An award handed to the year’s funniest book has returned 12 months after judges withheld the prize because none of the submissions were deemed funny enough.

The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction was established in 2000 and aims to recognise the novel best encapsulating the spirit of late writer and humorist PG Wodehouse.

Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize
Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize judges James Naughtie, Pippa Evans, David Campbell, Sindhu Vee and Justin Albert (Bollinger/PA)

Last year judges took the unprecedented step of withholding the award because the 62 submitted novels failed to prompt “unanimous, abundant laughter”, instead only provoking “wry smile(s)”.

However, it appears the quality has risen over the last 12 months and six books have been shortlisted from 71 submissions, organisers said.

The nominees are Vacuum In The Dark by Jen Beagin, In At The Deep End by Kate Davies, Charlie Savage by Roddy Doyle, Old Baggage by Lissa Evans, Francis Plug: Writer In Residence by Paul Ewen and Reasons To Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe.

David Campbell, judge and publisher of Everyman’s Library, said: “Our top criteria was that we had to laugh out loud during reading, and my fellow judges all agreed that all these books achieved this feat, while also evoking the other esteemed qualities of Wodehouse’s writing from the creation of joyous characters to the crafting of the perfectly-timed comic phrase.”

Previous winners of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize include Paul Torday for Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (2007), Will Self for The Butt (2008) and Helen Fielding for Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries (2017).

Wodehouse is best known for his Jeeves And Wooster series of books.