100 books like Once Upon A Virus

By Diane Goldstein,

Here are 100 books that Once Upon A Virus fans have personally recommended if you like Once Upon A Virus. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative

Andrea Kitta Author Of The Kiss of Death: Contagion, Contamination, and Folklore

From my list on reads before the next pandemic.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been interested in medicine and how stories influence the decisions that people make for as long as I can remember. Watching family and friends make choices about their own healthcare was always fascinated to me and I was always curious as to why some narratives had more staying power than others. After getting my BA in history, I was lucky enough to talk to someone who suggested that I study folklore. I ended up with both a MA and PhD in folklore and became a professor who studies the intersection of folklore and how it affects the medical decisions we all make in our own lives and the lives of others. 

Andrea's book list on reads before the next pandemic

Andrea Kitta Why did Andrea love this book?

This is an amazing book if you want to understand that disease isn’t just medical, it’s also cultural.

Contagious really describes how culture influences how we understand illness and how that affects treatment and care of individuals, including who we blame and how we understand risk.

People like to think of medicine and science as being detached and objective, but this book shows that simply isn’t true. 

By Priscilla Wald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Contagious as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How should we understand the fear and fascination elicited by the accounts of communicable disease outbreaks that proliferated, following the emergence of HIV, in scientific publications and the mainstream media? The repetition of particular characters, images, and story lines-of Patients Zero and superspreaders, hot zones and tenacious microbes-produced a formulaic narrative as they circulated through the media and were amplified in popular fiction and film. The "outbreak narrative" begins with the identification of an emerging infection, follows it through the global networks of contact and contagion, and ends with the epidemiological work that contains it. Priscilla Wald argues that we…


Book cover of Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in American Culture from the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS

Andrea Kitta Author Of The Kiss of Death: Contagion, Contamination, and Folklore

From my list on reads before the next pandemic.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been interested in medicine and how stories influence the decisions that people make for as long as I can remember. Watching family and friends make choices about their own healthcare was always fascinated to me and I was always curious as to why some narratives had more staying power than others. After getting my BA in history, I was lucky enough to talk to someone who suggested that I study folklore. I ended up with both a MA and PhD in folklore and became a professor who studies the intersection of folklore and how it affects the medical decisions we all make in our own lives and the lives of others. 

Andrea's book list on reads before the next pandemic

Andrea Kitta Why did Andrea love this book?

Emily Martin’s work was some of the first things I read when I wanted to understand how we understand medicine.

There’s such a gap between the health information we’re given and what we actually believe and Martin really covers how Americans have understood the concept of immunity and how we’re influenced by popular culture and the media.

This book is absolutely crucial for understanding both how we look at immunity and understanding how doctors are not free of bias. 

By Emily Martin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flexible Bodies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Argues that changing attitudes towards sickness and immunity are reflected in other views, such as the trend towards temporary employees who can be let go when no longer needed


Book cover of How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS

Andrea Kitta Author Of The Kiss of Death: Contagion, Contamination, and Folklore

From my list on reads before the next pandemic.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been interested in medicine and how stories influence the decisions that people make for as long as I can remember. Watching family and friends make choices about their own healthcare was always fascinated to me and I was always curious as to why some narratives had more staying power than others. After getting my BA in history, I was lucky enough to talk to someone who suggested that I study folklore. I ended up with both a MA and PhD in folklore and became a professor who studies the intersection of folklore and how it affects the medical decisions we all make in our own lives and the lives of others. 

Andrea's book list on reads before the next pandemic

Andrea Kitta Why did Andrea love this book?

When the pandemic first started and we learned that we would be teaching fully online, I snuck back into my office on campus to grab the books I knew that I would need during the pandemic. This was one of the first books I grabbed because I knew that I needed to reread it before I answered any questions about COVID.

Paula Treichler does an amazing job discussing how disease has an “epidemic of meanings” and how those meaning influence the decisions we make and how we treat others. This book clearly shows how some narratives take hold while others are obscured. 

