It happened so quickly: One day, I decided to listen to Hamilton, a musical that I had heard a lot
My experience is not unique. Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical about the life and times of founding father Alexander Hamilton has taken Broadway, the Internet, our hearts, and the Tony Awards like a hurricane and has blown away star-studded audiences. If you're one of the scores of people who have tried with varying levels of success to rap "Guns and Ships," you might be asking yourself "What comes next?" as you burn with curiosity about the real people and events that inspired the show.
(And if you haven't listened to the original cast recording of Hamilton: An American Musical, do yourself a favor and check it out right now. It will change the way you look at the American Revolution and the $10 bill forever. You don't want to say no to this.)
Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Of course this will be your first stop. The Hamiltome is a gorgeous book full of pictures, essays, and footnotes on every song. It has been very popular and even sold out on Amazon! (Who even knew that was possible?) If it's checked out, don't throw away your shot; put it on hold and wait for it!
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
This is the 800-page biography of Hamilton that Lin-Manuel picked up as a "beach read" (for real) and started the whole thing. The length might seem daunting, but Chernow's vivid and engaging writing helps intimidated readers stay alive through the whole thing.
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
Hamilton was his right-hand man, and he set the precedent for Presidential term limits when he said his second would be one last time. Learn more about the General in this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography.
The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr by H. W. Brands
Intrigued by Aaron Burr, sir? Lin-Manuel has cited this slender historical narrative of Burr's life post-duel as the deciding factor that helped him "unlock" Burr as a character. Brands relies heavily on Burr's personal correspondence, so if you want more "Dear Theodosia" moments, this is the book to read.
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis
This is yet another book that Lin-Manuel drew from when composing Hamilton. Ellis examines six crucial events that took place during the early days of the United States, including important instances that made it into Hamilton. Wondering what went on in the room where it happened? Ellis discusses the secretive dinner party that decided the location of the nation's capital.
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Everyone give it up for America's favorite fighting Frenchman! In addition to examining Lafayette's impact on the revolutionary effort in America, Vowell tells the story of his return to the United States in 1824. Vowell is known for her ability to bring out the humor in historiography, so this is a good pick if you want a read that feels lighter without skimping on substance.
The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. EllisFocusing on both big names (such as, oh I don't know, Alexander Hamilton) and lesser-known ones, Ellis examines the struggle to get the fledgling United States on its feet and establish it as a nation after winning independence. Because as we all know: Winning is easy, young man. Governing's harder.
Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry that Forged a Nation by John E. Ferling
Because let's be honest, the cabinet battles are some of the most satisfying moments in the whole play, largely because they pit two brilliant minds against each other. Ferling examines Jefferson and Hamilton's real-life clashes over policy and politics and the lasting effects that their work continues to have on our country.
American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People by T. H. BreenFor me, listening to Hamilton raised a lot of questions not just about the Founding Fathers whose names made it into history books, but about the people whose names we have forgotten but without whom the Revolution wouldn't have happened. Breen looks at what the "middling sorts" were doing during the fight for independence, and in some cases it's pretty eye-opening.