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Bucky List: Book Club

October is National Book Month, so we’re offering an all-Badger reading list.

A young woman lays on Bascom Hill with one leg crossed over the other, reading a book. The background includes fall foliage and a UW banner.

UW student Karlie Bonnell reads a book among the colors of the fall leaves on Bascom Hill at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during autumn on November 9, 2021. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

October is National Book Month, so we’re offering an all-Badger reading list — books new and old from the cardinal-and-white section of our shelves.


  • The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff MFA’06: this historical novel, set in the colonial era, tells the story of a girl who runs off alone into the wilderness. It’s destined to star in many book clubs — published in September 2023, it’s already getting praise from the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe.
  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor MS’17: those who want to experience a lightly fictionalized version of Madison can check out Taylor’s debut novel. The Booker Prize finalist is a few years old now, and Taylor has followed up with two more highly acclaimed books. But Real Life remains his most Madison work.
  • The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz ’06: if your taste turns to literary horror, then this is the book for you. Bartz’s debut novel — a Book of the Month Club in February — offers readers a horror story within a horror story.
  • Ghost Story by Peter Straub ’65: if you’d rather have classic horror in the run-up to Halloween, Straub’s breakout hit, first published in 1979, will give you chills.
  • Zero-Sum by Joyce Carol Oates MA’61: for the reader with little time (or attention), here’s a collection of short stories. This is the latest book from the celebrated Oates.


  • Magical Realism for Non-Believers by Anika Fajardo ’97: Tolstoy said all happy families are alike, so he’d probably like Fajardo’s memoir, as she searches for her estranged father in Colombia.
  • Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight PhD’85: Blight earned the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for history with his biography of Douglass.
  • The Fight for Free Speech by Ian Rosenberg ’95: here’s a guide to one of the most important issues in a democracy. Rosenberg offers what he calls a “user’s guide” to free speech.
  • What I Know of the Mountains by Hajjar Baban ’20: those exploring unanswerable questions may want to check out this poetry collection — Baban is a First Wave grad, and the book won the 2018 Rick Campbell Chapbook Award.

For Young Readers

  • The Big Bucky Badger Mystery by Chris Newbold ’93: introduce youngsters to America’s finest college mascot with this picture book.
  • Big Words for Little Geniuses by Susan Patterson ’79, MFA’82 and James Patterson: before devouring the whole dictionary, a young Badger may wish to start with just the biggest bites; this picture book offers a vocab lesson for parents as well as children.

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