By Paula A. Treichler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Have Theory in an Epidemic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paula A. Treichler has become a singularly important voice among the significant theorists on the AIDS crisis. Dissecting the cultural politics surrounding representations of HIV and AIDS, her work has altered the field of cultural studies by establishing medicine as a legitimate focus for cultural analysis. How to Have Theory in an Epidemic is a comprehensive collection of Treichler's related writings, including revised and updated essays from the 1980s and 1990s that present a sustained argument about the AIDS epidemic from a uniquely knowledgeable and interdisciplinary standpoint.
"AIDS is more than an epidemic disease," Treichler writes, "it is an epidemic…


Book cover of Folklore, Gender, and AIDS in Malawi: No Secret Under the Sun

Andrea Kitta Author Of The Kiss of Death: Contagion, Contamination, and Folklore

From my list on reads before the next pandemic.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been interested in medicine and how stories influence the decisions that people make for as long as I can remember. Watching family and friends make choices about their own healthcare was always fascinated to me and I was always curious as to why some narratives had more staying power than others. After getting my BA in history, I was lucky enough to talk to someone who suggested that I study folklore. I ended up with both a MA and PhD in folklore and became a professor who studies the intersection of folklore and how it affects the medical decisions we all make in our own lives and the lives of others. 

Andrea's book list on reads before the next pandemic

Andrea Kitta Why did Andrea love this book?

Women’s voices are often trivialized in healthcare and I’m willing to bet that most women have experienced some form of medicalized sexism while receiving healthcare (I know I have).

Anika Wilson does an amazing job of listening to women’s voices and their experiences in this book, highlighting how important rumors, legend, and gossip are to healthcare. 

By A. Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Folklore, Gender, and AIDS in Malawi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Informal folk narrative genres such as gossip, advice, rumor, and urban legends provide a unique lens through which to discern popular formations of gender conflict and AIDS beliefs. This is the first book on AIDS and gender in Africa to draw primarily on such narratives. By exploring tales of love medicine, gossip about romantic rivalries, rumors of mysterious new diseases, marital advice, and stories of rape, among others, it provides rich, personally grounded insights into the everyday struggles of people living in an era marked by social upheaval.


Book cover of We Are Having This Conversation Now: The Times of AIDS Cultural Production

Marika Cifor Author Of Viral Cultures: Activist Archiving in the Age of AIDS

From my list on how to have sex in an epidemic.

Why am I passionate about this?

Amidst COVID-19, HIV/AIDS is a touchpoint for journalists, scholars, writers, and a public who seek a usable past in understanding the present and making an uncertain future less so. The challenge of how to love, live, and survive amidst pandemics isn't new, I play here on the title of one of the first safer sex books, How to Have Sex in an Epidemic. As someone who studies how activists document their work and how they bring those materials to life today, I'm both fascinated and troubled by pandemic comparisons. These books offer crucial stories and productive tools to think with as we navigate questions of how to survive, and maybe even thrive amidst intersecting pandemics. 

Marika's book list on how to have sex in an epidemic

Marika Cifor Why did Marika love this book?

In We Are Having This Conversation Now, Alexandra Juhasz and Theodore Kerr blow up the conventions of academic work on epidemics.

In a series of thirteen short dialogues they reflect as activists, media-makers, and scholars on the history, present, and future of AIDS. The reflections on AIDS-related culture and conversation they share, will spark for readers critical questions about how personal experiences, community, cultural production, and interpersonal relations come together.

Doing this kind of reflective work is particularly important now, as we need to begin to understand not only HIV/AIDS, but how it impacts the experience of living amidst other viral pandemics including COVID-19. 

By Alexandra Juhasz, Theodore Kerr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Are Having This Conversation Now as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We Are Having This Conversation Now offers a history, present, and future of AIDS through thirteen short conversations between Alexandra Juhasz and Theodore Kerr, scholars deeply embedded in HIV responses. They establish multiple timelines of the epidemic, offering six foundational periodizations of AIDS culture, tracing how attention to the crisis has waxed and waned from the 1980s to the present. They begin the book with a 1990 educational video produced by a Black health collective, using it to consider organizing intersectionally, theories of videotape, empowerment movements, and memorialization. This video is one of many powerful yet overlooked objects that the…


