In his third year as Director of the festival, Humphrey Carpenter brings a twist of irreverence and fun.
Special recognition of women and women's literature has drawn an impressive list of female writers, including Ruth Rendell, Josephine Hart, Lynda La Plante, Beryl Bainbridge, Doris Lessing and Joanna Trollope. Male guests include Sebastian Faulks, Richard E Grant, Julian Barnes and Stephen Fry.
As well as seminars and debates, there are workshops for amateur and would-be professional writers, theatre and music, an Allcomers Poetry Slam, as well as a children's festival, 'Book It!'
A SHAME TO MISS
Sun 13 Oct
What Happened to Feminism? Debate with Rosie Boycott, Eva and Kate Figes, and Independent columnist, Suzanne Moore. (Town Hall 7.30pm)
Wed 16 Oct
1996 Summerfield Lecture, 'A Chance in a Millennium'
Simon Jenkins considers some of the challenges of life after 2000. Followed by a debate with Sarah Dunant and Roy Porter, Susie Orbach, and Geoff Mulgan. (Everyman Theatre, 6pm)
Thurs 17 Oct
Slavenka Drakulic 'On Cooking, Washing and Other Political Issues'. A fascinating slant on feminism from Eastern Europe. (Town Hall, 6pm)
Fri 18 Oct
Joolz is one of the best contemporary poets in the UK. Plenty to chew on with warm aftertaste. (Town Hall, 9pm)
Sat 19 Oct
Scientist Steve Jones explores the role of genetics in politics, philosophy and theology. (Town Hall, 9pm)
WHERE TO STAY
The luxurious Hotel on the Park is a short walk from the town centre, opposite Pittsville Park.
Single pounds 74.50, double from pounds 89.50. (01242 518898)
Out-of-town, the non-smoking Cleeve Hill Hotel looks across a valley offering superb views of the Malvern Hills. Bed and breakfast. Single pounds 45, double pounds 60-pounds 75. (01242 672052)
Info: Cheltenham Tourist Office (01242 522878)
EATS AND DRINKS
The Epicurean is still well worth a visit. Occupying three tiers of a Regency terrace building, the stylish Epi includes a tapas bar and bistro as well as a more formal restaurant. eve.
81 The Promenade, (01242 22466)