Book Club: And the Band Played On

Illustration of person sitting on the beach reading "And the Band Played On"

Now that beach season is finally upon us, it’s time for another installment of the We ❤ Health Literacy Book Club. For this one we’re branching out a bit — the book isn’t so much about health literacy as it is about public health in general, but we ❤ it and we bet you will, too.

Randy Shilts’ award-winning And the Band Played On achieves something that not many public health books do — it’s a total page-turner! Originally published in 1987, it tells the story of the first 5 years of the AIDS epidemic in the United States. And it really is a story — the book is an almost-daily account of the key players living through the early days of the epidemic.

Stilts’ work is deeply rooted in his criticism of the initial reaction to the AIDS crisis — he condemns the medical world, the scientific community, and most particularly the Reagan administration for a flawed response that cost an unspeakable number of lives.

It’s a moving story that also serves as a reminder to do our homework. The issues we communicate to consumer audiences may have complex, emotional, and nuanced stories behind them — and we’ll be better at our jobs if we’re familiar with their implications.

The bottom line: Get the whole story of the early days of AIDS from Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On.