100 books like To End a Plague

By Emily Bass,

Here are 100 books that To End a Plague fans have personally recommended if you like To End a Plague. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World

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?

Wait, this book isn’t about Africa! No: it’s a biography of Dr. Paul Farmer, a co-founder of the medical humanitarian agency Partners in Health who died in 2022, and who had a major influence on how I, and thousands of others, think about providing healthcare in low-resource settings.

This extremely readable biography of Farmer focuses mostly on his work in Haiti – where Farmer did pioneering work on HIV treatment – and while it’s the other side of the world, it’s a crucial text for rethinking how we understand structural inequalities and access to health care.

The seeds of Farmer’s radical approach were taken by many idealistic medical workers into African HIV programs and indeed when he died, he was in Rwanda, where he co-founded the University of Global Health Equity.

By Tracy Kidder, Michael French,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Mountains Beyond Mountains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Tracy Kidder's critically acclaimed adult nonfiction work, Mountains Beyond Mountains has been adapted for young people by Michael French. In this young adult edition, readers are introduced to Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard-educated doctor with a self-proclaimed mission to transform healthcare on a global scale. Farmer focuses his attention on some of the world's most impoverished people and uses unconventional ways in which to provide healthcare, to achieve real results and save lives.


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 Tinderbox: How the West Sparked the AIDS Epidemic and How the World Can Finally Overcome it

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?

Craig Timberg was a reporting colleague when I was a correspondent in South Africa, and became a friend, one with whom I often passionately disagreed.

That’s why I suggest this book: it offers a very different perspective than mine. Craig and his co-author Halperin, an epidemiologist whose work had a big influence on Craig’s thinking, draw a clear through-line for how Western powers created the sparks of the African epidemic then vigorously fanned them.

A significant chunk of the book focuses on solutions (Halperin is a vociferous champion of male circumcision as an intervention to drive down the spread of the virus). It’s a brisk read that makes complex epidemiological dynamics accessible.

By Craig Timberg, Daniel Halperin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this groundbreaking narrative, longtime Washington Post reporter Craig Timberg and award-winning AIDS researcher Daniel Halperin tell the surprising story of how Western colonial powers unwittingly sparked the AIDS epidemic and then fanned its rise. Drawing on remarkable new science, Tinderbox overturns the conventional wisdom on the origins of this deadly pandemic and the best ways to fight it today.

Recent genetic studies have traced the birth of HIV to the forbidding equatorial forests of Cameroon, where chimpanzees carried the virus for millennia without causing a major outbreak in humans. During the Scramble for Africa, colonial companies blazed new routes…


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 The Origins of AIDS

David Quammen Author Of Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus

From my list on rigorously scientific scary viruses.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a journalist and an author, I’ve been covering the subject of scary viruses for twenty years—ever since I walked through Ebola habitat in a forest in northeastern Gabon, on assignment for National Geographic. I’ve interviewed many of the eminent experts—from Peter Piot to Marion Koopmans to Tony Fauci—and have spent field time with some of the intrepid younger disease ecologists who look for viruses in bat guano in Chinese caves and in gorilla blood in Central African forests. My book Spillover, published in 2012, drew much of that research together in describing the history and evolutionary ecology of animal infections that spill into humans.

David's book list on rigorously scientific scary viruses

David Quammen Why did David love this book?

Scientists now know that the AIDS virus, HIV-1, entered the human population much earlier than is commonly thought—back around 1908, give or take a margin of error, and via a single spillover from a chimpanzee into a human, probably by blood exposure when a chimp was killed and butchered for food. Pepin’s book illuminates how the virus might then, slowly and quietly at first, have spread from a forest in southeastern Cameroun, down tributaries of the Congo River to major cities such as Brazzaville and Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), and from there to the world. Pepin’s work was vastly helpful to me when I assembled my own account of that story, included in my own books.

By Jacques Pépin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is now forty years since the discovery of AIDS, but its origins continue to puzzle doctors, scientists and patients. Inspired by his own experiences working as a physician in a bush hospital in Zaire, Jacques Pepin looks back to the early twentieth-century events in central Africa that triggered the emergence of HIV/AIDS and traces its subsequent development into the most dramatic and destructive epidemic of modern times. He shows how the disease was first transmitted from chimpanzees to man and then how military campaigns, urbanisation, prostitution and large-scale colonial medical interventions intended to eradicate tropical diseases combined to disastrous…


Book cover of No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses

David Quammen Author Of Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus

From my list on rigorously scientific scary viruses.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a journalist and an author, I’ve been covering the subject of scary viruses for twenty years—ever since I walked through Ebola habitat in a forest in northeastern Gabon, on assignment for National Geographic. I’ve interviewed many of the eminent experts—from Peter Piot to Marion Koopmans to Tony Fauci—and have spent field time with some of the intrepid younger disease ecologists who look for viruses in bat guano in Chinese caves and in gorilla blood in Central African forests. My book Spillover, published in 2012, drew much of that research together in describing the history and evolutionary ecology of animal infections that spill into humans.

David's book list on rigorously scientific scary viruses

David Quammen Why did David love this book?

