Previous nominees Jim Crace and Colm Toibin are among the six writers to make this year's Man Booker shortlist.
Eleanor Catton, 27, is the youngest to make the cut with her book The Luminaries, published last week.
Crace's inclusion follows his announcement in February that Harvest was likely to be his last novel. At 67, he is the oldest author on the list.
Toibin is shortlisted for The Testament of Mary. Ruth Ozeki, Jhumpa Lahiri and NoViolet Bulawayo are also nominated.
Robert Macfarlane, chair of the judges, said the shortlist was "instantly striking" because of its "global range".
"It shows the English language novel to be a form of world literature," he added.
The list is made up of four women and two men - all of them of different nationalities.
"This is a shortlist that crosses continents, that joins countries and that spans centuries," Macfarlane added. "These novels are all about the strange ways in which people are brought together and the painful ways in which they are held apart."
NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names is about a Zimbabwean girl coming of age in the US, while Lahiri's The Lowland tells the story of two brothers, Subhash and Udayan, brought up in Calcutta in the late 1960s.
Ruth Ozeki's A Tale For The Time Being tells the story of a diary washed ashore inside a Hello Kitty lunchbox and the profound effect it has on the woman who discovers it.
Catton's The Luminaries is a ghostly tale set in Victorian New Zealand. If Catton wins, she would be the youngest ever recipient - she turns 28 before the ceremony.
Her book - the longest on the shortlist at 832 pages - is her second novel.
Ben Okri was the youngest winner in 1991 at the age of 32.
Crace was previously shortlisted in 1997 for Quarantine, while Toibin has appeared twice before - for The Blackwater Lightship in 1999 and in 2004 with The Master.
Testament of Mary is about the mother of Jesus grieving angrily years after her son's crucifixion. If it wins it will be shortest novel to win the Booker, with just 101 pages.
The shortest winning novel in the history of the prize was Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald, at 132 pages, in 1979. Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach and Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending were just slightly longer.
In terms of length of eligible books, the rules of the prize simply state that the judges must be of the opinion that a book is a unified and substantial work.
Crace's Harvest is an allegorical tale of rural isolation in which the narrator Walter Thirsk sees his village fall apart over the course of seven days.
William Hill put Catton as the slim favourite with odds of 5/2 just ahead of Crace on at 11/4 and Toibin at 3/1. The company's Graham Sharpe said: "The betting suggests this is one of the most competitive shortlists for years."
Paddy Power installed Crace's Harvest as the slightest of favourites at 6/4, with Toibin just behind at 13/8 for The Testament of Mary.
"There's a pleasing diversity to the shortlist: they're six very different books, in terms of both settings and writing styles," said Jonathan Ruppin, web editor for Foyles bookshop.
"But while each of the shortlist offers something memorably unique, I think the judges' debate will ultimately be between Jim Crace and Eleanor Catton."
But Waterstones brand and communications manager Jon Howells told The Bookseller: "This is an impossibly tough year to call, but I will be placing a small bet on Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being.
"I think it shares some of the spirit of Life of Pi that was such a memorable winner in 2002, and I think it might be time for another surprise."
Macfarlane said the 10-month judging process, in which 152 novels were whittled down to six, had been "very peaceful". The carpet had remained "unbloodied" and there were "no walk-outs, no punch-ups".
He envisaged "extremely detailed" discussions to decide the winner next month.
"It will be critical in the best sense of that word," he told the BBC News website. "All our copies are dog-eared and scribbled and dense with marginalia and our notebooks are full. We are getting ready."
The six shortlisted writers are each awarded £2,500 and presented with a hand-bound edition of their book. The winner will receive a further £50,000.
This year marks the 45th year of the prize.
The winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be announced on 15 October at an awards ceremony at London's Guildhall.