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About the Author

Works by Randy Shilts

Associated Works

The Christopher Street reader (1982) — Contributor — 119 copies
The Best American Essays 1990 (1990) — Contributor — 117 copies
And The Band Played On [1993 film] (1993) — Original book — 68 copies
Unknown California (1985) — Contributor — 40 copies


1980s (24) 20th century (29) AIDS (333) American history (57) anthology (24) biography (145) California (27) disease (57) epidemic (40) epidemiology (46) essays (50) gay (168) gay history (30) gay men (32) gay rights (30) glbt (37) Harvey Milk (37) health (94) history (429) HIV (58) HIV/AIDS (68) homosexuality (60) journalism (66) lesbian (28) lgbt (93) LGBTQ (63) medical (30) medicine (103) military (79) non-fiction (514) politics (273) public health (54) queer (63) read (48) San Francisco (99) science (74) sociology (54) to-read (198) unread (23) USA (54)

Common Knowledge



This book has been around for a while, but it reads almost like a murder mystery or a thriller. It chronicles the beginning of the AIDS crisis, including the CDC rushing to contain the devastation.
Noetical | 62 other reviews | Oct 16, 2023 |
Shilts' contemporary account of the advent of what is now HIV/AIDS is truly a classic. Shilts takes an unbiased, journalistic approach to the science surrounding the discovery of the "GRID" complex, the underlying virus, the epidemiology required to figure out how the disease was spread as well as the international politics limiting the closing of the bathhouses, treatment, testing of the blood supply and delaying the correct taxonomy of HIV.

Interspersed with this, Shilts shows the ready a very personal view of the stories of individuals affected by HIV/AIDS and their personal struggles both as patients and as advocates. These interspersed narratives are touching and strong, and completely unfictionalized.

Although it would be easy for these one of the many different components of the narrative to become overwhelmed by the vastness and intricacy of the story that Shilts is telling, he handles each of these components deftly, making the 600 page book a manageable and entertaining read.

Although And the Band Played On is now over 20 years old, it was the first comprehensive account of the advent of HIV/AIDS, it was an instant classic in its time and its contemporary nature lends an honesty to the homophobia, politicking and counter-productive maneuvering on all sides that would likely be glossed over in a modern telling.
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settingshadow | 62 other reviews | Aug 19, 2023 |
Someone tries to do something to fight the spread of AIDS, and everyone else tries to thwart that person. Repeat for 605 pages. One of the most emotionally brutal books I've ever read.
blueskygreentrees | 62 other reviews | Jul 30, 2023 |
I didn't finish this. Reads like bad journalism. The story is, of course, tragic, but the various accounts ring false like the stories that actors tell. For example, we find: "On a hunch, Gottlieb twisted some arms to convince pathologists to take a small scraping of the patient's lung tissue through a nonsurgical maneuver." OK, so the author isn't a doctor, but 1. pathologists don't do endobronchial biopsies, pulmonologists do, 2.nobody has to twist a pulmonologists arm to do an endobronchial biopsy or for a pathologist to interpret one, 3.I was around when AIDS showed up and we were fascinated by it and were eager to get that material, 4.Since this little sentence has things in it that I know are false, what is the author saying with it - is he building a case? Many other stories ring false and have doubtless been spun somehow, after all this book has a message and the author is the man with a hammer. I am reminded of the oft noticed phenomenon that when you have personal knowledge of a newspaper story, you are startled by its errors (for example, if you were the one interviewed), and then realize that the stories that you know nothing about are probably similarly inaccurate. The story of AIDS deserves better than this.… (more)
markm2315 | 62 other reviews | Jul 1, 2023 |



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