I think we can all agree that “Hamilton” is the best thing to happen to Broadway since, well, ever. It seemed to become a national phenomenon overnight, and now it’s all any of us can talk about. There’s also no real reason it should have worked: After all, does anything sound as absurd as a rap musical about first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton? But it does work, brilliantly so, and it makes history come alive with an insanely talented diverse cast and music that you won’t ever be able to stop humming.
If you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about, then go download the cast album and listen to it from start to finish. You will not be sorry. If you’re already a “Hamilton” junkie (like me!) and you’re wondering how to spend your time now that you know every rap and chorus by heart, then here are four books that capture the spirit of this cultural obsession:
‘HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION’ by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (Grand Central Publishing, April 12, 2016)
This behind-the-scenes nonfiction book takes readers into the revolution that is “Hamilton.” Creator of the play Miranda and cultural critic McCarter unveil the process of bringing “Hamilton” to Broadway: from a performance by Miranda at the White House in 2009 to the current phenomenon the play has become. The book also includes photos and stories about the production, as well as interviews and even emails that contributed to the process. This is a must-read for any die-hard “Hamilton” fan. And if you want a preview of McCarter’s sharp critical take on Hamilton’s importance, then check out this fascinating essay he wrote for BuzzFeed.
‘GLORY OVER EVERYTHING: BEYOND THE KITCHEN HOUSE’ by Kathleen Grissom (Simon & Schuster, April 5, 2016)
Grissom’s classic novel “The Kitchen House” introduced us to Jamie Pyke, the son of both a slave and a master who is forced to venture along the Underground Railroad to find his freedom. After six years of waiting, fans will be clamoring for the follow-up novel. Jamie is now living in Philadelphia and passing as a white silversmith. But he quickly discovers that his past is not easily forgotten, and he once again finds himself on the Underground Railroad as he seeks to rescue his beloved servant. Though this novel is set in 1830, almost 30 years after Hamilton’s death, many of the themes are still the same: fighting to rise above one’s past, and the dangers that lie along the way.
‘ALEXANDER HAMILTON’ by Ron Chernow (Penguin Books, 2005)
If it weren’t for this comprehensive biography about Hamilton’s life, then “Hamilton” the play would have never been created. Miranda often cites Chernow’s biography as his inspiration, and it was while reading this impressively thorough account of Hamilton’s life that Miranda began working on his play. If you want to know more about the formidable — and often scandalous — life of one of America’s founding fathers, then look no further.
‘WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD’ by Diana Gabaldon (Bantam Books, 2015)
Spoiler alert for “Outlander”! If you watch the show, but don’t read the books, you might want to skip this one…
I think our love for Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series is pretty well documented at this point. Gabaldon is eight books in with no signs of stopping (thank God). While the first couple novels in the series deal with the political upheaval in Scotland, the later books turn to the Revolutionary War and Jamie and Claire’s part in it. “Written in My Own Heart’s Blood” is just as historically detailed and epically romantic as the previous books, and it takes place smack-dab in the middle of the fighting, featuring many key figures from the revolution. Hamilton has yet to make an appearance, but there’s always book nine!
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