A graphic novel about a man's beard is up against novels by Booker winner Julian Barnes and best-selling author Kate Atkinson for the Waterstones Book of the Year award.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is the debut work from Stephen Collins.
Also nominated is the late US author John Williams for his recently reissued 1965 novel Stoner.
Leicestershire native Nina Stibbe and Polish couple Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski complete the list.
The winner will be announced on 3 December.
Waterstones managing director James Daunt said the list showcased a "year of extraordinary publishing" and demonstrated a "great array of titles".
Booksellers, he said, had "selected an eclectic and surprising shortlist for our book of the year, all fabulous books that are distinctively inspiring."
A man's beard causes alarm with the authorities in graphic novelist Collins' critically acclaimed fairy-tale.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil will compete against Atkinson's novel Life After Life, whose protagonist has the opportunity to live her life again and again in an attempt to get it right.
Barnes' personal story, Levels of Life, is a blend of essay, fiction and memoir that deals with the death of his wife, the literary agent Pat Kavanagh, in October 2008.
Stibbe, shortlisted for for Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life, is one of four British authors on the list.
Her book is a collection of letters to her sister, in which she describes her struggles and triumphs as a working-class nanny to a rich London family.
The list is compiled by Waterstones booksellers who nominate a book that "stands out in its field".
The near-forgotten Stoner has seen a surge in interest, thanks in part to an endorsement by Ian McEwan.
Reissued in 2006, the book tells of a university teacher whose marriage and career are a failure and whose wife and colleagues think little of him.
The sixth book on this year's shortlist, Maps, is an illustrated map of the world by the Polish husband and wife team Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski.
A panel of judges, led by Daunt, will choose this recipient of the prize, won last year by Russell Norman's Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook.