100 books like We Are Having This Conversation Now

By Alexandra Juhasz, Theodore Kerr,

Here are 100 books that We Are Having This Conversation Now fans have personally recommended if you like We Are Having This Conversation Now. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Great Believers

Christopher DiRaddo Author Of The Family Way

From my list on uplifting and celebrating queer kinship and chosen family.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a queer author based in Montreal. When I came out in the early 1990s, at the age of 21, I remember feeling concerned about my future. Family has always been important to me, but I couldn’t imagine what mine would look like as I got older. I knew I wasn't going to have a traditional family like my parents, but I didn’t know what else was possible. Thankfully, I found the answer in books… As queer people, we must seek out and learn our traditions and history. We’re not taught them from birth. Finding books that demonstrate and uplift the bonds that queer people share provides a roadmap for those of us seeking community.

Christopher's book list on uplifting and celebrating queer kinship and chosen family

Christopher DiRaddo Why did Christopher love this book?

Many books that tackle the AIDS crisis tend to focus on queer meccas like New York City and San Francisco, but Makkai’s The Great Believers illustrate just how hard the virus hit Chicago.

Jumping back and forth between 1985 and 2005, the book follows a close group of gay men and their straight allies as their communities begin to come under attack. In 1985, Yale Tishman is on the verge of great professional success just as his dreams begin to slip through his fingers.

Meanwhile in 2005, Yale’s friend Fiona Marcus finds herself looking for her runaway daughter in the streets of Paris, while also coming to terms with what she had to give up to care for these men. A masterful book. 

By Rebecca Makkai,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Great Believers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOK OF 2018
LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE WINNER
ALA CARNEGIE MEDAL WINNER
THE STONEWALL BOOK AWARD WINNER

Soon to Be a Major Television Event, optioned by Amy Poehler

"A page turner . . . An absorbing and emotionally riveting story about what it's like to live during times of crisis." -The New York Times Book Review

A dazzling novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an…


Book cover of The Virus Touch: Theorizing Epidemic Media

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?

One of the best academic books written at convergence of the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics is The Virus Touch.

Here, Bishnupriya Ghosh showcases how “epidemic media” inform how epidemics are understood and experienced—making this text so relevant right now. She looks at how media—images, numbers, and digital models—whether generated by scientists, artists, or activists enable us to see and understand viruses and bear witness to their effects in new ways.

What is unique about Ghosh’s scholarship is how looks to the environment to study health which illustrates the complex and tangled relationships between epidemics, humans, animals, and media. Ghosh’s rich examples, ranging from modelling viruses to reading test results to tracking infection rates and mortality numbers, ensure that Virus Touch speaks to diverse readers.

By Bishnupriya Ghosh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Virus Touch Bishnupriya Ghosh argues that media are central to understanding emergent relations between viruses, humans, and nonhuman life. Writing in the shadow of the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 global pandemics, Ghosh theorizes "epidemic media" to show how epidemics are mediated in images, numbers, and movements through the processes of reading test results and tracking infection and mortality rates. Scientific, artistic, and activist epidemic media that make multispecies relations sensible and manageable eschew anthropocentric survival strategies and instead recast global public health crises as biological, social, and ecological catastrophes, pushing us toward a multispecies politics of health. Ghosh trains…


Book cover of Forget Burial: HIV Kinship, Disability, and Queer/Trans Narratives of Care

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?

Marty Fink’s book is one of the best examples of recent and groundbreaking scholarship on HIV/AIDS.

Fink examines HIV/AIDS histories through critical disability studies discourse to show in a compelling and very readable way how queer and trans people in the 1980s and early 1990s came together to take care of each other when faced with stark and far-reaching state violence.

This book has deep contemporary relevance showing how multifaceted HIV care-giving narratives continue to inform how individuals and our wider society makes sense of gender, disability, and kinship.

Such work is essential in this political moment where we are seeing ever-more challenges to bodily self-determination, for women, queer and, especially for trans people. 

By Marty Fink,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Finalist for the LGBTQ Nonfiction Award from Lambda Literary

Queers and trans people in the 1980s and early ‘90s were dying of AIDS and the government failed to care. Lovers, strangers, artists, and community activists came together take care of each other in the face of state violence. In revisiting these histories alongside ongoing queer and trans movements, this book uncovers how early HIV care-giving narratives actually shape how we continue to understand our genders and our disabilities. The queer and trans care-giving kinships that formed in response to HIV continue to inspire how we have sex and build chosen…


Book cover of Virology: Essays for the Living, the Dead, and the Small Things in Between

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?

It takes a great writer to make the complex structure and mechanics of viruses legible, and moreover, deeply compelling.

Osmundson draws together his personal experiences, expertise in microbiology, and a queer politics and studies in eleven essays that reflect critically on how viruses like HIV and COVID-19 (and their intersections) have redefined each of our daily lives.

The book offers powerful insights into illness politics, sex and pleasure amidst pandemics, and our collective responsibility for one another through a very personal narrative in ways that promise crucial insights. We need such personal and critical work as we continue to figure out new ways to live alongside viruses and viral pandemics.

By Joseph Osmundson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Invisible in the food we eat, the people we kiss, and inside our own bodies, viruses flourish-with the power to shape not only our health, but our social, political, and economic systems. Drawing on his expertise in microbiology, Joseph Osmundson brings readers under the microscope to understand the structure and mechanics of viruses and to examine how viruses like HIV and COVID-19 have redefined daily life.

