.

About the author: McCarthy was born in 1969 and grew up in London. He created the International Necronautical Society (INS) in 1999 - a "semi-fictitious organisation" combining literature, art and philosophy.

It led to publications, installations and exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world from Tate Britain to The Drawing Centre in New York. He has written two previous novels - Remainder and Men in Space.

Sir Andrew Motion says: "A book of outstanding range, ambition, narrative excitement and with a very interesting central theme for everybody to think about: The relationship between communication by mechanised means and the lack of communication by which human beings can have between one another."

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