Cover Stories: Best of the Bookers; Mills & Boon exhibition; very Bohemian

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The Independent Culture

Rose Tremain's widely predicted Orange Prize victory with The Road Home calls attention again to the bizarre choices of last year's Man Booker judges. They deemed such fast-forgotten titles such as Michael Redhill's Consolation to be more worthy of a longlist place than Tremain's conspicuously first-rate fiction. But all readers who complain about Booker blunders can make their mark by voting (until 8 July) in the 40th anniversary "Best of the Booker" race, from a shortlist that includes Pat Barker, Peter Carey, JM Coetzee, JG Farrell, Nadine Gordimer and Salman Rushdie: see www.themanbookerprize.com. Coetzee, meanwhile, makes a rare UK appearance to lecture at UEA in Norwich on Thursday 19 June (booking: 01603 508050) as part of the New Writing Worlds festival, devoted this year to literature and the natural world.

Sophisticates like to mock Mills & Boon, but the company has prospered for a century. The numbers speak for themselves: 130 million books are sold in 26 languages every year; every three seconds, someone in the UK buys an M&B. As a new exhibition in Manchester Central Library (until 31 July) shows, M&B started out as a general publisher. Its role as a specialist in escapist fiction was cemented in the Blitz. The exhibition, And Then He Kissed Her, draws on the vast M&B archive to show the evolution in romantic fiction and the changes in women's lives.

Literary festivals mushroom across Europe every summer, but how about a selective (250 places only) outing for bookish bohemians in... Bohemia? Offering a relaxed, intimate and hype-free vibe, Under the Linden takes place at Kamenice nad Lipou, an unspoilt spot in the Czech Republic, from 20-25 August. Guests will include John Berger, Anne Michaels and film director Sally Potter, with movies, music and debate also scheduled. Details: www.gotogetherpress.com

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