Book cover of Reports from the Holocaust: The Making of an AIDS Activist

Ron Goldberg Author Of Boy with the Bullhorn: A Memoir and History of ACT UP New York

From my list on to inspire the activist in you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a nice gay Jewish former wannabe actor turned AIDS activist. I joined ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, in 1987, and for the next eight years, I chaired committees, planned protests, led teach-ins, and facilitated our weekly meetings. I visited friends in hospitals, attended far too many AIDS memorials, participated in over a hundred zaps and demonstrations, and earned the title of ACT UP’s unofficial “Chant Queen.” It was the hardest, most intense, most rewarding, most joyous, and most devastating time of my life. Aware that I had witnessed history, it became my mission to record what happened and to make sure our story was not forgotten. 

Ron's book list on to inspire the activist in you

Ron Goldberg Why did Ron love this book?

In Reports from the Holocaust, Larry Kramer charts his own journey into AIDS activism, through a collection of his articles, speeches, jeremiads, and public pronouncements dating from the earliest days of the AIDS crisis. A combination gadfly, angry prophet, activist conscience, and provocateur, Larry was also a huge pain-in-the-ass and an unyielding and loving advocate for the gay community—all of which is on full display here. The book includes his incendiary “1,112 and counting,” written in 1983, which first awakened me (and the rest of the gay community) to the political dimensions of the AIDS crisis, as well as his speech four years later, that led to the formation of ACT UP. I defy you to read this book and not want to take to the streets in protest.

By Larry Kramer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reports from the Holocaust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Author of "Faggots" and the screenplay for "Women in Love", Kramer is also co-founder of America's first AIDS service organization, Gay Men's Health Crisis. This work is a collection of Kramer's central articles, over a period of ten years, together with a new essay on the current state of AIDS.


Book cover of Sizwe's Test: A Young Man's Journey Through Africa's AIDS Epidemic

Stephanie Nolen Author Of 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa

From my list on understanding Africa’s AIDS pandemic and feeling hopeful.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the global health reporter for The New York Times, the latest iteration in 30 years as a foreign correspondent. I’ve covered wars and humanitarian disasters, but it’s health stories that have always drawn me most. Health stories are intimate and personal, but they’re also about politics and economics, and social norms – about power. I’ve written about the Zika virus crisis in Brazil, child malnutrition in India, teen suicide in the Arctic – but no story has drawn me in and kept me riveted like Africa’s AIDS pandemic has over the past 25 years. I intend to keep reporting on it until the day a cure is found.

Stephanie's book list on understanding Africa’s AIDS pandemic and feeling hopeful

Stephanie Nolen Why did Stephanie love this book?

Steinberg is one of South Africa’s great writers of narrative non-fiction; his work is oddly little known outside his home country and it was of huge value to me when I discovered it, not long after I moved to Johannesburg.

This book tracks the progress of a testing and treatment program in Lusikisiki, which had one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Part of the story is told through the eyes of a white doctor who expects that, once treatment is there, everyone will seek it out – and a young Black man named Sizwe, clever and successful, who shows all the reasons why HIV response is not as simple as opening up a clinic.

Steinberg’s book probes into some of the messier, less-well-understood dynamics that have driven the pandemic, and features voices rarely heard outside a community like Lusikisiki.

By Jonny Steinberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sizwe's Test as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the age of twenty-nine, Sizwe Magadla is among the most handsome, well-educated, and richest of the men in his poverty-stricken village. Dr. Hermann Reuter, a son of old South West African stock, wants to show the world that if you provide decent treatment, people will come and get it, no matter their circumstances.

Sizwe and Hermann live at the epicenter of the greatest plague of our times, the African AIDS epidemic. In South Africa alone, nearly 6 million people in a population of 46 million are HIV-positive. Already, Sizwe has watched several neighbors grow ill and die, yet he…


Book cover of HIV & AIDS: A Very Short Introduction

Stephanie Nolen Author Of 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa

From my list on understanding Africa’s AIDS pandemic and feeling hopeful.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the global health reporter for The New York Times, the latest iteration in 30 years as a foreign correspondent. I’ve covered wars and humanitarian disasters, but it’s health stories that have always drawn me most. Health stories are intimate and personal, but they’re also about politics and economics, and social norms – about power. I’ve written about the Zika virus crisis in Brazil, child malnutrition in India, teen suicide in the Arctic – but no story has drawn me in and kept me riveted like Africa’s AIDS pandemic has over the past 25 years. I intend to keep reporting on it until the day a cure is found.