Osmundson's buoyant prose builds on the work of the activists and thinkers at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS crisis and critical scholars like Jose Esteban Munoz to navigate the intricacies of risk reduction, draw…


Book cover of Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned

Conrad Wesselhoeft Author Of Adios, Nirvana

From my list on memoir-based graphic novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve worked as a tugboat hand in Singapore and Peace Corps Volunteer in Polynesia. I’ve served on the editorial staffs of five newspapers, from a small-town daily in New Mexico to The New York Times. I’m also the author of contemporary novels for young adults. Like the writers of these five great graphic novels, I choose themes that are important to me. Foremost are hope, healing, family, and friendship. These are themes I’d like my own children to embrace. Life can be hard, so as a writer I choose to send out that “ripple of hope” on the chance it may be heard or felt, and so make a difference.

Conrad's book list on memoir-based graphic novels

Conrad Wesselhoeft Why did Conrad love this book?

I loved this story of the extraordinary friendship between a young, gay, HIV-positive Cuban American activist and a young, struggling Jewish cartoonist who became roommates on an MTV reality show called The Real World. For good reason, UCLA chose Pedro & Me as its 2013-2014 "Common Book" with the goal of providing incoming freshmen with a "platform to discuss relationships, sexual orientation, health education, loss, love, and other topics." Winick’s story is timeless in its themes of friendship, loss, and hope.

By Judd Winick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pedro and Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Pedro Zamora changed lives.When the HIV-positive AIDS educator appeared on MTV's The Real World: San Francisco, he taught millions of viewers about being gay and living with AIDS. Pedro's roommate on the show was Judd Winick, who created Pedro and Me to honor Pedro Zamora, his friend and teacher and an unforgettable human being. First published in 2000, Pedro and Me was a graphic novel pioneer. Its moving portrait of friendship and its urgent message have already reached thousands of people. Now, Pedro's story is reintroduced to today's graphically focused culture with a gorgeous, eye-catching new cover and a foreword…


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 Explaining Epidemics

Pamela K. Gilbert Author Of Mapping the Victorian Social Body

From my list on how epidemics relate to bigger narratives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began college as a science major, but then switched to literature from a minor to my major. In graduate school, as I worked on my dissertation (which became my first book), I found that metaphors of the body and health were everywhere in the literary field in the mid-nineteenth century. Suffice it to say that the sciences, including the rapid development of modern medicine, are both fundamental to this period and deeply shape its literary culture. In Mapping the Victorian Social Body, I became fascinated with the history of data visualization. Disease mapping completely transformed the ways we understand space and how our bodies exist within it.

Pamela's book list on how epidemics relate to bigger narratives

Pamela K. Gilbert Why did Pamela love this book?

This collection of previously published essays by Charles Rosenberg elaborates many of his ideas about how people make meaning out of epidemics, including his famous theory that epidemics are understood in a dramatic tripartite structure (see “What Is an Epidemic? AIDS in Historical Perspective”). Rosenberg shows not only how the history of medicine illuminates larger themes, but why it matters, both to those of us interested in history and those interested in medical science itself. 

By Charles E. Rosenberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Medicine has always had its historians; but until recently it was a history written by and for practitioners. Charles Rosenberg has been one of the key figures in recent decades in opening up the history of medicine beyond parochial concerns and instead viewing medicine in the rich currents of intellectual and social change of the past two centuries. This book brings together for the first time in one place many of Professor Rosenberg's most important essays. The first two sections of essays, focusing on ideas and institutions, are meant at the same time to underline interactions between these realms. The…


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 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 How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

Winter Miller Author Of Not a Cat: A Memoir

From my list on memoirs by very sexy writers.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised by activist feminist parents and schooled by Quakers, I am surprisingly amusing. Eartha Kitt once held my left hand for five minutes. I work primarily as a playwright; Not a Cat is my first children’s book! Now when I show up at a little kid’s birthday instead of bringing a play I wrote, I can give the tot age-appropriate reading material. For me, reading a memoir is this intimate exchange with a writer where they’ve shared everything, and I’ve revealed nothing. What’s better than a good story beautifully curated? Okay, a cookie, but that’s it. I hope my book reaches all the kids out there who are told: be less this and more that

Winter's book list on memoirs by very sexy writers

Winter Miller Why did Winter love this book?

Of the very, very many books about writing and reading, Alexander Chee’s book of essays is among the best. His prose is honest and soul-baring and his descriptions are the kind you wish you’d thought of. The collection is basically a coming-of-age story divided into anecdotal episodes—as an exchange student wanting love in Mexico, working at a famous gay bookstore in San Francisco while AIDS decimated his community, and time in academia. Chee has an affection for his readers and students that is engaging. He’s also a great Twitter presence and like Jacob, also a looker. At a Christmas party we both attended, we discovered we are Leos, so, we’re basically bonded for life. 

By Alexander Chee,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Write an Autobiographical Novel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

Named a Best Book of 2018 by TIME, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Wired, Esquire, Buzzfeed, Paste, Bitch, Bustle, The Chicago Review of Books and iBooks

As a novelist, Alexander Chee has been described as 'masterful' by Roxane Gay, 'incendiary' by the New York Times, and 'brilliant' by the Washington Post. With How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, his first collection of nonfiction, he secures his place as one of the finest essayists of his generation.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author's exploration of the entangling of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in HIV/AIDS, epidemics, and intersectionality?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about HIV/AIDS, epidemics, and intersectionality.

HIV/AIDS Explore 62 books about HIV/AIDS
Epidemics Explore 44 books about epidemics
Intersectionality Explore 21 books about intersectionality