Peter Piot was a young microbiologist at a lab in Belgium, in 1976, when he was assigned to analyze specimens in a thermos bottle shipped up from Zaire, where villagers were dying of a horrific and unknown disease. The thermos contained a virus that came to be known as Ebola. This was the event, as his book vividly recounts, that led Piot to a long and distinguished career in infectious viral diseases, from Ebola to AIDS and beyond.

By Peter Piot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Time to Lose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Peter Piot was in medical school, a professor warned, "There's no future in infectious diseases. They've all been solved." Fortunately, Piot ignored him, and the result has been an exceptional, adventure-filled career. In the 1970s, as a young man, Piot was sent to Central Africa as part of a team tasked with identifying a grisly new virus. Crossing into the quarantine zone on the most dangerous missions, he studied local customs to determine how this disease-the Ebola virus-was spreading. Later, Piot found himself in the field again when another mysterious epidemic broke out: AIDS. He traveled throughout Africa, leading…


Book cover of My Beautiful Death

Michiel Heyns Author Of A Poor Season for Whales

From my list on by Africans that don’t have much to say about Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an African author, I find that my books end up on the ‘African fiction’ shelf in the bookstore, which can be a disadvantage if my novel is, say, about Henry James or the Trojan War, both of which I've written novels about. As a lecturer in English literature, I've become acquainted with a vast and varied array of literature. So, whereas of course there are many wonderful African novels that deal with specifically African themes, I think the label African novel can be constricting and commercially disadvantageous. Many African novelists see themselves as part of a larger community, and their novels reflect that perspective, even though they are nominally set in Africa.

Michiel's book list on by Africans that don’t have much to say about Africa

Michiel Heyns Why did Michiel love this book?

Eben Venter, though born in the heart of the South African ‘platteland’ (the South African equivalent of ‘fly-over country’), has spent much of his adult life in Australia, and the novel poignantly straddles the two locales: the constricting conservatism of the protagonist’s farm background, and the bewildering freedoms and opportunities of a more cosmopolitan setting. Here that conflict is heartbreakingly acted out and in a grim sense resolved in the main character’s losing battle against AIDS, and his death-bed reconciliation with his hitherto unbending father. Venter gives us a harrowing account of what it is like to die of a disease that wastes your body, blinds you, and makes you mad before killing you. It is all the more remarkable that the experience is registered from the inside, as it were, in a subjective stream of consciousness. The poignancy of the novel is intensified for me by knowing that the…

By Eben Venter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Konstant Wasserman rebels against his people, culture and country. In his own words: I’m going to get the hell away from here and make the life I want somewhere else.

Thus he migrates to Sydney, Australia where he slips into a new way of life: a vegetarian diet, a crazy hairstyle and an adventure with the sexually ambivalent Jude. With this “dark horse” of his he arrives at places where he’d never wanted to go.

In the Wollondilly wilderness west of Sydney he discovers the first symptoms of a terminal disease. Now his real journey starts.


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 Mistreated: The Political Consequences of the Fight Against AIDS in Lesotho

Marc Epprecht Author Of Hungochani: The History of a Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa

From my list on social justice in Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first travelled to Zimbabwe in 1984, eager both to “build scientific socialism” but also to answer two big questions. How can people proclaim rage at certain injustices yet at the same time perpetuate them against certain other people? And, could I learn to be a better (more empathetic) man than my upbringing inclined me towards? Years of teaching in the rural areas, and then becoming a father taught me “yes” to the second question but for the first, I needed to continue to pursue that knowledge with colleagues, students, mentors, friends and family. Today, my big question is, how can we push together to get these monsters of capitalism, patriarchy, homophobia, racism, and ecocide off our backs?

Marc's book list on social justice in Africa

Marc Epprecht Why did Marc love this book?

A big mistake in much radical analysis is to characterize problems in dualistic terms that externalize responsibility from Africa (Rodney, of course, is wide open to that critique). Thus, colonialism is not just irredeemably bad but simple to identify and directly related to white skin. The end of formal colonialism provided new targets in sometimes caricature form: black-skin-white-mask neocolonialism and neoliberalism, notably. Such things undoubtedly exist. However, Kenworthy’s brilliant, gob-smacking analysis of the unintended consequences of life-saving technologies reveals levels of complexity and complicity that belie easy dualisms. How does something that promises liberation from mass suffering and death (anti-retroviral drugs) become a machine to entrench corrupt elites and opportunistic NGOs, to sell cheap textiles in America, and to exploit poor women’s unremunerated care work? Read, weep, and lose your illusions about corporate social responsibility.

By Nora Kenworthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As global health institutions and aid donors expanded HIV treatment throughout Africa, they rapidly ""scaled up"" programs, projects, and organizations meant to address HIV and AIDS. Yet these efforts did not simply have biological effects: in addition to extending lives and preventing further infections, treatment scale-up initiated remarkable political and social shifts.

In Lesotho, which has the world's second highest HIV prevalence, HIV treatment has had unintentional but pervasive political costs, distancing citizens from the government, fostering distrust of health programs, and disrupting the social contract. Based on ethnographic observation between 2008 and 2014, this book chillingly anticipates the political…


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…


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Interested in HIV/AIDS, Africa, and public policy?

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