Stephanie's book list on understanding Africa’s AIDS pandemic and feeling hopeful

Stephanie Nolen Why did Stephanie love this book?

This book is exactly what the title promises, and a great place to start.

It’s written by a Swazi health economist who has worked on HIV in Africa for more than 30 years; I have learned a lot from Whiteside and his research over my years of covering this issue. The book looks at the biology and epidemiology of HIV, and also at all the ways it shapes societies.

Whiteside takes complicated concepts of population dynamics, sexual networking, AIDS, and geopolitical security and explains them briskly, clearly, concisely. His focus is the global AIDS epidemic, but his own work and the book are both deeply rooted in Africa.

By Alan Whiteside,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked HIV & AIDS as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2008 it was believed that HIV/AIDS was without doubt the worst epidemic to hit humankind since the Black Death. The first case was identified in 1981; by 2004 it was estimated that about 40 million people were living with the disease, and about 20 million had died. Yet the outlook today is a little brighter. Although HIV/ AIDS continues to be a pressing public health issue the epidemic has stabilised globally, and it has become evident it is not, nor will it be, a
global issue. The worst affected regions are southern and eastern Africa. Elsewhere, HIV is found…


Book cover of My Own Country: A Doctor's Story

Hannah Wunsch Author Of The Autumn Ghost: How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care

From my list on medical history that reads like fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a critical care doctor, I love pausing when taking care of patients in a modern ICU to reflect on how far we’ve come in the care we can provide. I want to be entertained while learning about the past, and so I seek out books on medical history that find the wonder and the beauty (and the bizarre and chilling) and make it come alive. I get excited when medical history can be shared in a way that isn’t dry, or academic. These books all do that for me and capture some part of that crazy journey through time. 

Hannah's book list on medical history that reads like fiction

Hannah Wunsch Why did Hannah love this book?

This is a memoir that has really stayed with me. It is beautifully written and a compulsive read.

Dr. Verghese describes the world of the deep south on the precipice of the AIDS epidemic. It is his story of being a young doctor, but also the story of the explosion in HIV cases far from the coastal cities that were the epicenters of the epidemic. I found myself crying over the cases he described, and feeling his heart-ache as he battled for individuals with HIV to gain acceptance, support, and treatments in their communities. 

By Abraham Verghese,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My Own Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Doctor's storyof a town and its people in the age of Aids


Book cover of And the Band Played on: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic

Michael B.A. Oldstone Author Of Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present, and Future

From my list on understanding how viruses cause disease.

Why am I passionate about this?

Michael B.A. Oldstone was head of the Viral-Immunobiology Laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute, devoting his career to understanding viruses, the diseases they cause, and the host’s immune response to control these infections. His work led to numerous national and international awards, election to the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Medicine. Oldstone served on the SAGE executive board of the World Health Organization and as a WHO consultant for the eradication of polio and measles.

Michael's book list on understanding how viruses cause disease

Michael B.A. Oldstone Why did Michael love this book?

This book characterizes the discovery and spread HIV and AIDS. Shits an investigative journalist provides an extensive look into the disease itself, the politics and politicians battling to control or ignoring the disease. Also discussed are the events that shaped the pandemic leading to its expansion or its control. 

By Randy Shilts,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked And the Band Played on as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Upon its first publication more than twenty years ago, And the Band Played on was quickly recognized as a masterpiece of investigative reporting.

An international bestseller, a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and made into a critically acclaimed movie, Shilts' expose revealed why AIDS was allowed to spread unchecked during the early 80's while the most trusted institutions ignored or denied the threat. One of the few true modern classics, it changed and framed how AIDS was discussed in the following years. Now republished in a special 20th Anniversary edition, And the Band Played On remains one…


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