Go Big Read 2017-2018

Go Big Read logoEach year Madison Public Library partners with UW-Madison to extend the perennially popular Go Big Read program into the broader community with book discussion groups and programs at our libraries.

See below for details on this year's selection, how you can get a copy of Hillbilly Elegy from the library, or how to find a book discussion to attend. We've also curated a list of further reading where you can find reviews and critiques of this year's selection or check out more books on topics found in Hillbilly Elegy.

2017 Go Big Read Selection

Chancellor Rebecca Blank has selected Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance as the 2017-18 Go Big Read book. The book is the author’s personal reflection on upward mobility in America seen through the lens of a white, working-class family in the Midwest. A #1 New York Times Bestseller, the book is already generating discussion across Madison and beyond.

J.D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq. A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School, he has contributed to the National Review and The New York Times and has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC.

Read more about the book’s selection in the UW-Madison press release.

Public Library Availability

Copies of the book are available through your local public library, including large print and book on CDversions. The book is also available for free download via Overdrive in ebook and mp3 audiobook format. You can download to a computer or to an iPod, iPad, Android phone, tablet... any device that has the Overdrive app! All you need is a public library card.

We will begin lending Book Discussion Kits on Tuesday, September 5. We have over 100 copies for the book discussion kits to lend right away, and additional copies for kit checkout will be available once MPL's own book discussions end. Typically by late November we have a few hundred copies to lend in the book discussion kits. Book Discussion Kits are first-come, first-served-- call 266-6300 to reserve a kit.

Again this year MPL and UW jointly created discussion questions to use with your book group for this project.

Book Discussions

Every Madison Public Library location will be hosting a book discussion of Hillbilly Elegy. Copies of the book will be available to checkout at the library approximately one month before the discussion date.


Keynote Event
Monday, October 9, 2017, 7:00pm
at Memorial Union Theatre

Join us for an expert panel featuring three UW-Madison faculty members as they share their expertise on themes addressed in Hillbilly Elegy. The panelists include Dr. Kathy Cramer (politics and cultural anger), Dr. Katherine Magnuson (poverty and stress in childhood), and Dr. Aleksandra Zgierska (addiction, chronic pain, and opioids). Following the panelists' remarks, there will be an audience Q&A moderated by Dr. Russ Castronovo, whose own research focuses on politics and critical citizenship.

Wisconsin Book Festival Events

Hear how themes from the book relate to Wisconsin:

The American Dream in Wisconsin
with Terese Agnew, Patty Loew, and Jesus Salas
Saturday, November 4, 2017, 12:00pm
at Overture Center for the Arts

Janesville: An American Story
by Amy Goldstein
Saturday, November 4, 2017, 6:00pm
at Central Library

Further Reading

Book Reviews and Responses

Interviews with the Author

Related information

Related Books

On poverty in America:

On social class and politics:

On race and class:

Memoirs of difficult childhoods: