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Go Big Read

The Poison Squad

Each 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.

The 2018-2019 Go Big Read selection is The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Quest for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by Deborah Blum, the dramatic true story of the fight for food safety in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, led by the inimitable Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley. Detailing the complex interchanges of industry, media, and government regulation with a bracing clarity, The Poison Squad offers a prescient perspective on the enormous social and political challenges we face today. Read more about the selection on the UW-Madison website.

Book Club Kits

Madison Public Library is pleased to announce that it will again have book club kits for the UW-Madison Go Big Read title available to the public. Beginning Wednesday, August 28, 2019, over 100 copies of The Poison Squad by Deborah Blum will be available for checkout for individuals interested in hosting discussions. Kits will also include suggested discussion questions, interviews with Blum, and extensive additional material to facilitate conversation. Kits can be ordered by calling 266-6300 beginning August 28 and will be distributed on a first call, first served basis. See the Book Club Kits page for more information about other kits.

Go Big Read events will be hosted by the UW and Madison P​ublic Library locations through November, so if copies are not readily available in September, readers can typically find more copies available later in the fall. The book is also available for checkout as a downloadable eBook and audiobook via Overdrive.

About the Author

Deborah Blum is director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT, and editor of Undarkmagazine, ( In 1992, she won the Pulitzer Prize for a series on primate research, which she turned into a book, The Monkey Wars. Her other books include The Poisoner's HandbookGhost HuntersLove at Goon Park, and Sex on the Brain. She has written for publications including The New York TimesWiredTimeDiscoverMother JonesThe Guardian and The Boston Globe. Blum is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a lifetime associate of the National Academy of Sciences.

Book Discussions

Wednesday, Sep 18, 6:00pm
Wednesday, Sep 18, 7:00pm
Thursday, Sep 26, 7:00pm
Thursday, Oct 3, 6:30pm
Thursday, Oct 10, 12:00pm
Wednesday, Oct 30, 6:30pm
Thursday, Nov 7, 2:00pm
Thursday, Nov 14, 6:30pm
Saturday, Nov 16, 1:30pm
Thursday Nov 21, 5:30pm

Special Events

Keynote Event

Tuesday, Oct 15, 7:00pm

No tickets required

What is Food and and Who Decides: Insects as Food Panel Discussion

Tuesday, Oct 22, 6:00-8:00pm

Though insects have long been a dietary mainstay in many parts of the world, interest in insects as a food source is now beginning to catch in the US. Join us for entomophagy and food regulation experts to discuss the present and future questions of insects as food. Insect-based snacks will be available for sampling.

Further Reading

About the Book

Related Resources




This program was made possible in part by generous support from: